What did independence mean for Singapore?


Done by: Cham Shuhan, Zoey Ching, Lau Lup Yun, Zaccarry Lee, Navashen (2/6)

Singapore gained independence from Malaysia on 9 August 1965. Mr Lee Kuan Yew had announced that Singapore became a republic and was now an independent and sovereign nation. With the sudden change, political leaders, local people, and leaders and the media in other countries had different reactions towards the separation and the sudden change had also affected the security and defense, economic development and the citizenship of the people.

Reactions of people to Singapore’s independence

Political Leaders

The people of PAP were crestfallen and the situation were getting more and more tense for them everyday since the merger  had been all they were fighting for since they started and the separation had broke everything they stood for. However, some people such as Othman Wok and E.W Barker felt that it was a relief as he had forseen much more problems dealing with the people in Kuala Lumpur when they merged and was determined that they should go.

Local People

Some people celebrated in joy and were not concerned about their future and welfare after the separation as they were not aware of the political issues. The separation also cultivated a greater sense of belonging for some. However, many did not agree to the separation as they were worried about Singapore’s economic survival. Singapore had no economic resources and depended heavily on Malaysia.  If Malaysia took away areas of trade, many would be out of job as Singapore only had a small market. The separation made travelling to Malaysia more difficult and many families were separated by a political divide.

Leaders and the media in other countries

The Malaysia prime minister stated that they would help Singapore to happiness and to defend Singapore. They also felt that it was the right choice as as long as Singapore and Malaysia maintain a harmonious relationship in defence, trade and national economies, both will excel further. However, other countries doubted Singapore’s survival after independence as the British had withdrew their security base in Singapore thus Singapore had almost no security and the strong trade connections with Australia since colonial times were unstable due to independence.

Challenges Singapore Faced After Independence

Internal and External Security

Internal: Indonesia had set up the Konfrontasi that were unhappy with Singapore’s merger with Malaysia, carried out attacks and bombing even after Singapore’s independence, killing and injuring many.

External: Singapore feared that the government’s ability to maintain law and order would be affected as there was Vietnam war in SEA, which was a conflict between the communist and non-communist and might spread into Singapore.. The lack of a strong defence force threatened their security and thus would affect Singapore’s economic development as security and stability in Singapore was important to attract foreign investments and to promote growth of industries.

Solution to strengthen defence: Government established its own defence force as they felt that every man should play a part in the defence of the country hence introduced National Service to rapidly increase the size of armed forces available to defend Singapore. It was needed as the British decided to withdraw its military forces from Singapore and many non -Singaporean soldiers decided to transfer to the Malaysian army after Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. In 1967, the first batch had 900 full time  NSmen enlisted in Singapore Armed forces and by 1976, there were 140,000 NSmen and reservist.               Singapore also established diplomatic relations with other Countries by joining the United Nations and Commonwealth. Singapore had to cultivate relations with as many countries as possible to safeguard its independence from external threats.

Economic Survival

Singapore was not able to further develop its economy and provide jobs for its people. Singapore did not have natural resources thus was unable to rely on export of resources. It was difficult for industries in Singapore to develop as Malaysia imposed more taxes on goods to Singapore in attempt to protect its own industries.
Singapore could not depend on entreport trade for economic development as trade was slowed down in other countries due to policy that restricted import of foreign produced goods. Singapore was experience severe unemployment which worsened as 20000 school leavers joined the workforce annually, British decision to withdraw military forces also worsened unemployment as the forces contributed significantly to Singapore’s economy.

 Citizenship and sense of belonging

As a new nation, Singapore faced the challenge of forging a common identity and a sense of belonging among its people hence the government made many appeals, urging its people to take up Singapore citizenship to gain population. However, many were born in Malaysia were qualified a Malaysian citizenship thus reducing the amount of citizens in Singapore. This was important as the people had to realize their importance in Singapore in order to solve Singapore’s other economic issues. To ensure the identity of the people, border controls for people travelling into and out of Malaysia had to carry documents that identified the people as citizens of Singapore.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s