Singapore officially became part of Malaysia on 16 September 1963 following its merger with the Federation of Malaya, Sarawak and North Borneo (Sabah) to form the Federation of Malaysia. For Singapore, the merger with Malaysia had been its stipulated path to economic development. As an island without any natural resources and confronted with the looming threat of a declining entrepôt trade, Singapore needed the Malayan hinterland to provide a bigger common market for its industries so as to create more jobs and generate growth.
Politically, the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) needed the merger to secure its political legitimacy. When the party was voted into power in the 1959 general election, it had campaigned vigorously for Singapore’s independence through merger with Malaysia. The party held a referendum on 1 September 1962 in which over 70 percent of the Singapore population voted in favour of merger. In addition, there were other political benefits for the PAP arising from the merger. As the proposed Malaysia would be headed by a right-wing and anti-communist government, the political challenge from left-wing communists faced by the party in Singapore would be neutralised.
However, the merger with Malaysia was fraught with difficulties from the onset. This was due to a series of fundamental clashes between the PAP government in Singapore and the Alliance leaders in Kuala Lumpur over issues ranging from extremist politicking to contentious economic and financial arrangements. One of these disagreements was over the 39.8 percent share of the new taxes that Singapore was required to contribute even though Singapore’s population was just 17 percent of the total population of Malaysia. These new taxes were announced bythe federal government on 25 November 1964 in a bid to raise $147 million to address the federal deficit of $543 million.
Although leaders from both sides tried to resolve these differences on numerous occasions, the problems were too deeply rooted and persisted. Eventually, it was decided that the most ideal course of action was for Singapore to leave Malaysia. On 9 August 1965, Singapore separated from Malaysia and became an independent and sovereign nation.
1. Up goes the flag. (1963, September 17). The Straits Times, p. 1; Abisheganadan, F. (1963, September 16). Hail Malaysia! The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Tan, T. Y. (2008). Creating “Greater Malaysia”: Decolonization and the politics of merger (pp. 31–32). Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Call no.: RSING 959.5051 TAN.
3. Tan, 2008, pp. 31–32.
4. Lau, A. (2003). A moment of anguish: Singapore in Malaysia and the politics of disengagement (p. 10). Singapore: Eastern Universities Press. Call no.: RSING 959.5705 LAU.
5. Merger ‘yes’. (1962, September 3). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. The Straits Times, 3 Sep 1962, p. 1.
7. Lau, 2003, p. 10.
8. Abisheganaden, F. (1964, November 26). Shock taxes. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lau, 2003, p. 214.
9. Lee, K. Y. (1998). The Singapore story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew (p. 615). Singapore: Times Editions, Singapore Press Holdings. Call no.: NLS RSING 959.57 LEE.
10. Abisheganadan, F. (1965, August 10). Singapore is out. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.