Singapore National Referendum
#OnThisDay in 1962, the Singapore National Referendum was held. The people of Singapore voted to express their preference on the mode and manner of the merger with Malaya, Sabah, and Sarawak, to form Malaysia.
This was after Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s “Battle for Merger” series of twelve radio talks in 1961, where he tried to help Singaporeans understand the battle between the communists and non-communists, and to persuade them to support the merger.
At that time, not only was communism in the ascendancy in the region, the idea that a sovereign and independent Singapore could survive on its own, outside of the Malaysian Federation, was not seen as realistic. Singapore, as a port-city, needed access to a hinterland and a common market. Merging was also seen as the only way for Singapore to convince the British to grant us full independence.
The merger made us a state within Malaysia. Our Proclamation of Independence states: “Now I, Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore, do hereby proclaim and declare, on behalf of the people of Singapore, that as from today, the 16th day of September, 1963, Singapore shall be forever a part of the sovereign democratic and independent State of Malaysia, founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of her people in a more just and more equal society.”
But Singapore’s pursuit of a “more just and equal society” and non-communal politics within Malaysia was cut short. Other than deep political differences, there were also economic disagreements. This meant the union was fraught with difficulties.
After less than 23 months, Singapore separated from Malaysia. While this union did not last, our pursuit of a meritocratic multiracial society, and prosperity for our nation, continues.
📸: Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore