Part ll of the retrospective on Singapore's road to independence
The first year of Merger proved to be a tumultous year for Singapore. While PAP leaders were shuttling back and forth from Kuala Lumpur to engage the Central Government in Parliamentary debates, political tensions arising from the Merger spilled onto the streets of Singapore.
On 21 July 1964, near Kallang Gasworks, fighting between Malay and Chinese youths during a Muslim procession celebrating the Prophet Muhammad's birthday erupted into racial riots, in which twenty-three people were killed and hundreds injured.
While Singapore and Malaysia were quick to pin the blame on Indonesia's President Soekarno, who had declared a state of Konfrantasi (Confrontation) against Malaysia and initiated military and other acts to provoke the Malays against the Chinese, historians suggest the communal tensions arising Singapore's merger had been the main catalyst.
Upon Merger in 1963, Malays and Muslims in Singapore were being increasingly incited by the Malaysian Federial Government's accusations that the PAP was mistreating the Malays. Numerous racial riots resulted, and curfews were common in order to restore order.
The riot on July 21 proved to be Singapore's most notorious, with twenty three killed and hundreds injured. Today, it is still disputed how it started, and theories include a bottle being thrown into a Muslim rally. More riots broke out in September 1964. The price of food heavily skyrocketed during this period due to the disruption in transport, which caused further hardship.
The race riots in Singapore in 1964 were a large contributing factor in the expulsion of the state from Malaysia.
STRAITS TIMES, JULY 22 1964
The Acting Prime Minister, Tun Abdul Razak, made an appeal for calm in a broadcast tonight on the clashes which occured in Singapore today in which four people were killed and about 178 injured, leading to the imposition of a curfew from 9.30pm to 6am.
The Singapore Prime Minister, Mr Lee Lee Kuan Yew and the leader of the Malayan Chinese Association, Mr Tan Siew Sin, made similar appeals in broadcasts over Television Singapore and Radio Malaysia.
Troops are being sent from Malaya to Singapore tomorrow to help ease the situation.
In his broadcast, Tun Razak reminded Malaysians that they had lived together in peace for hundred of years.
Malaysians of different races and religion had never "disturbed" their good relations with one another.
"We now face a very critical situation. It is very dangerous for all of us, whether we are Chinese, Malays, Indians or other races.
"You must not forget that we are facing a common enemy. This is an enemy dangerous to us all. If we are divided, we shall be destroyed. "
Tun Razak warned that the Central Government "will not allow any group or community to be oppressed in Malaysia."
He added: "We have made our position positively clear. I ask you to place your trust in the Government to keep the peace and gurad the country in the interests of all races."
At 10.45 pm the Singapore premier went on the air and said: "this afternoon, shortly after five, when the procession of Muslims celebrating Prophet Mohammed's birthday was passing Lorong Soopoo, near the Kallang gas works, a member of the Federal Reserve Unit asked a group who were straggling away from the procession to rejoin the main stream.
"Instead of being obeyed he was set upon by them. Thereafter a series of disturbances occured as more groups became unruly and attacked passer-by and spectators.
"These disturbances have spread rapidly throughout the Geylang area between Kallang and Geylang Serai. By about 7.30, two hours after it started, disturbances took place in the city itself.
"After consulatations between Tun Abdul Razak with the Commissioner of Police and I, it has been decided that there would be a curfew from 9.30 tonight to 6.00 tomorrow morning.
STRAITS TIMES JULY 23, 1964
At 6 a.m. the situation seemed under control when the curfew, which was imposed at 9.30 a.m. last night, was lifted.
But tensions was still high in the air as thousands of workers streamed into the city and business carried on as usual.
Ny 7 a.m. however, reports of sporadic clashes in various parts of the island began to trickle into Times House.
At 9.40 a.m. Tun Abdul Razak flew into Singapore to study the situation.
At 11 a.m. unconformed reports at the General Hospital recorded twp more deaths and 57 injured.
Interviewed in the hospital casualty room, most of the injured said they were on their way to work when they were being attacked by groups of marauding youths.
At 11.10 a.m. Radio Singapore announced that the curfew would be re-imposed from 11.30 a.m. and advised people to stay indoors.
The annoucement caused office workers to rush home by whatever transport they could get. There were big traffic jams in several places.
All bars and restaurants were also closed and cinemas throughout the island cancelled their shows.
By 11.30 a.m. most of the shops and business establishments were closed.
At the C.I.D. the general alarm was sent out and all members of the police force were ready to go into action.
STRAITS TIMES, SEPT 5 1964
A "STATE OF DANGER" has been proclaimed in Singapore, where the casualty toll in 48 hours of sporadic Indonesian-inspired clashes was given officially this evening as eight killed and 60 injured - 14 of them in hospital.
The proclamation, under the Public Order (Preservation)Ordinance, was made by Dato (Dr.) Ismail bin Dato Abdul Rahman, Malaysian Minister of Home Affairs, this afternoon.
At 2 p.m. a curfew was imposed over the entire island. It will be lifted from 5.30 a.m. to 9 a.m. tomorrow.
Malaysian troops who have been fighting Indonesian commandos in Johore were moved this afternoon to Singapore to help maintain order.
'Trouble in Singapore not communal or racial but political'
Tengku blames Soek
TENGKU Abdul Rahman tonight blamed Indonesia for stirring the racial disturbances here and appealed to the people to be calm, cool and composed so that they would be in a better position to fight Indonesia or Soekarno and his agents.
Speaking in a television and radio broadcast here tonight, the Tengku said the trouble in Singapore started with the killing of an innocent old trishaw peddler.
He asked: "Who can gain by killing him? Neither the Chinese or the Malays. Who did it? Nobody knows. And waht was the motive in doing it? The authorities know."
He said it was done to stir up trouble when the people were celebrating their Merdeka to coincide with the landing of paratroopers from Indonesia.
"By this simple process of creating trouble and disturbance within the country Soekarno hopes that Malaysians themselves will make enough trouble in this country to bring about the end of Malaysia."
"Soekarno has made no secret of his intention to stir up trouble here. First, he started to attack the Chinese, now he has started to attack me by saying that the reason forming Malaysia is to persecute the Chinese."