Today, on 9th August 2005, as Singaporeans celebrate 40 years of sovereignty and independence, it is worthwhile to note that 40 years ago on this day, the mood was anything but celebratory. Rather, according to these reports from the Straits Times, the Singapore Government had seemed more intent to publicise its mourning over the Separation than revelling in the formation of an independent nation.
Did the PAP really thought that Merger with Malaysia was feasible? Did Lee really harbour an ambition to be the Malaysia's Prime Minister? Was the concept of a Malaysian Malaysia a realistic one? Did Singapore earn its independence by virtue of its exit from from Malaysia? What exactly are we celebrating on National Day?
The full account of Singapore's road to independence has yet to be written. Through these excerpts from the press archives, I hope to have contributed a little in providing a fresher perspective than just the pomp and pageantry of National Day Parades.
Meanwhile, I still have a police investigation to worry about...
STRAITS TIMES, AUG 9 1965
Singapore today separated from Malaysia, following an amendment to the Constitution approved unanimously by both Houses of Parliament under a certificate of urgency.
Simultaneously with the passing of the amending Bill - to allow Singapore to leave Malaysia and become an independent and sovereign State - a proclamation to this effect was gazetted.
At a Press Conference this evening, Tengku Abdul Rahman annouced that Malaysia would sponsor Singapore's admission into the United Nations and as a member of the Commonwealth.
At his own press conference in Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew called on his people to remain firm and calm. His eyes brimming with tears: "What has happened has happened. Everybody will have a place in Singapore and will continue helping the Malays in competition with UMNO."
Today's dramatic turn follows the secret signing of the Independence of Singapore Agreement last Saturday by leaders of the two Governments.
THis document provides a treaty on external defence and mutual assistance between the two Governments and stipulates that:
BOTH GOVERNMENTS will establish a joint defence council for external defence and mutual assistance.
THE MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT will give "reasonable and adequate" assistance for Singapore's external defence. In return, Singapore will contribute a "resaonable" number of units from its own armed forces.
THE MALAYSIAN GOVERNMENT will continue to maintain military bases within Singapore and will be permitted to use these bases for defence purposes.
NEITHER GOVERNMNTS will enter into any treaty or agreement with a foreign country which may be deterimental to the independence and defence of either.
Meanwhile, Singapore acted swiftly to establish itself as an independent State, completely unconnected with the mainland.
In the early hours of the morning, while Singapore slept, coded messages were being flashed to about 20 heads of Governments abroad - explaining the situation.
Mr Lee Kuan Yew stayed up all night to get these messages out. With him were most of his Cabinet colleagues who have had little sleep since the big break began on Saturday.
Sharp on the hour, Radio Singapore went on the air to announce the separation.
Television came on at 4.30 pm, two hours ahead of schedule, with a telecast of the Prime Minister's press conference.
The news spread swiftly through the city after the radio annoucement. In a number of places, it was greeted with a thunderous explosion of fire-crackers.
Police patrols throughout the island were intensified. The force had been alerted two days before.
In a letter to the Commissioner of Police, Mr John Le Cain, Dated 7 Aug. Dato (Dr) Ismail bin Dato Haji Abdul Rahman, Malaysia's Minister of Home Affairs, had said :
"I herewith instruct you as from Aug. 9 1965 to take orders from Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Prime MInister of Singapore, in order to enable him to discharge his responsibility for the internal security of Singapore."
The same day, the Tengku also instructed Brigadier S.M. Alsagoff, Commander of the Singapore-based 4th Federal Infantry Brigade:
"In the absence of the Tun, I take full responsibility in giving you this instruction.
"As from Aug 9 1965, you are to take instructions from Mr Lee Kuan Yew, Prime Minister of Singapore, as he is now onward in charge of the defence and security of Singapore. Other orders will be issued in due course."
Meanwhile, all Malaysian flags fluttered down and were replaced by Singapore flags by noon.