Saturday, February 20, 2010

Singapore's Independence - viewed from a Sri Lankan vantage point

A friend wrote to me saying she had been reading about Singapore. She had a question about how Singapore became independencd. Here was my response.

Singapore actually gained its independence in 1965. The story is an interesting one. It was part of the Malaysian Federation. However in 1965 it appeared that the Chinese dominated People’s Action Party, lead by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew (of Singapore) might gain a majority in the Malaysian Parliament by winning substantial numbers of Malay votes. The meant that Lee, whose ancestry was Chinese, would become Prime Minister of the entire federation. This was intolerable to the communally oriented Malay leaders (who were very much like their Sinhalese counterparts in Sri Lanka) and they essentially kicked Singapore out of the Federation. Too bad that it was not feasible for the Sinhalese communalists to employ the same strategy in Sri Lanka in 1965. That beautiful country could have been spared a lot of grief and heartache, which seems to be continuing.

Lee Kuan Yew’s massive autobiography (more than 1500 pp.) is a major reading project, but I know you are a serious reader and I found it a great way to understand Singapore from the perspective of one of the World’s remarkable leaders.

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