--Ambrose Khaw, former managing editor of The Straits Times

The big picture
Major events of this period

A dream shattered
The Straits Times, Aug 9, 1965

What I am about to announce to this House will no doubt come as a big surprise and shock to members. In fact, to me and to many members, it is the most painful and heartbreaking news I have had to break.

I consider it a misfortune for me to have to make this announcement. In all the 10 years of my leadership of this House I have never had a duty so unpleasant as this to perform.

The announcement which I am making concerns the separation of Singapore from the rest of the Federation.

Many reasons

The reasons for this have been many. Since the formation of Malaysia, and this year in particular, there have been so many differences with the Singapore Government and these differences have taken many forms: so much so that it has now come to a breaking point.

I can’t find any way out except the course of action which I am forced to take.

I gave it plenty of thought while lying in bed in London and also when convalescing before my return to this country.

I conveyed my thoughts to my friend and colleague, Tun Abdul Razak, who had sought to find an understanding with the leaders of Singapore but, I am afraid, to no avail.

It appeared that as soon as one issue was resolved another cropped up. Where a patch was made here, a tear appeared elsewhere, and where one hole was plugged, other leaks appeared.

So it does seem completely impossible to arrive at a solution whereby we can hope to pull along together and to work together in the interest and for the common good of Malaysia.

We tried everything possible to avoid the separation of Singapore from the rest of Malaysia. In the end we found that there were only two courses of action open to us.


No.1 was to take repressive measures against the Singapore Government for the behaviour of some of its leaders:

No.2 was to sever all connections with a State Government that had ceased to give even a measure of loyalty to the Central Government.

The position of the Central Government not only at home but, worse still, abroad has been mocked on many instances.

It was clear some action had to be taken. It is odious for us to take repressive measures against the Singapore Government, for such action is repulsive to our concept of parliamentary democracy.

Even then it would not have solved the problem before us because, as I said just now, there is not one problem but many, and one that gave us the most concern was the communal issue.

This is the matter which concerns me most because the peace and happiness of the people in this country depend on goodwill and understanding of the various races for one another.

Without it this nation will break up, with consequential disaster which we have seen and read about happening elsewhere.

No solution

We feel that this repressive action against a few would not therefore solve the problem because the seed of this contempt, fear and hatred has been sown in Singapore, and even if we try to prevent its growth, I feel that after a time it will sprout up a more virulent form.

The thousands of students abroad have been fed with all kinds propaganda against the Central Government.

Malaysian Malaysia in particular suggests that the Malaysia we have now is bad for it gives all the advantages to one race while depriving others of their rightful place in our society.

Foreign correspondents who approached me on this subject while I was in England and France were under the wrong impression that the Malay - dominated Central Government had not been fair to others, that there was discrimination against the Chinese in all fields and in all matters.

Bank closure

One even went so far as to suggest that the closing of the Bank of China was a move against the Chinese.

Poor stallholders would have to close down their stalls because they would be unable to get the food they needed from China.

It was suggested that our quarrel with the PAP was due to the fact that we are afraid of the far more advanced and enlightened socialist Government of Singapore.

They appeared incredulous when I informed them that there are socialist parties in the mainland and other parties who are opposed to our party and that the PAP contested our election without success and that the only party that we ban is the Communist Party.

I also informed them that most of these parties are made up mainly of Chinese whose number well exceeds that of Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s, and to suggest therefore that Mr Lee Kuan Yew represents the Chinese and at the same time represents the only left wing party in the country is wrong.

Foreign press

There appeared also in the foreign Press from time to time articles and reports which gave an entirely wrong picture of this country to the people abroad.

They implied that any action that we take to put a stop to the subversive activities of enemies and traitors as attempts to victimise the Chinese.

Apart from the closure of the Bank of China, the resettlement of the Chinese in Sarawak is one of the examples I can give of criticism directed against us.


In short, while they are trying to build up the image of Lee Kuan Yew they at the same time are belittling us.

While in London I had to interview pressmen representing some of the leading papers and magazines and explain to them what the position is, but we can’t do that all the time.

We want to be allowed to be left alone and to be given the moral support to bolster our courage against the Communist threat and Indonesian confrontation.

We consider ourselves as one of the nations in South-East Asia that has managed not only to fight our enemies but also to provide for our people’s needs.

We are in fact, one of the countries that has made a real success of our independence.

While we have to spend so much money in strengthening our defences, we have at the same time managed to provide, livelihood, education and other services which have made this country happy and prosperous and the people on the whole contented.

There has also been an inclination on the part of some countries to look upon the Prime Minister of Singapore as an equal partner in the Government of Malaysia and to encourage him indirectly to assert his authority and this has made the situation rather awkward for us.

In a nation there can be only one national executive head.

The illustration which I saw in one of the British papers depicting as cartoon of Lee Kuan Yew and myself over the map of Malaysia and with the caption "too many cooks" is to the point.

This is a situation which we must avoid.

There can only be one Prime Minister for the nation and so the best course we can take is to allow Lee Kuan Yew to be the Prime Minister of independent Singapore in the full sense of the word which otherwise he would not.

I was hoping to make Singapore the New York of Malaysia and had begged the politicians in Singapore to give thought to the fulfilment of this objective.


In order to do that it is necessary to place the interest of Singapore above that of their own personal glorification.

Unfortunately, political rivalry and political activities and enthusiasm of the various politicians in Singapore had made this impossible.

They lost sight of the importance of Singapore as one of the most important ports in South-East Asia.

My dream is shattered and so we come now to the parting of the ways.

In the matter of finance too it has been extremely difficult to obtain Singapore’s support. Criticisms levelled at the Central Government by the Singapore representatives at the last Budget meeting of this Parliament are still fresh in members’ memories.

Now we find we have reached a stage where it is difficult to agree on anything at all however trivial the matter may be.

There is disagreement as to the quantum of Singapore’s financial contribution to the Central Government.

Members are aware that there has been a sharp rise in defence and security expenditure and the Central Government felt compelled to ask for Singapore’s support.


It is only right that it should bear a legitimate share of the country’s burden, but Singapore refused to make this contribution except in so far as Singapore defence was concerned.

Under Annex J to the Malaysia Agreement, Singapore was bound to contribute for a five-year period by way of loans a sum of $150 million to the Central Government for economic development in Sabah and Sarawak.

Part of this loan was to be free of interest. But this loan has not been given.

There have been bickerings over the amount of interest to be paid and Singapore refused to trust the Bank Negara to determine the current market rates for long-term loans in the Federation, but instead proposed a World Bank arbitrator.

This would have taken a considerable time to reach a decision. In the meantime the development of these two states is absolutely urgent.

These are among other troubles we have had with Singapore which as time goes on the political trouble which is simmering today might blow up into something extremely serious.

On the other hand our relationship with Sabah and Sarawak has been excellent. We are desirous of carrying out extensive development programmes in these two states, because we realise that under colonial rule the development in the two states had been neglected.

We know that they have joined us of their own accord and on their own free will in order to enjoy not only the independence and prestige which freedom brings them but also to enjoy the other fruits of independence.

They fit into the pattern of administration with the rest of the States in Malaysia so admirably well and unless we can carry out some development, however small it may be, their hope and trust in us will unevitably be lessened.

But with the money we have to pour out to defend ourselves against Indonesian aggression, it was expected that Singapore would co-operate. Unfortunately, they refused.

The people of Sabah and Sarawak live in an area where Indonesian aggression is most strong and violent.

Since Indonesia started its confrontation against Malaysia, the people of Sabah and Sarawak have suffered more casualties than people in other parts of this country.


In spite of that they feel no fear or sense of frustration but continue to play their part as true, patriotic and loyal citizens of Malaysia.

The people in the mainland admire them for their courage and no word is sufficient to describe our thanks and admiration for them.

I hope that the breakaway with Singapore will not cause them undue worry or concern, and that in the circumstances they will agree that the course of action we are taking is the only one open to us in order to maintain peace and harmony in Malaysia and at the same time to obtain the closest co-operation with Singapore.

Those citizens of Singapore who have been strong in their support for Malaysia I hope will not feel that they have been let down.

I can assure them that in my discussions with the Prime Minister of Singapore we have agreed that they would be given the fullest of protection and amenities as given to other citizens.

On the other hand if they feel strongly that they wish to evacuate and come to the Federation, I have arranged with the Mentri Besar of Johore to reserve quite an extensive area of land in the State to enable them to live in the Federation.

We will do all we can to make them feel comfortable and welcome. I pray that they will not lose their sense of balance and do something which can only bring about unhappiness to themselves, their families and ourselves.


This is the last thing we would wish to see happen and, considering the peace of Malaysia as a whole, we are convinced that there is no other way out but to do what we think is best.

Things are getting worse every day. Irresponsible utterances are made by both sides which, reading between the lines is tantamount to challenge and if trouble were to break out innocent people will be sacrificed at the altar of belligerent, heartless and irresponsible trouble-makers of this country.

So I believe that the second course of action which we are taking, the breakaway is the best and the right one, sad as it may be.

We had pledged to form Malaysia with Singapore, but having given it trial we found that if we persisted in going on with it, in the long run there would be more trouble to Malaysia than Singapore is worth to us.

The separation will be made on the understanding that we shall co-operate closely on matters of defence, trade and commerce.

This matter was discussed with the Government of Singapore, as a result of which we have drawn up an agreement which sets out the terms agreed upon and contains those matters which I mentioned just now.


This agreement has been signed by selected members of the Central Government and those of the State Government of Singapore.

The agreement is to grant Singapore independence and establish it as a sovereign State for the benefit of the members, I would like to refer to some of the clauses in the agreement.

Article V reads:-

The parties hereto will enter into a treaty on external defence and mutual assistance providing that:

The parties here to will establish a joint defence council for purposes of external defence and mutual assistance;

The Government of Malaysia will afford to the Government of Singapore such assistance as may be considered reasonable and adequate for external defence and in consideration thereof the Government of Singapore will contribute from its own armed forces such units thereof as may be considered reasonable and adequate for such defence;

The bases

The Government of Singapore will afford to the Government of Malaysia the right to continue to maintain the bases and other facilities used by its military forces within Singapore and will permit the Government of Malaysia to make such use of these bases and facilities as the Government of Malaysia may consider necessary for the purpose of external defence;

Each party will undertake not to enter into any treaty or agreement with a foreign country which may be detrimental to the independence and defence of the territory of the other party.

Article VI provides for the economic arrangement between the two countries. The two territories will have to depend on one another, more so for Singapore.

Talks will be held to provide facilities for trade and commerce between the two territories. It is not possible for me to say any more than this at this stage.

The businessmen of these two territories will have to rely on us to do what we can to give them all the help and facilities that will help to maintain commercial and trade relations between the two territories.

Article VI reads as follows:-

The parties hereto will on and after Singapore Day co-operate in economic affairs for their mutual benefit and interest and for this purpose may set up such joint committees or council, as may from time to time be agreed upon.

In respect of Article VII the agreement expressly rescinded as from today, August 9, Annex J relating to the establishment of a Common Market and Annex K relating to broadcasting and television.


In Article VIII, which is rather important, we agreed that the liabilities of the Central Government with respect to any debts or liabilities incurred by Singapore since Malaysia Day will from today exonerate us from further liabilities.

This article reads:-

"With regard to any agreement entered into between the Government of Singapore and any other country of corporate body which has been guaranteed by the Government of Malaysia, the Government of Singapore hereby undertakes to negotiate with such country or corporate body to enter into a fresh agreement releasing the Government of Malaysia of its liabilities and obligations under the said guarantee, and the Government of Singapore hereby undertake to indemnify the Government of Malaysia fully for any liabilities, obligation or damage which it may suffer as a result of the said guarantee."


In order to give effect to the agreement and the proclamation of Independence of the State of Singapore it is necessary to amend the Federal Constitution and the Malaysia Act so that both the Constitution and the Act shall cease to have effect in Singapore except on those matters specifically provided for in clauses 6 and 13 of the Bill.

This will be presented to this House in due course.

Another matter which is of great concern to the people who live in Singapore and Malaysia is their movements between the two territories.

It is obvious that with different Governments some control will have to be exercised in order to restrict the movements of the people of these territories.

Until the regulations have been formulated, it is agreed that people should have free movement.

It will be necessary perhaps to provide them with some form of travelling document, such as border pass, for short visits and passports for a long stay.

But until this arrangement can be finalised, it is only right and fair for the people of these territories to carry on as they are now.

Aid pledge

I pray that Singapore and the people of Singapore will enjoy peace in that island.

Whatever we can do to help them, I can assure them that we will be only too glad to do. In diversity I am convinced we can find unity or in ordinary every day parlance, absence will make hearts grow


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