Will Malaysia and Singapore merge once again?

Talk by DAP Organising Secretary, Mr Lim Kit Siang, to the Bungsar DAP Branch on Friday, 17th May 1968 at 8.30 p.m.

It took Malaya and Singapore fifteen years to merge the first time they were separated by the British colonialists in 1948.

But the merger, which took place under the Malaysian Federation on September 16, 1963, did not last two years. A second separation took place on August 9, 1965.

Will Malaysia and Singapore merge once again?

Before we consider this question, we must consider another question: Is it still desirable for Malaysia and Singapore to re-merge?

There can be no other answer to this question. The reasons which were advanced for the merger of Malaya and Singapore before 1963 are still valid. Malaya and Singapore are historically, economically and geographically one. The people in the two countries are one people, and there are thousands of Malaysians and Singaporeans of all races who are related by ties of blood and kinship.

The second separation came about because the Alliance Government was not prepared to meet the challenge to its power base posed by the People’s Action Party within the framework of the democratic system of one-man one-vote.

A second merger is therefore inconceivable in the near future because the Alliance, which will be in power for at least another six years, will not do what it dared not do in 1965.

What is disturbing is that since Separation Day, the two governments have drifted further apart. This is surely not the development which Tunku Abdul Rahman, in his speech to Parliament on August 9, 1965 when announcing Separation, had anticipated. He had said:

“ In diversity I am convinced we (Malaysia and Singapore) can find unity or, in ordinary every day parlance, absence will make the hearts grow fonder.”

The aggravation of the estrangement between the two governments would not have mattered much if this does not directly penalise the innocent people of the two countries.

As it is, whenever the two governments spar with one another, it is the people who are directly hit. Like the football, the people are kicked from one side to the other.

The work permits, the immigration controls, currency split, the last-minute Operation Swop, are all utterly unnecessary and inimical to the interest of the people of both territories.

It is time that leaders and people of both countries remind themselves of one fundamental point: that the future of Malaysia and Singapore are inseparable, and that the survival or disintegration of one will inevitably mean the same for the other.

Malaysia and Singapore have more in common with each other than with any other country either in South East Asia or anywhere else in the world.

Although a re-merger is not on the cards in the foreseeable future, we expect, however, the two governments to seriously work for closer co-operation, and not further divide the people of both countries.

There are a few things which both countries can immediately do to pave the atmosphere and conditions for mutual trust and co-operation:

1. ABOLISH immigration controls between the two countries to permit free travel;

2. ABOLISH the system of work permits against nationals of the other nation;

3. RESCIND the Malaysian Government decision not to subsidise Malaysian students in the University of Singapore. This is, in any event, a short-sighted step because it is more harmful to Malaysians than to Singaporeans.

4. ESTABLISH a common market to make more efficient use of the material, human and financial resources of both countries, and to avoid wasteful duplication of expensive facilities and services; where there is free mobility of commodities and labour; and

5. ESTABLISH a united defence system against external aggression. This is particularly urgent in the face of British defence withdrawal. One would have expected the Malaysian and Singapore representatives to meet first to present a united front at the defence meeting of Commonwealth countries in Kuala Lumpur in June, instead of both countries taking independent and separate stands.

If both countries sincerely work for closer co-operation and mutual interest , then the possibilities of a re-merger between Malaysia and Singapore in a decade or two is bright.

However, if both countries are bent on their present policies of cutting one’s nose to spite the other’s face, then not only will there be no re-merger between Malaya and Singapore, there may not be any Malaysia and Singapore left after some time.

Audited on 2021-03-17