Uncertainty, but security, in a new home

The day Singapore separated from Malaysia, I was in Terengganu with about 20 other students of the University of Singapore (now known as the National University of Singapore).

We were on a Malaysian government-sponsored trip to meet various rising political leaders in Umno, as part of a unity-fostering exercise between Singaporeans and Malaysians who were interested in the politics of our then country, Malaysia.

Our group leader broke the news to us that Singapore had just separated from Malaysia. The decision for us to make was whether we should continue the journey to Kelantan or return to Singapore.

We unanimously decided to return home. It was not unknown to us that the Singapore government, led by the People's Action Party, had exchanged harsh words with the Malaysian federal government, and that Singapore Chinese and Indians were not popular in West Malaysia.

That morning in Terengganu, there was nothing to suggest anything was amiss. The markets and people went about their usual business. No one stared at us suspiciously, and I suspect many people did not know what had happened, or if they did, they didn't care. It was just another news item.

But when we heard the news about the separation, panic set in, as many of us were worried that we would come to harm if we stayed on in West Malaysia.

No one had any doubt that home now meant Singapore, a newly independent country, with all its uncertainties. We had lost our hinterland, but, at least, going back to Singapore meant we would be safe and with our families, and that would have meant everything.

Arthur Loke Yat Kuen