KL lodges 'strongest protest' over Mr Lee's speech

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's observations on Malaysian society judged interference

Malaysia lodged the "strongest protest" against the Singapore Government after seeing red over "the latest interfering and unsavoury utterances" by Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Malaysian Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman called the comments "the ranting of a mad and frustrated man" and said he did not need any lessons on how to run Malaysia. The speech in question was one that Mr Lee had given to the Singapore Printing Employees' Union on Oct 17, 1965, in which he expressed pessimism about the prospects of a common market with Malaysia and warned workers here that nobody owed them a living.

Among other things, Mr Lee said: "They want to slow down our pace so that their society - a mediaeval feudal society - can survive. But if we surge forward at the rate we have been doing, in five to 10 years there would have been an even greater disparity and contrast between an effective, open society and a closed, traditional society."

The Malaysian government handed a protest note to Mr Ko Teck Kin, the Singapore High Commissioner in Kuala Lumpur, four days after the speech. It said Mr Lee "indulged in unwarranted and irresponsible criticisms of Malaysia, referring to Malaysia as a 'mediaeval feudal society', making insinuations about the Malaysian government machinery being inefficient and bogged down by corruption, and about Malaysian political leaders obtaining their positions by bossmanship and undemocratic means".

The speech in question was one that Mr Lee had given to the Singapore Printing Employees' Union on Oct 17, 1965, in which he expressed pessimism about the prospects of a common market with Malaysia and warned workers here that nobody owed them a living.

The remarks were not only "unfair, mischievous and utterly baseless", but also "a wanton and uncalled for interference in the domestic affairs of Malaysia", said the Malaysian government in the note.It also pointed out that Singapore had promised not to interfere in Malaysia's internal affairs.

In a diplomatic note a day later, Singapore said that any undertaking on non-interference in each other's affairs must be reciprocal. It said Singapore had given an unqualified undertaking on non-interference on Sept 17, but that no similar assurance had been given by Malaysia.

Malaysian politicians had intervened in Singapore's internal affairs, for example, when they addressed the Malays in Singapore through the Singapore-based youth wing of Malaysia's ruling party Umno, it added. "In the circumstances, the Singapore Government hopes that both sides will exercise extreme prudence and refrain from any act or comment which directly interferes with the internal affairs of each other."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 18, 2015, with the headline 'KL lodges 'strongest protest' over Mr Lee's speech'. Print Edition | Subscribe