Lee Kuan Yew’s 1961 radio broadcasts on merger with Malaya released in new book

About 50,000 people gathered at the Padang on June 3, 1959 to cheer the victory of the PAP in the general election. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
About 50,000 people gathered at the Padang on June 3, 1959 to cheer the victory of the PAP in the general election. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and the Minister for Health and Law K. M. Byrne (then Minister for Labour and Law) sit on the platform at the 1961 May Day Rally, flanked by leaders of former T.U.C. Communist machinations then split the trade unions into
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and the Minister for Health and Law K. M. Byrne (then Minister for Labour and Law) sit on the platform at the 1961 May Day Rally, flanked by leaders of former T.U.C. Communist machinations then split the trade unions into two factions. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
(From right) Lee Kuan Yew meeting Kwa Boo San and some committee members of the National Transport Workers Union of the Federation at Taiping Botanic Gardens in October 1956. Mr Lee had gone up to Perak to defend members of the union at a trial in Ba
(From right) Lee Kuan Yew meeting Kwa Boo San and some committee members of the National Transport Workers Union of the Federation at Taiping Botanic Gardens in October 1956. Mr Lee had gone up to Perak to defend members of the union at a trial in Bagan Serai which arose from a transport strike. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew addresses the 1961 May Day Rally at the Jalan Besar Stadium. On this occasion he made it clear that the PAP government would not permit itself to be made use of by the British or by the Communists for their own selfish end
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew addresses the 1961 May Day Rally at the Jalan Besar Stadium. On this occasion he made it clear that the PAP government would not permit itself to be made use of by the British or by the Communists for their own selfish ends. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
(From left) Lim Chin Siong, S. Woodhull, Fong Swee Suan and Devan Nair at the St John's Island detention camp on Chinese New Year's Day, February 1959. The picture was taken by Lee Kuan Yew when he paid them a New Year's Day visit. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
(From left) Lim Chin Siong, S. Woodhull, Fong Swee Suan and Devan Nair at the St John's Island detention camp on Chinese New Year's Day, February 1959. The picture was taken by Lee Kuan Yew when he paid them a New Year's Day visit. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
Lee Kuan Yew speaking at a lunch-time election rally held at Clifford Pier on May 26, 1959, where he explained that the ultimate contestants in the battle for democracy would be the PAP and the Communists. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
Lee Kuan Yew speaking at a lunch-time election rally held at Clifford Pier on May 26, 1959, where he explained that the ultimate contestants in the battle for democracy would be the PAP and the Communists. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
Lee Kuan Yew visiting James Puthucheary in the Prison Camp grounds during one of his frequent visits to the detainees closely associated with the leadership of the PAP. This picture was taken in February 1959 by the Changi Camp Commandant, Supt D. S.
Lee Kuan Yew visiting James Puthucheary in the Prison Camp grounds during one of his frequent visits to the detainees closely associated with the leadership of the PAP. This picture was taken in February 1959 by the Changi Camp Commandant, Supt D. S. Dutton. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
The PAP leaders seated on a platform at the Padang where about 50,000 people gathered on June 3, 1959 to cheer the victory of the PAP in the general election. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
The PAP leaders seated on a platform at the Padang where about 50,000 people gathered on June 3, 1959 to cheer the victory of the PAP in the general election. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
(From left) Fong Swee Suan, S. Woodhull, Lim Chin Siong and C. V. Devan Nair are released from Changi Prison on June 4, 1959, five days after the election victoriy of the PAP. The PAP had announced in accordance with their election pledge that they w
(From left) Fong Swee Suan, S. Woodhull, Lim Chin Siong and C. V. Devan Nair are released from Changi Prison on June 4, 1959, five days after the election victoriy of the PAP. The PAP had announced in accordance with their election pledge that they would not take office unless the imprisoned leaders who had been closely associated with the party were released. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS 
Dr Toh Chin Chye addresses the inaugural meeting of the PAP held at the Victoria Memorial Hall on Nov 21, 1954. He had just been appointed pro-tem chairman of the party when he rose to speak. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
Dr Toh Chin Chye addresses the inaugural meeting of the PAP held at the Victoria Memorial Hall on Nov 21, 1954. He had just been appointed pro-tem chairman of the party when he rose to speak. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
Tengku Abdul Rahman, as President of Umno and fraternal delegate to the inaugural meeting of the PAP on Nov 21, 1954, addresses the gathering, expressing his good wishes for the success of the new party. He said that if there were more people like th
Tengku Abdul Rahman, as President of Umno and fraternal delegate to the inaugural meeting of the PAP on Nov 21, 1954, addresses the gathering, expressing his good wishes for the success of the new party. He said that if there were more people like those who were launching the PAP, the Federation and Singapore would be united into one country much sooner than people thought, in spite of what the colonialists might want to do. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
More than 1,000 people who attended the inaugural meeting of the PAP at the Victoria Memorial Hall on Nov 21, 1954. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
More than 1,000 people who attended the inaugural meeting of the PAP at the Victoria Memorial Hall on Nov 21, 1954. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
Mr Lee Kuan Yew addresses the inaugural meeting of the PAP held at the Victoria Memorial Hall on Nov 21, 1954. He said that the party would strive to end colonialism by establishing an independent national state of Malaya, consisting of the Federatio
Mr Lee Kuan Yew addresses the inaugural meeting of the PAP held at the Victoria Memorial Hall on Nov 21, 1954. He said that the party would strive to end colonialism by establishing an independent national state of Malaya, consisting of the Federation of Malaya and Singapore.  -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
Chin Peng (centre), Chen Tien (right) and Abdul Rashid Mahideen, the Communist delegates who had emerged from the jungle, sit at the negotiating table at the Baling Talks, facing the Tengku. The talks ended in failure when Chin Peng refused to lay do
Chin Peng (centre), Chen Tien (right) and Abdul Rashid Mahideen, the Communist delegates who had emerged from the jungle, sit at the negotiating table at the Baling Talks, facing the Tengku. The talks ended in failure when Chin Peng refused to lay down his arms unconditionally to the elected leader and govenment of the Federation. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
Tengku Abdul Rahman (second from right, seated), the Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya, Mr David Marshall (to his left), then the Chief Minister of Singapore, and the late Dato Tan Cheng Lock (right) sit facing the Communist delegates led by
Tengku Abdul Rahman (second from right, seated), the Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya, Mr David Marshall (to his left), then the Chief Minister of Singapore, and the late Dato Tan Cheng Lock (right) sit facing the Communist delegates led by Chin Peng at the abortive peace talks held in Baling in December 1955 to end the Communist revolt. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the microphone at Radio Singapore. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the microphone at Radio Singapore. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
At the book launch were PAP pioneers (from left) Othman Wok, Lee Koon Choy and Ch'ng Jit Koon together with former president S. R. Nathan and Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim. Behind Mr Ch'ng is former PAP MP Lawrence Sia, M
At the book launch were PAP pioneers (from left) Othman Wok, Lee Koon Choy and Ch'ng Jit Koon together with former president S. R. Nathan and Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim. Behind Mr Ch'ng is former PAP MP Lawrence Sia, Mr Teong Eng Siong and Mr Ng Kah Ting. -- ST PHOTO DESMOND FOO
Exhibits at the book launch at the National Library.  -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Exhibits at the book launch at the National Library.  -- ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO
Cover of the book The Battle For Merger by Lee Kuan Yew, published by ST Press. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
Cover of the book The Battle For Merger by Lee Kuan Yew, published by ST Press. -- PHOTO: ST PRESS
The reprint of “The Battle for Merger”, a compilation of speeches made by Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 1961, aims to “provide a reality check” to recent attempts by historians to recast the role played by communists and their supporters on the issue, D
The reprint of “The Battle for Merger”, a compilation of speeches made by Mr Lee Kuan Yew in 1961, aims to “provide a reality check” to recent attempts by historians to recast the role played by communists and their supporters on the issue, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said in a speech at the book’s launch at the National Library. --   ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE – Exposing the communist threat and their goal to capture power in self-governing Singapore lies at the heart of 12 radio broadcasts aired in 1961 by then-prime minister Lee Kuan Yew which have been compiled and reissued as a book that was launched on Thursday.

The reprint of “The Battle for Merger”, a compilation of those speeches and originally issued in 1962, aims to “provide a reality check” to recent attempts by historians to recast the role played by communists and their supporters on the issue, Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean said in a speech at the book’s launch at the National Library.

“They portray the fight as merely a peaceful and democratic disagreement over the type of merger,” he said of the revisionist efforts by some academics and others.

“They ignore the more fundamental agenda of the communists to seize power by subversion and armed revolution.”

Mr Teo, who is Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs, pointed out that the Communist Party of Malaya’s (CPM) armed struggle and the Communist

United Front’s (CUF) efforts to destabilise Singapore over the period have been well-documented by various academics and writers.

They include top CPM leaders such as Chin Peng and Fong Chong Pik.

These multiple accounts, Mr Teo pointed out, support a key argument that Mr Lee made in the Battle for Merger speeches over 50 years ago: that there was a communist conspiracy to take power being played out over the merger issue – and which Mr Lee sought to expose in his broadcasts.

The Communists and their supporters opposed the PAP’s vision for merger with Malaya and the concept of Malaysia, fearing their activity would be clamped down on. Thus they tried to capture the PAP and the Singapore Government in July 1961.

Mr Lee began his talks on the subject of merger on 13 Sept 1961, and continued to deliver 12 talks altogether over Radio Singapore up till 9 Oct 1961, writing and delivering each in English, Malay and Mandarin.

The Battle for Merger, comprising the transcripts of these talks, was first published in book form in 1962.

Through these talks, Mr Lee offered a blow-by-blow and first-hand account of the Communists’ power play and their attempts to frustrate merger with Malaya.

In doing so, he helped persuade Singaporeans to support merger.

His efforts paid off. In the merger referendum in September 1962 there was support from 71 per cent of voters for the PAP’s position.

Mr Teo on Thursday described the broadcasts as a powerful account of Singapore’s past, capturing the “flavour and intensity” of the turmoil then.

He recalled how he had heard the talks as a child, and said he was lucky to own a copy of the first edition of the book that belonged to his father.

The reprint also comes as the Government barred from public screening the documentary “To Singapore, With Love” by filmmaker Tan Pin Pin over its one-sided portrayal of CPM members who had condoned violence and subversion in Singapore – a bar Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong defended last Friday.

But officials say the reprint had been planned much earlier.

In his speech, Mr Teo outlined the tense global and regional environment against which the broadcasts took place, and how the communists persisted in their violent attempts even after independence.

Had Singapore fallen under communist rule in the 1960s, he said, Singapore would probably not have survived “as a small communist outcast in South East Asia as the Cold War raged”.

“We should respect the personal conviction and determination of those who held different views then and fought on the side of the communists,” he said.

“But we should, even more, acknowledge and give our respect and appreciation to the Singaporeans who had the courage and wisdom to reject the CPM’s ideology and tactics,” he added.

“Then as now, Singapore has little room to manoeuvre. The wrong decision, and it would have gone the other way, and Singapore would have turned out very differently.”

The reprint contains a fresh four-page foreword by Mr Lee, and an essay by National University of Singapore historian Albert Lau, as well as a timeline of major events and footnotes.

The book, published by the National Archives of Singapore and Straits Times Press, will be available at major bookshops at $32.50 before GST and will also be available at public libraries.

It also comes with a DVD containing recordings of the talks, which can also be accessed at http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/public/audiovisual_records/TheBattl...

An exhibition to accompany the book is being held at the National Library on Victoria Street until November 30, after which it will travel to four other libraries across the island.

asyiqins@sph.com.sg