Malaysian PM back after 55-day absence

Tunku Abdul Rahman said it was necessary to hold talks between KL and Singapore.
Tunku Abdul Rahman said it was necessary to hold talks between KL and Singapore.ST FILE PHOTO

"Lee Kuan Yew is a snake with two heads" and "Crush Lee Kuan Yew" were some of the slogans on posters that greeted Malaysian prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman when he stepped off his aircraft in Singapore this week in 1965 after being away from Malaysia for nearly two months.

An attack of shingles had extended his stay in London after the Commonwealth prime ministers' conference, and an emergency plane landing in Karachi had further delayed his return. He landed in Singapore on Aug 6, 1965 - 55 days after he left - his longest absence since he took office in 1953.

Anti-Lee Kuan Yew protesters - mainly supporters of Tunku Abdul Rahman's Umno party - had lined up at the airport to welcome him. Some posters called for the Singapore prime minister's arrest.

After well-wishers garlanded him and prayed, the Tunku was whisked into a news conference, where reporters fired questions at him about when he would meet Mr Lee to iron out tensions between Singapore and the central government.

Tensions had been running high for months as Mr Lee's People's Action Party sought to gather wider support for its non-communal "Malaysian Malaysia" campaign.


Break up Singapore and the British military bases are useless. That is their military strategy. Singapore is our island and our home, and we have to do everything to protect it.

DR TOH CHIN CHYE, Singapore's deputy prime minister, warning Singaporeans to be extra vigilant and look out for Indonesian saboteurs in the lead-up to Indonesia's independence day on Aug 17

The Tunku told reporters: "As soon as I get settled down, I'll ask Mr Lee to meet me to discuss a few things he has been shouting about."

He added: "If you ask me when it will be, I will not be able to answer you. But I will, of course, see him."

He said that despite the placards carried by supporters urging him not to meet Mr Lee, he still believed it was necessary for the good of the nation that talks be held between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

He added that in a democratic country, it was inevitable that "hot words" would be bandied about now and then. "This is all right so long as they do not transcend the ordinary bounds of justice," he said.

He urged his supporters not to destroy the peace of the country.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on August 02, 2015, with the headline 'Malaysian PM back after 55-day absence'. Print Edition | Subscribe