PM Lee: The story of Singapore could have turned out very differently

Singapore could have turned out very differently today if history had taken a different course, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday night. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE 
Singapore could have turned out very differently today if history had taken a different course, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday night. -- PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE 

SINGAPORE - Singapore could have turned out very differently today if history had taken a different course, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday night.

He made the point in a Facebook post highlighting a speech by Institute of Policy Studies director Janadas Devan on Monday, in which Mr Janadas gave a vivid account of the events leading up to Singapore's independence on Aug 9, 1965.

"A people who forget their history will perish", Mr Lee wrote.

 

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"There was nothing inevitable about our separation from Malaysia," he said, a point Mr Janadas made and which Mr Lee said struck a chord with him.

"Our founding leaders had believed that Singapore could not possibly survive without a hinterland," Mr Lee wrote.

"The flow of events might well have ended up with "one country, two systems" and quite a different Singapore."

The story of how this possibility could have come about was earlier told at the opening of the IPS' Singapore Perspectives conference by Mr Janadas on Monday.

In his account of the events leading up to Singapore's independence, Mr Janadas related how Singapore and Kuala Lumpur had discussed the possibility of forming a confederation before eventually separating in 1965.

Under the proposed arrangement, Singapore would have powers of self-government. But Kuala Lumpur would retain control of its defence and external relations.

But this plan was eventually discovered and scuppered by the British.

PM Lee added: "Today we are in a much better position than in 1965, but we are still a vulnerable, small country in Southeast Asia," said PM Lee.

"The dangers we avoided long ago are not permanently gone, but remain potential possibilities. If we forget our history, they may come back, and we will have to relearn painful lessons," he added.

charyong@sph.com.sg