Britain's role in Singapore's exit from Malaysia

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Deputy Prime Minister Toh Chin Chye at the press conference on the Separation of Singapore and Malaysia in 1965.
Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Deputy Prime Minister Toh Chin Chye at the press conference on the Separation of Singapore and Malaysia in 1965. ST FILE PHOTO

On 9 August 1965 Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore, famously shed tears on national television when he announced that his micro-state had exited from Malaysia. Lee lamented that for "the whole of my adult life… I have believed in merger and the unity of these two territories… (of) people connected by geography, economics and ties of kinship".

British politicians, diplomats, journalists and businessmen were equally anguished. As historian Tony Stockwell has written: "For the British government, Malaysia's raison d'etre lay in the merger of island and peninsula; their separation in 1965 made a nonsense of the original 'grand design'.''

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 03, 2019, with the headline 'Britain's role in Singapore's exit from Malaysia'. Print Edition | Subscribe