Episode 43: Operation Coldstore I: The Night of Long Knives

The British, Federation of Malaya, and PAP leaders agreed to a merger of the Federation and Singapore. But Tunku Abdul Rahman demanded that Singapore’s political opposition be arrested before merger, while Lee Kuan Yew demanded they be arrested after merger, and Lord Selkirk felt arrests were unnecessary and unjustified. In this episode, PJ Thum explains the central political conflict surrounding merger and how this deadlock was eventually broken by a political event which ostensibly had nothing to do with Malaya. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 42: Hobson’s Choice

Needing to negotiate a form and structure for merger that satisfied both the Federation government and the people of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew ended up producing a compromise that gave away Singaporean sovereignty and politically quarantined Singaporeans in Singapore, in exchange for autonomy in commerce, education, and labour policy. In this episode, PJ Thum describes the raging controversy over Lee’s proposed form of merger and how Lee won popular approval in a National Referendum by giving the people a “Hobson’s Choice”. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

 

Episode 41: Lord Selkirk’s Tea Party

Lord Selkirk, UK Commissioner to Singapore, hosted James Puthucheary, Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan, and S. Woodhull at his official residence for tea at 4.30pm on 18 July 1961 – an event that become known in Singapore as the “Eden Hall Tea Party”. It was part of a long sequence of events that ended with the PAP splitting into two and the formation of the Barisan Sosialis. In this episode, PJ Thum tells the story of the Eden Hall Tea Party twice – first as we think we know it, then as it really happened – and demonstrates how history is not just about what is written down, but what is not written down – or indeed, what is deliberately left out. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

 

Episode 40: The Mercy of the Tunku

As the Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman led a stable right-wing coalition. As leader of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), he wanted to ensure its continued electoral dominance. So why would the Tunku agree to reunification with Singapore, a passionately left-wing and overwhelmingly Chinese country which would inevitably disrupt the Federation’s stable political compromise? In this episode, PJ Thum follows merger from the Tunku’s perspective, from 1955 to 1961, and explains why the Tunku would rescue Lee Kuan Yew, a man he had no particular affection for, from political defeat. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 39: The Malayan Dream

The desire of the overwhelming majority of Singapore’s people was the reunification of both parts of Malaya, known as “merger”. Why was merger so important to Singapore’s people? Why did they identify as Malayan? Why was it so intimately bound up with the hopes and aspirations of Singaporeans? In this episode, PJ Thum discusses the reasons driving (and complicating) merger, and describes how a desperate Lee Kuan Yew convinced the leadership of UMNO to agree to merger. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum .

Episode 38: Pride Cometh Before The Fall

At the end of the People’s Action Party’s first year in power in May 1960, they were widely popular and riding high. One year later, they were absolutely crushed in a crucial by-election, which party leader Lee Kuan Yew had declared to be a referendum on his government. In this episode, PJ Thum narrates the second year of the PAP’s time in office, including the Ong Eng Guan affair and the end of Lee’s secret conspiracy with the Malayan Communist Party, how Lee fell victim to a situation largely of his own making, and the desperate gamble he would embark on to restore his authority. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 37: The Nature of Colonialism

What is the nature of colonialism? What does it mean to be a colonised country? What does it mean to behave in a colonial manner? Can we be both part of an independent country and yet still be oppressed like a colonial one? These questions would underpin the conflicts of the final phase of Singapore’s decolonisation. In this episode, PJ Thum discusses the question in the light of the act that was most associated with the tyranny of colonialism: detention without trial. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum. Learn more about “1987: Untracing the Conspiracy” at 1987untracing.wix.com/1987untracing

 

Episode 36: Winning’s Easy. Governing’s Harder.

The PAP won the 1959 general election, but now their leaders had to govern Singapore. They would find this to be much harder than anticipated. They churned out legislation with the twin goals of creating an ideal socialist state in Singapore and consolidating control, but in the process began to alienate their colleagues and the people of Singapore. In this episode, PJ Thum describes how they went about achieving their two aims (starting even before they entered government), the mistakes they made, and how their decisions continue to impact Singapore today. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 35: The Turning Point

Singapore’s 140th year was arguably its greatest. For the first time, all of Singapore was under the control of a fully elected, locally responsible government. A popular left-wing party won the election, and proceeded to launch its self-proclaimed People’s Revolution. An independent, socialist, non-communist, prosperous Singapore seemed in the grasp of Singapore at last. In this episode, PJ Thum recounts the elections of 1959, explains why the People’s Action Party won, and discusses the significance of 1959 as a turning point in Singapore history.  Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 34: Housing the People: An Interview with Dr Loh Kah Seng

One of the most pressing issues facing Singapore in the 1950s was the severe shortage of housing for its rapidly growing population. But imposing a solution on the population of Singapore would have drastic consequences for the identity and culture of Singaporeans, altering their relationship to the earth, to the state, and to each other. In this episode, PJ Thum sits down with Dr Loh Kah Seng, author of “Squatters into Citizens: The 1961 Bukit Ho Swee Fire and the Making of Singapore.” Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.