Episode 47: The 1964 Political Riots

Singapore has never had a race riot – so why do we call the riots of 1964 “race” riots? In this episode, PJ Thum explains how the elections of 1963 and 1964, the starkly divergent political circumstances north and south of the causeway, and most of all the contradictions inherent in how Malaysia had been constructed, led to the outbreak of riots in Singapore in 1964, and why they should be properly termed “political” riots. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit http://thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at http://patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 46: Selamat Hari Malaysia

The mutual antipathy between Federation and Singapore ministers nearly sank merger before it happened, and ensured that Malaysia would be birthed into a poisoned atmosphere. In this episode, PJ Thum details how both sides grew increasingly hostile and bitter, how this was rooted in the different political systems in the two territories, and how they limped over the finish line into Malaysia. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit http://thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at http://patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 45: The Man, The Myth, The Legend: Who is Lim Chin Siong?

It is just barely an exaggeration to say that Lee Kuan Yew’s primary reason to pursue merger was to defeat Lim Chin Siong; as a result of this, the lives of millions of people in four different territories would be changed forever. But who is Lim Chin Siong? What did he believe? And why was he so feared that the British, Federation, and PAP leaders would disrupt their stable arrangements to defeat him? In this episode, PJ Thum explores Lim in his own words, and seeks the beliefs behind the man. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 44: Operation Coldstore II: The Blame Game

The British, Federation, and PAP leaders agreed that Singapore’s political opposition would be arrested, despite the lack of evidence of any wrongdoing, before merger took place. But the issues of who to arrest, when to arrest them, and most of all, who would take the blame for the arrests, would prove so contentious that it would nearly torpedo merger. Lee Kuan Yew, in particular, sought to manipulate the arrests for maximum political gain, to the anger and frustration of his allies inside and outside Singapore. In this episode, PJ Thum describes the endless rounds of arguing, haggling, and brinkmanship that characterised the final negotiations over Coldstore. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit http://thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at http://patreon.com/pjthum .

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.