Tag Archive for: interstate tensions

JC History Tuition Online - Why was the Malaysian Solidarity Convention formed - Interstate Tensions Notes

Why was the Malaysian Solidarity Convention formed?

Topic of Study [For H2 History Students]:
Paper 2: Regional Conflicts and Co-operation
Source Based Case Study
Theme III Chapter 1: Inter-state tensions and co-operation: Causes of inter-state tensions

Learn more about the contributing factors that escalated tensions between Singapore and Malaysia. [Video by The Singapore Bicentennial]

A nation for all: Malaysian Malaysia
On 8 May 1965, the Malaysian Solidarity Convention (MSC) was established at Sri Temasek to oppose the concept of communalism in the Malaysian Federation. Six political parties attended the convention, namely the People’s Action Party (PAP), the People’s Progressive Party, the United Democratic Party, the Machinda Party and the Sarawak United People’s Party.

The MSC promoted the concept of a ‘Malaysian Malaysia’, which implied equality among citizens, regardless of one’s race or association with a community. This push for non-communalism was possibly driven by growing concerns over communal violence, as seen by the violent events that broke out on two occasions: 21 July 1964 (22 dead and 454 injured) and on 14 September 1964 (13 dead and 106 injured).

Under the slogan of “a democratic Malaysian Malaysia”, the Convention called for communal politics to be replaced by affiliation on the basis of “common political ideologies and common social and economic aspirations”. The The Malaysian Solidarity Convention claimed to be non-communal and committed to improving the lot of the disadvantaged of all races, but it attracted mainly non-Malays and particularly the Chinese, since the equality it sought implied the ultimate withdrawal of Malay privileges.

An excerpt taken from “A History of Modern Singapore, 1819-2005” by C.M. Turnbull.

A fiery response to the MSC
In view of the Convention, the Federal government objected to the ‘Malaysian Malaysia’ concept. Extremists in the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) held deep-seated suspicions towards the Singapore leader, Lee Kuan Yew, assuming that the MSC was an attempt by Lee to ‘seize power’. Conservatives perceived this concept as a threat to their religion and culture.

But this battle cry was too disconcertedly discordant to the Malay ears on the mainland. And in the eyes of the ultras and others, the PAP-led campaign was seen to be an open challenge to the UMNO leadership and Malay political dominance in Malaysia.

Tun Razak himself viewed the “Malaysian Malaysia” campaign as being directed against UMNO and the Malays.

[…] Returning from Laos on 21 May 1965, Lee told a large crowd at the airport: “If we must have trouble, let us have it now instead of waiting for another five or ten years. If we find Malaysia cannot work now, then we can make alternative arrangements…

An excerpt taken from “Riding a Tiger” by Khor Eng Lee.

The straw that broke the camel’s back
On 27 May 1965, the federal parliament held a session, leading to an open confrontation between the PAP and the UMNO leaders. The PAP was then accused of being ‘anti-Malay’. In opposition to these claims, Lee stated that the special rights under communal politics would not guarantee economic progress, which would affect the entire Federation. Notably, Lee’s speech during the parliament session had impacted Tunku’s decision on the Separation.

Let us be honest, Mr. Speaker, Sir. There are two different things. One, our accepting Malay as the National Language. It is good. We must have over the years one national language to unify the people. We agreed that the happiness of all those of non—Malay stocks which include the Dyaks and the Kadazans that they can speak their own languages, I am sure that that is the right policy.

[…] This is a very dangerous thing leading people to believe that if we just switch in 1967 from talking English in the courts and in the business, to speaking Malay, therefore the imbalance in social and economic development will disappear. It will not disappear.

An excerpt taken from a speech by Singapore’s Prime Minister Mr. Lee Kuan Yew, during the debate in the Federal Parliament, 26 May 1965.

With mounting pressure from UMNO, the Tunku issued the PAP an ultimatum to leave the Malaysian Federation. Given such circumstances, the Separation occurred in August 1965.

What can we learn from this article?
Consider the following question:
– How far do you agree that political differences were the key reason for the tensions between Malaysia and Singapore in the early 1960s?

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