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The Singapore Story By Lee Kuan

June 09, 2012 | Comments: 0 | Views: 251

Singapore has long been associated with the name, Lee Kuan Yew, the freedom fighter, the politician and the statesman who turned Singapore from an underdeveloped colonial outpost to an independent country with the status of the regional economic hub it is today. The Singapore Story is focused on the struggle of Lee Kuan Yew as a politician in the British colony of Singapore. How Lee transformed Singapore from a fish harbour into the modern country that we see now does not form part of this book.

Lee was raised and educated in British Singapore in a family with high esteem for everything British. His studies were suspended for a while when the Japanese occupied Singapore during the IInd World War. He saw the Japanese atrocities from up close during this time. He worked for the Japanese as a translator during this time and engaged in petty business deals to survive. However, his respect for the British power during this time lessened considerably. He continued with his studies in the post-War period at Cambridge and returned as a lawyer to Singapore. It was during his studies at Cambridge, that he married Kwa Geok Choo, a former schoolmate and friend.

In many ways, the political scene in Singapore at that time was similar to the political developments taking place in several countries around the world. Many students from the colonies were returning back to their countries with fascination for the British parliamentary system and the idea of independence. They formed the core of the English speaking political elite which had little real connection with the Chinese and Malay speaking masses, which were swayed by the Communist movements. While the former were represented in parties like Labour Party, later emerged as Labour Front, the Progressive Party and the Democratic Party, the communists represented by the Malaysian Communist Party (MCP) were far more active in Malaysia and Singapore at the time. While Lee was, like many others, for struggle against the continued presence of colonial powers, he saw the Communist movements as impediments to the independence of Singapore and a threat to the long-term stability of his country.

So, Lee, after practising as a lawyer for some time, launched People's Action Party (PAP) as a third option. Mindful of the popularity of the leftist movements, he avoided confrontation with them in the initial phase of his political career. In fact, some of his early political associates came from the Chinese trade unions and had close relationship with the communists. This strategy prevented him from alienating the crucial support of the Chinese in Singapore, who were quite enthusiastic for the communist ideals due to the developments in neighbouring China. He, thus, also avoided the blunder of being dubbed as a British stooge and established himself as an independent political actor.

His politics matured with the passage of time. From demanding independence right away, he moved gradually towards seeking support of the British, though in an indirect way, against the influence of the communists. He had to face considerable pressure from his colleagues in PAP, who tried to hijack the party. He prevailed, however, by winning the elections in 1959.

In order to counter the communist threat, he pressed for union with Malaysia as he considered this move necessary for countering the communist threat. However, the Malaysians were not keen on taking Singapore as part of the union as Tunku Abdul Rahman was wary of any increase in Chinese influence in Malaysia due to the large Chinese population of Singapore. It took a lot of prodding both by Lee Kuan Yew, who was now the Prime Minister of Singapore and the British for Tunku to accept Singapore as part of the Malay Federation. He achieved the merger after getting popular mandate through a referendum. This gave a further opportunity to Lee to get rid of the Communist influence over people in Singapore.

Tunku Abdul Rahman and the Malaysian leadership, with their dream of Malay supremacy, were however not comfortable in working with Lee, who was too independent for their taste. Differences soon erupted between the Federal and the State governments over many issues, especially over the discriminatory policies of the Federation against the Chinese. Tunku started supporting rival political forces in Singapore and Lee started with his own political activities in mainland Malaysia. The tensions rose to the level that the state government was warned by Tunku against becoming a tool of Indonesia, which had dispute with the Malay Federation. Finally, the arrangement seemed hopeless to the Malaysian leadership, who decided to part ways with Singapore. So, Singapore declared independence in August 1965.

This book has detailed account of the political struggle and thought process of one of the finest politician and statesman in the world. Highly recommended for a serious student of politics!

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Source: EzineArticles
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