He changed his mind after talks
TNP PHOTO: JONATHAN CHOO
At a time when jobs were scarce and people were struggling to survive, then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's suggestion of a merger symbolised hope.
But it was only after Mr Lee's 12 radio broadcasts that Mr Lim Eng Chuan (above) and his family were convinced that his suggestion was the only way forward.
In 1961, Mr Lee took to the airwaves to talk about the merger with the Federation of Malaya.
Though the context of the talks was merger, the key focus was to lift the curtain on the communists' operations.
Recalling the days in the 50s and 60s, Mr Lim, 65, said his family was initially uncomfortable with the People's Action Party (PAP) as they thought the party was pro-communist.
PAP had worked with the communists to become independent of British colonial rule.
Mr Lim, a senior consultant in training and development, explained: "My parents had run away from China precisely to escape communism."
The family also felt that the merger was akin to "selling Chinese rights" to Malaysia.
"(My parents) felt that the merger would mean losing our traditional Chinese values," he said.
His distaste for the communists grew when he saw male family members joining secret societies, some of which subscribed to communism.
He recalled an incident when his elder brother was injured in a fight.
"He had a deep gash on his back, but did not dare to seek medical help for fear of being arrested. Someone had to sew up the wound," Mr Lim said.
Against this backdrop, Mr Lee's radio broadcasts painted a picture of hope and a solution for Singapore.
The talks also dispelled misconceptions that PAP was pro-communist.
Mr Lim was 12 then, but he would listen attentively as his uncle analysed each talk.
"The talks were emotionally charged and very informative. There were real names and events that took place," he said of Mr Lee exposing the communists' operations on air.
"We realised that Mr Lee had something to share. He took a big risk. He could be assassinated for exposing the way communists operate, but he did it. He's a man of courage."
Although 71 per cent of the people voted in 1962 for merger, it was a quiet affair when Singapore became part of Malaya in 1963.
Racial riots after the merger followed, and Singapore was kicked out in 1965.
But no one blamed Mr Lee. Instead, through the nation's journey to independence, Singaporeans saw a reliable leader in him.
"The circumstances after the merger was something Mr Lee could not control. Through his radio talks, he sowed the seeds of trust in us. We told ourselves we would support him all the way," Mr Lim said.