Hear Mr Lee Kuan Yew read the Proclamation of Independence
He did not have time to announce Singapore's separation from Malaysia on Aug 9, 1965, as there were “too many other things to do”.
That was why an announcer read the proclamation over then-Radio Singapore at 10am that day.
Singapore separated from Malaysia: At a press conference in Singapore, Mr Lee Kuan Yew called on his people to remain firm and calm. PHOTO: ST FILE
Then-Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew said in his book The Singapore Story, published in 1998:
"I got up very early on that morning of 9 August 1965 after a fitful night. I had awakened several times to scribble notes of the thousand and one things I had to do.
"Everything had been timed for the proclamation of independence at 10am on the radio.
"I had decided against reading the proclamation personally. I had too many other things to do in quick succession.”
To make up for this, Mr Lee agreed three years ago to do the recording, the People's Association (PA) said in a statement.
It was played on local TV and radio channels at 9am this National Day (Aug 9) and at grassroots-led National Day observance ceremonies across the island.
You can listen to it here:
'Moment of anguish'
The proclamation is a section from the agreement that marks the separation between Singapore and Malaysia.
It also marks Singapore gaining her status as an independent sovereign state.
Mr Lee had entrusted then-Minister for Law EW Barker to draft the proclamation in mid-July, after receiving news that the Federal Cabinet had agreed with Tunku Abdul Rahman that Singapore should separate from Malaysia.
The two had agreed that to prevent any leakage, Mr Barker had best do it himself — without any official or even a stenographer.
The late Mr Lee Kuan Yew had asked then-Law Minister EW Barker to draft a separation agreement. Mr Barker didn't tell anyone about it, not even his wife. PHOTO: ST FILE
Besides the draft agreement, Mr Barker also worked on other legal documents dealing with the separation, such as the division of assets.
The magazine Singapore: 25 Years, published in 1990, quoted Mr Barker saying that he kept quiet about what he had to do, telling no one — not even his wife.
"When you work on a matter like this, you don't tell anybody."
In an oral interview in 1982, Mr Barker recalled:
"Every time I look at these Agreements, I'm happy, I have a sense of pride, having contributed to a major change - the separation of Singapore from Malaysia.
I was able to draft these documents then in a short time because I had just left the Bar, in fact, nine months before that.
"I had been in practice for 14 years and had a lot of experience. Hence, I was able to do it."
But many people, including then-Culture Minister S. Rajaratnam and then-Deputy Prime Minister Toh Chin Chye had mixed feelings about the separation.
Then-Deputy Prime Minister Dr Toh Chin Chye addressing a big gathering of local and International newsmen in the City Hall's cabinet room. PHOTO: ST FILE
Mr Rajaratnam said in Singapore: 25 Years:
"We (Dr Toh and him) were against it initially. We were quite prepared to take the risk of resisting separation.
"We felt very strongly and eventually, the PM had to report to the Tunku that we were against it."
But they changed their minds after the Tunku wrote a letter explaining how the situation could get out of control and descend into bloodshed.
Deputy Prime Minister Dr Toh Chin Chye and the Minister for Culture, Mr S. Rajaratnam visited the Kampong Glam and Rochore area in 1964, a period when racial tension was high. PHOTO: ST FILE
Malaysia-born Dr Toh and other colleagues had rejoiced at the unification of Singapore with Malaya in 1963.
So the decision to separate in 1965 came as a blow.
But if expulsion was the price for peace, "then we must accept it, however agonising our inner feelings may be", Dr Toh wrote in his reply to the Tunku.
Mr Lee himself was also emotional during the press conference to announce the separation that day.
Members of the diplomatic community, rushing out of the City Hall meeting room with copies of the Government Gazette Extraordinary — which contained the Separation Agreement and the Proclamation that declared Singapore an independent nation. PHOTO: ST FILE
“For me it is a moment of anguish because all my life... you see, the whole of my adult life... I have believed in merger and the unity of these two territories.”
Overwhelmed by emotions, Mr Lee asked that the cameras be stopped as he composed himself.
It took him 20 minutes to recover.
Here's a look at the Proclamation of Independence:
Source: National Archives of Singapore
Whereas it is the inalienable right of a people to be free and independent; And whereas Malaysia was established on the 16th day of September, 1963, by a federation of the existing states of the Federation of Malaya and the States of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore into one independent and sovereign nation;
And whereas by an Agreement made on the seventh day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five between the Government of Malaysia of the one part and the Government of Singapore of the other part, it was agreed that Singapore should cease to be a state of Malaysia and should thereupon become an independent and sovereign state and nation separate from and independent of Malaysia;
And whereas it was also agreed by the parties to the said Agreement that,upon the separation of Singapore from Malaysia, the Government of Malaysia shall relinquish its sovereignty and jurisdiction in respect of Singapore so that the said sovereignty and jurisdiction shall on such relinquishment vest in the Government of Singapore;
And whereas by a Proclamation dated the ninth day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five The Prime Minister of Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj Ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah did proclaim and declare that Singapore shall on the ninth day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five cease to be a state of Malaysia and shall become an independent and sovereign state and nation separate from and independent of Malaysia and recognised as such by the Government of Malaysia.
Now I LEE KUAN YEW Prime Minister of Singapore, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM AND DECLARE on behalf of the people and the Government ofSingapore that as from today the ninth day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five Singapore shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent nation, founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of her people in a more just and equal society.
(Signed) LEE KUAN YEW
Prime Minister of Singapore.
Dated the 9th day of August, 1965
Sources: Singapore: 25 Years, The Singapore Story, The Straits Times, National Archives of Singapore, People's Association