Media headlines the day after S’pore became independent 52 years ago show how times change
Miles away from today's post-NDP coverage.
We celebrated National Day yesterday (Aug. 9), and the mainstream media’s headlines today (Aug. 10) are filled with coverage of the the parade and festivities all around Singapore.
But things were different the day after National Day 52 years ago in 1965, and the headlines on August 10, 1965 are miles away from the present day coverage.
We begin with then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew’s broadcast on TV Singapore on August 9, 1965, which everyone is familiar with to set the mood of the time:
The next day, these were the headlines that greeted Singaporeans. They were decidedly more sombre and less festive than what we have today:
The Straits Times’ headline was short and simple: ‘Singapore is out’. The headline was also accompanied by a picture of Malaysian Prime Minister Tengku Abdul Rahman with his head bowed, saying it was his idea for Singapore to leave the Federation.
Berita Harian’s headline screamed “Singapore gets out of Malaysia”. It also printed out the Tengku’s words: “[This is a ] task which I have not wanted in ten years of leadership”.
Tamil Murasu took on a more optimistic stance, with a quote by Prime Minister (PM) Lee Kuan Yew: “Cooperation with Malaysia is an important part of our society’s foundation”.
Its headline said: “In Singapore, there is a place for everybody’, echoing PM Lee’s declaration that Singapore would be a multiracial society”.
Nanyang Siang Pau opened with the declaration that Singapore has become an independent country, and added that Indonesia acknowledges Singapore’s independence, and would be sending an ambassador to our country.
It is worth noting that Indonesia was opposed to Singapore’s merger into the Federation of Malaysia in 1963, claiming that the Federation was a proxy for the British to exert control over the region. The merger was one of the key reasons for the Indonesian-initiated Konfrontasi
Sin Chew Jit Poh led with news that Britain had known about the separation beforehand. It also added that The Commonwealth of Nations said the two parties have the right to decide on the issue of separation.
Riding off the high of our 52nd anniversary, let us also remember that the beginning of independence was far from rosy, even in the eyes of overseas media, such as Sydney Morning Herald:
“An Independent Singapore was not regarded as viable three years ago. Nothing in current situation suggests that it is any more viable today.”
Sydney Morning Herald, August 10 1965.
How times have changed.
Top image adapted via NewspaperSG.