When Did Singapore Gain Independence?

Singapore gained its independence in 1965. And even though the mid-20th century was an era of history in which many countries achieved freedom from long-standing colonial rule, the Lion City has quite a unique story in terms of finally becoming a nation on its own.

Initially the island was a colonial holding of the British Empire. This lasted for over 120 years, from 1819 to 1942. During the height of World War II, the land was formally occupied by an enemy of Britain at the time, Japan. Then post-World War II, despite falling back into the hands of the British, Singapore increasingly began practicing self-governance.

A few years after that, in 1963, the nation became a part of the Federation of Malaya.  This organization was headed by Malaysia, the much-larger country directly north of Singapore. And the relationship only lasted for a few seasons, as during 1965 the independent Republic of Singapore was formed.

A Special Kind of Independence

Now what makes the story of Singapore’s independence so unique is that it was actually kicked out of the Federation of Malaya. During its time as part of the Federation, the city-state had considerable beef with Malaysia itself. This discontent was primarily racial/political in nature. Also there was some economic tension between Singapore and some other parties in Malaysia. This was partially due to, even at the time, the former already being recognized as a powerful economic center.

So on the date of 9 August 1965, the Parliament of Malaysia unanimously voted, 126 to 0, to fundamentally kick Singapore out of the Federation. This news shocked the people of the land. And even though Lee Kuan Yew, the Prime Minister of Singapore, acknowledged the inevitably of the decision, simultaneously he was clearly emotional when officially announcing Singapore’s independence to the world. And although many Singaporeans at the time were concerned with the future of the nation as an independent entity given its limited resources, eventually they grew to accept the idea.

In the process of all of this transpiring, Singapore earned the distinction of being “probably the only case in history when a country became independent against the will of its people”. In fact when Malaysia voted to expel Singapore from its Federation, no members of the Singaporean Parliament actually participated in that vote. But of course the irony of the situation is that in the decades that followed, Singapore would go on to become one of the most-popular and economically-powerful nations in Southeast Asia, being recognized in those regards moreso than Malaysia itself.

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3 Responses

  1. November 9, 2020

    […] decades, from 1959 to 1990. That means that in addition to spearheading his people towards and during independence in 1965, he was also at the helm of the country during its transition into one of the Four Asian […]

  2. November 17, 2020

    […] study. However, few could have imagined the immense growth she would come to enjoy in 1965. Upon independence from Malaysia, the young nation faced an uncertain future. The island lacked size and natural resources. It was […]

  3. November 24, 2020

    […] Below is a list of Singapore’s presidents since the country gained independence. […]

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