What did independence mean for Singapore?
Responses and feelings of the people who went through independence
Every year on the 9th of August, our small nation celebrates National Day. It is on this day, 50 years ago, that Singapore became an independent and sovereign nation. In 1965, after Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew announced Singapore independence from Malaysia, many people did not anticipate this event and were shocked and in sheer disbelief. Some felt sad and some were not even aware of the political issue.
Singapore had no natural resources and had a small population. The atmosphere was tense and some people were pessimistic about Singapore’s economic survival. However, life in Singapore must still go on and its people must work towards survival, security and success. It did not take long for nationalistic fervour to be rouse when it became clear that the survival and well-being was at stake.
There were many challenges faced by Singapore after it became an independent nation. Prime Minister Lee’s immediate concerns were international recognition for Singapore, the defence of Singapore and its economic survival.
Indonesia’s policy of Konfrontasi and The Vietnam War during that time, posed a big threat to the young nation of Singapore. Lack of a strong defence force would affect Singapore’s economy. The government had to build its own defence force by establishing the Ministry of Interior and Defence (MID) in Oct 1965 before British forces withdrew from Singapore. This is crucial for the nation's security and stability.
In order to further boost security and stability, Singapore had to build strong alliance with other countries through diplomacy. Singapore gain recognition as a state by joining United Nations and the Commonwealth.
As a new nation, it was challenging to forge a common identity and a sense of belonging among its people. The government made appeals to urge its people to take up Singapore citizenship. The government had to unite the people get the them to think of themselves as belonging to and owing their loyalty to Singapore.
Singapore independence in 1965 was an important moment in its history. Every year on National Day, we orchestrated to highlight the aspirations and ideals of the fledgling nation to the people and to instil a sense of pride and responsibility in the people as citizens of a new nation.