SOAS University of London

Centre of South East Asian Studies

Merger, Acquisition, or Takeover? Singapore's Progressive Left, the Creation of Malaysia, and the Enduring Consequences of Operation Coldstore

P J Thum

Date: 21 January 2014Time: 5:15 PM

Finishes: 21 January 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Venue: Brunei Gallery Room: B102

Type of Event: Seminar


The merger of Federation of Malaya and Singapore in 1963 originated from Singapore’s domestic political difficulties. The nature of these difficulties, however, has never been adequately understood; due to a paucity of sources, communist subversion has been generally uncritically accepted as its root, and Operation Coldstore presented as the solution to a security problem. Using newly declassified documents and a mix of vernacular sources, this seminar will analyse the domestic political factors that inspired Singapore’s merger with the Federation. It demonstrates how a combination of internal party strife and a decline in popularity led the People’s Action Party to seek to restore their political authority, via achieving the widely popular but extremely difficult goal of the reunification of Malaya; it presents the perspective of Singapore's progressive left and situates them in the narrative of merger; it explains why – despite a complete lack of evidence for any communist subversive activity – communist subversion was blamed for necessitating merger; and shows how the process of the negotiation of Coldstore sowed the seeds for Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. It concludes with a discussion of the continuing consequences of how Coldstore continues to define the contours of Singapore politics today.

Organiser: Centres & Programmes Office

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