This week in 1965: 5 parties call for 'Malaysian Malaysia'

This week in 1965: 5 parties call for 'Malaysian Malaysia'

Five Malaysian opposition parties - including the People's Action Party (PAP) - came together in Singapore this week in 1965 to issue a joint declaration of their common desire for a "Malaysian Malaysia".

The Straits Times reported on May 10, 1965, that they held a two-hour closed-door discussion at Sri Temasek, the official residence of the prime minister of Singapore, which was then a state in the new nation of Malaysia.

The others represented were the United Democratic Party, People's Progressive Party, Sarawak United Peoples' Party and Machinda Party.

The consolidated group became known as the "Grand Opposition" and were united in their desire for a Malaysia where all races would have equal rights.

While party leaders gave no advance notice that the convention would be held that day, PAP leaders Lee Kuan Yew and Toh Chin Chye had separately hinted at such a united opposition front a few weeks before.

In their declaration, the parties said the threat of an undemocratic Malaysia governed along racial lines was greater than external threats from communists or Indonesians who were against the creation of Malaysia.

After outlining the ideals that defined a "Malaysian Malaysia", the communique went on to say: "The people of Malaysia did not vote for a non-democratic Malaysia. They did not vote for a Malaysia assuring hegemony to one community. Still less would they be prepared to fight for the preservation for so meaningless a Malaysia."

The parties called for a "change of ideas and political styles" to meet the new needs of the nation.

The Singapore National Trades Union Congress threw its support behind the Grand Opposition, with president Ho See Beng calling the consolidation of the groups "a symbol of the solidarity of the fundamental purpose of Malaysia".

In response, the Penang chief of the Pan-Malayan Islamic Party - forerunner of today's Parti Islam SeMalaysia - called for Malay political parties to unite and form a common front against the new group. Ustaz Musa Haji Mohamed Yatim said this would be the "best means of safeguarding the position of Malays".

On May 12 that year, Datuk Syed Ja'afar Albar, secretary-general of Malaysia's leading Malay party Umno, called on Malays to unite against any threats to their special rights in Malaysia.

He told a 1,000-strong rally that the Malays' special rights were "prevented from falling into the hands of the immigrant races" when Umno was formed in 1946.

Several people at the rally held signs with slogans denouncing Singapore leader Lee Kuan Yew.

jennanid@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on May 10, 2015.
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