Next month, Singaporeans will hear, for the first time, the country's Proclamation of Independence read by the man who drummed up support for its merger with Malaysia in the early 1960s and, barely two years later, broke down as he spoke of its expulsion from the federation.
At 9am on Aug 9, a recording of founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's reading of the proclamation will play on all local TV and radio channels, and at grassroots-led National Day observance ceremonies across the island.
It will be Singapore's first National Day without Mr Lee, who died on March 23 at age 91.
The recording was made three years ago, and will go on air after the sounding of sirens islandwide, said the People's Association (PA) yesterday.
Mr Lee did not announce the separation 50 years ago because he had "too many other things to do in quick succession", he recalled in his book The Singapore Story, published in 1998. Hence, at 10am on Aug 9, 1965, the proclamation was read by an announcer over then Radio Singapore.
To make up for this, Mr Lee agreed three years ago to do the recording, said the PA in a statement.
The words of this founding document will be in the SG Funpack that all households will receive as part of the country's jubilee year celebrations.
Mr Lee had in 1965 put his name to the proclamation, which declares that Singapore "shall forever be a sovereign democratic and independent nation".
Describing the critical day in his book, he said: "I got up very early on that morning of 9 August 1965 after a fitful night. I had awakened several times to scribble notes of the thousand and one things I had to do. Everything had been timed for the proclamation of independence at 10am on the radio. I had decided against reading the proclamation personally. I had too many other things to do in quick succession."
One of these was a press conference at Radio and Television Singapore at noon, during which Mr Lee, voice halting and wavering, addressed the issue of separation.
With the camera trained on his face as he struggled to keep his composure, he said: "For me it is a moment of anguish because all my life... you see, the whole of my adult life... I have believed in merger and the unity of these two territories."
Overwhelmed by his emotions, he asked that the cameras be stopped as he composed himself. It took him 20 minutes to recover.
The day of Singapore's independence was marked by uncertainty about its future.
Mr Lee said in his book that while merchants in Chinatown lit firecrackers to celebrate "their freedom from communal oppression", the city area had emptied by 4pm as office workers left for home, fearing communal tensions would erupt.
Fifty years on, this National Day will see more than 500,000 residents taking part in observance ceremonies to mark the occasion at over 200 locations.
These include the 82 grassroots- led observance ceremonies, and some organised by the PA's community and corporate partners, from supermarket chains to voluntary welfare organisations.
It is the first time, the PA said, that all the ceremonies will be held on the same day at the same time: 9am on Aug 9.
Many will include nostalgic sights, sounds and activities to recreate the mix of anxiety and optimism that marked Singapore's first day as an independent nation.
Retired driver Lim Teck Huat, 76, cannot recall hearing the proclamation on radio, but clearly remembers Mr Lee's tearful speech on TV.
"It was like a shock to my heart. For so many years, they kept telling us we can survive only with Malaysia. Suddenly, we were alone. I was scared," he said.
"Now, Singapore is 50 years old. We are still here but Mr Lee Kuan Yew is gone. It will be a good memory to hear him read this proclamation."
What the proclamation says
WHEREAS it is the inalienable right of a people to be free and independent;
AND WHEREAS Malaysia was established on the 16th day of September, 1963, by a federation of the existing states of the Federation of Malaya and the States of Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore into one independent and sovereign nation;
AND WHEREAS by an Agreement made on the seventh day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five between the Government of Malaysia of the one part and the Government of Singapore of the other part it was agreed that Singapore should cease to be a state of Malaysia and should thereupon become an independent and sovereign state and nation separate from and independent of Malaysia;
AND WHEREAS it was also agreed by the parties to the said Agreement that, upon the separation of Singapore from Malaysia, the Government of Malaysia shall relinquish its sovereignty and jurisdiction in respect of Singapore so that the said sovereignty and jurisdiction shall on such relinquishment vest in the Government of Singapore;
AND WHEREAS by a Proclamation dated the ninth day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five The Prime Minister of Malaysia Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj Ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah did proclaim and declare that Singapore shall on the ninth day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five cease to be a state of Malaysia and shall become an independent and sovereign state and nation separate from and independent of Malaysia and recognised as such by the Government of Malaysia.
Now I LEE KUAN YEW Prime Minister of Singapore, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM AND DECLARE on behalf of the people and the Government of Singapore that as from today the ninth day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five Singapore shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent nation, founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of her people in a more just and equal society.
(Signed) LEE KUAN YEW
Prime Minister of Singapore.
Dated the 9th day of August, 1965.
This article was first published on July 11, 2015.
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