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Singapore within the Federation of Malaya


get a feeling so complicated
Ford Nation
Singapore's two-year stint in the Federation of Malaysia was marred by severe political tensions that culminated in deadly race riots that in time would contribute to its expulsion and independence in 1965. But what would've happened if the former Crown Colony was instead brought into the Federation of Malaya along with Malacca and Penang in 1947? By this time the British felt increasingly weary of their political hold in Southeast Asia and wanted to devolve their authority to local and regional positions, while nationalist sentiment was on the rise, spurred on by the Japanese invasion and occupation during the Second World War destroying any sense of the British Empire's infallible protection. Bringing Singapore into the Federation rather than keeping it as a Crown colony, while politically less face-saving for the British, probably could've helped them tackle the self-government issue earlier, and in the longer term ensure at least somewhat better political integration with the rest of Malaya. Additionally, integration could've provided more economic benefits, as even though Singapore's economy was still recovering, it could have benefited from access to the Malayan market to help facilitate commerce and trade as well as reconstruction.

On the flip side, the Malayan Emergency was on the verge of breaking out, and the Malayan Communist Party's presence in Singapore was already well-established by the time. Adding on to that, the failure of the Malayan Union, which had legally guaranteed the equality of the Malay, Chinese, and Indian populations, would've been another spanner in the works, as the Malays were unwilling to maintain the privileged position that the ethnic Chinese population had enjoyed, which was no more evident elsewhere than in Singapore. And of course the British were probably still going to want to keep Singapore because of its sheer strategic and economic value until holding onto it was no longer tenable.

So what was the feasibility of Singapore's integration into Malaya in 1947? And what would the outcome be? Would it eventually go independent as a result of ethnic, political, and economic tensions? Could this give rise to a Communist Malaya? How would politics and the economy be (re-)organised - would parties like the UMNO be more integrated, would governments take the form more of a Barisan Nasional-type coalition of politically like-minded parties representing various ethnic constituents, or perhaps single-party dominance akin to the PAP going across ethnic lines? Would the rest of Malaya benefit from commerce and trade in Singapore, and vice versa through Malaya's resources? Would Malaya even become Malaysia?


get a feeling so complicated
Ford Nation
My own conjecture would go something like this:

I'm thinking that without a concrete consolidation of Malay dominance in society through the UMNO, Singapore would have a much easier time at it and probably wouldn't leave. Even though Malay ethno-nationalism was well established in the social and political sphere across the Peninsula, it wasn't as firmly entrenched as the underlying core of the political establishment as it was in the 1960s, and a Singaporean presence in the Federation could provide more resources for organisation to build up a larger base than the MCA did, giving them more leverage to challenge UMNO. This might also be a stretch, but it's possible that the Singaporean membership in the Federation from the outset might make the UMNO more amenable to opening up beyond Malays - UMNO founder Dato' Onn Jaafar was more amenable to a Chinese and Indian presence in the party, and with Singaporean backing he could hold his views and position more firmly against the more staunch ethno-nationalists like Tunku Abdul Rahman.

However, I think that the Emergency would be escalated somewhat because the Malayan authorities by themselves would have a harder time at it weeding out the guerrillas, especially since the Singapore labour unions really managed to entrench their Communist leanings. This might mean more reliance on British military power in the conflict, and if the situation deteriorates sufficiently there might be an urban component to the insurgency, though the latter would probably only occur in a worst-case scenario. Regardless, the MCP is probably going to be broken in any case, though socialism as a political force might gain more ground in Malaysia through its existing presence in Singapore. Still, I don't think this would be enough to break the rule of a big tent coalition or party like the likes of the UMNO or PAP.

Overall, in the longer term, Singapore will be less likely to leave as racial tensions would likely not be as strained as they were in the 1960s, but I don't feel that any other major events up to that point would be significantly affected anyhow. One thing I'm fairly confident of, however, is that without the trauma of the 1964 race riots, one among many, racial and ethnic division would probably persist, though the reconciliation between the Malays and Chinese, whether out of necessity or goodwill, would probably mark out the situation as being somewhere between Malaysia and Singapore in that regard. Still, if Sabah and Sarawak do get subsumed into a Malaysia that already treats Singapore as a core territory, the Konfrontasi might be more in favour of Malaysia and the Commonwealth.

Then there's the tigers in the room. If Singapore is able to capitalise on its position and does become an economic powerhouse like OTL and forces Malaysia to find other ways to compete, it becomes hazier. The integration they share could lead to the rest of Malaysia pursuing similar policies earlier than they did in OTL, easing their own economic boom. However, the possibility that Singapore could still be leaps and bounds ahead of the other states might be cause for future political and economic tensions over a) Singapore being disproportionately representative of the Malaysian economy, and b) Singapore being disproportionately underrepresented within the Federation for its economic leverage. How they would rise to the challenge I'm not sure.

Tom Colton

200 years since T.S. Raffles stole Singapore
Thanks for the heads-up, I'll have to consolidate my thoughts on this but bringing Brunei in would probably be enough of a sweetener to enhance Singapore's chances of staying in. I suspect they'd have an SNP equivalent which just keeps gaining ground as more corruption emerges in the rest of Malaysia.

Tabac Iberez

Published by SLP
I honestly doubt it'll happen. There's a lot of Malayan nationalism and other fine memes a-brewing that Singapore can cut dead politically, and considering how the power structures shook out historically there's not much you can do to change the fact the Malay heartland is on North Borneo, while Johor and the rest is just clay for the sake of clay.