Confrontations in Singapore

February 19 2014

Why is the history of Singapore so fascinating? It has a strong atmosphere, though the city nowadays is called sterile. The modern founding fathers seem, in the ’50s and ’60s, magnetic, but nobody is attracted to their successors.

A rough guide to British Malaya (old post). Singapore became self-governing in 1959, joined the new Federation of Malaysia in 1963, seceded from it on August 9 1965.

Five 45-minute episodes of Days of Rage, documentary series on Channel NewsAsia, are online now. Historical order:

  1. Nadra. December 11 1950. An argument over the custody of Maria Hertogh between her Malay-Muslim foster mother and her Dutch-Catholic real parents led to rioting by Muslims. Nadra was her Muslim name.
  2. Hock Lee Bus Riots. May 12 1955. A communist-instigated strike in a bus company.
  3. Race Riots. July 21 1964. The beginning of the end for Singapore in the new Federation of Malaysia. Thirteen months later, the two nations would separate.
  4. Konfrontasi. March 10 1965. MacDonald House on Orchard Road was bombed while Malaysia was in an undeclared war with Indonesia.
  5. Laju Hijack. January 31 1974. Two members of the Japanese Red Army and two members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine set off bombs in an oil refinery on Pulau Bukom, an offshore island, and seized the ferryboat Laju.

The films are partly acted (chubbier modern actors in place of slimmer originals, as always; the most absurd example of this I ever saw was a film about the Egyptian pyramids in which pampered, pudgy modern bodies hauled stones), but there are talking heads and old footage. For some surviving witnesses, we are told, “this is the first time they have shared their […] stories”.

There were riots in Little India last December. There were Anti-National Service Riots in 1954 and riots by pro-communist Chinese school students in 1956. Further race riots in 1969 were a spillover from Malaysia.

Producer and directors: first episode (broadcast order), Joan Chee; second, third, fifth, Tom St John Gray; fourth, Janice Young. Channel NewsAsia is part of MediaCorp, which is owned by Temasek, which is the government of Singapore. Thanks to Adrian Murdoch for the link. Adrian’s edition of three early lives of Raffles is here.

Singapore pre-1975 (Flickr group).

3 Responses to “Confrontations in Singapore”

  1. davidderrick Says:

    Outskirts of Singapore, 1951. Film courtesy of Michael Rogge, about whom I have written here, but taken by WH Park:


  2. […] Confrontations in Singapore (old post). […]


  3. […] in Malaysia or India. I mentioned some moments of confrontation in Singapore’s post-war history here. For references to architecture, search under […]


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