Was Singapore’s Independence an Accident?


In 1963, Singapore declared its independence from Great Britain. Without much land area or natural resources of its own, the new nation secured some protection and economic help by joining Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form the Federation of Malaysia. But just a few years later, Singapore was out on its own. 

The union was rocky right from the start, with Singaporean state leaders disagreeing with the federal officials on economic policy and federal affirmative action laws that gave preferential treatment to ethnic Malays. Meanwhile, Malay- and Chinese-Singaporean civilians clashed on the streets in a series of race riots that killed dozens of people, injured hundreds more, damaged infrastructure, caused food shortages, and further strained Singapore’s relations with the other states and federal government.

Federal authorities lost their patience quickly and leaders on both sides realized that the union was not sustainable. Forty-eight years ago this month, on August 9, 1965, the Parliament of Malaysia voted 126-0 to expel Singapore from the federation.

While other countries strived and fought for their independence, Singapore’s seems more like political fallout, or a punishment doled out to them. Just hours before the vote that created the new Republic of Singapore, its first Prime Minister, Lee Kuan Yew, broke down in tears during a press conference, saying, “For me, it is a moment of anguish. All my life, my whole adult life, I have believed in the merger and unity of the two territories." Wikipedia, in reference to the anniversary, even calls Singapore the “first and only country to date to gain independence unwillingly.”

But Singapore’s independence didn’t exactly happen without any input or action on the part of the state, argues Singaporean political blogger Palaniyapan:

While most nations fought to be sovereign, we didn't. It is often regarded that independence was unexpectedly thrusted upon us by Malaysia. Putatively neither did we possess a unique identity to preserve or common cause to pursue. Also, given our small size and lack of natural resources, complete self-determination appeared as both an unnecessary and unfeasible pursuit. This has led many to believe that Singapore’s eventual independence was an “accident.”

But if one were to dig deeper into the events preceding August 9th 1965, these commonly held beliefs get challenged: One would realize that our peaceful, unexpected independence belies the fact that it’s Singapore's active insistence on values such as equality and multi-racialism alongside demand for a higher degree of self-determination which precipitated its secession from Malaysia.

So was independence thrusted by Malaysia? A straightforward reading of history, would afford an affirmative to the question. Singapore never explicitly demanded to be independent. Our preferred option was to be part of Federal Malaysia.

However looking deeply, one would find that though it was Malaysia which broached the topic of secession first, the move was to a large extent precipitated by Singapore’s actions. Also, when given with the choice of moving ahead as the part of the union and accepting the compromise of having limited say in governance and giving up on the vision of Malaysian Malaysia where all races were treated equally, we consistently stuck to our convictions despite the attendant risks—which had been fully grasped.

In other words, the collective Singaporean vision of what society and government should look like was revolutionary enough to force Malaysia to stage the bloodless revolution for them. That’s actually a pretty good start for a national narrative, and something worth toasting with a Singapore Sling.

Why You Should Never Take Your Shoes Off On an Airplane

What should be worn during takeoff?

Tony Luna:

If you are a frequent flyer, you may often notice that some passengers like to kick off their shoes the moment they've settled down into their seats.

As an ex-flight attendant, I'm here to tell you that it is a dangerous thing to do. Why?

Besides stinking up the whole cabin, footwear is essential during an airplane emergency, even though it is not part of the flight safety information.

During an emergency, all sorts of debris and unpleasant ground surfaces will block your way toward the exit, as well as outside the aircraft. If your feet aren't properly covered, you'll have a hard time making your way to safety.

Imagine destroying your bare feet as you run down the aisle covered with broken glass, fires, and metal shards. Kind of like John McClane in Die Hard, but worse. Ouch!

Bruce Willis stars in 'Die Hard' (1988)
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

A mere couple of seconds delay during an emergency evacuation can be a matter of life and death, especially in an enclosed environment. Not to mention the entire aircraft will likely be engulfed in panic and chaos.

So, the next time you go on a plane trip, please keep your shoes on during takeoff, even if it is uncomfortable.

You can slip on a pair of bathroom slippers if you really need to let your toes breathe. They're pretty useless in a real emergency evacuation, but at least they're better than going barefoot.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

Big Questions
Where Should You Place the Apostrophe in President's Day?

Happy Presidents’ Day! Or is it President’s Day? Or Presidents Day? What you call the national holiday depends on where you are, who you’re honoring, and how you think we’re celebrating.

Saying "President’s Day" infers that the day belongs to a singular president, such as George Washington or Abraham Lincoln, whose birthdays are the basis for the holiday. On the other hand, referring to it as "Presidents’ Day" means that the day belongs to all of the presidents—that it’s their day collectively. Finally, calling the day "Presidents Day"—plural with no apostrophe—would indicate that we’re honoring all POTUSes past and present (yes, even Andrew Johnson), but that no one president actually owns the day.

You would think that in the nearly 140 years since "Washington’s Birthday" was declared a holiday in 1879, someone would have officially declared a way to spell the day. But in fact, even the White House itself hasn’t chosen a single variation for its style guide. They spelled it “President’s Day” here and “Presidents’ Day” here.

Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Maybe that indecision comes from the fact that Presidents Day isn’t even a federal holiday. The federal holiday is technically still called “Washington’s Birthday,” and states can choose to call it whatever they want. Some states, like Iowa, don’t officially acknowledge the day at all. And the location of the punctuation mark is a moot point when individual states choose to call it something else entirely, like “George Washington’s Birthday and Daisy Gatson Bates Day” in Arkansas, or “Birthdays of George Washington/Thomas Jefferson” in Alabama. (Alabama loves to split birthday celebrations, by the way; the third Monday in January celebrates both Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert E. Lee.)

You can look to official grammar sources to declare the right way, but even they don’t agree. The AP Stylebook prefers “Presidents Day,” while Chicago Style uses “Presidents’ Day.”

The bottom line: There’s no rhyme or reason to any of it. Go with what feels right. And even then, if you’re in one of those states that has chosen to spell it “President’s Day”—Washington, for example—and you use one of the grammar book stylings instead, you’re still technically wrong.

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