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Self-government administration (19591963)

In the national elections held on 30 May 1959,
the PAP won 43 of the 51 seats in the legislative assembly.
Singapore gained self-government with autonomy in all
state matters except defence and foreign affairs, and Lee
became the first Prime Minister of Singapore on 3 June
1959, taking over from Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock.[41]
A key event was the motion of confidence in the
government, in which 13 PAP assemblymen crossed party
lines and abstained from voting on 21 July 1961. Together
with six prominent left-leaning leaders from trade unions,
the breakaway members established a new party,
the Barisan Sosialis.

His view was shared by the British Prime Minister Harold

Macmillan (19571963), who was keen on a merger of
British colonial territories across South East Asia, including
Singapore, in order to hasten the end of British rule, whilst
sharing similar concerns to those of Lee about avoiding
possible Communist infiltration in Singapore.[42]
Merger with Malaysia, then separation (19631965)
Lee Kuan Yew declaring the forming of the Federation of
Malaysia on 16 September 1963 in Singapore.
After Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul
Rahman proposed the formation of a federation which
would include Malaya, Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak in
1961, Lee began to campaign for a merger to end British
colonial rule. He used the results of a referendum held on 1
September 1962, in which 70% of the votes were cast in

support of his proposal, to demonstrate that the people

supported his plan; most of the other votes were blank, as
Lee had not allowed a "No" option.[43]
On 16 September 1963, Singapore became part of the new
Federation of Malaysia. However, the union was shortlived. The Malaysian central government, ruled by
the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO),
became worried by the inclusion of Singapore's Chinese
majority and the political challenge of the PAP in Malaysia.
The 1964 race riots in Singapore followed, such as that on
21 July 1964, near Kallang Gasworks, in which 23 people
were killed and hundreds injured as Chinese and Malays
attacked each other. It is still disputed how the riots started,
and theories include a bottle being thrown into a Muslim
rally by a Chinese, while others have argued that it was

started by a Malay. More riots broke out in September 1964,

as rioters looted cars and shops, forcing both Tunku Abdul
Rahman and Lee to make public appearances to calm the
Unable to resolve the crisis, Tunku Abdul Rahman decided
to expel Singapore from Malaysia, choosing to "sever all
ties with a State Government that showed no measure of
loyalty to its Central Government". Lee refused and tried to
work out a compromise, but without success. He was later
convinced by Goh Keng Swee that the secession was
inevitable.[44] Lee signed a separation agreement on 7
August 1965, which discussed Singapore's post-separation
relations with Malaysia in order to continue co-operation in
areas such as trade and mutual defence.

The failure of the merger was a heavy blow to Lee, who

believed that it was crucial for Singapores survival. In a
televised press conference that day, he fought back
tears[45] and briefly stopped to regain his composure as he
formally announced the separation and the full
independence of Singapore to an anxious population:
"every time we look back on this moment when we signed
this agreement which severed Singapore from Malaysia, it
will be a moment of anguish. 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. You know, it's a people connected by
geography, economics, and ties of kinship..."[46]
On that same day, 9 August 1965, just as the press
conference ended, the Malaysian parliament passed the

required resolution that would sever Singapore's ties to

Malaysia as a state, and thus the Republic of Singapore was
Singapore's lack of natural resources, a water supply that
was derived primarily from Malaysia and a very limited
defensive capability were the major challenges which Lee
and the nascent Singaporean government faced.[47]
Prime Minister, post-independence (19651990)[edit]
Despite the momentous event, Lee did not call for the
parliament to convene to reconcile issues that Singapore
would face immediately as a new nation. Without giving
further instructions on who should act in his absence, he
went into isolation for six weeks, unreachable by phone, on
a Singapore island. According to Dr Toh Chin Chye, the

parliament hung in suspended animation until the sitting in

December that year.[48][48]

Lee Kuan Yew and his wife, Kwa Geok Choo, with Ronald
Reagan, the US president, and his wife, Nancy Reagan, on
8 October 1985
In his memoirs, Lee said that he was unable to sleep. Upon
learning of Lee's condition from the British High
Commissioner to Singapore, John Robb, the British Prime
Minister, Harold Wilson, expressed concern, in response to
which Lee replied:
"Do not worry about Singapore. My colleagues and I are
sane, rational people even in our moments of anguish. We

will weigh all possible consequences before we make any

move on the political chessboard..."[49]
Lee began to seek international recognition of Singapore's
independence. Singapore joined the United Nations on 21
September 1965, and founded the Association of Southeast
Asian Nations (ASEAN) on 8 August 1967 with four other
South-East Asian countries. Lee made his first official visit
to Indonesia on 25 May 1973, just a few years after
the IndonesiaMalaysia confrontation under Sukarno's
regime. Relations between Singapore and Indonesia
substantially improved as subsequent visits were made
between the two countries.
Singapore has never had a dominant culture to which
immigrants could assimilate even though Malay was the
dominant language at that time.[50] Together with efforts

from the government and ruling party, Lee tried to create a

unique Singaporean identity in the 1970s and 1980sone
which heavily recognised racial consciousness within the
umbrella of multiculturalism.
Lee and his government stressed the importance of
maintaining religious tolerance and racial harmony, and
they were ready to use the law to counter any threat that
might incite ethnic and religious violence. For example,
Lee warned against "insensitive evangelisation", by which
he referred to instances of Christian proselytising directed
at Malays. In 1974 the government advised the Bible
Society of Singapore to stop publishing religious material
in Malay.[51]
Decisions and policies[edit]
National security[edit]

The vulnerability of Singapore was deeply felt, with threats

from multiple sources including the communists and
Indonesia with its confrontational stance. As Singapore
gained admission to the United Nations, Lee quickly sought
international recognition of Singapore's independence. He
appointed Goh Keng Swee as Minister for the Interior and
Defenceto build up the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and
requested help from other countries,
particularly Israel and Taiwan (ROC), for advice, training
and facilities.[52] In 1967, Lee introduced conscription
whereby all able-bodied male Singaporean citizens age 18
and above are required to serve National Service (NS)
either in the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police
Force or the Singapore Civil Defence Force. By 1971,
Singapore had 17 national service battalions (16,000 men)
with 14 battalions (11,000 men) in the reserves.[53] In 1975,

Lee managed to convince then-Premier Chiang Chingkuo of Taiwan (ROC) to permit Singaporean troops to train
in Taiwan, under the codename "Exercise Starlight".[54]
One of Lee's most urgent tasks upon Singapore's
independence was to provide stable jobs for its people, as
unemployment was high. Tourism helped but did not
completely resolve the unemployment problem. Together
with his economic aide, Economic Development
Board chairman Hon Sui Sen, and in consultation with
Dutch economist Albert Winsemius, Lee set up factories
and initially focused on the manufacturing industry. Before
the British completely withdrew from Singapore in 1971,
Lee also persuaded the British not to destroy their dock and

had the British naval dockyard later converted for civilian

After years of trial and error, Lee and his cabinet decided
the best way to boost Singapore's economy was to attract
foreign investments from the multinational
corporations(MNCs). By establishing a First World
infrastructure and standards in Singapore, the new nation
could woo American, Japanese and European entrepreneurs
and professionals to set up base here. By the 1970s, the
arrival of MNCs like Texas Instruments, HewlettPackard and General Electric laid the foundations, turning
Singapore into a major electronics exporter the following
decade.[55] Workers were frequently retrained to familiarise
themselves with the work systems and cultures of foreign
MNCs. The government also started several new industries,
such as steel mills under 'National Iron and Steel Mills',

service industries like Neptune Orient Lines, and

the Singapore Airlines.[56]
Lee and his cabinet also worked to establish Singapore as
an international financial centre. Foreign bankers were
assured of the reliability of Singapore's social conditions,
with top-class infrastructure and skilled professionals, and
investors were made to understand that the Singapore
government would pursue sound macroeconomic policies,
with budget surpluses, leading to a stable valued Singapore
Throughout the tenure of his office, Lee always placed
great importance on developing the economy, and his
attention to detail on this aspect went even to the extent of
connecting it with other facets of Singapore, including the
country's extensive and meticulous tending of its

international image of being a "Garden City",[58] something

that has been sustained to this day.
Anti-corruption measures[edit]
Singapore had problems with political corruption. Lee
introduced legislation giving the Corrupt Practices
Investigation Bureau (CPIB) greater power to conduct
arrests, search, call up witnesses, and investigate bank
accounts and income-tax returns of suspected persons and
their families.[59] Lee believed that ministers should be well
paid in order to maintain a clean and honest government.
On 21 November 1986, Lee received a complaint of
corruption against then Minister for National
Development Teh Cheang Wan.[60]Lee was against
corruption and he authorized the CPIB to carry out
investigations on Teh but Teh committed suicide before

any charges could be pressed against him.[61] In 1994, he

proposed to link the salaries of ministers, judges, and top
civil servants to the salaries of top professionals in the
private sector, arguing that this would help recruit and
retain talent to serve in the public sector.[62]
Population policies[edit]
In the late 1960s, fearing that Singapore's growing
population might overburden the developing economy, Lee
started a "Stop at Two" family planning campaign. Couples
were urged to undergo sterilisation after their second child.
Third or fourth children were given lower priorities in
education and such families received fewer
economic rebates.[62]
In 1983, Lee sparked the "Great Marriage Debate" when he
encouraged Singapore men to choose highly educated

women as wives.[63] He was concerned that a large number

of graduate women were unmarried.[64] Some sections of
the population, including graduate women, were upset by
his views.[64] Nevertheless, a match-making agency,
the Social Development Unit (SDU),[65] was set up to
promote socialising among men and women
graduates.[62] In the Graduate Mothers Scheme, Lee also
introduced incentives such as tax rebates, schooling, and
housing priorities for graduate mothers who had three or
four children, in a reversal of the over-successful "Stop at
Two" family planning campaign in the 1960s and 1970s.
By the late 1990s, the birth rate had fallen so low that Lee's
successor Goh Chok Tong extended these incentives to all
married women, and gave even more incentives, such as
the "baby bonus" scheme.[62]
Corporal punishment[edit]

Main article: Caning in Singapore

One of Lee's abiding beliefs was in the efficacy of corporal
punishment in the form of caning.[66] In his
autobiography The Singapore Story he described his time
at Raffles Institution in the 1930s, mentioning that he was
caned there for chronic lateness by the then headmaster, D.
W. McLeod. He wrote: "I bent over a chair and was given
three of the best with my trousers on. I did not think he
lightened his strokes. I have never understood why Western
educationists are so much against corporal punishment. It
did my fellow students and me no harm."[67]
Lee's government inherited judicial corporal
punishment from British rule, but greatly expanded its
scope. Under the British, it had been used as a penalty for
offences involving personal violence, amounting to a

handful of caning sentences per year. The PAP government

under Lee extended its use to an ever-expanding range of
crimes.[68] By 1993 it was mandatory for 42 offences and
optional for a further 42.[69] Those routinely ordered by the
courts to be caned now include drug addicts and illegal
immigrants. From 602 canings in 1987, the figure rose to
3,244 in 1993[70] and to 6,404 in 2007.[71]
In 1994 judicial caning was intensely publicised in the rest
of the world when an American teenager, Michael Fay, was
caned under the vandalism legislation.[66]
School corporal punishment (for male students only) was
likewise inherited from the British, and this is in
widespread use to discipline disobedient schoolboys, still
under legislation from 1957.[72] Lee also introduced caning
in the Singapore Armed Forces, and Singapore is one of the

few countries in the world where corporal punishment is an

official penalty in military discipline.[73]
Water resources in Singapore[edit]
Singapore has traditionally relied on water from Malaysia.
However, this reliance has made Singapore subject to the
possibility of price increases and allowed Malaysian
officials to use the water reliance as a political leverage
by threatening to cut off supply. In order to reduce this
problem, Lee decided to experiment with water recycling in
1974.[74]However, the water treatment plant was closed in
1975 due to cost and reliability issues. In 1998, the Public
Utilities Board (PUB) and the Ministry of the Environment
and Water Resources (MEWR) initiated the Singapore
Water Reclamation Study (NEWater Study). The aim was
to determine if NEWater was a viable source of raw water

for Singapore's needs. In 2001, PUB initiated efforts to

increase water supplies for non-potable use. Using
NEWater for these would help reduce the demand on the
reservoirs for potable water.
The Singapore International Water Week was started in
2008; it focused on sustainable water solutions for cities.
The Lee Kuan Yew Water Prize was introduced in
recognition given to outstanding contributions towards
solving global water crisis. The prize has become an
international award given out to individuals and groups