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Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 29, No. 14. 1966.

Malaysian history

Malaysian history

"Malaysia And Singapore" is a small book on the historial development of Malavsia, Singapore, Sarawak, and Sabah. K. G. Tregonning, Professor of History at the University of Singapore, has attempted in the space of 112 pages to give a comprehensive account of the main political and economic developments in this area since the original Malay migration in about 300 B.C. He has covered the main historical events, from the European colonization of the territories, through the Japanese occupation and the creation of Malaysia, to Indonesia's Confrontation campaign. He also makes a brief study of Malaysia's economy, political processes and foreign policy.

The main problem Professor Tregonning sees confronting Malaysia is not communism, but communalism, In a country where the native population is afraid of being swamped by an alien race numerically and economically more powerful than itself, racial tension is only to be expected. Professor Tregonning shows why this tension has developed, and the forms it has taken.

Perhaps the most important feature of the book is the last chapter, which deals with Singapore's separation from Malaysia in August of last year. This serves not only as an important historical account of events leading up to the split, but as a vivid example of what can happen when racial hatred and intolerance get out of hand.

Writing as a historian who witnessed the actual events of August 1965, and who also had an opportunity of judging their immediate aftermath, both on the island and on the mainland, Professor Tregonning has been able to present a frank and informed evaluation of why Singapore was pushed our of the Federation.

The basic conflict of values between the sophisticated urban Chinese of Singapore and the traditional rural Malays on the Peninsular was only part of the trouble. On top of this there was resentment in Malaysia over the political expansion into Malaya of Lee Kuan Yee's People's Action Party: and resentment in Singapore over un-Chinese provisions of the 1965 Malaysian budget, and the apparent reluctance of politicians in Kuala Lumpur to accept Singapore as a senior partner in the Federation. In addition there were grave misunderstandings amongst Malays about Singapore's acceptance of Malay as a national language. While the Malays on the mainland believed Singapore's Chinese were refusing to accept Malay as the national language, the Singapore Government was in fact actively promoting the use of Malay in Singapore (and still is). This is despite the fact that 75.2'; of Singapore's population are Chinese, and only 14% are Malays.

Who was to blame for the split? Professor Tregonning singles out Syed Jaafar Albar, an ultra-Malay extremist who, as Secretary-General of the United Malay 'National Organisation, whipped up a fanatical campaign of racial agitation. When Tunku Abdul Rahman returned to Malaysia in early August, after having spent all of July in London recovering from illness, the racial situation had reached fever pitch. Hundreds of people had already been killed or injured in race riots in Singapore, and the Tunku agreed to the removal of Singapore in the belief that nothing else could be done to hold the Federation together.

"Malaysia and Singapore" is incomplete in its description of many important phases of Malaysia's historical development. But it should give any reader with an interest' in Southeast Asian affairs a concise and reliable understanding of what is happening in Malaysia and Singapore today.

Malaysia And Singapore, by K. G. Tregonning. Whitcombe and Tombs Ltd. 1966. 112 pages. 14/-. Reviewed by John D. Harlow.