PAP-UMNO relations
The sometimes turbulent relationship between the People's Action Party
People's Action Party
The People's Action Party is the leading political party in Singapore. It has been the city-state's ruling political party since 1959....

(PAP) and United Malays National Organisation
United Malays National Organisation
The United Malays National Organisation, is Malaysia's largest political party; a founding member of the National Front coalition, which has played a dominant role in Malaysian politics since independence....

(UMNO), which were, and still are, the ruling parties respectively of Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 and Malaysia, has affected the recent history of both states.


Both parties have common roots, being formed during the period of anti-colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

 and widespread resentment which grew after the Japanese Occupation. Initially allowing insurgent faction members advocating communism into both their parties as an ally against colonialism, both later developed hostile relations with the Malayan Communist Party
Malayan Communist Party
The Malayan Communist Party , officially known as the Communist Party of Malaya , was founded in 1930 and laid down its arms in 1989. It is most famous for its role in the Malayan Emergency.-Formation:...

 (MCP) and Indonesian Communist Party (PKI), expelling the leftists from their ranks. Thus, the PAP and UMNO had co-operated closely for some time to work towards eliminating the MCP insurgency and achieving independence from colonialism.

Such co-operation culminated in 1963 with the entry of Singapore into Malaysia.


There are many factors that led the UMNO and the PAP to agree to a merger. Negotiations for merger began in 1960, and initially, Tunku Abdul Rahman
Tunku Abdul Rahman
Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj ibni Almarhum Sultan Abdul Hamid Halim Shah, AC, CH was Chief Minister of the Federation of Malaya from 1955, and the country's first Prime Minister from independence in 1957. He remained as the Prime Minister after Sabah, Sarawak, and Singapore joined the...

, the prime minister of Malaya, refused. However, fears of the MCP-backed insurgency taking over Singapore and using it as a base against Malaya gave reason for the Malayan government to admit Singapore as a member state, and for Singapore, the promise of independence from British colonial rule and economic growth with a guaranteed common market between the two nations gave the city-state reason enough to join the federation. Singapore became part of Malaysia after a national referendum was held, under the conditions that all Singaporean citizens would automatically become citizens of Malaysia. Singapore would also retain a degree of autonomy and state rights, such as over labour and education
Education in Singapore
Education in Singapore is managed by the Ministry of Education , which controls the development and administration of state schools receiving government funding, but also has an advisory and supervisory role in respect of private schools...

. Singapore would also retain the right to keep all four of its official languages, English, Mandarin, Malay
Malay language
Malay is a major language of the Austronesian family. It is the official language of Malaysia , Indonesia , Brunei and Singapore...

 and Tamil
Tamil language
Tamil is a Dravidian language spoken predominantly by Tamil people of the Indian subcontinent. It has official status in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu and in the Indian union territory of Pondicherry. Tamil is also an official language of Sri Lanka and Singapore...

. The Federation of Malaysia was established on 16 September 1963 under those conditions.

Ideological differences

Initially, all appeared well. However, both nations developed different ideological lines on racial issues, especially concerning the Chinese race
Overseas Chinese
Overseas Chinese are people of Chinese birth or descent who live outside the Greater China Area . People of partial Chinese ancestry living outside the Greater China Area may also consider themselves Overseas Chinese....

 and the Malay race
Malay race
The concept of a Malay race was proposed by the German scientist Johann Friedrich Blumenbach , and classified as the brown race. Since Blumenbach, many anthropologists have rejected his theory of five races, citing the enormous complexity of classifying races...

, mainly marked by UMNO's belief in the bumiputera policy of helping Malays as the original settlers of Malaya who were mostly poor during post independence and it was thought by PAP as a positive racial discrimination.

UMNO saw this as much needed affirmative action
Affirmative action
Affirmative action refers to policies that take factors including "race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation or national origin" into consideration in order to benefit an underrepresented group, usually as a means to counter the effects of a history of discrimination.-Origins:The term...

 for Malays, who had supposedly been put at a disadvantage due to the heavy presence of immigrants, mainly Chinese, who had entered the Malay Archipelago during British colonial rule where many of them had the opportunity to be businessmen living in the city while Malays were left as coolies in rural areas. The PAP staunchly opposed this as unjustified and racist. The PAP, along with several other Malaysian minority parties, epitomised this view with the cry of a "Malaysian Malaysia
Malaysian Malaysia
The phrase "Malaysian Malaysia" was originally used in the early 1960s as the rallying motto of the Malaysian Solidarity Council, a confederation of political parties formed to oppose Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia...

, a policy to serve the entire Malaysian nationality, which Singapore at that time was included in, as opposed to just the Malay race. This was driven by the fact that Singaporean Chinese were facing increasing political, legal, and economic discrimination. One of the initial solutions proposed was to have the PAP join UMNO and later on participate in the federal government, but the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) feared that the PAP would replace them, and opposed the PAP, seeing it as a radical socialist movement. The MCA urged the UMNO to prevent the PAP from becoming too influential in the federal government. From this point on, the relationship between the UMNO and the PAP became increasingly cool, falling little short of hostile.

Conflict between the parties

During this period, racial tensions grew between the Chinese and the Malays, allegedly partially incited earlier by the MCP, such as during the Hock Lee bus riots
Hock Lee bus riots
The Hock Lee bus riots occurred on May 12, 1955, in Singapore. 4 people were killed and 31 injured in the violent and bloody riot.-Strikes begin:...

, but with growing blame put on UMNO by the PAP. This was not an unfounded allegation, as many Malay newspapers, such as the partisan newspaper Utusan Melayu, continued to allege that the PAP had been mistreating the Malay race, citing the relocation of Malays from the kampungs for redevelopment. An increasingly heated debate on both sides sprung up, inciting racial tensions to such an extent that race riots occurred, culminating with two riots
1964 Race Riots
The 1964 Race Riots were a series of riots that took place in Singapore during two separate periods in July and September between Chinese and Malay groups. The first incident occurred on 21 July during a Malay procession that marked Prophet Muhammad's birthday. In total, the violence killed 36...

 on and after Prophet Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

's birthday in 1964.

Both parties continued to escalate the tension with scathing verbal attacks on each other, accusing each other of being the cause of the riots. Earlier, in what was seen by the PAP as a violation of previous agreements, UMNO backed and formed the Singapore Alliance Party
Singapore Alliance Party
The Singapore Alliance Party, or sometimes known as just Singapore Alliance, was a coalition of political parties that contested several elections in Singapore, notably the 1955 Elections of Singapore and the 1963 Elections of Singapore that was heavily backed by the local chapter of the United...

, which ran for the 1963 state elections in Singapore on 21 September 1963, but failed to win any seats, even in Malay constituencies. Despite this failure, it was seen as an attack on the PAP's power base.

Eventually, the PAP decided to challenge the policies of the Central Government directly, both as a retaliatory measure and to further its ideological grounds. It ran in the April 1964 Malaysian federal elections
Malaysian general election, 1964
General elections were held in Malaysia on 25 April 1964. The result was a victory for the Alliance Party, which won 89 of the 104 seats. Voter turnout was 78.9%.The result also contributed towards the eventual expulsion of Singapore from Malaysia...

 in coalition with other parties under the Malaysian Solidarity Council
Malaysian Solidarity Council
The Malaysian Solidarity Council is a confederation of political parties formed in 1964 to oppose Article 153 of the Constitution of Malaysia. This article specifically provides special quotas for the Malay and other indigenous peoples of Malaysia in admission to the public service, awarding of...

. The PAP was now a legitimate opposition party in the federal elections, and campaigned on a platform of eliminating racialism and a Malaysian Malaysia. Their rallies attracted large crowds. They decided to contest a minority of the seats however, to avoid any perception that they were trying to undermine the ruling party or being seen as agents of instability. The PAP only won one seat and 7% of the vote.

UMNO saw this as spite, and felt threatened by the fact that the PAP had even contested any seats at all, and was alarmed by the seat the PAP managed to win. Dr. Tan Siew Sin
Tan Siew Sin
Tun Tan Siew Sin was Malaya's first Minister of Commerce and Industry, Finance Minister for 15 years, and president of the Malayan Chinese Association .-Early life:...

, the finance minister at this time, demeaningly commented, "How can these kachang puteh parties pose a threat?" The sharp highlight of the degenerating situation was a vow by UMNO to oust the PAP from the Singapore government when the next set of state elections occurred, perhaps before the PAP could do likewise at the next federal election.

In addition to racial unrest, thorny issues concerning Singapore's rights as an autonomous state further put a dent in relations, such as the failure of a common market
Free trade
Under a free trade policy, prices emerge from supply and demand, and are the sole determinant of resource allocation. 'Free' trade differs from other forms of trade policy where the allocation of goods and services among trading countries are determined by price strategies that may differ from...

 to be set up between the Federation and Singapore, and the heavy tax burden placed on Singapore, which was seen as unfair. Such issues catalysed the impending secession: On 7 August 1965, Tunku Abdul Rahman announced to the Malaysian Parliament in Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur is the capital and the second largest city in Malaysia by population. The city proper, making up an area of , has a population of 1.4 million as of 2010. Greater Kuala Lumpur, also known as the Klang Valley, is an urban agglomeration of 7.2 million...

 that the Parliament should vote yes on the resolution to have Singapore to leave the Federation, choosing to "sever all ties with a State Government that showed no measure of loyalty to its Central Government" as opposed to the undesirable method of suppressing the PAP for its actions. Singapore's secession and independence became official on 9 August 1965.

De jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

, Singapore withdrew of its own accord. De facto, however, the PAP had no true authority to influence whether Singapore should leave or not, despite having pressured Tunku Abdul Rahman not to take such a course of action. The separation agreement was signed to maintain friendly relations, trade agreements, and mutual defence ties. These were left intact, although federal ties to Singapore as a state were cut off.


The complex relationship continued with the issue of trade and other agreements between the now separate entities of Malaysia and Singapore. At times both parties heavily criticised each other for their policies, to the extent of issuing threats. At present, both have had their countries issue bans on some of the other's media, for example, the New Straits Times
New Straits Times
The New Straits Times is an English-language newspaper published in Malaysia. It is Malaysia's oldest newspaper still in print , having been founded as The Straits Times in 1845, and was reestablished as the "New Straits Times" in 1965. The paper served as Malaysia's only broadsheet format English...

, a Malaysian newspaper publication, is banned in Singapore, and the Straits Times, the corresponding newspaper publication for Singapore, is banned in Malaysia (though as recent as June 2005 there have been talks to lift the bans on both sides of the causeway). This heavy exchange of words is epitomised by the former prime ministers of both countries, Lee Kuan Yew
Lee Kuan Yew
Lee Kuan Yew, GCMG, CH is a Singaporean statesman. He was the first Prime Minister of the Republic of Singapore, governing for three decades...

 of the PAP, and Dr. Mahathir of the UMNO.

PAP-UMNO relations were volatile at several points in history, and there are still long-running disputes. However, Malaysia and Singapore remain relatively close allies. The two country's relations with each other are stronger than their (generally warm) relations with other countries in the region, for example, the members of Southeast Asian regional-bloc ASEAN. For example, there is a strong law enforcement cooperation on both sides of the Causeway.

External links

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