Soon after Singapore was expelled from Malaysia and declared independence on the 9th of August 1965, my family became split – making us a family with two nationalities.
My parents and my four elder siblings became Singaporeans, and we four younger siblings became Malaysians.
Lee Kuan Yew and the birth of Singapore
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew made an emotional announcement of Singapore’s separation from Malaysia. People remember his tear, and his determination to build a new strong nation. This clip shows you the historic moment in 1965:
Success of Singapore
Lee Kuan Yew has just celebrated his 91st birthday on the 16th of September. It was also the Malaysia Day, a day to commemorate the establishment of the Malaysian federation. It marked the joining together of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak, and Singapore to form Malaysia.
Despite your view of this controversial leader, Mr Lee Kuan Yew is a strong man who has transformed Singapore into a remarkable, resilient, and proud nation, with a population of 5.4 million people.
From China to Singapore and Malaysia
Like thousands of migrants who left China during turbulent times in the last century, my mother left China forever as a 5-year-old in the 1930s with her mother. They overcame rough South China sea and landed in Singapore. My mother is illiterate and has spent her life doing housekeeping and manual jobs since she was very little, including carrying buckets of stones for roads to be made at Changi in Singapore during the Japanese occupation. If you want to find out more about my mother’s stories, please read my Letters from China series on my other blog.
My father later worked in Singapore after fleeing from the south of Malaysia to escape from the Japanese. My parents travelled between the south of Malaysia to Singapore and later started family in that region.
Then 1965 came the split. Overnight thousands of families were cut into two. However, for many years, especially from 1960s to 1980s, emotionally, many people (especially the older generation) still considered the two as one country.
Our family with two nationalities
My elder siblings were working in Singapore while I was still very little in Malaysia.
When I was little, I remembered my eldest brother doing his compulsory military training, National Service in Singapore. I remember a ‘soldier’ brother in uniform. He was serving his country, not my country.
Travelling from where I lived from the south tip of Malaysia to Singapore was easy. The journey was short – similar to that from Chandler’s Ford to Southampton. The umbilical cord between the two countries was the 1,056-metre long Johor–Singapore Causeway.
Since Singapore’s independence, to travel to Singapore, we need to have a passport. I’m not sure if the passport system has changed, but when I was a young adult, I needed to have a special passport to travel to Singapore. I had two passports, one Malaysian-Singapore passport for entering Singapore only, and one international passport for going abroad to study.
To prevent an influx of Malaysian entering Singapore, Singapore exercises strict immigration rules. As a Malaysian, I was only allowed a 14-day stay in Singapore, and a total of 60-day stay in 3 months. Many years ago, when I visited my family in Singapore from England, my husband and son were allowed a 60-day stay in Singapore, as they are British, while I was only allowed a 14-day visit with my Malaysian passport. However, in my recent visit, I was somehow granted a 60-day stay.
There are political differences between Malaysia and Singapore. While Singapore established diplomatic relations with Israel, as a Malaysian, I am not allowed to visit Israel. These are the words on my passport, “This passport is valid for all countries except Israel.”
Scotland Referendum: Yes or No?
If Scotland declares independence, there will be significant changes, politically, economically, and also emotionally. It’ll break people’s heart. It’ll break families. However, Singapore is a success story. Singapore has become the envy of the world. After experiencing a split of nationalities in my own family since 1965, I’m interested in the Scottish development.
A few artists recently set up a fake Scottish border passport control at the border of England and Scotland. Here is the video clip which may amuse you.
If you are interested in the life of a split family, I’ll try to tell you more. I’ll stop it just here today.