SINGAPORE, 9 October 2014 – The reprint of the book The Battle For Merger was launched today by the National Archives of Singapore (NAS), an institution of the National Library Board, and co-publisher Straits Times Press. Deputy Prime Minister, Coordinating Minister for National Security and Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Teo Chee Hean officiated at the re-launch of the book, accompanied by Minister for Communications and Information, Dr Yaacob Ibrahim. Former President of Singapore Mr S R Nathan also attended the launch. The event and accompanying exhibition was held at the National Library Building.
2 The Battle For Merger, originally published in 1962, contains the transcripts of twelve radio talks written and delivered by then Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew. In the radio talks, broadcast over Radio Singapore between 13 September 1961 and 9 October 1961, Mr Lee gave a vivid account of the ongoing political struggle over merger. While the context of the radio talks was Merger, the key focus of the radio talks was to expose the communists – who they were, how they operated and what their real aims were in opposing Merger.
3 In his prologue to the re-print of the book, Mr Lee said: “In exposing the communists, I chose to reveal facts that were not previously known and show their behind-the-scenes machinations. This held the interest of the audience, as did my practice of ending each broadcast with a cliffhanger giving a hint of what I would disclose in the next episode.”
4 In his speech at the book launch, DPM Teo said that the re-launch of the book is timely: “In 2015, we celebrate Singapore’s 50th anniversary. While we only became an independent nation in 1965, our road to independence began earlier, with our attempt to forge a shared destiny with the then Federation of Malaya. On the surface, it was a battle for merger. Below the surface was another deeper, more momentous, more dangerous battle – that between the communists and non-communists in Singapore. The communists and their allies had a larger agenda ... to impose a communist regime in Malaya and Singapore through all means, including subversion, and ultimately, armed revolution.” DPM Teo said that Mr Lee’s radio talks came at a time when momentous decisions had to be made for Singapore: “This is why, despite the vast changes that have taken place in the world and in Singapore over the past 50 years, this crucial turning point in our history continues to be relevant to us today.”
5 To retain the authenticity of the original book, no parts of the transcripts, appendices or the images contained in the book have been changed in the reprint. Apart from Mr Lee’s new message, there is also an essay by Associate Professor Albert Lau of the National University of Singapore’s Department of History. These set the historical context for the radio talks. The publishers have also included a timeline of major events and footnotes that provide short biographies on key personalities as well as brief explanations of terms and events that readers today may not be so familiar with.
6 A DVD containing the actual sound recordings of the radio talks that have been carefully preserved by NAS will also be released together with the book. The sound recordings consist of the 12 radio talks, each one delivered by Mr Lee in three languages English, Malay and Mandarin. These sound recordings will also be made available online from the Archives Online portal of the NAS.
7 The Ministry of Communications and Information, together with the Ministry of Home Affairs, have jointly organised an accompanying exhibition, which is open to members of the public at level 7 of the National Library Building from 9 October – 30 November 2014. The exhibition will then travel to public libraries including Jurong Regional Library, Ang Mo Kio Public Library, Woodlands Regional Library and Tampines Regional Library. The exhibition will feature photographs, newspaper articles and documents on the challenging issues our pioneer generation had to face in making their decisions on merger and the path to take towards independence. Refer to Annex A for more information regarding the exhibition.
8 Mr Eric Chin, Director of the National Archives of Singapore said, “The National Archives of Singapore (NAS) is delighted to be able to reprint The Battle For Merger in collaboration with Straits Times Press. Excerpts from the transcripts of the radio talks are often quoted in our history books but the reprint will now give easy access to the entirety of the content. The concurrent release of the sound recordings of the actual broadcasts that have been preserved with care by NAS will allow us to fully experience what was on our airwaves over 50 years ago.”
9 The reprint of The Battle For Merger will be sold in major bookshops at $32.50 (before GST), and it will also be available from public libraries after the launch.
The Battle for Merger Exhibition
The Battle for Merger Exhibition will be staged at the National Library Building in conjunction with the launch of the reprint of The Battle of Merger on 9 Oct 2014.
This exhibition provides a succinct overview of the 12 radio talks by Mr Lee Kuan Yew that were broadcast from 13 Sep to 9 Oct 1961, highlighting the key messages and themes outlined by Mr Lee in each of the talks. While the context of the radio talks was Merger, the key focus of the radio talks was to expose the communists – who they were, how they operated and what their real aims were in opposing Merger.
Visitors will be able to step back in time to experience this critical period in our nation’s history, and listen to excerpts of the radio talks that gripped a nation, when the outcome was undecided and everything hung in the balance. An overview of the threat posed by the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) from 1948 to 1989 will allow visitors to better appreciate the backdrop of violence and subversion against which Mr Lee took to the airwaves.
Visitors to the exhibition will also be able to view exhibits such as original documents handwritten by Communist-linked personalities from that time. To enhance visitor awareness of the communist threat, visitors will receive postcards featuring key incidents of communist violence in Singapore, that persisted even after Singapore’s independence. Each postcard will contain QR codes that visitors can scan for information on these incidents.
The exhibition will be held at the Level 7 Promenade from 9 Oct to 30 Nov 2014, and will thereafter travel to other libraries until Mar 2015.
Main Exhibition Venue:
National Library Building
Level 7 Promenade 9 Oct - 30 Nov 2014
Travelling Exhibition Venues:
Jurong Regional Library: 2 Dec - 30 Dec 2014
Ang Mo Kio Public Library: 2 Jan - 30 Jan 2015
Woodlands Regional Library: 2 Feb - 27 Feb 2015
Tampines Regional Library: 2 Mar - 30 Mar 2015
Update as at July 2023: The price of the book at launch is $34.78 (inclusive of GST) and is no longer for sale at NLB.