Malaysia, the early years. Part 2: Indonesia's 'Konfrontasi', race riots in Singapore (VIDEO)

Ida Lim
First Sarawak Rangers with machine-guns patrol Sarawak in a longboat amid ongoing clashes with Indonesian forces. — Screengrab from Reuters archive footage

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 13 — Malaysia's turbulent start as a nation was marked by Indonesia's intense and violent opposition to its formation as well as racial tensions that led to deadly riots in Singapore.

Malay Mail takes a look back at the painful and tense period before and after Malaysia was formed on September 16, 1963, and the fledgling federation's struggle to deal with regional hostility and race relations.

Here's the timeline of key events:

The undeclared anti-Malaysia war

January 20, 1963 — Indonesia's foreign minister declares "Konfrontasi" (Confrontation) with Malaysia as part of continued efforts to oppose its formation. Indonesia's President Sukarno also declares later a "Ganyang Malaysia" (Crush Malaysia) campaign.

Konfrontasi resulted in Indonesia launching cross-border attacks on Sabah, Sarawak, Malaya (now peninsular Malaysia) and Singapore, with the earliest attacks recorded in April 1963 in Sarawak. Malaysia sought aid from the British and other Commonwealth forces.

October 29, 1963 — Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman urges Malaysians to support the government during the "critical" period, telling the crowd at an anti-Sukarno rally near Kuala Terengganu: "I believe that there is no power in the world that can crush us — unless it is the will of God."

Other similar rallies are also held nationwide involving other government leaders such as Tun Abdul Razak and Tun Tan Siew Sin.

Communal tensions run high

July 21, 1964 — The first of Singapore's race riots break out, when Malays in a procession for Prophet Muhammad's birthday clash with Chinese onlookers. Four people are killed and 178 injured.

A curfew is imposed until August 2 and the strife ends on August 7 with a final toll of 23 deaths, 454 casualties and 3,568 arrests.

September 2, 1964 — Race riots break out in Singapore again sparked by the killing of a Malay trishaw peddler. A curfew is imposed from September 4 to September 11.

By its end, 13 deaths, 106 casualties and 1,439 arrests are recorded.

Malaysia and Singapore blame Indonesia for the riots and on September 4, Tunku Abdul Rahman accused Indonesia of engineering the violence to cause Malaysia’s collapse.

Indonesian commandos parachute into the Labis area of Johor the same day, in the country’s most overt act since the start of Konfrontasi and adding to a previous landing in Pontian.

September 6, 1964 — The Yang di-Pertuan Agong's proclamation of Malaysia as a security area takes effect, giving police and security forces wider powers against Indonesian invaders

For the preceding years of Malaysia’s tumultuous start, see Part 1 of Malay Mail's recap of the country’s challenging journey in the initial years, featuring Reuters archive footage.

* Part 3 will be published tomorrow.

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