*Kafir = alludes to a person who rejects or disbelieves in God and the teachings of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and denies the dominion and authority of God; or otherwise does not heed the beliefs and prescriptions held by the religion of Islam. It is used as a derogatory term

In his eulogy for former cabinet minister Mr Othman Wok, who passed away on Monday (Apr 17), Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong paid tribute to the former politician’s crucial role in leading Malay Singaporeans through Separation and into part of a united national identity.

 Excerpts from Mr Lee’s eulogy:

That election marked the inauspicious start of Singapore’s two very difficult years in Malaysia. At stake was what kind of society we wished to live in: a multi-racial society, with all races enjoying equal rights; or a system based on ethnic politics and racial dominance?

A Malaysian Malaysia, as the PAP wanted; or Malay supremacy, as the UMNO in Kuala Lumpur wanted?

Malay PAP leaders came under intense and relentless pressure to abandon multiracialism and choose race over nation.

…. They were called “kafirs” or infidels.

… They received death threats.

… Syed Jaafar Albar, then UMNO Secretary-General and a powerful rabble rouser, told the Malay crowd: “If there is unity, no force can trample us down, no force can humiliate us, no force can belittle us… not one Lee Kuan Yew, a thousand Lee Kuan Yews… we finish them off… kill him, kill him. Othman Wok and Lee Kuan Yew.”

… But Othman and his comrades were not cowed. They had entered politics out of conviction and were determined not to betray their party and the values it stood for. They remained loyal to the PAP and the cause of multiracialism. Not a single Malay PAP jumped ship, though they knew they would have been richly rewarded had they done so.

What would have happened if they had?

If Othman and his Malay colleagues had lost heart, the PAP’s claim to be a multi-racial party would have been severely damaged. Its cry of a “Malaysian Malaysia” would have been exposed as empty. The Federal Government might have been emboldened to suppress the Singapore state government, and bring Singapore to heel. There might never have been an independent, multi-racial Singapore.

But Othman and his Malay colleagues stood firm, and held a sufficient portion of the Singapore Malay ground. It is because they kept the dream of a multi-racial society alive through those terrible dark days, that we are now able to say “We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people”.

After the riots, then-Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Tun Razak visited Singapore to feel the pulse of Singapore Malays. Tun Razak concluded that Singapore Malays were different from Malayan Malays.

There is a Malay saying, rambut sama hitam, hati lain-lain which means that we may look the same but our hearts differ.

In other words, it was not only Chinese Singaporeans who could not be cowed by threats of riots and mayhem. Malay Singaporeans too could not be easily seduced by appeals to race and religion. Singaporeans were an altogether obstreperous people. Better for Singapore to leave Malaysia. That set in train events which led to 9 August 1965.

And the rest, they said is history . . .

Watch the full video here