In This Review

Conflict and Violence in Singapore and Malaysia, 1945-1983
Conflict and Violence in Singapore and Malaysia, 1945-1983
By Richard Clutterbuck
Westview Press, 1985, 412 pp

In the 1950s and 1960s, both Malaysia and Singapore were faced with serious communist-led insurgency movements. Between 1963 and 1983, there was the Malaysian confrontation with Indonesia; the collapse of the Malaysia-Singapore merger; race riots; a resurgence of the communist guerrilla organization in Malaysia; and then the collapse of Vietnam, Laos and Kampuchea. Yet both Malaysia and Singapore have emerged in the 1980s as two of the most prosperous and stable countries in Southeast Asia, if not in the whole Third World. This very thorough volume, by a retired British army general, offers a number of reasons. In both countries history threw up leaders to match the hour: Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore and Tunku Abdul Rahman in Malaysia. Both leaders established political parties that became rooted solidly enough to remain in power without a break for the subsequent 20 years. In both countries stable democratic structures, experienced security forces and highly efficient intelligence services emerged strengthened by the ordeal of attempted revolutions. For many of these things, Britain can fairly claim some credit. It had consciously built up cadres of able politicians and administrators, and shrewdly accepted that their popular support and thence the stability of their countries would depend upon their being seen to struggle for their independence and to win. For government officials pondering where things have gone wrong in the Philippines, or for political scientists interested in "political development," there is a good deal to chew on in this impressive book.