chapter  3
35 Pages

Competing and comparable paradigms of authoritarian nation-building

The brief but tumultuous merger years have been commonly referred to by politicians on both sides of the causeway as akin to a failed marriage. As is typical of failed marriages, the divorcees periodically indulge in blaming the other for the break-up in balas dendam1 fashion, while at other times harbouring fleeting thoughts of reconciliation. The emotional baggage of the merger years (akin to marriage) and political separation (akin to divorce) is particularly evident in the statements and actions of veteran UMNO and PAP leaders such as Mahathir Mohamad and Lee Kuan Yew, protagonists during the merger years but whose relationship remained problematic in the post-merger years. Lee acknowledged in 1989 that after the unpleasant events of the merger, it took him a long time before he could cross the causeway to Johor.2