National Museum director Angelita Teo said the "Singapura: 700 Years" exhibition aims to give visitors an immersive and multi-sensory experience, including the simulated exercise of casting your vote for merger with Malaysia. Unwittingly, it reminds one of the origin of the first con.
Toh Chin Chye did not mince his words about the level playing field:
"And the ballot paper was crafted by Lee Kuan Yew. Whichever you voted, you voted for merger. There were three choices: A, B, or C. But frankly, they were all votes for merger. And we moved in the Referendum Bill that spoilt votes will be counted as votes for merger."
Calling it a humbug, Lee Siew Choh fleshed out more details to demonstrate that the referendum of Sept 1, 1962, may be something the PAP Government would very much like to forget. The three questions in the National Referendum gave voters no opportunity to express their wishes with a simple answer of "Yes" or "No" as is normally the case in fair democratic referendums. Moreover, the important questions were all posed by the ruling PAP alone with no consultation of opposition parties.
This was the PAP White Paper proposal: merger as a state within the Federation with special conditions and a large measure of local autonomy. The opposition parties pointed out that it would make Singapore citizens into second-class citizens of the proposed Malaysia Federation.
This was the Barisan Sosialis' proposal for full and complete merger as the 12th state of the Federation. There would be no loss of citizenship for Singapore citizens. Dr Goh Keng Swee pointed out that under the Federal Constitution, in Penang and Malacca only those born there were automatically citizens, and all others had to apply for registration. Having said that, Goh and Lee later got Tunku Abdul Rahman to agree that all citizens of Singapore would become citizens of Malaysia automatically under Alternative A.
This was supposed to represent terms "no less favourable than terms for the Borneo Territories" (that is, Sarawak and British North Borneo, now called Sabah). Problem is, no one, not even the PAP, knew what those terms were. In fact, those terms were not made known until some time well after the referendum was held in Singapore.
Thus voters were asked to vote for something which was totally unknown to them. The Barisan Sosialis slammed it as a sham referendum. The late David Marshall called it a most dishonest referendum. And it was criticised severely by the United Nations Committee of 17, the United Nations Special Committee on Colonialism.
It was not a period to be proud of in the annals of Singapore. And the con goes on.