Saturday, November 14, 2009

Seeking stories of the British bases and military withdrawal

Yesterday I received an email from a historian, Dr Loh Kah Seng who is looking for participants for his book project on the British bases and military withdrawal from Singapore. Below is his open letter published at his blog. If you would like to offer your assistance in this worthwhile project, please visit his blog. Thank you.

Dear fellow Singaporeans,

I am a Singaporean historian looking to speak to people who remember the British bases and their withdrawal in the early 1970s. The withdrawal was the first major crisis independent Singapore faced. The 56 bases, contributing a fifth of the country’s GDP, were its largest industry, and the pullout threatened the livelihood of one-sixth of the labour force, including an estimated 8,000 amahs.

The pullout also transformed the economy, society and landscape of Singapore in the 1970s. Most of the bases were converted to commercial use, while many base workers underwent a 3-month retraining crash course. Technical and vocational education also expanded, as new laws sought to increase labour productivity and attract foreign capital investment.

These developments resonate with us today: the retraining programmes, the mobilisation of the young, the philosophy that ‘no one owes Singapore a living’. There is also a forgotten social history to unearth: how retrenched base employees coped with the crisis and how workers adjusted to new work routines.I

f you remember the British bases and rundown, or have a family member, relative or friend who does, kindly contact me to lend your voice to an important episode of our national story.

Please pass this message along to those who might be interested.

Thank you.

Loh Kah Seng (Dr)
Visiting Research FellowInstitute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore
Mobile: +65 81981172


Lam Chun See said...

My eldest brother Chun Chew (Zen) has shared some memories with Dr Loh via email. I think they make interesting reading. So I shall try to organize them into an article for you to read later.

mr brown said...

Good idea Mr Lam ;)