Celebrating 100 years of JB-Singapore Causeway

by Nur Ashikin Abdul Aziz

SINGAPORE, June 29: Imagine being turned away by immigration officers at the Causeway for your long hair, beard, and floral shirt.

It may sound amusing now, but in the 1970s, a campaign called Operation Snip-Snip was introduced in Singapore. The campaign targetted the hippie culture, which was blamed for the increasing local drug use.

One former resident of Khalsa Crescent, formerly home to the British naval base, Adam Mohamed Amin, 71, shared that he grew up during the era and often travels across the Causeway to Johor Bahru for movies, medical treatment, and to visit his grandparents in Pontian, Johor.

“During my teen years, we would catch a bus from Khalsa Crescent to JB (which) at that time (cost) about 10 cent. We just use our Singapore Restricted Passport to enter and exit through the Causeway. They have better cinema during that time.

“The hippie culture, I was a bit affected…never had long hair, only the floral shirts,” Adam laughed as he recounted his youth days.

Operation Snip-Snip is one of the many interesting pieces of history shared at “The Causeway: A Century of Connections” travelling exhibition, held in conjunction with the Causeway Centennial celebration.

The exhibition, organised by Singapore’s National Heritage Board (NHB), opened on June 28 at the Woodlands Civic Centre and will subsequently travel to the National Archives of Singapore (NAS) building at Canning Rise to coincide with a public talk on the Causeway in September 2024.

The exhibition traces the origins of the Causeway, starting from the conditions in the 19th century that led to its construction, its building process, and its development alongside the rapid post-war growth of the region as well as its evolution through tumultuous events such as the Japanese Occupation and the COVID-19 pandemic.

NHB Director (Education and Community Outreach) Gerald Wee said with the design inspired by the old Woodlands immigration checkpoints and booths, the exhibition takes visitors on an immersive journey by mimicking the passage through the Causeway.

“Visitors can get a ‘passport’ that can be used to collect various ‘immigration stamps’ around the exhibition. The stories are brought to life with displays of archival photographs from both Singaporean and Malaysian institutions,” he said at the media preview on Friday. 

Meanwhile, the National Library Board (NLB) has rolled out a specially curated website and a series of talks for the centennial celebration.

The Causeway Centenary website, accessible at https://go.gov.sg/causewaycentenary, allow visitors to explore archival records related to the Causeway, ranging from photographs and audio-visual resources to oral history interviews.

The website presents bite-sized stories on the history of the Causeway, covering the background and its construction, its well-established role in facilitating the movement of people and goods, and lesser-known events that occurred there. 

Assistant Director of NAS, Yit Chin Chuan, said NAS and National Archives of Malaysia (NAM) jointly in 2011 published The Causeway book – a very important and substantive work produced by the two agencies.

Selected extracts from the book are featured in NLB’s quarterly publication, BiblioAsia’s July-September 2024 issue, and is available digitally at https://go.gov.sg/biblioasia-causeway.

“It’s not very easy for different archives to usually work together. In general (it’s) because most national archives are mainly concerned with their national documents.

“But there are occasions like this, such as the Causeway, where both parties are significantly involved and there are opportunities to look at it,” he told Bernama. 

The NLB also organised public talks, with one held on June 27 and upcoming ones scheduled for July 4 and Sept 19 – featuring archivists from the NAS, as well as guest speakers from the NAM and the National University of Singapore.