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History | Self-Government System  

The British forces came back in September 1945 and Singapore came under the British Military Administration once more. However their rights to rule were now questionable. Toward the end of March 1946, the period of military administration ended and the Straits Settlement was dissolved.

On the 1st of April 1946, Singapore became a Crown Colony. Penang and Malacca became part of the Malayan Union. The Singapore after the Japanese Occupation was very different than before. The Governor had an advisory council of officials and with the constitution powers he nominated non-officials.

On July 1947, the advisory council evolved into the separate Executive and Legislative Councils. The Governor retained the control over the colony but there was a stipulation to elect the six members to the Legislative Council. It was through popular vote.

The Malayan Union was known as the Federation of Malaya in 1948 and on the 20th of March 1948, Singapore's first election was held. In the mid of 1948, a state of emergency was declared when the Communist Party of Malaya tried to control Malaya and Singapore by force. It lasted for 12 years.

By the end of 1953, the British government appointed a commissioner, Sir George Rendel, to review on Singapore's constitutional position and gave suggestions for any changes. The government accepted the proposals made by Rendel and it gave Singapore a greater measure of self-government.

The election in 1955 was the first lively political contest in Singapore's history. The Labour Front won 10 seats, The Peoples Action Party (PAP), which had 4 candidates in the election won 3 seats. On the 6thApril 1955, David Marshall became the Singapore's first Chief Minister with a temporary government made up of his own Labour Front, the United Malays National Organization and the Malayan Chinese Association.

After being the Chief Minister for a year, David Marshall resigned the position after failing the negotiation in London on attaining full internal self-government. Lim Yew Hock took over the tasks of the Chief Minister. After learning the experience from David Marshall, Lim Yew Hock successfully negotiated the main terms of a new Singapore Constitution. The constitution agreement was signed in London on 28th of March 1958.

Self-government was attained in 1959 and on the same year, Singapore's first general election was held. This was to choose 51 representatives to the first fully elected Legislative Assembly. PAP won 43 seats, gaining 53.4% of the total votes. On the 3rd of June 1959, Singapore brought into force the self-governing state by the proclamation of the Governor, Sir William Goode, who became the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Head of State). Two days later, Lee Kuan Yew became the Prime Minister of Singapore. PAP, together with the communists, fought with the British colonialism. It was not an easy alliance of the PAP and the communists as they both had their own objective to achieve. PAP wanted to obtain full independence for Singapore as part of a non-communist Malaya whereas the communists worked towards the communists takeover.

The alliance did not last long and the tension between the two factions worsened. The communists formed a new political party known as the Barisan Sosialis. Malayans agreed to allow Singapore to merge with the Malaya as part of a larger federation.

   1945 - 1955 Political Awakening
The next phase saw the exploitation of racial sensitivities by the communists to further their political goals and the religious tension surrounding the Maria Hertogh riots. This was also a period where our country achieved limited self-government through the partially elected Legislative Assembly and where support for political parties were rallied along racial lines.

Political Awakening - Movie 
Description and Movie - Courtesy of Government of Singapore (Singapore Infomap)

On the 27th of May 1961, Malayan Prime Minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, proposed closer political and economic co-operation between the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei in the form of a merger. Main terms of the merger were to have a main government responsible for defense, foreign affairs and internal security, but matters regarding to education and labour would be responsible by their own country.

On the 16th of September 1963, Malaysia was formed which consisted of the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak and North Borneo (now known as Sabah). Brunei opted out. Indonesia and the Philippines opposed the merger.

   1955 - 1961 Communist Threat
During this period, we see how influential communist factions incited bloody riots among bus workers in the 1955 Hock Lee Bus Riots, and how pro-communists within the PAP also caused a sharp split in the party when they opposed merger with the Federation of Malaya.

Communist Threat - Movie 
Description and Movie - Courtesy of Government of Singapore (Singapore Infomap)

Japanese Occupation | Gaining Independence