Sunday, 11 April 2010

Looking Back - British Agree To Singapore Self-Rule

On this day in 1957, the British government allowed the island colony of Singapore to govern itself under a new constitution agreed in London.
The Singapore Constitutional Conference ended after four weeks of talks when Chief Minister of Singapore Lim Yew Hock and Alan Lennox-Boyd, secretary of state for the Colonies, signed an agreement.
The constitution was to come into effect some time after 1 January 1958 when the colony would become known as the State of Singapore.
Britain was to remain in charge of external affairs and defence.
Subversives barred
There was, however, one major pre-condition that the Singapore delegation would not agree to - that "persons known to have been engaged in subversive activity" would be barred from standing for the Legislative Assembly.
This demand, aimed at excluding extremist left-wing activists in the People's Action Party (PAP), some of whom had been detained for inciting anti-British riots the previous year.
At the signing ceremony at Lancaster House, Mr Lim rejected this demand as "a departure from normal democratic practice" but agreed to put it before the Legislative Assembly.
Under self-government, the office of Governor was to be abolished and replaced with a Malayan-born representative of the Queen known as the Yang di-Pertuan Negara.
An internal security council preventing subversion was to be set up under the chairmanship of the UK Commissioner charged with safeguarding British affairs in the territory.
Resignation over failed talks
The previous April, David Marshall, first Chief Minister of Singapore, led a delegation to London to ask for internal self-government with the aim of achieving independence or "merdeka" in Malay.
The talks failed, and as a result Mr Marshall resigned as Chief Minister in the June. He was succeeded by Lim Yew Hock.

A few days later former Chief Minister David Marshall resigned from the governing Labour Front in protest at the agreement which he felt did not go far enough. He called it "a pock-marked beauty shrouded in chloroform".
The Constitutional Agreement was finally signed in London on 28 May 1958 and self-government achieved after Singapore held general elections in 1959.
The first government of the State of Singapore was sworn in on 5 June with Lee Kuan Yew as Prime Minister.
It joined the Federation of Malaysia in 1963 and became totally independent in 1965, nearly 20 years after it was made a British crown colony.
The People's Action Party (PAP) has been the dominant political force since independence.