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Merdeka talks – First all-party mission to London is held 23rd Apr 1956

Singapore was granted partial internal self-government under the Rendel Constitution in 1955. The Legislative Assembly election held in April that year saw the formation of the Labour Front-Alliance government with David Marshall as the first chief minister of Singapore. A year later, Marshall led a 13-man all-party delegation in what became the first of three constitutional talks held in London to determine the terms of full internal self-government for Singapore.[1]

At the discussions, which commenced on 23 April 1956, the Singapore delegation put forth the requirements for the independence of Singapore by April the following year.[2] The delegation proposed that the British retain control over foreign policy and external defence, but with Singapore holding the right to be consulted on foreign affairs and to veto on defence matters.[3] Desiring to retain control over internal security, the British insisted on a defence council made up of an equal number of representatives from Britain and Singapore, and with a casting vote in the hands of the British high commissioner.[4] Marshall’s proposal for the British to appoint a Malayan as chairman of the defence council and for the abolishment of the casting vote were rejected.[5] The negotiations hit a deadlock on 15 May as both sides refused to compromise on the internal security arrangements.[6]

Failing to deliver on his pledge to secure independence for Singapore, Marshall resigned as chief minister in June.[7] Lim Yew Hock succeeded him as chief minister and led the second all-party mission to London in March 1957 to renew discussions with the British government.[8]

1. Chan, H. C. (2008). A sensation of independence: A political biography of David Marshall (p. 183).  Call no.: RSING 324.2092 CHA.
2. Chan, 2008, p. 185.
3. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005 (p. 265). Singapore: NUS Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR.
4. Chan, 2008, pp. 185, 188.
5. Chan, 2008, pp. 190–191; Turnbull, 2009, p. 265.
6. Miller, H. (1956, May 17). Drama of the last hours. The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Chan, 2008, p. 191.
7. Miller, H. (1956, May 21). Marshall to resign on June 6. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; The Marshall diary. (1956, June 6). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Chew, E., & Lee, E. (Eds.). (1991). A history of Singapore (p. 137). Singapore: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57 HIS.


The information in this article is valid as at 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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