Singapore was proclaimed a City of the British Commonwealth by a royal charter on 22 September 1951.The charter was issued by King George VI and it noted that the elevation of Singapore from a town to a city would provide the colony with a new set of liberties, privileges and immunities. Following the proclamation, one of the more notable changes was the reconstitution of the Municipal Commission into the City Council. While the new City Council would retain the powers of its predecessor, its members were renamed city councillors and the municipal president became the president of the City Council. In addition, the City Council would elect a mayor annually from among the city councillors or from those eligible to be elected as councillors.
Singapore’s attainment of city status was the result of a successful petition to King George VI. The petition was undertaken by the municipal commissioners in August 1950 after they witnessed Nairobi in Africa becoming the first British colonial capital to be granted city status by a royal charter earlier that year. The commissioners felt that Singapore should be given similar status together with a fully elected City Council to replace the Municipal Commission in recognition of its achievements as a British colony.
The petition was approved by King George VI in July 1951 and the official ceremony to mark the occasion of Singapore being conferred city status took place two months later on 22 September. The event was known as City Day and was attended by about 50,000 people. It was officiated by then Governor of Singapore Sir Franklin Gimson, who presented the Charter and Royal Seal raising Singapore to city status to then Municipal President T. P. F. McNeice on the steps of the Municipal Building (later renamed City Hall). In recognition of Singapore’s new status as a city, the island was henceforth known as the City of Singapore instead of the Town of Singapore.
1. The king sends congratulations. (1951, September 22). The Straits Times, p. 1; This is Singapore’s charter. (1951, September 22). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. City Council automatic, says Rajah. (1951, September 25). The Straits Times, p. 7; City to have a mayor. (1953, April 22). The Straits Times, p. 1; Mr President. (1951, October 20). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. ‘Make S’pore a City’ petition to king. (1950, July 1). The Straits Times, p. 7; S’pore petition to king ready. (1950, July 1). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7; Huxley, E. (1950, March 31). Nairobi is a city-capital now. The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. King grants city status to Singapore. (1951, July 24). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Miller, H. (1951, September 23). Majulah Singapura. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. The Straits Times, 22 Sep 1951, p. 1.
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.