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. Marshall resigned in June 1956 after the first round of constitutional talks held two months earlier in London to determine the terms of full internal self-government for Singapore stalled over the issue of internal security. His successor, Lim Yew Hock, then led a second all-party mission to London to renew discussions on self-government with the British government, which lasted from 11 March to 11 April 1957.
This time, the knotty matter of internal security was resolved with the proposed formation of a security council comprising three British and three Singapore representatives, together with a seventh member from the Federation of Malaya who would possess the casting vote. With the exception of the revised internal security arrangement, the Singapore delegation had more or less agreed to the constitutional terms that Marshall had previously rejected in 1956.
Under the agreement, Singapore would gain the status of a self-governing state with powers to control trade, commerce as well as cultural relations in external affairs. The terms provided for a fully-elected legislature of 51 members and a Malayan-born head of state, or Yang di-Pertuan Negara, who would replace the British governor as representative of the Queen. The British retained responsibility for defence and foreign policy, while overlapping aspects of internal security and external defence would be managed by the aforementioned security council.
The second all-party mission returned with a constitution that, following further amendments in the third and final Merdeka talks held the following year in 1958, paved the way for the attainment of full internal self-government and the formation of Singapore's first fully-elected government in 1959.
1. Miller, H. (1956, May 21). Marshall to resign on June 6. The Straits Times, p. 1; The Marshall diary. (1956, June 6). The Straits Times, p. 2. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Chew, E., & Lee, E. (Eds.). (1991). A history of Singapore (p. 137). Singapore: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57 HIS.
3. Abisheganaden, F. (1957, March 30). Colony talks a success – triumph for Mr. Lim. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Chew & Lee, 1991, p. 137.
5. 2 a.m.: It’s success! (1957, April 10). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG
6. Lee, E. (2008). Singapore: The unexpected nation (p. 139) Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Call no.: RSING 959.57 LEE.
7. Lee, 2008, p. 139; Abisheganaden, F. (1957, March 28). Last lap in London. The Straits Times, p. 1; The Straits Times, 10 Apr 1957, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Chew & Lee, 1991, p. 137.
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.