The 1965 Constitution of the Republic of Singapore was adopted on 22 December 1965 shortly after Singapore’s separation from the Federation of Malaysia to become an independent and sovereign nation on 9 August. Largely based on the earlier 1963 State of Singapore Constitution, the 1965 constitution delineated the powers and structure of the country’s executive and legislative branches of government. The provision stating the special responsibility of the government towards the protection of the rights of minority communities as well as the provisions covering the framework of different areas of government, such as the judicial system and the public administration, were retained.
Although the 1965 constitution was based on the framework of the 1963 constitution, there were a number of key differences. For instance, the office of the President was constituted to replace the office of the Yang di-Pertuan Negara as the constitutional head of state, and a provision was added to protect the sovereign status of Singapore. Revisions were also made to the 1963 constitution so that the new constitution would relinquish the powers that the Malaysian government once held over Singapore in the various branches of government, and define the citizenship and fundamental liberties of Singaporeans in accordance with the sovereignty that the nation had acquired. To effect these changes in the new constitution, the Malaysian government had to amend portions of its own constitution so that these powers could be transferred to the Singapore government. These portions were transferred to Singapore through the Republic of Singapore Independence Act, 1965. This act, together with the Singapore Constitution (Amendments) Act, 1965, which contained the amendments to the 1963 State of Singapore Constitution, were both passed by the Singapore parliament on 22 December 1965.
After the 1965 Constitution of the Republic of Singapore came into effect, it underwent a number of amendments. One of the key amendments was made in 1969 when a provision was added for the appointment of a Presidential Council that was set up in May 1970. It was later renamed the Presidential Council for Minority Rights in 1973 to better reflect its role. The function of the council is to scrutinise bills passed by parliament to ensure that proposed laws are not discriminatory against any race, religion or community. Other amendments were made over the years to the legislature to better reflect the changes in the country’s parliamentary system. These included the expansion of parliament, the introduction of the Non-constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) scheme in 1984, and the establishment of the Group Representation Constituency (GRC) system in 1988.
1. Tan, K. Y. L. (Ed.). (2005). An introduction to Singapore’s constitution (pp. 24). Singapore: Talisman Pub. Call no.: RSING 342.595702 TAN.
2. Republic of Singapore. (1966). The Constitution of Singapore (pp. 430–433). Singapore: Govt. Print. Off. Call no.: RCLOS 342.5957 SIN.
3. The Constitution of Singapore, 1966, p. 434.
4. Tan, K. Y. L. (Ed.) (1999). The Singapore legal system (pp. 47–49). Singapore: Singapore University Press. Call no.: RSING 349.5957 SIN.
5. Independent S’pore bill: Full details. (1965, August 10). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Passed without debate: S’pore Republic Bill. (1965, December 23). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. ‘Watchdog’ council a guard for the minority. (1969, June 13). The Straits Times, p. 8; Mr. Justice Wee to head the President's Council. (1970, April 28). The Straits Times, p. 1; President Council will deal only with minority rights. (1973, February 17). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. 3 opposition seats assured. (1984, June 30). The Straits Times, p. 1; PM and Chok Tong first discussed bill in ‘82. (1988, January 12). The Straits Times, p. 10. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
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.