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Federation of Malaya is inaugurated 1st Feb 1948

The Federation of Malaya, which comprised the nine Malay states and the Straits Settlements of Penang and Malacca, was inaugurated on 1 February 1948 to replace the Malayan Union.[1] The exclusion of Singapore, which remained a separate crown colony, was the sole feature of the Malayan Union that was retained in the new federation.[2]

Officially formed on 1 April 1946, the Malayan Union was the outcome of British efforts to improve administrative efficiency through the creation of a unitary state as the first step towards the eventual self-government of Malaya.[3] However, the Malayan Union scheme, which entailed the surrender of Malay sovereignty over the Malay states and the extension of common citizenship to immigrant communities,  was viewed  as a severe blow to Malay political standing.[4] Widespread Malay opposition to the scheme prompted the British to pursue confidential consultations with representatives of the newly formed United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) and the Malay rulers.[5]

The decision to replace the Malayan Union with a federation was made by the British Colonial Office in July 1946, and an Anglo-Malay Working Committee was convened to draw up the details.[6] The working committee proposed a federation of the peninsular states and settlements, with increased safeguards for the special position of the Malays and the sovereignty of the Malay rulers, as well as more restrictive citizenship requirements.[7]

In Singapore, groups opposing the federation scheme formed a united front, the Council of Joint Action (CJA), which later expanded into the Pan-Malayan Council of Joint Action (PMCJA), in December 1946.[8] The PMCJA called for the inclusion of Singapore within a united Malaya, responsible self-government with a fully-elected legislature, as well as equal citizenship rights for all who had made Malaya their permanent home and the object of their undivided loyalty.[9] Between 1947 and early 1948, the PMCJA partnered the Pusat Tenaga Rakyat (PUTERA), which was a coalition of Malay organisations, to mount an anti-federation campaign that culminated in an economic strike or hartal in October 1947.[10] The coalition fell apart shortly after the formation of the Federation of Malaya in February 1948.[11]

The separation of Singapore from the Malayan peninsula marked an important milestone in the political  development of the island until 1963 when it  merged for a brief period with  the Federation of Malaya to form  the Federation of Malaysia.[12]

1. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005 (p. 235). Singapore: NUS Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR.
2. Turnbull, 2009, p. 234.
3. Mohamed Noordin Sopiee. (2005). From Malayan Union to Singapore separation: Political unification in the Malaysia region, 1945–65 (pp. 16–17). Kuala Lumpur: University Malaya Press. Call no.: RSING 959.5 MOH.
4. Mohamed Noordin Sopiee, 2005, pp. 33–38.
5. Mohamed Noordin Sopiee, 2005, pp. 21–22.
6. Malayan Federation instead of Union. (1946, July 5). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Malayan Union. Working Committee on the Constitutional Proposals. (1946). Summary of the Report of the Working Committee appointed by a Conference of His Excellency the Governor of the Malayan Union, Their Highnesses the rulers of the Malay States and the representatives of the United Malays National Organisation. Revised to the 19th of December, 1946. Kuala Lumpur: Printed at the Malayan Union Govt. Press. Call no.: RCLOS S 342.595 MAL.
8. Lau, A. (1991). The Malayan Union controversy 1942–1948 (pp. 212–213). Singapore: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING 320.95951 LAU.
9. Pan-Malayan body formed. (1946, December 23). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Stockwell, A. J. (1979). British policy and Malay politics during the Malayan Union experiment, 1945–1948 (p. 94). Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society. Call no.: 959.51035 STO.
11. Yeo, K. W. (1973). Political development in Singapore, 1945–55 (pp. 42–44). Singapore: Singapore University Press. Call no.: RSING 320.95957 YEO. 
12. Chew, E., & Lee, E. (Eds.). (1991). A history of Singapore (p. 118). 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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