After Singapore merged with the Federation of Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia on 16 September 1963, the structure of its government was laid out in the 1963 State of Singapore Constitution, which was the Third Schedule to the Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore (State Constitutions) Order in Council 1963. Although the 1963 constitution replaced the 1958 State of Singapore Constitution, most of the provisions in the new constitution – particularly those related to the legislature, the executive and public administration of the country as well as the special responsibility of the government towards the minority communities – remained largely the same as with the previous constitution. This was because Singapore was able to retain most of the structure of its executive and legislative branches of government as defined in the 1958 constitution. The island state was given a considerable amount of autonomy in matters over its internal administration as part of its terms of entry into the federation. The terms of Singapore’s entry were spelled out in the Malaysia Agreement signed in London on 9 June 1963 between Great Britain, the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, North Borneo (Sabah) and Sarawak.
There were, however, some differences between the 1963 and 1958 constitutions. As Singapore had gained full independence from the British after joining Malaysia, authority over its defence, external affairs and internal security were transferred to the federal government in Kuala Lumpur. Provisions in the 1958 constitution that allowed for the constitution of the office of a British High Commissioner as well as the formation of an Internal Security Council were also removed. Furthermore, as a state in Malaysia, the authority over the appointment of Singapore’s Yang di-Pertuan Negara or head of state was placed under the purview of the Yang di-Pertuan Agong of Malaysia. There was also an additional provision that defined Singapore citizenship and its status in Malaysia.
The 1963 constitution was unique in the sense that the constitutional framework checked and safeguarded local autonomy for Singapore in Malaysia. As mentioned by then Singapore’s Yang di-Pertuan Negara Yusof Ishak in a speech to the Legislative Assembly on 29 November 1963, the new constitution was designed to “prevent any drop in standards of economic prosperity, of public services, of social amenities, educational facilities and public housing, whatever happens in the rest of Malaysia”. The 1963 constitution took effect on 31 August 1963. It remained in effect until Singapore’s separation from Malaysia to become an independent and sovereign state on 9 August 1965.
1. Tan, K. Y. L. (Ed.). (1999). The Singapore legal system (p. 45). Singapore: Singapore University Press. Call no.: RSING 349.5957 SIN.
2. Tan, 1999, p. 45.
3. Hoffman, L. (1963, July 10). Signing drama. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. State of Singapore. (1963). The Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore (State Constitutions) Order in Council 1963 (pp.1–5). Singapore: Govt. Print. Off. Call no.: RCLOS 342.595 MAL.
5. State of Singapore, 1963, pp. 1–5.
6. Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official Report. (1963, November 29). Yang di-Pertuan Negara’s speech (Vol. 22, cols. 115–118). Singapore: Legislative Assembly. Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN.
7. A great day for Malaya’s partners. (1963, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 1. 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.