The Municipal Ordinance of 1887 created a separate authority, the Municipal Commission, to oversee local urban affairs in Singapore. Prior to that, municipal matters were handled by various committees appointed by the British colonial government on an ad hoc basis. These committees would attend to matters related to drains, street lighting, and the regulation of buildings as and when required. Such an arrangement became increasingly inadequate in light of a burgeoning urban population and worsening sanitary conditions over the last decades of the 19th century. A reform of the prevailing municipal administration was thus necessary for the colonial government to exercise greater control over local affairs.
With the enactment of the first Municipal Ordinance in 1887, the town area was administered separately from the rural districts and placed under the purview of the Municipal Commission, which comprised an appointed full-time salaried municipal president and a group of elected members. The Municipal Commission had its own municipal fund that was managed separately from government revenue. The commission was responsible for many improvement schemes in subsequent years. Examples of such schemes included the creation of a professional fire brigade in 1888, enlargement of the Thomson Road Reservoir (now known as MacRitchie Reservoir) in 1904, provision of electric street lighting in 1906, renovation of the Town Hall (now Victoria Theatre) in 1905, and completion of the Kallang Extension River Scheme (now known as Pierce Reservoir) in 1911.
In 1913, the Municipal Commission was reorganised and municipal elections were abolished. However, elections were reintroduced in 1949 for 18 of the commission’s 27 seats as part of the move to expand local political participation in preparation for self-governance. The Municipal Commission was renamed the City Council in 1951 when Singapore attained city status.
1. Turnbull, C. M. (2009). A history of modern Singapore, 1819–2005 (p. 124). Singapore: NUS Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR.
2.Yeoh, B. (2013). Contesting space in colonial Singapore: Power relations and the urban built environment (p. 31). Singapore: NUS Press. Call no.: RSING 307.76095957 YEO.
3. Makepeace, W., Brooke, G. E., & Braddell, R. (1991). One hundred years of Singapore (p. 317). Singapore: Oxford University Press. Call no.: RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS].
4. Yeoh, 2013, pp. 28, 35-48.
5. Turnbull, 2009, p. 124.
6. Turnbull, 2009, p. 124.
7. Makepeace, Brooke & Braddell, 1991, pp. 327–328, 331, 334, 337.
8. Yeoh, 2013, p. 57.
9. The municipal elections. (1949, April 1). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10.The king sends congratulations. (1951, September 22). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at 2013 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.