The Barisan Sosialis (Barisan) is a defunct Singapore political party that was officially registered on 13 August 1961. It was established on the instructions of Fong Chong Pik, the chief representative of the Communist Party of Malaya in Singapore. The main objectives of the Barisan included ending colonialism, establishing a united independent state comprising the Federation of Malaya and Singapore, creating a democratic government and introducing a sound economic system. The founding members of the Barisan were former communist and pro-communist members of the People’s Action Party (PAP) who were expelled in July 1961 following their abstention during the vote of confidence called by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew at the Legislative Assembly. The founding chairman and secretary-general of the Barisan were Lee Siew Choh and Lim Chin Siong respectively. Lim and some leading members of the party, such as party vice-chairman Sydney Woodhull and executive committee member Fong Swee Suan, were subsequently detained on 2 February 1963 in Operation Coldstore for their alleged involvement in pro-communist activities.
After the Barisan was formed, the party campaigned vigorously against the PAP government’s proposed terms for merger with the Federation of Malaya. The Barisan argued for Singapore as the 12th state of the federation with all Singapore citizens becoming federal citizens and Singapore having proportional representation in the federal parliament. The PAP, on the other hand, had agreed to the terms of merger negotiated with the federal government so as to retain autonomy in education and labour policies to suit Singapore’s special circumstances. A referendum on merger was held on 1 September 1962, in which 71 percent of the Singapore population voted for PAP’s proposed merger terms. Following its referendum defeat, the Barisan contested its first general election on 21 September 1963. The party fielded candidates for 46 seats but won only 13 seats. The PAP, on the other hand, won 37 of the 51 seats available. The remaining seat went to Ong Eng Guan of the United People’s Party.
After Singapore separated from Malaysia in August 1965, Barisan members of parliament boycotted the first session of parliament which began on 8 December 1965. In 1966, they resigned in batches, citing the reason that neither national independence nor parliamentary democracy existed in Singapore. Thereafter, the Barisan boycotted the 1968 general election, but returned to contest the 1972 general election by fielding 10 candidates. It failed to win any seats. The party contested the subsequent three general elections with fewer candidates, and again without any success. In 1988, the Barisan Sosialis was dissolved and merged with the Workers’ Party.
1.Mahadeva, A. (1961, July 30). PAP dissidents name new party ‘Barisan Socialis’. The Straits Times, p. 4; Barisan Socialis is registered. (1961, August 14). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Hussin Mutalib. (2004). Parties and politics: A study of opposition parties and the PAP in Singapore (pp. 76–77). Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Academic. Call no.: RSING 324.25957 HUS.
2. Gafoor, B. (2014, December 19). A ferocious struggle for Singapore’s future. The Straits Times. Retrieved June 22, 2015, from The Straits Times website: http://www.straitstimes.com/news/opinion/more-opinion-stories/story/ferocious-struggle-singapores-future-20141219
3. Barisan Socialis adopts red star symbol. (1961, September 4). The Straits Times, p. 16. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Hussin Mutalib, 2004, p. 75; Lee, B. E. (1961, July 23). Sack for 5 parliamentary secretaries who abstained in confidence vote. The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Lim Chin Siong is named Barisan leader. (1961, September 18). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Abisheganaden, F. (1963, February 3). 107 held in Singapore dawn drive. The Straits Times, p. 1; Detainees can aid release by disowning communism, assembly told. (1962, April 19). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Barisan Sosialis stand on merger. (1961, September 11). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Lee gives a pledge. (1961, July 27). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Lee, E. B., et al. (1962, September 2). Yes – what a win for Premier Lee! The Straits Times, p. 1; Merger ‘yes’. (1962, September 3). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Sam, J. (1963, September 21). Singapore’s D-Day. The Straits Times, p. 1; PAP landslide: Barisan is hammered. (1963, September 22). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Lee, T. H. (1996). The open united front: The communist struggle in Singapore 1954–1966. (p. 260). Singapore: South Seas Society. Call no.: RSING 959.5703 LEE
11. Barisan MPs won’t be there. (1965, December 8). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Parliament of Singapore. (n.d.). Sessions of parliament. Retrieved June 22, 2014, from Parliament of Singapore website: https://www.parliament.gov.sg/sessions-parliament
12. Four MPs send own quit letters. (1966, October 28). The Straits Times, p. 4; Five more Barisan MPs quit seats. (1966, December 6). The Straits Times, p. 12; Chandran, R. (1966, October 8). Barisan MPs quit. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Hussin Mutalib, 2004, pp. 109–110.
14. Cheng, S. T. (1988, May 8). Barisan to go under the hammer. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
The information in this article is valid as at July 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.