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Postwar Governance

By: xenodus on 16 May 2012
After the Japanese surrendered to the Allies on 15 August 1945, Singapore fell into a brief looting and revenge-killing. Much of the infrastructure had been destroyed during the war, like electricity, water supply systems, telephone services and harbor facilities. In addition, Singapore also faced a shortage of food which led to malnutrition, disease as well as widespread crime and violence.

Faced with high food prices, unemployment and discontentment, there were a series of strikes in 1947 that further halted the economy, affecting public transport and other services. Later that year, though, the economy slowly started to recover, in part due to the increasing demand for tin and rubber.

By this time, the general sentiment in Singapore was that it was no more the infallible ruler since it had not been able to defend Singapore. This awakened the political sensibilities of the local populace, and anti-colonial and nationalist sentiments began to increase. The British were prepared to gradually let Singapore be self-governed.

On 1 April 1946, Singapore became a separate Crown Colony with a civil administration headed by a governor, and a year later, separate Executive and Legislative Councils and there were 6 members of the Legislative Council to be elected into government. Only British subjects could vote, and only 10% of those eligible actually registered to vote. The rest were chosen by the Governor or by the chambers of commerce. Out of the six elected seats, three were won by Singapore Progressive Party, a party that was conservative, made up of businessmen and professionals who did not want immediate self-rule.

Three months later, an armed insurgency - known as The Malayan Emergency - by communist groups in Malaya broke out and the British imposed tough measures to control the left-wing groups in both Singapore and Malaya and they also introduced the controversial Internal Security Act, which the indefinite detention without trial for those suspected of threatening security.

A second Legislative Council election was held in 1951, with the number of seats increased to nine. This time, the Singapore Progressive Party won six seats, forming a distinct local government of Singapore government, although the colonial administration was still dominant. In 1953, the communists in Malaya were suppressed and the Emergency was almost over, a British Commission, with Sir George Rendel in charge, proposed limited self-government for Singapore. A new Legislative Assembly, with 25 out of 32 seats chosen by election would replace the Legislative Council. The parliamentary system would then elect a Chief Minister and Council of Ministers. The British would still be able to control internal security and foreign affairs, and they also have veto power over legislation.

This election was more hotly contended, held on 2 April 1955. This time, voters were automatically registered, expanding their numbers to about 300 000. The SPP won only four seats, while the newly formed Labour Front won 10 seats and the UMNO MCA Alliance won three and another new party, People’s Action Party won three seats as well.

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