Headlines, Lifelines

167,000 want independence

David Marshall
April 23, 1956 -- David Marshall showing Herbert Morrison, former Labour Foreign Secretary, one of the volumes containing signatures of 167,000 people who want independence for Singapore.
Photo by Associated Press Photo
In 1953, a commission, headed by Sir George Rendel, was appointed to look into constitutional changes in Singapore. The Rendel Constitution provided for a very limited type of self-government.

David Marshall, first Chief Minister of Singapore, wanted more for Singapore. In April 1956, he led a delegation to London to ask for internal self-government.

His 13-member delegation included six Assemblymen from his government and six Opposition members, including Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong of the PAP.

However, the talks broke down.

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Why?

David Marshall
Opening session of the Merdeka Talks

Photo by Fox Photos

The British agreed to a fully elected legislature and Cabinet; and the Malayanisation of the civil service.

There would also be Singapore citizenship for those born in Singapore or those who have been residing here for a long time.

The British, however, would retain control of foreign affairs and defence.

The talks broke down over the issue of internal security. The British were determined to have control over internal security. They felt that Marshall’s government was not firm enough in its handling of the pro-communists. As Singapore was an important military base, it was not prepared to take any risks.

David Marshall The British insisted on having three British and three Singaporeans on the Defence and Internal Security Council, to report to the British High Commissioner in Singapore. The British High Commissioner would also have the casting vote.

David Marshall refused to accept these terms. He resigned on June 6, after failing to achieve internal self-government. Lim Yew Hock took over his duties as Chief Minister.

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