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Pre-Independence History of Singapore

Professor Lim Mong King


Founding of modern Singapore (18191826) Straits Settlements (18261867) Crown colony (18671942) Battle of Singapore (1942) Japanese Occupation (19421945) Post-war period (19451955) First Legislative Council (19481951) Maria Hertogh riots (1950)* Second Legislative Council (19511955) Internal self-government (19551962) Hock Lee bus riots (1955) Chinese middle schools riots(1956) Merger with Malaysia (19621965)* Merger referendum (1962) * Operation Coldstore (1963) Race riots in Singapore (1964)* Republic of Singapore (1965present)* 1969 race riots of Singapore*

East India Company

The British East India Company was an early English joint-stock company that was formed initially for pursuing trade with the East Indies, but that ended up trading mainly with the Indian subcontinent and China. The Company was granted an English Royal Charter, under the name Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East Indies , by Elizabeth I on 31 December 1600. In 1795, at the age of 14, Raffles started working as a clerk in London for the British East India Company, the trading company that shaped many of Britain's overseas conquests. In 1805 the East India Company decided to make Penang a regular presidency, and sent out a governor Philip Dundas with a large staff, including Stamford Raffles. Meanwhile, Major William Farquhar, was the British Resident of Malacca. Raffles and his assistant Farquhar wanted to look for another suitable place to break the Dutch monopoly of trade in Java. After a brief survey of the Karimun Islands, on 29 January 1819, he established a post in Temasek.

Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles

Born : 6 July 1781 Off the Coast of Jamaica

Died 5 July 1826 (aged 44) London, England

Founding of Modern Singapore

1819 : Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles assisted by Major William Farquhar landed in Singapore. Inhabitants : Malay & Chinese Settlers and Orang Laut.

First Contact : Raffles (who spoke Malay) & Farquhar met with Temenggong of Singapore and Sultan Hussien of Johor.
Treaty : Signed on 6 Feb 1819 which Allowed the British to build a Trading Settlement in Singapore. In return, the Sultan & the Temenggong would receive money from the British annually.

Developing Singapore from Scratch

Man-in-charge : William Farquhar tasked to Develop Singapore in the early dangerous years (Pests, Robbery, murder and wide- spread crime)
1823 1826 : Crawford converted Raffle's most practical dreams into reality (Raffles drew up the Town Plan)

Early Settlers
From : Europe - British as well as Portuguese and Dutch China : Hokkiens, Cantonese, Teochews, Hakka & Hainan Middle East - Arabs India - Mainly Tamils from South India Malay Archipelago: Malays, Javanese, Boyanese & Bugis

Contributions : British - Government officials and merchants Malays - Traders of local produce Chinese - Traders, merchants & plantation owners, some with trade skills worked as tailors, barbers, carpenters, etc., Indians - Money-changer, milkman, policeman Notable Merchants : Guthrie, Hoo Ah Kay (Whampoa), Tan Tock Seng

Growth of Singapore (Trade)

Factors contributing to Singapore's Flourishing Trade: 1. Good geographical position 2. Free Port (No custom duties or taxes) 3. Free Trade 4. Good Trading Services (Shipping, banking, insurance) 5. Safety (British took steps to combat piracy)
External Factors: 1. Industrial Revolution in Britain 2. Demand for Raw Material 3. Opening of Suez Canal (1871)

Growth of Singapore (Cash Crops)

Besides trade, early settlers cultivated cash crops:

1. Chinese planted gambier, pepper, (originally in Singapore but subsequently in Johor) 2. Europeans cultivated coffee, sugarcane and the highly successful rubber
Note: The highly successful rubber industry created jobs and opportunities for many Chinese businessmen.

Early Government of Singapore (Straits Settlements 1826-1867)

Straits Settlements : In 1826, Singapore became part of the Straits Settlements with Penang and Melaka. Governor : The Straits Settlements came under the charge of a governor.

Governor-General : The governor reported to the governor - general of India. British government : The governor-general In London & EIC reported to the Board of directors of the East India Company (EIC) which was formed in the 17th century with British government's permission in India. Note: In 1858, EIC rule came to an end and the governor general took orders directly from the British government in London.

Law and Order

Lack of Concern for People EIC was a trading company and its main concern was profits. Under EIC, little was done to look after the immigrants. Weak Police Force The early police force was too small to control the large immigrant population. To make matters worse, there was no common language. Few Chinese knew English and even fewer English knew Chinese although some knew Malay.

Trouble Makers With growing trade, business rivalry arose and various ethnic groups stirred up much trouble. Chinese, in particular, formed secret societies. Many lonely Chinese immigrants were attracted to join for friendship and help. As members, they were forced to perform crimes like fighting and collecting "protection money.

Early Government of Singapore ( Crown Colony 1867-1942)

In the 1860s, the European merchants were not satisfied with the governor general and requested that Straits Settlements to come under the direct rule of the British government in London. In 1867, the Straits Settlements came under the British Colonial Office in London. Hence, Straits Settlements became a Crown Colony.

The Police Force

Thomas Duncan became the police chief in 1843. He served for 28 years.

Many Sikhs were recruited into the police force. These big and strong Sikhs contributed much to the police force.
Attempts to recruit Chinese into the police force was less successful. Many did not want to join the force. As a result, the police could not keep track of their activities. In order to control the Chinese population, the Chinese Protectorate was set up in 1877.

The Chinese Protectorate

Secret Societies Pickering was the first to head the Chinese Protectorate. He tried to get all Chinese Secret Societies to register with the Chinese Protectorate. In this way, he got to know many leaders and got their help in maintaining law and order among the Chinese. (The aim was to weaken the power of the secret societies). Coolie Trade After the mid 19th century, there was a great demand for workers in SEAsia, as well as USA and Australia. Singapore became a centre for coolie trade. Pickering also got all coolie agents and houses to register with the Protectorate.

Domestic Servants Another group of ill-treated immigrants were young girls. Again they were required to register with the Protectorate.
CID To counter the serious crimes, the CID was set up where detectives did not wear uniforms.

Social Services : Education

After the founding of Singapore, the different ethnic groups provided their own people with education. Lessons were conducted informally in places of worship and shop houses.
Malay : Religious Malay teachers set up Quran Schools. (Alsagoff Arabic School).

Chinese : Lessons were conducted in dialects, and abacus calculations were also taught. (Chui Eng school; Ai Tong, Tao Nan).
Indian : Tamil was taught in private schools.

Many parents preferred English education for their children.

English Schools : Christian missionaries set up English Schools. E.g. St Margaret's School, St Joseph Institution

Social Services: Medical Care

Tan Tock Seng Hospital (1844) originally at Pearl's Hill but later relocated to Serangoon and finally in Moulmein. Thong Chai Medical Institution (Gan Eng Seng 1844-1899) - South Bridge Road Singapore General Hospital - after changing its location a few times, it was finally located at Outram Road in 1882. Medical College set up in 1905.

Tan Tock Seng was a prosperous Singapore businessman of the early 1800s, known particularly for his generosity to the poor. He contributed heavily to the 1844 construction of a new hospital for the indigent, which was then named Tan Tock Seng Hospital. The origins of Singapore General Hospital can be traced back to a wooded shed erected in the cantonement for British troops located near the Singapore River in 1821, shortly after Sir Stamford Raffles landing in Singapore. In September 1904, Tan Jiak Kim led a group of representatives of the Chinese and other non-European communities, and petitioned the Governor of the Straits Settlements, Sir John Anderson, to establish a medical school in Singapore. Tan, who was the first president of the Straits Chinese British Association, managed to raise $87,077, of which the largest amount of $12,000 came from himself. On 3 July 1905, the medical school was founded, and was known as the Straits and Federated Malay States Government Medical School.

World War I (1914 1918)

How was Singapore Affected?

WWI started in Europe and soon spread to all over the world. Singapore was not affected initially.
The Emden Incident: Emden was a German warship which attacked the "Allies" ships in and around the region. The Emden's presence near Singapore affected the shipping and trade. Allies Britain, France, Russia, America Counter Powers Germany, Italy Austria, Hungary

World War II
Peace after WWI was short-lived.

In 1939 WWII broke out.

In between the World Wars, Japan was completely modernised and industrialised. In order to get materials for its factories, it invaded Manchuria and attacked China in 1937. There was anti-Japanese feeling among the Chinese immigrants in Singapore. Numerous Anti-Japanese movements were organised. Aware of the swift rise of Japan, the British constructed a naval base in Singapore. (Why?)

British Naval Base

Aware of the swift rise of Japan, the British constructed a naval base in Singapore. Warships could be sent from the naval base to fight the enemies during a war. The base would be well equipped with war supplies, docks to service and repair ships, etc.

Singapore was chosen as the site because of its good geographical position and its importance as a port. Setting up a naval base in Singapore would enable the British to protect its overseas empire and trade routes. By the late 1930s, Singapore was thought to be an invincible fortress. The Singapore Naval Base had modern facilities and was strongly defended by airbases and gun positions. When Japan successfully invaded Singapore in 1942, the British commanders realised that Singapore could no longer be defended. To prevent the Japanese from making use of the naval base, the British destroyed the base instead.

Japanese Invasion of Singapore (8-15 February 1942)

Malaya and Singapore were two important targets of the Japanese.

Malaya was rich in raw materials while Singapore was a busy port and strong fortress. The British expected the Japanese to attack from the sea (i.e. from the South). Instead, the Japanese came from Johor. Singapore fell on 15th Feb 1942*. *On December 7, 1941 the Japanese arrived in the city of Kota Bahru in British Malaya (present day Malaysia). They arrived just a few hours before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. Within two months, the Japanese had conquered present day Peninsular Malaysia. On February 8, 1942 they crossed the causeway and entered into the British colony of Singapore.

Japanese Occupation in Singapore

Singapore Named :"Syonan-to" meaning the Light of the South. (Singaporeans actually spent the darkest days of their lives during the three and a half years). All Europeans were POWs. Some were sent to Thailand (Siam) to build the Death Railway. The locals were often bullied by the Japanese: Some Malays were sent to build the D.R. (The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway) Indians were wanted to join the Indian National Army (INA) to fight against the British in India. Many who refused were killed. Others were sent to build the D.R. The Chinese were punished most severely, because they helped China. Eurasians were also punished because they looked like Europeans. Law and order was in the hands of the Kempeitai (Japanese Military Police). Local War Hero : Lim Bo Seng (Leader of Force 136), who was captured and tortured and died in prison in 1944.

Sook Ching Massacre ()

Sook Ching massacre was a systematic extermination of perceived hostile elements among the Chinese in Singapore by the Japanese military during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore, after the British colony surrendered on 15 February 1942 during the Second World War. Sook Ching was later extended to include Chinese Malayans as well. The massacre took place from 18 February to 4 March 1942 at various places in the region. The term Sook Ching () means "a purge through cleansing" in Chinese and it was referred to as the Kakyshukusei (), or "purging of Chinese") by the Japanese. The Japanese also referred to it as the Shingapru Daikensh ( ), lit. "great inspection of Singapore".
Today, the memories and reflections of those who lived through these dark war years have been captured at exhibition galleries in Memories at Old Ford Factory, the site of the former Ford Motor Factory where the British surrendered to the Japanese on 15 February 1942. The current Japanese term for the massacre is Shingapru Kakygyakusatsujiken (), literally "(the) Singapore Chinese massacre".

End of WWII
America dropped ATOMIC BOMBS on HIROSHIMA ON 6 Aug 1945, and on NAGASAKI ON 9 Aug 1945. The Japanese Surrended.

Post-War Singapore
The British returned to Singapore on 5 Sept 1945.
Post-war Problems : - Shortage of Food (caused by insufficient supply and the transportation problem). - Shortage of Water & Electricity - Shortage of Houses led to high rentals resulting in overcrowding & unhygienic environment - Education problem resulting from many children not attending schools during the J.O. There were insufficient places for the school going children. - Communism

Communism in Singapore
During the period 1945 - 1948 the MCP (Malayan Communist Party) was a legal organisation in Singapore & Malaya. The Communists took advantage of the post-war problems and started to stir up the people's feelings against the British.

Strikes by trade unions were common. However, those workers who did not succeed in their strikes found themselves worse off. They realised that the unions were more interested in stirring up trouble for the employers. When the communists realised that they had failed to stir up anti-British feelings, they resorted to violent means. Many left the towns and went into the jungles.

The Emergency (1948 - 1960)

During the first half of 1948, the Communists attacked the rubber plantations and tin mines in Malaya. Their attacks became so frequent and serious that the British government declare a state of Emergency. During the Emergency, the government banned the MCP. When the communists realised that their activities in Malaya against the British yielded no positive results, they turned their attention to Singapore.

Strikes in Singapore
The communists tried to gain control of some important unions. Through trade unions, they would be able to influence the workers and get them to go on strikes.
In addition, the communists were able to make use of the students in Chinese schools because the schools were not under government control. Furthermore, the Chinese school students were unhappy with the British government because they were not given equal opportunities for the entrance to the University. Chinese school students, when they graduate, could not get well paid jobs.

Riots in Singapore
Riots by students and workers broke out in many parts of the city. The notable one is the Hock Lee Bus Riots of 1955 and Chinese Middle Schools Riots in 1956. .

The Hock Lee bus riots (1955)

On April 23, 1955, workers from the Hock Lee Amalgamated Bus Company and some Chinese students began to go on strike. They were members of the Singapore Bus Workers' Union (SBWU) and were protesting against poor working conditions, long work hours and low pay. They also felt threatened by a rival union which was supported by the bus company to counter any labour action by SBWU. The strike was likely to be instigated by pro-communists as well as fanned by anticolonial sentiments. Singapore had just held a Legislative Assembly Election on April, and the Labour Front led by David Marshall formed a minority government after winning a narrow victory. The strikers stopped the buses from leaving the depots and crippled the city's entire transport system. In a show of support, students from the Chinese middle schools came in busloads to join the strikers. The police attempted to disperse the picketers many times. On April 27, 1955, police tried to break up the strikers and injured 15 people. This gained more public sympathy and support for the strikers, which was aptly encouraged and supported by the communists.
In total, 4 people were killed and 31 injured in the violent and bloody riot.

Chinese Middle Schools Riots

In the 1956 riots, Chinese middleschool students who subscribed to the communist ideology staged sit-ins and demonstrations, disrupted classes, and in effect shut their schools down.

Chinese Middle Schools Riots

The Chinese middle schools riots were a series of riots that broke out in the Singaporean Chinese community in Singapore in 1956, resulting in 13 people killed and more than 100 injured. In 1956, after Lim Yew Hock replaced David Marshall as Chief Minister of Singapore, he began to take tough measures to suppress communist activities with the support of the British Governor and Commissioner of Police.

In September, Lim Yew Hock deregistered and banned two pro-communist organizations: the Singapore Womens Association (SWA) and the Chinese Musical Gong Society. The Singapore Chinese Middle School Students Union (SCMSSU) was also dissolved.
In protest, students gathered and camped at Chung Cheng High School and The Chinese High School. They sat-in over the next two weeks, organising meetings and holding demonstrations. On October 24, the government issued an ultimatum that the schools be vacated. As the deadline approached, riots started at the Chinese High School and spread to other parts of the island.

Some nine hundred people were arrested, including Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan and Devan Nair. They were released in 1959 when the People's Action Party, led by Lee Kuan Yew, won the 1959 general election to form the government as Singapore gained self rule.

Road to Independence for Singapore

1948 : Singapores First Election (a Legislative Council was set up by the British with six elected members ) 1955 : Limited Self-government ( Legislative Coucil became Legislative Assembly :25 seats were elected and 7 were appointed) : Chief Ministers David Marshall, Lim Yew Hock 1959 : Full Self-government : Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew 1963 : Singapore as part of independent Malaysia 1965 : Independent Singapore

Singapores First Election 1948

In April 1946, Singapore was separated from the Straits Settlements. From then on, it was ruled by a British governor, who was assisted by an Advisory Council. Members of the Advisory Council were nominated by the governor. No Singaporean had the chance to elect any of the members. There was NO democracy.
In 1948, a Legislative Council was set up by the British. This time, some six members were elected by the Singaporeans. (This was the first step towards democracy. The government only allowed those who were born in Singapore to vote. This prevented more than 200,000 people from voting because they were born outside Singapore).

Limited Self Government 1955

In 1955, Singapore gained limited self government. Singapore was still ruled by the Governor, but 25 local representatives were allowed to take charge of Health and Housing.

In the new form of government, the Legislative Council was replaced by the Legislative Assembly. Despite the change, the Governor remained as powerful as ever (25 seats were elected and 7 were appointed).
Since David Marshall's party had the most seats in the election, he became the Chief Minister. (The Labour Front won ten of the twentyfive seats and formed a coalition government with the UMNO-MCA Alliance)

In 1956, David Marshall led a group of politicians to London to make the request for full self government (Merdeka Talks). When British did not grant him his wish, the disappointed David Marshall stepped down as Chief Minister.

Legislative Assembly Election 1955

People Action Party PAP (formed in 1954) Lee Kuan Yew Labour Front David Marshell The Progressive Party, whose leaders had earned a reputation as the "Queen's Chinese" Democratic Party, which championed the causes of improved Chinese education, establishment of Chinese as an official language, and liberal citizenship terms for the China-born. UMNO-MCA Automatic registration of voters had increased the electorate from 76,000 in 1951 to more than 300,000. Election fever gripped Singapore during the month-long campaign, and the results of the April 2 contest sent shock waves as far as Britain, where it had been expected that the Progressive Party would win handily.

Surprising even itself, the Labour Front won ten of the twenty-five seats and formed a coalition government with the UMNO-MCA Alliance, which won three seats. Three exofficio members and two nominated members joined with the coalition, forming a group of seventeen in the thirty-two-member assembly. The Progressives won only four seats and the Democratic Party just two, in a clear rejection of colonial rule and procolonial politics.
The PAP won three of the four seats it had contested , including a seat in one of Singapore's poorest sections won by Lee Kuan Yew and one seat won by Lim Chin Siong. Lim had the backing of organized labor and led the procommunist wing of the party while Lee led the noncommunist wing.

Merdeka is a word in the Malay language meaning Independent or freedom. The term was significant during the anticolonialist and proindependence movements of the colonies of Indonesia, Malaya, and Singapore, in the history of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore.

The call for Merdeka was a growing tension between progressivism and radicalism, cooperation and hostility towards the British. David Marshall of the Labour Front narrowly won the Singapore general election of 1955, but being anticolonialist, tended to be a vocal opponent of the British rule. As such, the British found it hard to work out a compromise. A petition was started in 1956 which collected the signatures of 167,000 : a vast portion of the electorate in that era - in a petition that demanded Merdeka.

David Marshall Merdeka Talk (April 1956)

When the governor, Sir Robert Black, refused to allow Marshall to appoint four assistant ministers, Marshall threatened to resign unless Singapore was given immediate self-government under a new constitution. The Colonial Office agreed to hold constitutional talks, which came to be known as Merdeka talks, in London in April 1956. Marshall led to the talks a thirteen-man delegation comprising members of all the legislative parties and including Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong. The British offered to grant Singapore full internal self-government but wanted to retain control over foreign affairs and internal security. They proposed a Defence and Internal Security Council, with three delegates each from Britain and Singapore, to be chaired by the British high commissioner in Singagore, who would have the casting ballot (the deciding vote in case of a tie).
Marshall had promised he would resign if he failed to obtain internal selfgovernment, and the talks broke down over the issue of the casting ballot.

The delegation returned to Singapore, and Marshall resigned in June and was succeeded by the deputy chief minister, Lim Yew Hock.

Lim Yew Hock - Merdeka Talks (1957)

Another Labour Front leader Lim Yew Hock took over as Singapore's Chief Minister and continued the effort to push for independence. Lim then undertook harsh measures against the communists demonstrating that his administration was willing to take a tough stance to safeguard internal security. In the Chinese middle schools riots of 1956, some nine hundred people were arrested. In subsequent Merdeka Talks, Lim managed to convince the British to grant Singapore Merdeka with complete autonomy over domestic affairs. A new government was formed following the Singapore general election of 1959, but ironically the Labour Front lost as Lim Yew Hock's harsh techniques had alienated large portions of the electorate.

Full Self Government 1959

In 1957, a law was passed to make the acquisition of Singapore citizen easier. As a result, more people became eligible to vote in 1959. Voting was, for the first time, made compulsory.
In the 1959 Election, Lee Kuan Yew led the PAP to victory and became the first Prime Minister of Singapore. (PAP won the general election in a landslide, winning 43 out of 51 seats.)

Barisan Sosialis a now defunct political party

The Barisan Sosialis (Malay for Socialist Front; Chinese: ) is a former Singaporean left-wing political party formed on 29 Jul 1961, by left-wing members of the People's Action Party (PAP) and led by Dr Lee Siew Choh and Lim Chin Siong. The party was formed when the leftist members of the PAP were dismissed by then party leader Lee Kuan Yew.
The key event leading to the breakup was the motion of confidence of the government in which many PAP assemblymen crossed party lines. On 20 July, the PAP called for an emergency Legislative Assembly meeting to debate on the motion of confidence of the Government. In the vote on the motion taken on 21 July, it won narrowly by one vote.

Together with six prominent left-leaning leaders from trade unions, the breakaway members established this new party. At the time of inception, it had popular support rivalling or even superseding that of the PAP. 35 of the 51 branches of PAP and 19 of its 23 organising secretaries went to the Barisan Sosialis.

Operation Coldstore
Operation Coldstore was a security operation launched in Singapore on 2 February 1963 in which at least 111 anti-government left-wing activists were arrested and detained, including key members of the opposition political party Barisan Sosialis. Others arrested included newspaper editors, trade unionists and university students.

The operation, authorised by the Internal Security Council which comprised representatives from the British Colonial, Malaysian Federal and Singapore governments, was touted as an anti-Communist sting.

Operation Coldstore
At that time, Singapore was a self-governing state under British rule; but was preparing for a merger with the Federation of Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia in September 1963.
The pro-communists, led by Lim Chin Siong strongly opposed this merger and were challenging the government of Singapore headed by Lee Kuan Yew of the People's Action Party (PAP) in their endeavour to establish a socialist state. Lim's faction broke away from the PAP in 1961 to form the Barisan Sosialis. The Singapore Trade Union Congress, the dominant trade union at the time, was also split into two factions; the left-wings formed the Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU), while the pro-PAP faction formed the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC).

Operation Coldstore
Those arrested were detained under the Prevention of Public Security Order (PPSO). They were alleged to be involved in subversive activities aiming to establish a "Communist Cuba" in Singapore. The arrestees include:
Lim Chin Siong, secretary-general, Barisan Sosialis S Woodhull, vice-chairman, Barisan Sosialis Fong Swee Suan, secretary-general SATU and executive committee member, Barisan Sosialis Dominic Puthucheary, committee member SATU and Barisan Sosialis; vice-president Singapore General Employees' Union Said Zahari, former editor of Utusan Melayu Tan Teck Wah, president Singapore General Employees' Union; vicepresident, SATU A Wahab Shah, chairman, Party Rakyat, Lim Hock Siew*
*Dr Lim Hock Siew, detained for almost 20 years, passed away on 4 June 2012. He was 81.

Operation Coldstore
The Operation dealt a heavy blow to the Barisan Sosialis, just months before the 1963 general elections. (PAP won 37 out of the 51 seats, the Barisan Sosialis 13). SATU was deregistered after its leaders were arrested, and the NTUC became the main trade union in Singapore ever since. NTUC remains closely associated with the PAP, with many of its union leaders being PAP's members of parliament.

Were Barisan Sosialis and Lim Chin Siong communists?

With new archives opened up in London, evidence linking Lim Chin Siong and Barisan Sosialis to be communist seems vague at best.