Singapore Table of Contents
In 1953 the colonial government appointed Sir George Rendel to head a commission to review the Singapore constitution and devise a "complete political and constitutional structure designed to enable Singapore to develop as a self-contained and autonomous unit in any larger organization with which it may ultimately become associated." The commission recommended partial internal selfgovernment for Singapore, with Britain retaining control of internal security, law, finance, defense, and foreign affairs. It also proposed a single-chamber Legislative Assembly of thirty-two members, twenty-five of whom would be elected, and a nine-member council of ministers that would act as a cabinet. The governor retained his power to veto legislation. The British government accepted the commission's recommendations, and the Rendel constitution went into effect in February 1954, with elections scheduled for the Legislative Assembly for April 1955. Voters were to be automatically registered, which was predicted to greatly enlarge the size of the turnout over previous elections. Although the new constitution was a long way from offering Singapore full independence, election fever gripped the country as new political alliances and parties were formed.
Two former members of the Singapore Labour Party, Lim Yew Hock and Francis Thomas, and a prominent lawyer, David Marshall, formed a new political party, the Labour Front, in July 1954. Marshall, who was a member of Singapore's small Jewish community, had studied law in Britain, fought with the Singapore Volunteer Corps during the Japanese invasion, and worked in the coal mines of Hokkaido as a prisoner of war. Under the leadership of Marshall, a staunch anticolonialist, the party campaigned for immediate independence within a merged Singapore and Malaya, abolishing the Emergency regulations, Malayanization of the civil service within four years (by which time local officials would take over from colonial officials), multiligualism, and Singapore citizenship for its 220,000 China-born inhabitants. Marshall, a powerful speaker, promised "dynamic socialism" to counter "the creeping paralysis of communism" as he denounced colonialism for its exploitation of the masses.
Data as of December 1989