Fajar Volume 2 Issue 5 (December 1959) Page 9 (extract)- New Naratif

Historical Perspective: “Singapore is not a self-governing state”

As part of an irregular series, New Naratif will highlight historical articles that not only offer an interesting window into the past, but can also help shed light on the world today.

This month, Singapore celebrates the 60th anniversary of its ostensible achievement of self-government in 1959. To commemorate this, we reproduce this article written by Tommy Koh, now a veteran diplomat, in December 1959. In it, he argues that Singapore did not enjoy full self-government because of the privileged position of the UK Commissioner with respect to the elected Ministers and Government of Singapore, especially when it came to his control of the Internal Security Council as Chairman.

The popular assumption was, naturally, that the Singapore government would seek to eliminate colonialism while the British would seek to preserve it; and the anti-colonial movement perceived the use of internal security laws to detain Singaporeans without trial as the most obvious and egregious example of colonialism. The fear was thus that Singapore had been handed power only on paper, but in practice the UK Commissioner would use his backroom powers to bend the PAP government to the will of the British.

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