David Marshall (Singaporean politician)

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David Saul Marshall
DMarshall.jpg
1st Chief Minister of Singapore
In office
6 April 1955 – 7 June 1956
Governor Sir John Fearns Nicoll (1952–55)
Sir William Goode (1955)
Sir Robert Brown Black (1955–57)
Preceded by Newly Created
Succeeded by Lim Yew Hock
Member of Legislative Assembly for Cairnhill
In office
2 April 1955 – 29 April 1957
Preceded by New Seat
Succeeded by Soh Ghee Soon
Member of the Legislative Assembly for Anson
In office
15 July 1961 – 3 September 1963
Preceded by Mohammed Baharuddin Ariff
Succeeded by Govindaswamy Perumal
Personal details
Born 12 March 1908
Straits Settlements (Singapore)
Died 12 December 1995(1995-12-12) (aged 87)
Singapore
Nationality Singaporean
Political party Labour Front (1954–1957)
Workers' Party of Singapore (1957–1963)
Independent (1963–1995)
Spouse(s) Jean Mary Gray
Children Jonathan Mark
Ruth Ann
Sarah Farha
Joanna Tamar [1]
Alma mater University of London
Profession Politician and diplomat
Religion Judaism
David Marshall, wearing his political uniform of white bush-jacket and grey trousers, with a hammer

David Saul Marshall (12 March 1908 – 12 December 1995) was a Singaporean politician and lawyer who served as Singapore's first Chief Minister from 1955 to 1956. He was the founder and president of the Workers' Party of Singapore (WP). [2] Marshall was instrumental in the negotiations that led to the independence of Malaya.

Early life & education[edit]

Marshall was born in Singapore in 1908, into a Baghdadi Jewish family. His family name was originally Mashal, which was laster anglicised as Marshall. He had at least six siblings.

Marshall was educated at Saint Joseph's Institution, Saint Andrew's School, Raffles Institution and the University of London.[3]

He reportedly became interested in politics and the Singapore independence movement at an early age.

Legal career & war service[edit]

After graduating from the University of London, Marshall was called to the Bar at the Middle Temple, London in 1937 and returned to Singapore to commence a legal career.

In 1938, following the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Marshall volunteered for military service with a British reserve unit, the Straits Settlements Volunteer Force. He was assigned to "B" Company, 1st Battalion (1SSVF) – a company composed mostly of continental European expatriates. He was detained briefly by military police after he objected the fact that he and other volunteers classified as "Asian" were paid at half the rate received by "European" members of the SSVF.

In February 1942, he saw action against the Imperial Japanese Army, in the Holland Road area, during the last few days of the Battle of Singapore. Marshall became a prisoner-of-war (POW) following the British surrender.[4]

Reflecting later on his experience as a POW, Marshall commented:

[The Japanese Occupation] taught me humility ... Three and a half years as a prisoner taught me humility ... I realized [as a Japanese prisoner-of-war] that man is capable of cold-hearted cruelty. I can be angry, and I have no doubt I can be cruel for five, ten minutes. But the Japanese cruelty was cold-blooded, permanent and eternal. Man's inhumanity to man in fact, in real life, made its presence really known to me when I became a prisoner, and saw it in action. Of course, I have known cruelty before. But wide-spread, long-term, cold-blooded, permanent cruelty, I've never experienced before, not even from the British Imperialists no matter how arrogant they were. That was a major shock, the feeling that here were human beings who were not on the same wavelength as me at all, who were not even human from my point of view.

Most of Marshall's immediate family had emigrated to Australia before the war began. One brother, George (also known as Joseph), died in Sydney in 1945 under unusual circumstances (that may have been connected to the Tamam Shud case).

At a POW camp in Japan when the war ended, Marshall spent time with his family in Australia, before returning to Singapore.

He became a successful and prominent criminal lawyer. Known for his sharp eloquence and imposing stance, Marshall claimed that he had secured 99 acquittals out of 100 cases he defended for murder during Singapore's period of having trial by jury. When Lee Kuan Yew later abolished Singapore's jury system (1969), he cited Marshall's record as an illustration of its "inadequacy".

Political career[edit]

In April 1955, as a colourful and stirring orator, Marshall led the left-wing Labour Front to a narrow victory in Singapore's first Legislative Assembly elections. He formed a minority government and became Chief Minister. He presided over a shaky government, receiving little co-operation from either the British colonial authorities or the other local political parties. In May 1955, the Hock Lee Bus Riots broke out and four people were killed.

In April 1956, Marshall led a delegation to London to negotiate for complete self-rule, but the talks broke down over British concerns about worker unrest and communist influence. After the failed meeting, Marshall resigned, saying "I have failed in my Merdeka mission". Replacing him as Chief Minister was Lim Yew Hock, who would later take very tough action against the labour unions. However, Lim, like the subsequent People's Action Party (PAP) government, also built on many of Marshall's ideas and reforms.

After resigning, Marshall visited China for two months at the invitation of Zhou Enlai, the Chinese Premier. Contacted by a representative of a group of over 400 Russian Jews who were being refused exit from Shanghai by the Chinese authorities, Marshall spoke with Zhou and managed to have them released.[5]

After returning from China, Marshall stayed on the backbenches before quitting the Labour Front and as a member of the Legislative Assembly in 1957, and founding the Workers' Party of Singapore (WP).

On 7 November 1957, he founded the Workers' Party. He won a by-election in Anson on 15 July 1961.[6]

He lost his seat in Cairnhill Single Member Constituency to Lim Yew Hock, the Chief Minister, in the 1959 general election as a WP candidate, but won in Anson Single Member Constituency in the 1961 by-election. After losing his seat again in the 1963 general election as an independent candidate, he returned to practise law and remained active in politics even after J. B. Jeyaretnam became the leader of the WP in 1972.

Peter Lambda's bust of Marshall, created in 1956, at the School of Law, Singapore Management University

From 1978 to 1993, Marshall served as Singapore's Ambassador to France, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland. As an ambassador, Marshall always defended Singapore's interests, despite his differences with Lee Kuan Yew's government. He retired from the diplomatic corps in 1993.[7]

Death & memorials[edit]

Marshall died in 1995 of lung cancer.

In 2011, the Marshall estate donated a bust of Marshall created by Hungarian sculptor Peter Lambda to the Singapore Management University (SMU) School of Law's moot court, which would be named after Marshall. Marshall's widow expressed the hope that the tribute would inspire all law students at SMU to pursue the qualities of passion, diligence, courage and integrity that had distinguished her late husband's remarkable achievements.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "David Saul Marshall". Singapore Infopedia, National Library Board. 2008. Archived from the original on 18 March 2015. 
  2. ^ President was the Workers' Party's highest post before the creation of the positions of secretary-general and chairman.
  3. ^ "David Saul Marshall". Singapore Infopedia, National Library Board. 2008. Archived from the original on 18 March 2015. 
  4. ^ Kevin Khoo (2008). "David Marshall: Singapore's First Chief Minister". Archives Online, National Archives of Singapore. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. 
  5. ^ Vadim Bytensky & P. A. (2007). Journey from St. Petersburg. ISBN 978-1-4259-9935-3. 
  6. ^ "David Saul Marshall". Singapore Infopedia, National Library Board. 2008. Archived from the original on 18 March 2015. 
  7. ^ "David Marshall: Singapore's First Chief Minister". Headlines, Lifelines, AsiaOne. 1998. Archived from the original on 7 February 2015. 
  8. ^ Leonard Lim (11 November 2011). "Bust of David Marshall to grace SMU court named after him". The Straits Times. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Newly Created
Chief Minister of Singapore
6 April 1955 – 7 June 1956
Succeeded by
Lim Yew Hock
Parliament of Singapore
Preceded by
Newly Created
Member of the Legislative Assembly for Cairnhill
1955–1957
Succeeded by
Soh Ghee Soon
Preceded by
Mohamed Ariff bin Baharuddin
Member of the Legislative Assembly for Anson
1961–1963
Succeeded by
Govindaswamy Peruwal