Legislative Council of Singapore

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The Legislative Council of Singapore was a Legislative Council in Singapore that assisted the Governor in making laws in Singapore. It officially came into existence in 1946, when the Repeal Act abolished the Straits Settlements, and Singapore became a Crown Colony on its own that would need its own Legislative Council. Based on existing systems already in place when the council operated under the Straits Settlements, it was partially opened for public voting in 1948, before being replaced by the Legislative Assembly in 1953.

Under the Straits Settlements[edit]

The Legislative Council of the Straits Settlements was formed on April 1, 1867 when the Straits Settlements was made a Crown Colony that answered directly to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London, instead of the Calcutta government based in India. Letters patent granted a Colonial Constitution on 4 February, which allocated much power to the governor. He is assisted by an Executive Council and Legislative Council, the latter of which was entrusted with law-making in the colony, although the governor had a casting vote and the power of assent and veto on all bills.

The Legislative Council was composed of members in the Executive Council, the chief justice, and non-official members nominated by the governor. These nominated members were intended to better represent the local people, including in its ranks Asian members. Mostly wealthy Asian business and professional leaders, they were not necessarily a fair representation of the locals, however. Starting with four members, it started to grow through the years, with Singaporean members increasingly dominating the council to the displeasure of the politicians from Malacca and Penang.

Despite this control by British subjects of European race, the local Asian population was usually apathetic about such control. There have been a few exceptions. Tan Cheng Lock, a member of the Executive Council and who had previously opposed several policies made by the Legislative Council, such as the Aliens Ordinance of 1933 which restricted immigration as anti-Chinese, called for direct popular representation through popular votes, and to increase the number of non-official members to form a majority in the Legislative Council. Initiatives like these were unsuccessful, however, when there is little support from wider society who are widely apathetic to local politics, with the Chinese population paying more attention towards growing their commercial and professional interests, and in the events occurring back in China, fueled largely by the rise in Chinese nationalism sentiments.

Post-war[edit]

After World War II, the Repeal Act of 1946 dissolved the Straits Settlements, with Singapore becoming a Crown Colony on its own while Penang and Malacca joined the Malayan Union. The effects of the war led to major changes in attitudes towards the British colonial government, particularly with the drop in confidence in their ability to govern and protect Singapore, and a resulting desire to have greater say and participation in local affairs. With mounting local pressure, a new Colonial Constitution was passed, with the Singapore Colony Order-in-Council of 1946 to 1948 providing for public voting to take place for the first time with the first general election of 1948

Elected members of the Legislative Council were restricted to only 6 non-official members, however, and voting was only open to adult British subjects who have been residents in Singapore for at least a year before the elections. The rest of the 13 non-officials included four nominated members by the governor and three by the chambers of commerce. Nine official members complete the council. The governor continued to exercise significant power, included the right to veto bills by the council.

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