1 SAcLJ 1 (1989)
The Evolution of Singapore's Modern Constitution: Developments from 1945 to the Present Day

handle is hein.journals/saclj1 and id is 9 raw text is: 1 S.Ac.L.J.

Any lawyer studying the constitutional histories of former British colonies will
quickly realise that the transition from colony to independence on the basis
of an established constitutional framework in these former colonies have often
proved disastrous. Indeed, the failure of constitutional government in these
former colonies has been the norm rather than the excception. Singapore's
story is in that sense unique. This brief history of Singapore's constitutional
development from 1945 to the present documents the various changes that
have taken place over the past 45 years.
The Constitutional Position Before 19422
The structure of government in the early years of Singapore's history was
haphazard and confusing. When Sir Stamford Raffles claimed Singapore for
the British East India Company in 1819, he placed her under the government
of Bencoolen, of which he was the Lieutenant-Governor. The Presidency at
Bencoolen was in turn, subordinate to the Supreme Council in Fort William,
Bengal. The Supreme Council, had extensive legislative powers granted under
Pitt's Act of 1784 and the power to legislate for Singapore lay in Fort William.
Raffles had staked the British claim on Singapore without express authority
from his superiors in Bengal and it was not till 1824 that Singapore and Malacca
were effectively transferred to the East India Company by the British
Parliament.3 At the same time, both territories became subordinate to Fort
William and subject to the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court of Judicature
in Fort William.4
In 1858, the East India Company was abolished and Singapore came under
the direct administration of the new Indian Government.s Indian rule proved
unsatisfactory as the local population felt that legislators in India were
insensitive to local needs. After much agitation both in Singapore and in the
British Parliament, Singapore was transferred to the Colonial Office in 1867.7
At the time of transfer, Singapore was given a normal colonial constitution.
1. For Singapore's earlier constitutional history, see the author's A Short Legal and Constitutional
History of Singapore in The Singapore LegalSystem (W. Woon ed., Singapore: Longmans, 1989)
at 3.
2. For a more detailed account, see ibid.
3. 5 Geo IV, c. 108.
4. See, 39 & 40 Geo III, c. 79.
5. 21 &  22 Vic, c. 106.
6. This was done via the Straits Settlements Act, 29 & 30 Vic, c. 115.
7. See Letters Patent dated 4 February 1867.

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