The communists present in Singapore added to the
post-war problems. They were dissatisfied with
what the British had done to improve the lives of
the people. They aimed to gather the support of
the local people against the British.
In the beginning, the communists used peaceful
means to stir up anti-British feelings in the
people. When their plans proved ineffective, they
resorted to violence. Before we go any further,
let us understand first what communism is.
COMMUNIST ACTIVITIES (1945 - 1948)
|During the period
1945-1948, the Malayan Communist Party (M.C.P.)
Was a legal organisation in Singapore and Malaya.
The communists took advantage of the post-war
problems and started to stir up the peoples
feelings against the British. Through trade
unions, they encouraged the workers to fight for
better working conditions and higher pay.
Many workers went on strike in 1946 and 1947.
There were so many outbreaks of strikes that 1947
was known as "The Year of Strikes".
||However, the workers
gradually grew tired of going on strikes. Those
who did not succeed in their strikes found
themselves worse off as they received no pay at
all when they went on strike.
realised that the communist-controlled trade
unions were not genuine in fighting for the
workers rights. They were more interested
in stirring up trouble for the employers.
COMMUNISTS ARMED STRUGGLE (1948 -
When the communists realised that they had failed to
stir up anti-British feelings in the people, they
resorted to violent means. Many of them left the towns
and went into the jungles of Malaya.
During the first half of 1948, the communists attacked
the rubber plantations and tin mines in Malaya. They
aimed to close down the plantations and mines and then
get the unemployed workers to join them.
Their attacks became so frequent and serious that the
British government had to declare a state of Emergency
over Malaya and Singapore. During the Emergency, the
government banned the M.C.P. and increased the number of
policemen, soldiers and guards to fight the communists.
When the communists realised that their activities in
Malaya yielded no positive results, they turned their
attention to Singapore. Trade unions and Chinese school
students were their targets.
Unions: The communists tried to gain
control of some important unions. Through trade
unions, they would be able to influence the
workers and get them to go on strikes. Lim Chin
Siong was the leader of a group of unions which
had their headquarters in Middle Road. He
organised many strikes among the workers. He even
tried to get the students to participate in the
Schools: The communists were able to
make use of the students in Chinese schools
because the schools were not under government
control. Furthermore, the Chinese school students
were unhappy with the British government because
they were not given equal opportunities for the
entrance to the University. Chinese school
students also could not get well-paid jobs.
The Chinese High School and Nanyang
Girls High School were two schools which
acted as main centres for pro-communist student
The communists were successful in stirring up
anti-British feelings in the Chinese school students.
Whenever the students were unhappy with the British
government, they held demonstrations. For example, in May
1954, some Chinese school students demonstrated against
the colonial governments decision to make young do
part-time military service. The demonstration eventually
led to rioting and the police had too resolve the
|A Riot By
The Chinese School Students:
government closed down the Singapore Chinese
Middle School Students Union in October
1956, the Chinese school students were agitated.
The arrest of four Chinese school students and
expulsion of students who were involved in
Communist activities made things worse. The
Chinese school students reacted by starting a
Joined The Riot:
protestors were later joined by some workers.
Riots by the students and workers broke out in
many parts of the city. Public transportation was
made impossible. The army was called to help the
police stop the riots. They set up roadblocks to
keep the crowds small and managed to stop the
riots. Despite this, the communists continued its
violent activities until 1960. The Emergency then
came to an end in that very year.