Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Rendel Constitution


The story so far…

The year is 1953. After one failed attempt at trying to give Singapore more democracy, George Rendel tries again to broadcast his message to Singapore…Rendel's-Fight





In case any of you out there are wondering whether all this really happened, I am really sorry to break it to you guys, but actually…


Yup. None of these, and I really do mean, none of these, have ever happened. I know, a real shocker, I couldn’t believe it too when I first discovered the truth.

So what really happened?

Well, once upon a time, there was a man named George Rendel (Yup, he’s real). He went through the 1948  and 1951 elections, and realized that Singapore really didn’t have enough control over the government. (See the post on The First Election) The people also realize this, and they asked George Rendel to review the Constitution.

What is the Constitution? Well, almost all countries have a Constitution. You can imagine the Constitution as this big important scroll that has all the rules about how the government of the country should work (and other stuff). Therefore, the Constitution of Singapore talks about how Singapore’s government should work. It does not include  the laws of Singapore. Besides that, it also includes other things, like what rights people should have, and how the laws of Singapore work. However, we shall not go into those parts of the constitution because those parts of the Constitution have almost never been changed. In other words, the Constitution is the Supreme Leader of Singapore.

Supreme Leader of Singapore

Yes, the Constitution is very powerful indeed. However, the rules on the Constitution can be changed. Only the Government can change the Constitution. And not all parts of the Government either. Only the part of the Government that makes laws can change it. Today, those people would be our MPs (Members of Parliament). ((Oh yeah, and to change a law in the Constitution, you need 2/3 of the people in the Parliament to agree with you))

At this point, I will say that is important to remember that the Constitution dosen’t have  the laws of Singapore inside. It only talks about WHO will make the laws of Singapore. He is a Supreme Leader who does not make the rules, but instead he forms a team of law-makers who will make the laws for him.

Ok, so in the year 1953, George Rendel decided to lead a team to fight for the change of the Constitution. Before George Rendel came, the Constiution looked like this:

  • 25 seats. We will allow 9 Singaporeans to enter the Legislative Council. The rest of the seats inside will be chosen by the British Government.

If you’re wondering what a Legislative Council is, it is like a Parliament. The people inside make laws for the country, like a Parliament. In fact, I really don’t know why they didn’t just call it a Parliament.

  • The British will have control over all 9 areas of government: education, healthcare, housing, trade and industry, law and order, internal defence, external defence, internal security, and external affairs.

Now, this is a completely different part altogether. This is NOT about making laws. Instead this is about making sure people FOLLOW laws. When you’ve got a law, you need some people to manage the people of the country to make sure they follow the law. For example, suppose you make a new law, that you can only trade with people from Thailand. You will need to make sure people only trade from Thailand. So, you call your team in charge of trade and industry, and you tell them all about your new law. Then, the team in charge of trade and industry will try their best to make sure everyone follows your new law. So, before George Rendel came, the British were always the ones who made sure people follow their laws. This might not seem too bad, but let’s say that one of the British people were doing horribly at keeping non-Thailand people away from Singapore. You know a good Singaporean who can replace him, but you can’t, because only British people can do it.

So anyway, after George Rendel came, he suggested a new Constiution, and the British agreed. The main reason was that Singaporeans were protesting for more power in the government. The Constitution was changed dramatically:

  • 32 seats. 25 seats will be open for Singaporeans. The other 7 will be British.
  • Singaporeans will have 4 areas of control: education, healthcare, housing, trade and industry.  The British will control law and order, internal defence, external defence, internal security and external affairs.

And this new and improved Constitution was named the Rendel Constitution, after George Rendel. This constitution was obviously not independence yet, but it was a huge step towards it. And this constitution would give birth to many promising parties, who would eventually bring Singapore to independence.

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