Singaporean integration referendum, 1962

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A referendum on the terms of integration into formation of Malaysia was held in Singapore on 1 September 1962 to adopt United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1514 (XV) under titled Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples provided for the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples in providing an inevitable legal linkage between self-determination and its goal of decolonisation, and a postulated new international law-based right of freedom also in economic self-determination. In Article 5 states: Immediate steps shall be taken in Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories,[1] or all other territories which have not yet attained independence, to transfer all powers to the peoples of those territories, without any conditions or reservations, in accordance with their freely expressed will and desire, moreover on 15 December 1960 the United Nations General Assembly re-adopted United Nations General Assembly Resolution 1541 (XV) under titled Principles which should guide members in determining whether or nor an obligation exists to transmit the information called for under Article 73e of the United Nations Charter requires countries administering those colonies to develop self-government, to take due account of the political aspirations of the peoples, and to assist them in the progressive development of their free political institutions.

Voters were offered three options, but did not have the choice of opposing integration. Option A, which provided for the highest level of autonomy was chosen by 96% of voters.[2]


The first internal challenge to merger with the Federation of Malaya came from and grew out of a political struggle between the People's Action Party (PAP) and their opponents included the Barisan Sosialis (Socialist Front), the Liberal-Socialist Party, the Workers’ Party, the United People’s Party and the Partai Rakyat (People’s Party).

In Singapore, the PAP sought formation of Malaysia on the basis of the strong mandate it obtained during the general elections of 1959 when PAP won 43 of the 51 seats. However, this mandate became questionable when dissension within the party led to a split. In July 1961, following a debate on a vote of confidence in the government, 13 PAP Assemblymen [3] were expelled from the PAP for abstaining to form a new political party, the Barisan Sosialis or the Barisan have consequences the PAP's majority in the Legislative Assembly was whittled down as they now only commanded 26 of the 51 seats.

The ruling PAP was not legally obliged to call for a referendum, but did so to secure the mandate of the people. However, the Barisan Sosialis, a left-wing socialist party consisting of former PAP members with communist sympathies pedigree to the opposition to the colonialism, and imperialism movements were alleged that the people did not support merger,[4] but Lee Kuan Yew declared that people did.[5]

The referendum did not have an option of objecting to the idea of merger because no one had legitimately raised the issue in the Legislative Assembly before then. However, the methods had been debatable. The referendum was therefore called to resolve the issue as an effort to decide objectively which option the people backed. The legitimacy of the referendum was often challenged by Singaporean left-wingers, due to the lack of an option to vote against the merger.

Council of Joint Action

The Council of Joint Action (CJA) founded by 19 members of the Assembly[6] to block the merger and scuttle the referendum by taking the issue before the UN Committee on Colonialism. On 6 July 1962, The CJA signed a memorandum condemning the referendum on the grounds that the proposed constitutional changes and to assure its continued right to bases in Singapore, and to protect its privileged economic position. The CJA also criticized the terms, and the lack of choice in the referendum. In the memorandum, The CJA concluded that the transfer of sovereignty would be contrary to the spirit and resolution of the United Nations General Assembly’s Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples.


Option and Symbols Description of Status
Option A Singapore
  1. Singapore would retain autonomy in educational and labour issues.
  2. Singapore would also get to keep its language policies with English, Malay, Chinese and Tamil as official languages.
  3. Singapore would have a reduced representation in the Parliament of Malaysia, being allocated fifteen seats in the Dewan Rakyat in the first post-merger Parliament.
  4. All Singapore citizens would automatically become citizens of Malaysia.[2]
Option B Penang
  1. Singapore would enter on terms no less favourable than the former Strait Settlements of Penang (and Malacca). This would put Singapore on an equal footing as the other Malayan states as set out in the Federation of Malaya Agreement 1948,[7] with no more autonomy than the other Malayan states.
  2. English and Malay would be the official languages.[2]
  3. Only those born in Singapore or descended from the Singapore-born would automatically become citizens of Malaysia.
  4. There would also be proportional representation in Parliament from Singapore.
Option C North Borneo
  1. Singapore would enter on terms no less favourable than the Borneo territories, North Borneo and Sarawak.[2]
  2. Only those born in Singapore or descended from the Singapore-born would automatically become citizens of Malaysia.


Being strongly against the referendum, the Barisan Sosialis called for a boycott of the referendum, telling supporters to submit blank votes in protest of the "rigged" referendum. Over 144,000 blank votes were cast, over a quarter of all votes.[2] This move had been anticipated by the ruling PAP government, as seen by the insertion of a clause that stated that all blank would be counted as a vote for the option that wins the most votes if there was no outright majority[2] or that blank votes would be counted as Option A.[8]

The media campaign fielded by both sides was extremely heated, many of the leaders on both sides broadcast radio shows in several languages.


Choice Votes %
Option A397,62695.82
Option B9,4222.27
Option C7,9111.91
Total valid votes414,959100
Valid votes414,95973.89
Blank votes143,07725.48
Invalid/unclear votes2,5230.45
Total votes cast561,559100
Registered voters/turnout619,86790.59
Source: Direct Democracy,

State of Singapore, Government Gazette Extraordinary, No. 60, IV Dated 3 September 1962


Backed by the official mandate, the Agreement relating to Malaysia between the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore was signed on 9 July 1963.

Singapore entered into merger with Malaya on 16 September 1963, marking the birth of Malaysia. Singapore ceased to be a state of Malaysia on 9 August 1965 when it became an independent state.[9]


  1. United Nations - Trust and Non-Self-Governing Territories listed by the United Nations General Assembly
  2. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Singapore, 1 September 1962: Integration with Malaya Direct Democracy (German)
  3. The 13 members of the PAP Assemblymen were — Lee Siew Choh, Low Por Tuck, Wong Soon Fong, ST Bani, Sheng Nam Chin, Chan Sun Wing, Ong Chang Sam, Leong Keng Seng, Fng Yin Ching, Lin You Eng, Tee Kim Leng, Teo Hock Guan, and Tan Cheng Teng
  4. See: Singapore Legislative Assembly Debates, 24 November 1961, at pages 689-692
  5. See: Lee Kuan Yew, The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, 1998) at page 393.
  6. 19 members of the Assemblymen were ——
    from 'Barisan Sosialis Lee Siew Choh, Low Por Tuck, Wong Soon Fong, ST Bani, Sheng Nam Chin, Chan Sun Wing, Ong Chang Sam, Leong Keng Seng, Fng Yin Ching, Lin You Eng, Tee Kim Leng, Teo Hock Guan, and Tan Cheng Teng,
    from United People’s Party Ong Eng Guan, SV Lingam, and Ng Teng Kian
    from Workers’ Party David Marshall and
    Independents Hoe Puay Choo and CH Koh
  7. See: The UK Statute Law Database: Formation of the Malay States and of the Settlements of Penang and Malacca into a new independent Federation of States under Federation of Malaya Constitution.
  8. See: Singapore National Referendum Ordinance 1961.
  9. See: the Independence of Singapore Agreement 1965 and the Acts of the Parliament of the United Kingdom Singapore Act 1966.
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