The Straits Settlements [ Malay: Negeri-negeri Selat, نݢري٢ سلت Chinese: 叻嶼呷 or 海峽殖民地 ] were a group of British settlements located in Southeast Asia. The Straits Settlements was formed by the amalgamation of Penang (Prince of Wales Island, Province Wellesley and Dindings), Malacca and Singapore in 1826 which were governed by the East India Company. In 1858 control passed from the East India Company to the British government's India Office and on 1 April 1867, the Straits Settlements became a crown colony answerable directly to the Colonial Office in London after Letters Patent had granted the Settlements a colonial constitution on 4 February 1867.
Flag of the Straits Settlements
As a Crown Colony, the Straits Settlements was ruled by a governor, based in Singapore, with the assistance of executive and legislative councils. A lieutenant governor was appointed for each settlement to supervise the day-to-day administration.
The Territory and Islands of Dindings was an enclave in the State of Perak which included Pangkor Island as well as the towns of Lumut, and Sitiawan on the mainland. The combined area of about 183 square miles, were ceded by Perak to the British government under the Pangkor Treaty of 1874 (Pangkor Engagement). On 6 June 1934, a treaty was signed by Sultan Iskandar Shah, which meant the return of Dinding back to Perak and Dindings Agreement (Approval) Bill was subsequently received by the Royal Assent at the British Parliament on 16 November 1934. It was returned to and administered by the government of Perak officially on 16 February 1935.
The island of Labuan ( لابوان ), off the coast of Borneo, was incorporated into the colony with effect from 1 January 1907. On 1 December 1912 it received a new status as a separate and formed the fourth settlement, named Settlement of Labuan within Straits Settlements.
The Cocos (Keeling) and Christmas Islands were annexed as part of the Straits Settlements in February 1886 and June 1888 respectively. Christmas Island was incorporated into the Settlement of Singapore on 1 September 1900 and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands on 15 July 1903.
The territory was under Japanese Occupation from 1942 to 1945 and later under British Military Administration from 1945 to 1946.
The decision to dissolve the Straits Settlements was based on a white paper issued by the British government in London in January 1946. The white paper had posited that it was imperative to regroup the Straits Settlements and the Malay states into two separate administrative entities – namely the Colony of Singapore and the Malayan Union – due to the prevailing political post-war conditions at the time. The move was deemed necessary to prepare Singapore and the Malay states for eventual self-government. The Malayan Union comprised the nine Malay states and the settlements of Penang and Malacca. The dissolution of the Straits Settlements was finalised by the passage of the Straits Settlements (Repeal) Act in the British Parliament.
After the Straits Settlements was dissolved on 1 April 1946, Singapore together with the Cocos (Keeling) and Christmas Islands was separated to form Crown Colony of Singapore, while Penang and Malacca joined the new Malayan Union. Labuan was briefly annexed to Singapore before becoming a part of the new colony of British North Borneo on 15 July 1946.
On 23 November 1955, Cocos (Keeling) Islands were transferred from the United Kingdom to the Commonwealth of Australia. At Australia's request, the United Kingdom transferred sovereignty to Australia, with a M$20 million payment from the Australian government to Singapore as compensation for the loss of earnings from the phosphate revenue. The United Kingdom’s Christmas Island Act was given royal assent on 14 May 1958, enabling Britain to transfer authority over Christmas Island from Singapore to Australia by an order-in-council. Australia's Christmas Island Act was passed in September 1958 and the island was officially placed under the authority of the Commonwealth of Australia on 1 October 1958.
In 1858, the Straits Settlements became part of the Crown’s Dominions and since then, the nationality status of the population was determined by the British nationality law, therefore every person is naturally born in the Crown Colony no matter what his parentage, became a natural-born British Subject. The term was used to denote de facto citizenship of the United Kingdom and the British Empire as every person born within the dominions and allegiance of the British Crown was, based on English common law a British subject. To be a subject required only that a person be born in any territory under the sovereignty of the Crown. From time to time, statutes were passed expanding the class of persons who held the status of the subject.
Apart from being born, a person may be naturalised within British Empire colonies and dominions.
The term subject is used rather than citizen because in a monarchy the monarch is the source of authority in whose name all legal power in civil and military law is exercised. The people of a monarchy in former times were regarded as the monarch's subjects who were under certain obligations such as owing allegiance to and thereby entitled to the protection of, the Crown.
Despite the single term of British Subject used within the Colony, it was still being divided into:
- British (White European)
- Anglo-Chinese (also known as Straits Chinese but lesser-known as Queen's Chinese, later King's Chinese)
- British Indian
- British Malay
|I. Any person whilst actually residing in any part of the Territories under the Government of the East India Company may present a memorial to Government, praying that the privileges of Naturalization may be conferred upon him.
II. Such memorial shall state to the best of the knowledge and belief of the memorialist, his age, place of birth, place of residence, profession, trade or occupation, the length of time during which he has resided within the said Territories, that he is settled in the said Territories, or is residing within the same with intent to settle therein, and any other particulars which the Government may require to be stated therein, and such memorial shall be in writing and signed by the memorialist, and accompanied by an affidavit sworn by him, verifying the truth of the statements contained therein.
VIII. Upon obtaining such certificate, and taking and subscribing the oath as hereinafter prescribed, the memorialist shall within the said Territories under the Government of the East India Company shall be deemed natural born subject of Her Majesty as if he had been born within the said Territories, and shall be entitled within the said Territories to all the rights, privileges and capacities of a subject of Her Majesty born within the said Territories, except such rights, privileges and capacities, if any, as. may be specially excepted in such certificate.
After the British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914 legislation came into force on 1 January 1915, British subject status was acquired as follows:
- Born within His Majesty's dominions
- Naturalisation in the United Kingdom or a part of His Majesty's dominions which had adopted Imperial naturalisation criteria
- Descent through the legitimate male line (child born outside His Majesty's dominions to a British subject father)
- Foreign women who married British subject men
- Former British subjects who had lost British subject status on marriage or through a parent's loss of status could resume it in specific circumstances (e.g. if a woman became widowed, or children immediately upon turning 21)
(1) The following persons shall be deemed to be natural-born British subjects, namely: —
(a) Any person born within His Majesty's dominions and allegiance; and
(b) Any person born out of His Majesty's dominions whose father was, at the time of that person's birth, a British subject, and who fulfils any of the following conditions, that is to say, if either
(i) his father was born within His Majesty's allegiance; or
(c) Any person born on board a British ship whether in foreign territorial waters or not:
(i) he asserts his British nationality by a declaration of retention of British nationality, registered in such manner as may be prescribed by regulations made under this Act; and
(2) A person born on board a foreign ship shall not be deemed to be a British subject by reason only that the ship was in British territorial waters at the time of his birth.
Definition of British Subject, based on British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914, Section 27
|The expression "British subject" means a person who is a natural-born British subject, or a person to whom a certificate of naturalization has been granted, or a person who has become a subject of His Majesty by reason of any annexation of territory.|
When the Naturalization Act was enforced, the early Straits Chinese who received the privilege of being British subjects were actually the Chinese of Fujian origin. The new Chinese immigrants who came after the formation of Straits Settlements in 1867 were labelled as sinkeh (new arrival).
BRITISH SUBJECT: WOMAN
Any woman who, having been born a British subject may lose her status and become an alien if she married someone who is not a British Subject. Her status will then follow the status of the current husband.
But the status is recoverable if she was divorced or widowed.
REGISTRATION OF ALIENS. Ordinance No. 160. 1st May, 1917, section 2 (Vol 4, p 733)
|" Alien " means a subject of any foreign State in Europe or a subject of any other foreign State whose subjects are declared by the Governor by a notification published in the Gazette to be liable to this Ordinance;|
|No alien shall leave or attempt to leave the Colony unless his passport or, in cases where no passport is required, his certificate of registration, obtained in pursuance of this Ordinance has, within seven days of the date of his departure, been endorsed by the Chief Police Officer or an officer authorized by him in that behalf.
An alien, wherever resident in the Colony, shall comply with the following requirements as to registration:
he shall within forty-eight hours of the commencement of his residence furnish to the Chief Police Officer of the district in which he is resident particulars as to the matters in schedule A
PASSENGERS RESTRICTION. Ordinance No. 169. 11th April, 1919
|9. If, after such inquiry or further inquiry, it is found that any passenger who is on board the ship or who has disembarked, not being a person born in the Colony or the Federated Maiay States,
(e) is not in possession of a valid passport or is in possession of a forged or altered passport or of a passport which does not comply with any regulations in force regarding passports;
the police officer or boarding officer may prevent such passenger from landing or may detain him until an opportunity arises of returning him to his port of embarkation or to the country of his birth or citizenship.
14.—(1) Ships whose original port of departure is a port in the Colony or in any of the British Protected States in the Malay Peninsula are exempted from this Ordinance.
NATURALIZATION ACT 1867
Ordinance No. 11.
[ACT VIII. OF 1867; 24th May, 1867.]
|1. This Ordinance may be cited as Ordinance No. 11 (Naturalization).|
|2. Any person whilst actually residing in the Colony may present a petition to the Governor in Council, praying that the privileges of naturalization within the Colony may be conferred upon him.|
|3. — (1) Such petition shall state, to the best of the knowledge and belief of the petitioner, his age, place of birth, place of residence, profession, trade or occupation, the length of time during which he has resided within the Colony, and that he is permanently settled in the Colony, or is residing within the same with intent to settle therein.(2) Such petition shall be in writing and signed by the petitioner, and shall be accompanied by an affidavit sworn by him, verifying the truth of the statement contained therein.|
|4. In considering the prayer of any such petition the Governor in Council may require such further information or evidence, either by affidavit or otherwise, as he thinks fit, in addition to the affidavit accompanying the petition.|
|5. If after such inquiry it appears expedient, the Governor in Council may grant the prayer of the petitioner, whereupon he shall be required to appear within fourteen days to take the oath of allegiance prescribed in schedule A before such person as is appointed by the Governor for that purpose.|
|6. When the oath of allegiance shall be so taken a certificate of naturalization according to the form in schedule B shall be drawn up by the officer who has administered the oath.|
|7. — (1) The certificate of naturalization shall be signed by the Governor and given to the petitioner.
(2) A copy thereof, together with the petition and all documents, affidavits, and evidence annexed thereto shall be filed in the office of the Colonial Secretary.
|8. Upon obtaining such certificate and taking and subscribing the oath as hereinbefore prescribed the petitioner shall within the Colony be deemed a natural born subject of His Majesty as if he had been born within the Colony, and shall be entitled within the Colony to all the rights, privileges and capacities of a subject of His Majesty born within the Colony.|
|9. If the petitioner did not appear and take the oath of allegiance within fourteen days from the date of service on him of notice to that effect, the grant of naturalization shall ipso facto be null and void.|
|10. — (1) Where the Governor in Council is satisfied that
(a) a certificate of naturalization granted by him has been obtained by false representation or fraud or by concealment of material circumstances; orthe Governor in Council shall by order revoke the certificate.
(b) the person to whom the certificate is granted has shown himself by act or speech to be disaffected or disloyal to His Majesty,
(2) Without prejudice to the foregoing provisions the Governor in Council shall by order revoke a certificate of naturalization granted by him in any case in which he is satisfied that the person to whom the certificate was granted either
(a) has during any war in which His Majesty is engaged unlawfully traded or communicated with the enemy or with the subject of an enemy state, or been engaged in or associated with any business which is to his knowledge carried on in such manner as to assist the enemy in such war;
(b) has within five years of the date of the grant of the certificate been sentenced by any court to imprisonment for a term of not less than twelve months, or to a term of penal servitude, or to a fine of not less than eight hundred dollars;
(c) was not of good character at the date of the grant of the certificate;
(d) has since the date of the grant of the certificate been for a period of not less than seven years ordinarily resident out of His Majesty's dominions otherwise than as a representative of a British subject, firm, or company carrying on business, or an institution established, in His Majesty's dominions, or in the service of the Crown, and has not maintained substantial connection with His Majesty's dominions; or
(e) remains according to the law of a state at war with His Majesty a subject of that state;
and that, in any case, the continuance of the certificate is not conducive to the public good,
(3) The Governor in Council may, if he thinks fit, before making an order under this section refer the case for such incjui as is hereinafter specified, and in any case to which subsection (1) or subsection (2) (a), (c) or (e) applies, the Governor in Council shall, by notice given to or sent to the last-known address of the holder of the certificate, give him an opportunity of claiming that the case be referred for such inquiry, and if the holder so claims in accordance with the notice the Governor in Council shall refer the case for inquiry accordingly.
(4) An inquiry under this section shall be held by a committee constituted for the purpose by the Govervor in Council, presided over by a person appointed by the Governor in Council who holds or has held high judicial office, and shall be conducted in such manner as the Governor in Council may direct; provided that any such inquiry may, if the Governor in Council thinks fit, instead of being held as aforesaid, be held by the Supreme Court, and be regulated by the practice and procedure of that Court.
(5) A committee appointed under this section shall have all such powers, rights, and privileges as are vested in the Supreme Court or in any judge thereof on the occasion of any action, in respect of the following matters:—
(a) enforcing the attendance of witnesses and examining them on oath, affirmation, or otherwise, and the issue of a commission or a request to examine witnesses abroad;
(b) compelling the production of documents; and
(c) punishing persons guilty of contempt;
and a summons signed by one or more members of the committee may be substituted for and shall be equivalent to any formal process capable of being issued in any action for enforcing the attendance of witnesses and compelling the production of documents.
(6) Where a person to whom a certificate of naturalization has been granted in some other part of His Majesty's dominions is resident in the Colony, the certificate may be revoked in accordance with this section by the Governor in Council, with the concurrence of the Secretary of State for the Colonies or of the Government of that part of His Majesty's dominions in which the certificate was granted.
(7) Where the Governor in Council revokes a certificate of naturalization, the revocation shall have effect from such date as the Governor in Council directs, and thereupon the certificate shall be given up and cancelled.
(8) Any person who refuses or neglects to give up his certificate shall be liable on conviction before, a District Court to a fine not exceeding eight hundred dollars.
|11. — (1)Where a certificate of naturalization is revoked the Governor in Council may be order direct that the wife and minor children, or any of them, of the person whose certificate is revoked shall cease to be entitled within the Colony to the rights, privileges and capacities of a subject of His Majesty born within the said Colony, and any such person shall thereupon become an alien.
(2) Expect where the Governor in Council directs as aforesaid, the nationality of the wife and minor children of the person whose certificate is revoked shall not be affected by the revocation, and they shall be entitled to all the rights, privileges and capacities specified in section 8 or to remain British subjects, as the case may be.
(3) The wife of any such person may within six months after the date of the order of revocation make a declaration of alienage, and thereupon she and any minor children of her husband and herself shall cease to be entitled to the rights, privileges and capacities aforesaid and shall become aliens.
(4) The Governor in Council shall not make any such order as aforesaid in the case of a wife who was at birth a British subject, unless he is satisfied that if she had held a certificate of naturalization in her own right the certificate could properly have been revoked under this Ordinance, and the provisions of this Ordinance as to referring cases for inquiry shall apply to the making of any such order as they apply to the revocation of a certificate.
(5) Where a certificate of naturalization is revoked the former holder thereof shall be regarded as an alien and as a subject of the State to which Ile belonged at the time the certificate was granted.
|12. Every certificate of naturalization and every order cancelling such certificate shall be published in the Gazette.|
|13. Such fees shall be payable for the proceedings authorized by this Ordinance as the Governor in Council directs.|
- ^ _, (1934, Jul 19), DINDINGS AGREEMENT (APPROVAL) BILL. Available at http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1934/jul/19/dindings-agreement-approval-bill-hl
- ^ _, (1934, Nov 16), ROYAL COMMISSION. Available at http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1934/nov/16/royal-commission#S5LV0094P0_19341116_HOL_4
- ^ _, (1934, Nov 1), DINDINGS AGREEMENT (APPROVAL) BILL [Lords]. Available at http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/commons/1934/nov/01/dindings-agreement-approval-bill-lords#S5CV0293P0_19341101_HOC_483
- ^ _, (1920), The Law of the Straits Settlements, Volume III. Labuan, Ordinance No 127 p. 750. Waterlow & Sons Limited (London).
- ^ _, (1920), The Law of the Straits Settlements, Volume I. Christmas Island, Ordinance No 68 p. 808. Waterlow & Sons Limited (London).
- ^ _, (1920), The Law of the Straits Settlements, Volume II. Cocos Islands, Ordinance No 84 p. 95. Waterlow & Sons Limited (London)
- a, b British Nationality and Status of Aliens Act 1914.