5.13 Movement

IMG_1836This sepia-tinged photograph is an original amateur shot taken of the propaganda flag during the second sit-in on 22 May 1954 at Chung Cheng High School, commemorating the May 13 1954 National Service Riot referred to as 5.13 movement (no relation to the 1969 event). The flag featured a group of Chinese students consisting of both boys and girls, holding up a flag that wrote 五一三 (5.13),  marching towards a Westerner depicted as a midget. The midget in the foreground with the high hat was most likely Sir John Fearns Nicoll, Governor of Singapore at that time. The group of Chinese students were from Chung Cheng High School (mixed school after World War 2) and Chinese High School (all boys school). The drawings of the flag bore anti-colonial and communist tones. The reason of the march was to protest against the national service conscription of the Singapore Chinese citizens by the then British administrations.

The National Service Ordinance was passed in December 1953 and the deadline for registration was set on the 12 May 1954. The Chinese Middle School students did not register themselves and the next day about 500 members sought a petition with Chief Secretary William Goode on 13 May 1954 at the Istana Negara. The peaceful demonstration however resulted in clashes with the police which resulted in injuries and arrests. This was repeated again on 18 May with a 55 members delegation which was turned down, and a massive sit in took place on 22 May 1954 at Chung Cheng High School whereby 2500 students locked themselves within the school compound, and the third sit in took place on 2 June 1954 at Chinese High School. The aftermath of the May 13 movement led to the creation of the Singapore Chinese Middle School Students Union (SCMSSU) which in the following year, had become instrumental in the Hock Lee Bus Riots.

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