Completed in 1949, the Phoenix Park Complex in Tanglin Road was constructed by the British colonial administration to house several key institutions including the British Information Services, the headquarters of the Commissioner-General, headquarters of the Far East Land Forces (later known as British Far East Command) and the Special Branch.
Nicknamed, “Little Whitehall,” the $1.3 million complex covered 14 acres on a former Japanese racecourse and comprised 180 offices and rooms. The first commissioner-general of the complex was Malcolm Macdonald.
In the initial years, the administrative complex hosted numerous international conferences. These included conferences to discuss economic activity in Southeast Asia and education development.
Three-power talks involving Far Eastern military commanders of Britain, France and America took place in May 1951, and eight-nation talks on military cooperation involving Britain, France, America, Australia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Thailand and Philippines was hosted by the complex in July 1955.
Singapore’s fight against communism began at Phoenix Park. In the 1950s, Singapore was inundated with communal riots and waves of demonstrations against the colonial authorities. Concerned with communist infiltration, its “easy appeal to the idealism of young people,” and the rise in the defence of Chinese culture in the 1950s, a number of think tanks were established.
A series of key round-table talks on the formation of Malaysia was held at Phoenix Park in the early 1960s. In June 1961, the complex hosted representatives from Singapore, Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Brunei to discuss Malaysian prime minister Tengku Abdul Rahman’s “Mighty Malaysia” plan of economic and political union. After Singapore attained independence, the British High Commission moved to the complex in 1969.
The premises were handed over to the Singapore Government when the British withdrew in 1971. In February 1973, the immigration departments moved from its Empress Place quarters to Phoenix Park. The Work Permits Office of the Ministry of Labour then moved to Block G of Phoenix Park in July that year. After the different departments of the Ministry of Labour relocated to Braddell Rise, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) moved into Block A of the complex in 1977.
At Phoenix Park, the Internal Security Department of MHA was involved in the investigating a series of high-profile security cases. These included Singapore Liberation Organisation’s activities in 1982, the local network of Sri Lanka-based Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam’s operations in 1985, the activities of 22 Pro-Marxist activists during Operation Spectrum in 1987 and the hijack of Singapore Airlines Flight 117 by four Pakistanis in 1991.
The Home Team concept was formed at the complex on 24 February 1997. The Home Team consists of ten agencies, namely the Ministry Headquarters, Singapore Police Force, Internal Security Department (ISD), Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), Singapore Prison Service (SPS), Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB), Singapore Immigration, National Registration Department, Commercial and Industrial Security Corporation (CISCO) and Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitative Enterprises (SCORE).
After MHA vacated the complex in 2001, Phoenix Park was put up for lease as office space in 2008.