DOES IT MATTER IF LIM CHIN SIONG WAS A COMMUNIST

PM Lee Hsien Loong’s observation of the Battle for Merger exhibition (https://www.facebook.com/leehsienloong) is just an attempt to defend his father’s wrong doing.

For more than half a century, Singaporeans have been told that communists were dangerous people and that they indulged in violence. The government conveniently omit to tell us that it was the communists who fought and died for Malaya (which included Singapore) during World War II and that Chin Peng was honoured by our colonial master soon after the war.

The CPM was the first anti-colonial organisation and not the PAP. If Lim Chin Siong and his friends were communists, they were also the founding members of the PAP. They fought alongside the PAP and helped it win the general election in 1959. Without them, where will the PAP be today?

Lee Kuan Yew had worked with Lim Chin Siong and other alleged communists who he later expelled from the PAP. Lee should know and not just allege that Lim Chin Siong and his friends were communists who advocated violence and instigated riots. He should have charged them in open court and produce evidence to secure their convictions. The PAP should not be cowards by simply claiming immunity from prosecution by using the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance and later, the Internal Security Act.

In my conversations with the late Dr Lim Hock Siew, Dr Lim repeatedly said that his party, the Barisan Sosialis believed and took the constitutional path in challenging the PAP. They were confident of winning the 1963 general election and had taken steps to avoid giving any opportunity for the PAP to accuse them of creating trouble. They even cancelled a National Day rally in 1962. Dr Lim in answering a question from the audience in 2011 said:

“… on 3 June 1962, we wanted to celebrate National Day, PAP came into power on 3 June 1959. We were given permission with lots of conditions. You could not speak on this or that or they would come and interfere. We knew if we held that rally, there would be provocation from the PAP and there would be trouble. Then they would use that to suppress us. So we had a last-minute cancellation of that rally.

To that extent, we were very restrained. We wanted to preserve our strength for the general election.”

Such restraint was deliberately not appreciated by the PAP and the British because they knew the Barisan would win the election if the leaders were not put behind bars. Operation Coldstore took place on 2 Feb 1963. One hundred and thirty three law abiding members of opposition parties, including Lim Chin Siong who were looking forward to the general election that year, were arrested and imprisoned without trial, many for decades. This surely is the most shameful part of the PAP history. That operation wiped out a credible opposition for which Singapore is still suffering today. Incidentally, Operation Coldstore is not listed in the “Timeline of Events” at the Battle for Merger exhibition.

The general election was held on 21 Sept 1963, seven months after Operation Coldstore. The PAP need not brag about its victory for we all know what they did.

“What we need to know is whether Lim Chin Siong and his colleagues committed any acts of violence and acted against the interest of Singapore.”

But honestly, I don’t care if Lim Chin Siong was a communist or a CPM member. After all, the PAP does lots of business with communist Russia and China. What we need to know is whether Lim Chin Siong and his colleagues committed any acts of violence and acted against the interest of Singapore. The PAP government has never disclosed any evidence proving that Lim Chin Siong instigated any violence. The PAP repeatedly blamed the communists for causing riots, even for those racial riots that took place during the time when Singapore was part of Malaysia and after separation, when all the opposition leaders were still in prison. Why does the PAP refuse to admit that the riots had nothing to do with the so called communists? Their intention is clear, to cast blame on the communists and instil fear on the people of Singapore.

Lim Chin Siong was incarcerated without trial both by the British and the Lim Yew Hock government (26 Oct 1956 – 4 Jun 1959) and the PAP government (2 Feb 1963 – 1969). I understand he suffered severe depression in prison and was exiled to Britain in 1969. His career as a promising political leader (many think that he was better than Lee Kuan Yew) was terminated by the ruthless and violent acts of the British and the PAP. And Lim Chin Siong was not the only victim of the PAP. Many others – Dr Chia Thye Poh, Dr Lim Hock Siew, Ho Piao, Lee Tee Tong, Said Zahari, Dr Poh Soo Kai and many more were imprisoned without trial for decades by the PAP.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong should follow the example of President Obama who investigated the CIA and made public the report of unlawful imprisonment and torture committed on captured prisoners at Guantanamo. Open up the archives of the ISD and search for the truth instead of simply believing what the ISD and his father tell him.

Convene an independent Commission of Inquiry while his father is alive, produce all documents justifying the imprisonment without trial of thousands of Singaporeans and exiles and let his father’s victims tell their side of history. We do not have much time, for the number of victims of Operation Coldstore is fast dwindling. Dr Poh Soo Kai is already in his 80s. I strongly urge the prime minister to act speedily and fairly, and not simply rely on the ISD to tell the history of Singapore.

Teo Soh Lung

*Ms Teo Soh Lung is a member of Singapore Democratic Party. She contested against PAP under SDP banner during General Elections 2011 in Yuhua SMC.

She graduated from the University of Singapore with a Bachelor of Laws (LLB Hons) in 1973 and served her pupillage under the late David Marshall. In 1981, she set up her own law firm in Aljunied and in 1985, she co-founded the Law Society Criminal Legal Aid Scheme which offers free legal assistance for criminal cases to poor and needy members of the public.

Ms Teo also chaired a sub-committee under the Law Society which reviewed the Legal Profession Amendment Bill. One of the amendments to the bill had sought to take away the duty of the Law Society to comment on legislation. She called an EGM of the Society which overwhelmingly passed a motion calling on the government to withdraw the bill. Shortly after, she was subpoenaed to appear before a Parliamentary Select Committee and was vigorously questioned by then PM Lee Kuan Yew. She steadfastly defended her stand and the Law Society. She was subsequently elected as a member of the Council of the Law Society.

Some months later, in May 1987, she was arrested and detained without trial under the ISA together with the others for purported involvement in a conspiracy to overthrow the Govt by force and replace it with a Marxist state. She was released after 4 months but was imprisoned again in 1988 for refuting the government’s allegations against her. She was finally released in June 1990.

Soh Lung published her memoir Beyond the Blue Gate: Recollections of a Political Prisoner in 2010 and was one of the editors of Our Thoughts Are Free: Poems and Prose on Imprisonment and Exile in 2009.

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