|Remembering Dr Lim Hock Siew, 3 July 2012 (source)|
Yahoo! Singapore understands that Lim had been ill in recent years, and had not seen many of his friends.
Lim was one of more than 110 activists who were arrested under the Internal Security Act in “Operation Coldstore” on 2 February 1963, and was the last of his batch of detainees to be released from incarceration on 6 September 1982, after 19 years and eight months.
He was a founding member of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), but was dismissed from it alongside 12 others in 1961, later taking part in the subsequently-formed Barisan Sosialis, led by Lim Chin Siong and Lee Siew Choh.
The son of a fishmonger, Lim, as a practicing doctor, dispensed free medication at his clinic and give transport money to needy patients.
When he was arrested under Operation Coldstore at age 32, his son was just five months old, and by the time Lim was released, his son had entered college.
Filmmaker Martyn See, who recorded a banned video of Lim’s first public speech (text below) at a book launch in 2009, said Lim was “one of Singapore’s greatest patriots”.
“If he and his colleagues at Barisan Sosialis hadn’t been arrested and detained in 1963, Singapore would have benefited greatly from a two-party political system,” he said.
Senior lawyer Gopalan Raman, a longtime friend of Lim’s, said he will always remember him as one of Singapore’s fighters for freedom.
“(His passing is) a very sad event,” he told Yahoo! Singapore. “He’s considered a great hero by all of us.”
Lim’s wake will be held at 135 Joo Chiat Terrace from Tuesday. The funeral will take place on Fri 8 June 2012 at 3pm at Bright Hill Crematorium, 88 Bright Hill Road.
Dr Lim Hock Siew's Funeral, The Online Citizen (here)
*Dr Lim Hock Siew : A Singaporean Patriot, Martyn See (here and here)
*A tribute by Rachel Zeng (here)
*"He was a good and honourable man": Vivian Balakrishnan, publichouse.sg (here)
Speech delivered at the Memorial Gathering on 3 July 2012.(source)
I have known Hock Siew for over 60 years. We were in Raffles Institution together. We entered the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Malaya in Singapore in 1950. We both dropped one year, and ...graduated together in 1957. We joined the PAP together when it was formed. Together we help found the Barisan Sosialis in 1961. We were detained together in Operation Cold store, 2 February 1963, and released a few days apart in 1982.
Hock Siew is foremost an anti-colonialist. He fought for independence from foreign control and domination, and as such was involved in nation building — building of a nation from disparate ethnic groups. He was a founder of the University Socialist Club whose first declaration was not on socialism but on the issue of communalism as an obstacle to nation building.
During the Fajar sedition trial, he was actively involved in the collection of money for the Fajar Defence Fund. Our lawyer, the world famous QC DN Pritt offered his services gratis. But we had to pay for other expenses. Hock Siew did a wonderful job.
The Fajar Trial made us all more matured. He became a staunch socialist, fighting for democracy, human rights, justice for the people and transparency and honesty. He was specifically against the PPSO now changed to ISA.
This, however, did not stop him from helping the PAP during elections. He still clung to the hope that the PAP constitution would be respected.
Hopes were dashed when the PAP not only refused to recommend the release of political detainees on coming into power, but made conditions of their release even more stringent. The Review Board was turned into an Advisory Board, i.e. with no powers. More restrictions were introduced against the trade union movement. Public dissatisfaction led to PAP losing the Hong Lim by-election to Ong Eng Guan, who had campaigned for release of the detainees, and more freedom. This defeat was followed by another in Anson, campaigned on a similar platform. The wishes of the people were crystal clear. But Lee Kuan Yew dared not go against the British. The British wanted to introduce merger to control the anti-colonial forces in Singapore and strengthen their strategy for Southeast Asia. The PAP grasped the merger issue as a lifesaver. It kicked its left wing out on this issue and ignored the issue at hand, i.e. detention and more freedom.
The progressive forces, now expelled from the PAP, formed the Barisan Sosialis. As the Barisan Sosialis called for the abolition of the ISA, and for human rights and more social justice, the values Hock Siew believed in, he not only joined the party, but became a Central Executive Committee member. He was editor of its English paper, the Plebian. He represented the Barisan Sosialis at the United Nations during the session on merger and the formation of Malaysia.
Barisan Sosialis was a formidable force the British had to contend with as it pushed through merger. The Barisan accepted merger in principle, but it wanted to know the terms.
These were never spelt out and could not be spelt out. How could one tell the people of Singapore that one of the terms is the continued keeping of nuclear weapons at Tengah Air Base and aimed at China? Most of the PAP leaders were kept in the dark. Yet they very willingly agreed to sign blank cheques without any open debate.
The Barisan had to be crippled. Hock Siew together with hundreds of anti-colonial fighters were detained. His son was 5 months old when he was detained and a man when he was released. Imagine the pain and anguish he went through. And the pain he felt for his wife, bringing up their child all on her own.
He could have been released if he was willing to recant and confess to his ‘errors’. But how to recant when there is nothing to recant, when it is the PAP leaders who had hoodwinked the people of Singapore who should do the recanting? He demanded an open trial, he demanded transparency, he demanded justice. For this stand, he was detained for close to 20 years.
With the Barisan Sosialis smashed, and people threatened with arbitrary arrests, and ruinous legal suits, the stage was set for greed to show itself. A rich tiny upper layer of society indebted to the PAP now is set to fight for its privileges. But the disenchanted layers of society have grown far faster. They demand transparency, demand their rights as citizens, demand dialogue and participation and to be told the truth. Hock Siew found in them the principles he held. He willingly gave them his moral and financial support.
He was astute enough to see the rise of this tide of discontent. In 2009, one and a half years before the 2011 general election, at the launch of The Fajar Generation, though ill and feeble, he spoke with fervour and force about the injustice of the regime. He even wished Lee Kuan Yew a long life so that he can live to see the end of the PAP as he had shaped it. The recording of his speech by Martyn See was later banned.
Dr Lim had intended to attend the gathering at Hong Lim to mark the 25th anniversary of Operation Spectrum on 2 June, but fell ill. I was told he was lucid in the ICU on 3 June. News of the event must have made him very happy to have lived to see this day, to see the evaporation of fear. And to realise that his sacrifices have not been in vain. People are human beings, not cattle, not dogs — of the lap or running type.
“The death of a person can be as light as a feather or as heavy as Mount Tai” so wrote the great Chinese leader, Chairman Mao.
Dr Lim Hock Siew’s death on the evening of 4 June 2012 marked the passing of an era in Singapore’s turbulent and controversial post-war political history as he was one of the principal contestants in the struggle for freedom from colonial tutelage and for the emancipation of the poor and oppressed class. Of that heroic generation of leftwing leaders who sacrificed all in pursuit of their ideals, only a handful like Dr Poh Soo Kai and Said Zahari remain.
Dr Lim Hock Siew was best known for his resolute leadership and articulate comments at critical junctures during the unequal contest between British Imperial power and its local representatives on the one hand and the Middle Road trade unions, Chinese student movement and University Socialist Club members and alumni, who formed the core of the patriotic forces on the other.
He was partly instrumental in forging new and crucial links between the progressive English educated undergraduates in the University Socialist Club and the Chinese Middle School movement in the early 50s. After the announcement of the formation of Malaysia by Tungku Abdul Rahman and his speech to the Foreign Correspondents’ Club in April or May 1961, Fajar took the lead in challenging the real motives behind Malaysia with a masterful caricature of ‘Superman Tungku’ drawn by Dr Lim, whose artistic talents were lesser known. At a landmark forum on “Basis for Merger” organized by the University Socialist Club in 1961, where Sandra Woodhull crossed swords with fellow trade unionist and PAP colleague, Devan Nair, Dr Lim sitting in the audience publicly called Devan Nair a “Renegade”. After the eviction of the Left from the PAP by the Lee Kuan Yew leadership in September 1961, Dr Lim together with Dr Poh joined the Barisan. While Dr Poh was appointed Assistant Secretary General, Dr Lim became editor of the English organ, Plebeian, and a member of the Central Working Committee. He was one of the three member delegation sent by Barisan to represent the Left’s position on the Malaysian debate in the United Nations in 1962. After Operation Cold Store in February 1963, Dr Lim was the undisputed leader among the 100 plus political detainees in E Hall in Changi Prison and where he maintained relative peace and harmony. The highlight of their long prison struggle was the two months-long hunger strike conducted by the political detainees in the early 70s to protest the terms of prison conditions.
I had my first glimpse of Dr Lim in person when together with other University Socialist Club officials, we attended a court hearing in 1966 for a libel suit filed against The Straits Times by T.T.Rajah on behalf of Dr Lim and other political detainees arising from the false report published in the paper on an alleged fracas between their group of detainees and another led by Lim Chin Siong. I finally met him in person only a few months after his release in 1982. He was amazingly youthful in his looks and nimble in his movements and thoughts. It was almost like the long hard years of prison life and struggle had frozen his natural ageing process and preserved his mind and body for a greater historic mission in life after his eventual release.
When Dr Lim was detained in February 1963, his only son was less than a year old. When he was released 19 long years later, his child was a young adult, who had grown up under the care of his maternal grandmother, as Dr Lim’s wife, Beatrice, was herself working as a medical specialist at the General Hospital. Little has been publicised to date on the sufferings of political detainees’ families in Singapore during the decades of State repression in the 60s and 70s except in Said Zahari’s second volume of his memoirs. The human tragedies of many families of political detainees still remain to be told.
As a fellow alumni member of the University Socialist Club, I will always remember Dr Lim Hock Siew as one of the immortals in our pantheon of heroes who led our freedom struggle and kept their faith and integrity throughout the long dark years of their detention without trial where they remained unbowed and unbroken. His stirring words “Bitter struggle strengthens bold resolve” uttered in prison is an inspiration to all who cherish human rights and dignity.
My contribution to this book [The Fajar Generation] is very modest. Because of my ill-health, I've not been able to write too much. It comprises mainly of a statement (see below) which I made when I was in prison in 1972, after 9 years of incarceration.
As you know, I was detained in Coldstore Operation in February the 2nd 1963, and I was the last one to come out from the batch of detainees almost 20 years later. Now this statement mainly stated my stand on my detention.
After 9 years of incarceration, they wanted me to issue a statement to firstly support the so-called democratic system of Singapore, and secondly to renounce politics. I told them that these two demands are self-contradictory, because if there is parliamentary democracy, then I don't have to give up politics. So they said, "You must say something to show repentance other wise Lee Kuan Yew will lose face."
For me this not a question of pride, it's a question of principle.
In the first place, if a person has to save his face by depriving somebody else of his fundamental rights, then that's not a face that's worth saving. So the, the main democratic right is a fundamental constitutional right of the people of Singapore. And no one should be deprived of their right, and held ransom to extort statements of repentance and contrition. So the whole thing bogged down to having to issue a statement of repentance, which I refused.
Subsequently, I was detained for another almost 10 years, after that statement was issued. So a total of 19 years and eight months, longer than a life sentence. Life sentences will be released after 13 years, after the initial one-third remission, but for no charge, no trial, I was detained for longer than life sentences.
A lot of hullabaloo have been said recently on the right of political detainees to appeal to an Advisory Board. I want to tell you about my experience in this Advisory Board.
After about one year of detention, I was asked to the prison main gate at about 4pm, and a statement of notice to say that I had to appear before the Advisory Board the next day, and I was given a two fool-scap paper of so-called charge sheets. I said I wanted to keep these sheets of paper so I could prepare for my next morning's appearance. They said, "No, you cannot keep it. Just read it and we'll take it back."
I said I want to inform my lawyer about this. They said, "No, you have the right to inform your lawyer, but you cannot telephone him now." I said, "In that case, how do I contact my lawyer?" He said, "That's the law."
So the next morning I was called to the High Court in handcuffs and all that to appear before an Advisory Board comprising three persons. A judge called Judge Winslow and two other persons. One is a certain Elias, I think he's a lawyer, and the other one a Chinese gentleman whose name I cannot remember.
So, on these so-called charge sheets, there were a lot of blank spaces. I asked Judge Winslow what do these blank spaces mean? He said, "Oh, these are charges which are so sensitive that they can be shown only to the Advisory Board but not to you."
I said, "How the hell can anybody defend himself against a charge that's not even revealed to him?" I asked him for advice, he just said [shrugs shoulder]. I said, "Is this a mockery of justice or what?" He said, "This is the law."
You see, the whole thing is a judicial farce. I mean, it's incredible that anyone has to face this kind of mockery, this kind of so-called justice, and the fact that a High court judge is being put as the chairman of this Advisory Board gives the public an illusion that there is judgement, there is justice. And I told him that if I were a High court judge, I would not lend credence to this mockery by my presence.
Then this Elias threatened me with contempt of court. I was very happy when he with contempt of court, because after all I was already in prison, so threatening me with contempt of court and al that makes no difference to me.
By the way, in my 20 years in prison, I was detained in practically all the prisons in Singapore, except of course the female prison.
In the end, the judge said, "No, no, let the doctor have his say, there's no question of contempt of court." So I gave a three-hour statement to debunk all the so-called charges. One of the charges was in fact a false charge: I was charged for being one of the eight Fajar students who were charged for sedition. I said, "As a matter of fact, I didn't have the privilege to be one of the eight. In fact, I would be flattered to be one of the eight, and that I was not one of the eight. So why should I be imprisoned for allegedly being one of the eight, when these eight were acquitted without being called, and acquitted and defended by Lee Kuan Yew himself, who is now detaining me?"
He said, "This is the law."
Everything is the law.
So recently you have heard all this so-called rule of law. Now there is detention without trial by ISA [Internal Security Act], a law which makes a mockery of the concept of rule of law. It is a law that is outside the rule of law. Once you are detained under the ISA, you have no legal defence whatsoever.
I tried the habeas corpus twice. On one occasion I succeeded on the technical error on the side of the government--they did not sign my detention order. It was supposed to be signed by a minister, but it was delegated to a civil servant. So on that account the court has to release me on a technical point. So when I was released, there was the Special Branch waiting for me outside Queenstown Prison. I was re-arrested one minute later. It was a mock release. And for that habeas corpus, I was punished and sent to the most hideous of all detention centres, the Central Police Station head office.
That was a place that is not fit to keep animals let alone human beings. The place was so dark, so stinky and so ill-ventilated that you cannot stand inside for more than 24 hours, but I was locked in there for 24 hours a day. And the whole place was infested with bugs. I had a lot of bugs for company. No reading material and the light was so dim that I could hardly see the crease of my hand. So immediately the five of us went on hunger strike, and my ulcer bled and I had to be transferred to hospital. That was the so-called habeas corpus right there you have. Try it at your risk, or be severely punished.
The second time I went for habeas corpus case was when they tried to force me to do manual labour. That was in 1972. They said all detainees should do manual labour as a programme of rehabilitation. I was supposed to do carpentry. So this superintendent told me that it was good for you as a doctor, you try to become more dexterous with your hand. So I said, "You do not have the qualifications to enter a medical college, and here you are telling a doctor what is good for post-graduate education. Are you over-reaching yourself?" He said, "This is the law. You have to be paid 8 cents a day." So we all went on hunger strike, and some of us went on hunger strike for three months in order to frustrate their attempt to make us labourers like criminals. I went on hunger strike for three weeks before they came in and said, "Okay, we exempt you from that."
And the women detainees in Moon Crescent Centre went on hunger strike for 130 days, and they were forced-fed. Some of them vomited after being fed milk by the tube inserted forcefully into their oesophagus. One girl vomited and the superintendent forced for wardens to carry her and wiped the floor with her pants. This is the kind of treatment meted to detainees. All these of course suppressed by the press, but this is the thing we all had to go through.
Now all of us had to go through detention in solitary confinement. Solitary confinement according to Lee Kuan Yew himself is a very bad form of torture. I will read to you what Lee Kuan Yew said of solitary confinement: "The biggest punishment a man can receive is total isolation in a dungeon, black and complete withdrawal of all stimuli. That is real torture." Lee Kuan Yew, January 2008.
Although he knows it is real torture, he had no compunction in meting out this real torture to all detainees without exception. Some of us had to undergo this real torture, not for one day, two days, but for six months. Now under the law, there is a protection for even criminal prisoners from this kind of torture. A criminal prisoner when found guilty of infringing prison rules will be sentenced to solitary confinement for not more than two weeks, because of the obvious mental health effects. But for political detainees, there is no protection.
And Lee Eu Seng (李有成), the general manager of Nanyang Zhao Pao, was put into solitary confinement not once but twice, and it is to his credit he withstood that kind of real torture. TT Rajah, a lawyer who was detained for two and half years, was put under solitary confinement for six months. Twice. Said Zahari was put into solitary confinement four times in his long 17 years of detention. It is to our credit that we did not back down despite our difficult ordeal. We stood our ground and held on to our integrity.
Today, they are asking us to be magnanimous. What does magnanimity mean? Only those who have suffered have the moral right, the moral standing to be magnanimous, not the culprit. The culprit can seek forgiveness, if they admit their mistakes and apologise for it. Not for the victims of this torture to seek forgiveness. We are the ones who have to be magnanimous, and we are prepared to be magnanimous provided the culprits admit their mistakes and seek our forgiveness.
In my statement which I released to the press in 1972, through my wife Beatrice Chen, and which was of course suppressed by the newspapers, but was distributed a lot to all student organisations--I said the proper way to settle our case is that you must release us without conditions. Unconditional release. Moreover, you must compensate us for our long detention and also apologise. I said I'm prepared to forgo these two last conditions of having to compensate us and also having to apologise to us because I don't believe an arrogant man like Lee Kuan Yew would concede easily. On that question of release unconditionally--that we stand firm, I stood firm and had to suffer for two decades. That is the price that we had to pay for our integrity.
In Singapore, we have a situation where the government leaders said they have integrity that has to be sustained by the highest pay in the world, but yet they demand from political opponents and detainees an integrity that has to be sustained by the longest imprisonment in the world. This kind of two types of integrity, to compare them is to compare heaven and earth. Why should anybody has to sacrifice so much just to sustain his integrity and his beliefs? And the government have to reward themselves with so much high pay. This is the immorality of the political situation in Singapore today.
Now, detention without trial is not a peaceful action. It is an act of violence. They come to see you not in the daylight with an invitation card. They come in the morning, 4am. That is the time when decent people sleep, and when political terrorists and tyrants strike. And when you are detained, you are subjected to all kinds of mental and even physical torture. This is not only unique for the 1963 batch, it was also practised in many other batches of detention: 1972, and as late as 1987. When Teo Soh Lung and her group of so-called marxist detainees were subjected to mental and physical torture. ... And women lawyers can be subjected to torture. But when these women lawyers came out and issued a statement to describe how they have been tortured, they were again detained and compelled to withdraw their accusation.
What type of rule of law is that when the accuser can be punished by the accused against the government, and compelled to withdraw their accusation? Is it not a rule of law justice turned upside down? Now this is a situation where even the Law Society dare not utter a word of protest. They are so impotent after what they had done to the Law Society in 1987.
Now, Poo Soo Kai has written a very good article on Operation Coldstore. In it, he has revealed a lot of declassified British archive documents, showing how the British and Lee Kuan Yew conspired and collaborated to crush the opposition before the 1963 General Elections. The whole aim of this merger was to crush the opposition before the 1963 elections.
And today, the PAP is standing on high moral ground, demanding human rights in other countries, even demanding the realise of political detainees in Myanmar. But precisely on what moral ground are they standing to have this demand? In examining their past records, they are standing on a pedestal that is leaking with worms and vermin, Let them repent first their own dismal record of human rights and then you may have the moral right to cast aspersions on other people's lack of human rights.
Poh Soo Kai has also written the last chapter of this book [The Fajar Generation], about the future of Socialism. Many of you may ponder what is the relevance of Socialism in this era. after 50 years when the club was formed, Socialist movements all over the world has suffered a lot of setbacks and even defeats, and some wonder whether we are still relevant. The recent economic crisis, the recent financial crisis, has once again exploded the corruption and immorality of the capitalist system, and feel that human beings should deserve something better than a system that is generated by green and by corruption.
Now some of you may have heard that when you are young you are idealistic, when you're old you are realistic. Now this is the kind of rubbish that is used by those who have either lost their ideals or have sold their ideals for self-interests. Each should not wither one's ideals or convictions. If anything, it should only consolidate and make it more resolute. If age has anything to do with it, it is only by way of expression and application of these ideals and convictions having the benefit of a youthful experience. And a life without convictions, without idealism, is a mere meaningless existence, and I'm sure most of you will agree that as human beings, we are worthy of a life much more meaningful than just that.
(through his legal adviser)
(Released by Dr Beatrice Chen, wife of Dr Lim Hock Siew) (source1, source2)
I and hundreds of others were arbitrarily arrested on the 2nd of February, 1963. Many are still in prison. Ever since that day, we were, and are, unjustly and arbitrarily detained in prison without any kind of trial whatsoever for over 9 years. We have gone through various kinds of persecution, struggles, hardships and difficulties during this very long period of over nine years of detention in prison. Recently an unusual development took place. On the 13th of January, 1972, I was taken to the Headquarters of the Special Branch at Robinson Road where I was detained for 40 days together with my brother, Lim Hock Koon.
Two high-ranking special branch agents of the P.A.P. regime indicated to me that if I were to issue a public statement of repentance, I would be released. They told me that 9 years had passed since the date of my arrest and that it was time that my case be settled. They admitted that 9 years was a long time. I told them that it was pointless to remind me of this long period.
A week after my transfer to the Special Branch Headquarters, the same two high-ranking employees spelt out the conditions of my release. They demanded from me two things. They are as follows: -
(1) That I make an oral statement of my past political activities, that is to say, "A security statement." This was meant for the Special Branch records only, and not meant for publication.
(2) That I must issue a public statement consisting of two points : -
(a) That I am prepared to give up politics and devote to medical practice thereafter.
(b) That I must express support for the Parliamentary democratic system.
I shall now recall and recapitulate the conversation that took place between me and the same two high-ranking Special Branch agents during my detention at the Special Branch Headquarters.
Special Branch - You need not have to condemn the Barisan Sosialis or any person. We admit that it is unjust to detain you so long. 9 years is a long time in a person's life; we are anxious to settle your case.
Dr Lim Hock Siew - My case will be settled immediately if I am released unconditionally. I was not asked at the time of my arrest whether I ought to be arrested. Release me unconditionally and my case is settled.
Special Branch - The key is in your hands. It is for you to open the door.
Dr Lim Hock Siew - To say that the key is in my hands is the inverted logic of gangsters in which white is black and black is white. The victim is painted as the culprit and the culprit is made to look innocent. Four Gurkha soldiers were brought to my house to arrest me. I did not ask or seek arrest or the prolonged detention for over 9 years in prison without trial.
Special Branch - You must concede something so that Lee Kuan Yew would be in a position to explain to the public why you had been detained so long. Mr Lee Kuan Yew must also preserve his face. If you were to be released unconditionally, he will lose face.
Dr Lim Hock Siew - I am not interested in saving Lee Kuan Yew's face. This is not a question of pride but one of principle. My detention is completely unjustifiable and I will not lift a single finger to help Lee Kuan Yew to justify the unjustifiable. In the light of what you say, is it not very clear that I have lost my freedom all these long and bitter years just to save Lee Kuan Yew's face? Therefore the P.A.P. regime's allegation that I am a security risk is a sham cover and a facade to detain me unjustifiably for over 9 years.
My stand on the Making of a Secret Oral Security Statement for the records of the Special Branch
I cannot and will not make any statement to condemn my past political activities. My past political activities were absolutely legitimate and proper. Whatever I had done or said was in the interest of and in the service of the masses of our people and of our country. Even an accused person need not say anything to incriminate or to condemn himself. Why should I who am arbitrarily detained without any kind of trial for over 9 years be coerced to act as an agent to the Special Branch by making a secret deal behind the backs of the masses? I resolutely reject this demand. Furthermore, I have not the slightest obligation to account my past political activities to Lee Kuan Yew.
A. My Stand on the Demand of Making a Public Statement
I completely reject in principle the issuing of any public statement as a condition of my release. This is a form of public repentance. History has completely vindicated my position. I was arrested for opposing merger with "Malaysia" because I held the view that "Malaysia" was a British sponsored neo-colonialist product and the creation of "Malaysia", far from uniting our people and our country, would cause greater dis-unity and dissension among our people. I believe that the formation of Malaysia would be a step backward and not forward in our struggle for national unity.
I have nothing to repent, to recant or to reform. If anything I have become more reinforced in my convictions, more reaffirmed in my views and more resolute to serve the people of Malaya fully and whole-heartedly. I have nothing to concede to Lee Kuan Yew. By right, he should make a public repentance to me and not I to him.
B. My Stand on the Demand that I must give up Politics in Exchange for my Release
I hold the view that these two demands are self-contradictory, because if there is democracy, I need not give up politics. The fact that I had been detained for over 9 years in order to coerce me to give up politics is proof enough that there is no parliamentary democracy. The question of taking part on politics is a fundamental right of the people.
An indirect offer was made to me to leave Singapore for further studies. I have replied to the P.A.P. regime that if I had to leave the country at any time, it must be on my own free volition and not under coercion by the P.A.P regime.
C. My Stand on the Demand for support for Parliamentary System
I hold the view that to support the P.A.P. regime's so-called parliamentary system would mean giving the public and the masses a false impression that there exist today a genuine parliamentary democratic system in Singapore Island. It is an undeniable and unforgettable fact that comrade LEE TSE TONG who was elected by the people of Singapore in the 1963 General Elections, was arbitrarily arrested and detained without trial soon after he was elected. Subsequently, he was deprived of his citizenship and he is still under detention as a so-called "banishee" in prisoner's clothes in Queenstown prison. The arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention of Comrade Lee Tse Tong affords concrete proof that the so-called parliamentary democracy is a cruel mockery. It does not exist in Singapore Island. Giving support to such a sham parliamentary system means complete betrayal of the people. I will never betray the people of my country under any circumstance. Bitter sacrifice strengthens bold resolve.
Parliamentary democracy does not mean merely casting of votes once in 5 years during election time. Far more important than this is the freedom of thought, the freedom of expression, the freedom of association, the freedom of organisation everyday during the 5 years period and continuously thereafter. I was arrested when the Barisan Sosialis was actively participating in the parliamentary system. For such participation, the colonial government, the Lee Kuan Yew and Rahman regimes had rewarded me with over 9 years of imprisonment. This again amply indicates the utter shamness of the so-called parliamentary democratic system. After over 9 years of detention, I am now asked to give support to their so-called parliamentary system in order to secure my release. I firmly refuse to give my support for the sham and illusory democracy in Singapore Island.
My Stand on the Request by the Agents of the P.A.P. Regime to Concede something to save Lee Kuan Yew's Face
Since history has fully vindicated my stand and my position, Lee Kuan Yew should openly and publicly repent to me and to all other political detainees, now unjustifiably detained in prison. By right a just and proper base for my release from my prolonged and unjustifiable detention (and this equally applies to all political detainees now under unjustifiable detention) should be : -
(a) Our unconditional and immediate release from detention and the complete restoration of all our democratic and human rights.
(b) Payment of adequate compensation to me and to all other political detainees for the prolonged and unjustifiable detention in prison.
(c) The issuance of public apology by Lee Kuan Yew to me.
We are willing and prepared to concede the last two conditions as listed above. We do not believe that an arrogant man like Lee Kuan Yew will apologise or to compensate us.
On the first condition that is to say, our demand for unconditional and immediate release from detention, and for the complete restoration of all our democratic and human rights - we must resolutely say : WE WILL NEVER CONCEDE, BITTER SACRIFICE STRENGTHENS BOLD RESOLVE.
By Cai Haoxiang, Straits Times, 19 Feb 2010 (source1, source2)
It is a sweltering day as you walk by the row of repainted shophouses along Balestier Road.
As you push open the glass doors and duck inside for a welcome draught of air-conditioning, you meet a group of elderly patients waiting expectantly to see their family doctor.
The name on the door plate of his office may not ring a bell for the young but to older Singaporeans, it jumps right out of Singapore’s turbulent political history: Dr Lim Hock Siew.
Enter his simply furnished room, and you see him at a desk stacked with books, stationery and newspapers. An eye chart is pasted on a glass cabinet displaying photos of him as a dashing young man.
The 79-year-old doctor, in his white long-sleeved shirt, greets you with a soft, occasionally wheezing, yet otherwise firm voice. He is not in the best of health, having suffered kidney failure last year and taken a six-month break to recuperate.
As he is undergoing dialysis three times a week, he would have preferred to extend his break except that his clinic partner, Dr Mohd Abu Bakar, 76, was overwhelmed by the patient load.
So he returned to half-day work last month, seeing around 30 patients every morning, and plans to do so as long as his health permits. ‘It’s kind of an ethical obligation to look after them, and I can keep myself mentally occupied,’ he says.
The name of his clinic harks back to his socialist days as a political activist, first with the People’s Action Party (PAP) and then with its arch rival, Barisan Sosialis. It is called Rakyat, which means ‘people’ in Malay. It was set up by Dr Lim and fellow Barisan Sosialis leader Dr Poh Soo Kai in 1961.
Its consultation fees are no different from other clinics’ – $20 to $30. But Dr Lim charges a reduced rate for poorer patients and gives free treatment to the neediest. ‘I don’t deny help to those who need it,’ he says.
Dr Lim’s sense of compassion and empathy for the poor is well known. At a time when the unprofessional and unethical practices of some doctors are hogging the headlines, the mere mention of Dr Lim’s name evokes hushed respect among his peers.
Even pro-PAP Singaporeans who would be horrified by the prospect of a Barisan Sosialis government admit to having a grudging admiration for Dr Lim as a man who has the courage of his convictions.
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, once singled out Dr Lim as a politician he admired for his strength of character and ability to sacrifice for his beliefs.
Like many of his former leftist colleagues, Dr Lim feels compelled to give his side of the story before time runs out.
In recent years, a cottage industry has sprung up providing alternative histories of Singapore. Books included memoirs by former communist underground leader Fang Chuang Pi, former Barisan Sosialis leader Fong Swee Suan and former Parti Rakyat Singapura leader Said Zahari. Just three months ago, the Fajar Generation, a book on the University Socialist Club (USC) of the then-University of Malaya, was launched.
In a nutshell, Dr Lim’s is a story of how an idealistic student activist joined and campaigned for the PAP in the 1950s and then fought against the ruling party in the 1960s and paid a very heavy price for his beliefs and convictions.
In 1963, he was arrested under Operation Cold Store and detained without trial for nearly 20 years before he was released in 1982.
A Home Affairs Ministry statement on his release had said that he was arrested under the Internal Security Act for his involvement in Communist United Front (CUF) activities.
Dr Lim refused to agree to any conditions that would have granted him early release and ended up in the record book as the second longest-held political prisoner after his leftist colleague Chia Thye Poh, who served 23 years.
Today, 28 years after his release, he still dreams of a socialist Singapore in which there is no exploitation of workers and the oppressed.
Born in 1931 to a poor family, Dr Lim spent the 1942-45 war years helping his father sell fish in the Kandang Kerbau market. Both his parents were illiterate, but they encouraged their 10 children to study.
He was the only English-educated child in his family. As the top boy in Rangoon Road Primary School, he gained entry to Raffles Institution (RI) in 1946.
It was in RI that he picked up a book by the first prime minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and became inspired by his socialist ideals.
Going on to study medicine at the then-University of Malaya here, Dr Lim lapped up the works of philosopher Karl Marx and economist Adam Smith, and books on the British Labour Party and Mao Zedong’s communist struggle in China. His political awakening was heightened by the anti-colonial struggles raging around the world.
As he recalls, most of the university students then were indifferent to politics. They were afraid of being arrested and preferred to pursue degrees and jobs.
As one of the best and brightest of his generation, he says he felt a deep, patriotic obligation to do something for Singapore and its people in the struggle against the British colonialists ruling Singapore.
He plunged into campus activism, becoming a founding member of the anti-colonial USC, which was formed in 1953.
In 1953, Dr Lim met the young Cambridge-educated lawyer Lee Kuan Yew, who was helping to defend eight USC students charged by the British for sedition because of an article in the USC’s journal, Fajar.
They won the case and Mr Lee was acclaimed as their champion. The USC rallied behind him and his associates when they set up the PAP several months after the sedition trial.
Noting that the party’s original Constitution showed every mark of a socialist, anti-colonial party, Dr Lim recalls that the USC members went around persuading various groups to support the PAP. The 1955 elections saw the 24-year-old Dr Lim stumping for PAP at mass rallies.
PAP was then identified with the working class and Chinese-speaking masses. But the facade of unity maintained by the motley crew of English-educated intellectuals, Chinese-educated socialists, professionals and trade unionists could not last.
The ideological differences began to surface. One episode in 1957 that stuck in Dr Lim’s memory was the plot by a group of radical unionists within the party to oust PAP strongman Ong Eng Guan and several others from the PAP leadership. They opposed Mr Ong as they viewed him as anti-left and an opportunist.
He felt then that the move was ‘most unwise’ as it would create party disunity and provoke a crackdown by the colonial government.
As he recollects, he and several USC members tracked down three of the prime movers – Mr Chen Say Jame, Mr Goh Boon Toh and Mr Tan Chong Kin – and sought to dissuade them. They failed. Dr Lim believes that what he did then probably aroused Mr Lee’s suspicions that he was in cahoots with the leftists.
The central executive committee (CEC) elections resulted in a deadlock with six seats going to the Lee group and the other six going to the leftists. Shocked by the humiliating defeat of his associates, Mr Lee refused to take office. Dr Lim says he tried to persuade him to do so – to no avail.
As it turned out, five leftist CEC members were arrested by the Lim Yew Hock government in an anti-communist operation – and Mr Lee and company were able to regain control of the party.
In 1958, they introduced a ‘cadre’ system in which only appointed members could vote for the CEC. This marked the beginning of the leftists’ disillusionment with Mr Lee, says Dr Lim.
Break over merger
When the 1959 elections came around, Dr Lim says he and Dr Poh offered themselves ‘in good faith’ as PAP candidates. The answer was negative. ‘He did not trust us,’ says Dr Lim, referring to Mr Lee.
After the historic elections which swept the PAP to power for the first time, Dr Lim discovered that his party membership was not renewed.
From the sidelines, the government doctor witnessed the increasing acrimony between Mr Lee’s group and the leftists which was to lead to what is called the Big Split of 1961.
The two factions were locked in a monumental struggle over the issues of merger with Malaya, Chinese education and the continuing detention of students and unionists.
Racked by dissension, the PAP was on the brink of collapse after losing two by-elections in Anson and Hong Lim in 1961.
Concerned over the leftist challenge within his party, Mr Lee moved a motion of confidence in the 51-seat legislative assembly. The PAP survived when 27 voted aye but 13 dissident assemblymen abstained.
Expelled from the party, the dissidents formed Barisan Sosialis with other defectors from the PAP in August 1961. The party was led by Mr Lim Chin Siong.
It was at this juncture that Dr Lim joined the new party. He had to give up a scholarship for further study and quit the civil service.
The Barisan Sosialis then, he recalls, was a very formidable organisation filled with thousands of dedicated people and ‘scores upon scores of university graduates’, ready to form an alternative government.
As a CEC member, Dr Lim helped to run a ‘brain trust’ which consulted a group of more than 50 graduates from the then-Nanyang University and University of Malaya and prepared position papers.
‘We didn’t have a lack of talent. We had more talent than we wanted,’ he says.
In his recollection, the biggest issue that divided PAP and Barisan was merger with Malaya to form Malaysia.
Fearing that Singapore would fall to the communists, Malayan Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman had proposed on May 27, 1961 that Singapore, Sabah, Sarawak and Brunei merge with Malaya to form the federation of Malaysia.
Singapore would have 15 seats in the federal house of representatives, less than what it was entitled to on the basis of population ratios, but a debatable trade-off for Singapore’s exclusive autonomy over labour and education.
Although the leftists were committed to the ultimate goal of unification between the peninsula and the island, they argued that these terms for merger would make Singaporeans ‘second-class citizens’.
The main sticking point, as Dr Lim points out, was that there were ‘two sets of citizenship: one for Malaysians and one for Singaporeans. Singaporean citizens could not participate in Malaysian politics, much less be proportionally represented in the federation’.
The battle between both parties reached its culmination during the referendum on Sept 1, 1962, in which the PAP Government cleverly devised three alternatives for merger on varying terms with no option to say no.
PAP won by a large margin, with 71 per cent of votes in favour of its ‘Alternative A’ against just over 25 per cent who cast blank votes, which the Barisan called for to protest against the ‘sham referendum’.
Then came the big crackdown. On Feb 2, 1963, more than 100 leftists and unionists were arrested in a massive security exercise known as Operation Cold Store, aimed at putting communists and suspected communists out of circulation.
On the mass arrests which changed the power balance in Singapore irrevocably, Dr Lim reflects: ‘We lost not to Lee but to the British, who crushed the leftists for strategic, not security reasons.’
When he speaks about his nearly 20 years in detention, there is an edge to his otherwise calm voice.
Year after year, he recounts, attempts were made to break the spirit of prisoners through solitary confinement and interrogations, to make them confess their involvement in communist activities.
Dr Lim became a counsellor of sorts to the prisoners, encouraging them to talk about the physical and psychological abuse they faced during their interrogations. Some broke down in tears as they relived their experiences.
In March 1972, Dr Lim released a statement about his detention and his experience in being taken to the Internal Security Department (ISD) headquarters on Robinson Road two months earlier. He had insisted on being released, saying that ‘history had vindicated my stand’ that the 1963 merger would not work.
He says that ISD officers wanted him to issue a public statement that he was prepared to give up politics and devote his time to medical practice, and to express support for parliamentary democracy.
Dr Lim demanded to be released unconditionally, saying that he should not need to give up politics if there was parliamentary democracy.
He says that he was asked to ‘concede something’ so that his long detention could be justified. He replied that he was not interested in ‘saving Mr Lee’s face’, and would not issue any statement to condemn his past political activities, which he said were ‘legitimate and proper’.
When asked for the Government’s response, a Ministry of Home Affairs spokesman says: ‘Contrary to Lim Hock Siew’s claims that he was an opposition politician carrying out ‘legitimate and proper’ activities through the democratic process, Dr Lim was in fact a prominent Communist United Front leader who, along with other CUF leaders, had planned and organised pro-communist activities in support of the Communist Party of Malaya, which employed terror and violence in their attempt to overthrow the elected governments of Singapore and Malaysia.’
In 1978, Dr Lim was released from detention and placed in Pulau Tekong under certain restrictions. A government statement had described him as a CUF member who refused to give a written undertaking that he would not be involved in communist activities and renounce the use of force to change government.
Dr Lim’s view was that since he had never advocated violence, he should not have to renounce it. ‘It’s like making me sign a statement that I would not beat my wife,’ he says.
He spent four years on Pulau Tekong before it became an army training area. There, he read medical books and became the only doctor for the few thousand villagers on the island. In appreciation, grateful villagers would ply him and his wife with durians, prawns and fish.
Finally, on Sept 6, 1982, the Government allowed him to live on Singapore island, on the understanding that he would concentrate on his medical practice and abide by various conditions.
Asked how he coped with the long incarceration, he puts it down to an unshakeable conviction that his political stance is right.
‘We were the leaders of the main opposition party, supported by the workers in Singapore, and we cannot betray our supporters. So we stuck to the bitter end. It’s a matter of intellectual integrity.’
Would he shake hands with Mr Lee? His reply: ‘It is for the oppressed to be magnanimous, not the oppressor. I’ll forgive him and shake hands with him if he admits to his error and apologises to me and my wife.’
Dr Lim’s wife Beatrice Chen (陈孟端), who is a nephrologist or kidney specialist, helps to treat her husband. She declines to be interviewed as she shuns publicity.
They met in 1958 when they were working together at the Singapore General Hospital, and married in 1961.
Dr Lim was detained two years later. For the next 15 years, they saw each other for half an hour each week, separated by a glass panel, and spoke by telephone.
‘The fact that we can see each other is a relief,’ he says. ‘Our common struggle was a unifying force. We understood each other. She kept on encouraging me, giving me moral support…it was very hard for her. She’s a great woman.’
The couple have one son, who is now working in the National University of Singapore. ‘He was five months old when I was arrested. When I came out, my wife was in menopause. I missed the joy of bringing up my own son.’
When Dr Lim is not seeing patients, he catches up on current affairs, surfs the Internet, and reads political philosophy – currently, Bertrand Russell’s A History Of Western Philosophy. He also paints as a hobby.
Step into his condominium home off Mountbatten Road, and you will be greeted by a visual feast of paintings – of scenery, flowers and women – all strictly non-political.
But one has a Chinese couplet which reads: Befriend a thousand books, and have the spine to stand by your beliefs.
How would Barisan have ruled S’pore?
What if Barisan Sosialis had beaten the People’s Action Party (PAP) in the September 1963 General Election? How differently would it have ruled the country?
Barisan gave the ruling party its closest call in Singapore’s political history when it garnered 33 per cent of the votes in the polls. It toppled two ministers and nearly knocked out another four ministers.
Although PAP’s 47 per cent score was its lowest electoral mark in the record book, the first-past-the-post system awarded the party 37 seats versus Barisan’s 13 in the 51-seat legislative assembly.
There had been much speculation that had it not been for Operation Cold Store, which put more than 100 leftist politicians and unionists behind bars just seven months earlier, the opposition party would have swept into power.
Former Barisan leader Lim Hock Siew, who would have stood for the elections if he was not detained, admits that if his party had won, Singapore’s gross domestic product growth would have been slower, but believes that there would have been more welfare for the people.
There would be legal safeguards for workers like minimum wage, retrenchment benefits, social welfare and retirement benefits, he says.
Peppering his interview with criticisms of various government policies, the man regarded as one of the ‘brains’ behind Barisan, says that his party would have done more for the poor and working class.
For example, he points out that his party would not have priced flats at a subsidised rate below market rate but would have provided cheap housing at cost. ‘CPF is meant for pensions, not to tie people down to a housing project,’ he says.
Turning to more current issues, he argues that the introduction of two integrated resorts here threatens moral standards by making Singapore a playground for the ‘international filthy rich’.
Singapore might eventually be like Las Vegas, where everything has a price but no value. ‘I don’t think this is a society we all like to have. That the Government places such high hopes on the two casinos shows what a desperate situation the Singapore economy is in.’
Instead of attracting big foreign multinational companies, he says, Singapore should have encouraged small and medium enterprises, so that entrepreneurship would flourish as in Hong Kong.
Hitting out at ministerial pay, noting that a symbolic amount of $10,000 or $20,000 a month would be enough, Dr Lim says that Barisan leaders were prepared to sacrifice their lives for their political beliefs. ‘We considered politics a calling, a responsibility, and a privilege to serve our country, not a career.’
He believes enough talented young people will come forward to serve the country. ‘Leaders should not be discovered by inviting and enticing them with high pay and high office… you harness the people, let them decide. They’ll do wonders.’
He feels that the Government cannot inspire the young to participate because it is alienated from the people and is afraid of ‘letting go’.
Criticising the various restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly and organisation, like the Internal Security Act and the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, he notes: ‘When Lee Hsien Loong came to power, he promised to leave no stones unturned to remake Singapore.
‘But what we see is just the little stones and pebbles being merrily kicked about, raising so much dust and din, but the big boulders of repression are still very much in place.’
He calls for a public inquiry into past and present human rights abuses in Singapore, under an internationally-renowned judge, with immunity provided for former detainees to give evidence.
The young will feel for Singapore, he says, when they feel they can speak out and decide their own future.
Given his strong anti-government views, it is no surprise that the 79-year-old doctor is much sought after by the opposition parties.
He reveals that two parties wanted to recruit him but he declined, citing old age.
The courage of his conviction: ISA detainee Dr Lim Hock Siew, Angela Oon (here)
Martyn See’s post, Temasek Review’s post and Lucky Tan’s post.