Friday, August 26, 2011

Dhanabalan and Tony Tan's response to the "Marxist conspiracy"

Marxist Conspiracy Revisited: Comparing Dhanabalan's action with Tony Tan's


In 2009, ESM Goh Chok Tong revealed in his interviews for the SPH publication “Men in White: The Untold Stories of the PAP” that former National Development Minister S Dhanabalan decided to quit the Cabinet because he was not comfortable with the way the PAP had dealt with the “Marxist Conspiracy”.

“At that time, given the information, he was not fully comfortable with the action we took…he felt uncomfortable and thought there could be more of such episodes in the future…he’d better leave the Cabinet. I respected him for his view,” Mr Goh said.

Mr Dhanabalan said his reason for quitting, some 12 years later, was one of conviction: “My philosophy is one where I need to have complete conviction about some key policies and if I have differences, it doesn’t mean I am against the group……but I have to try and live with myself if I have some disagreements on some things,” he said.

On May 21st 1987, 22 church workers, lawyers, businessmen, theatre practitioners and other professionals were detained without trial under the ISA and were accused of “being members of a dangerous Marxist conspiracy bent on subverting the PAP ruled government by force, and replacing it with a Marxist state”. A second wave of arrests took place on June 20th the same year.

The operation was dubbed “Operation Spectrum” and was carried out by the Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD). This marked another sad episode in Singapore where ISA was again used to suppress opposition politicians and activists.

Singapore’s former Solicitor-General Francis Seow was also detained by the ISD for two months after he turned up at the detention center to speak to a detainee who had sought his legal assistance. Seow was later released and allowed to leave for the United States where he now lives.

Though the detainees were portrayed as staunch Marxists and a confession trial was screened on TV (which they later retracted), many Singaporeans remained sceptical about the government’s case including some senior figures within the establishment itself.

Ex-Attorney General Walter Woon said in an interview in 1991: “As far as I am concerned, the government’s case is still not proven. I would not say those fellows were Red, not from the stuff they presented…I think a lot of people have this scepticism.”

Even the current DPM, Mr Tharman was also unconvinced: “Although I had no access to state intelligence, from what I knew of them, most were social activists but not out to subvert the system,” he told the Straits Times in 2001.

Certainly, former National Development Minister S Dhanabalan should be praised for sticking to his principle steadfastly even at the expense of resigning from the Cabinet. No doubt, he is a man of integrity. But what can we say about the rest of the cabinet members, then under the leadership of PM Lee Kuan Yew when the “Marxist Conspiracy” was being dealt with? What about Lee Kuan Yew’s distant relative, Tony Tan, who was then the Minister of Education in the cabinet in 1987? It seemed Tony Tan had gone along with the decision of the cabinet and was part of the “group” who agreed to use ISA on the 22 innocent men and women.

Now that Tony Tan is running for the President of Singapore, can we honestly trust him to be independent and consider him a man of principle and integrity? Can Tony Tan still “live with himself” and sleep soundly at night for having a hand in sending 22 innocent men and women to detention without trial, thus destroying their lives and careers? If Tony Tan’s answer is a “yes”, then the more we should think twice about voting this sort of person as our President.





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