Lim Chin Siong vs Lee Kuan Yew: The true and shocking history

It will forever change how you see Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP

08 Jul 07

Straits Times, 7 Feb 96Schools teach our children that Lee Kuan Yew heroically delivered Singapore from the evil clutches of the communists and gave us what we have today.

Whether such an assertion is historically accurate or not, the Government seems intent to seal this version in the annals of Singapore. When filmmaker, Mr Martyn See, released Zahari’s 17 Years in which Mr Said Zahari talked about his 17-year detention, the Government promptly banned it.

It, it stated, “will not allow people who had posed a security threat to the country in the past to exploit the use of films to purvey a false and distorted portrayal of their past actions and detention by the government.”

When Lim Chin Siong, another of Lee Kuan Yew’s prisoners, died in 1996, the PAP was equally anxious to make sure that Lim’s portrayal as a revolutionary communist remained etched in the minds of the people.

In response to a tribute that the SDP had written about Lim, the PAP through then MP Dr Ow Chin Hock, said that the Barisan Sosialis (Socilaist Front), of which Lim was its leader, fought the Government in 1966 “on the streets, according to the teachings of Mao Zedong in the Cultural Revolution.”

It was a bald-faced lie. Lim was already in prison under ISA detention in 1966 and could not have led his party in anything.

This, it seems, was not the only untruth that the PAP has been telling us.

For example, Dr Ow pointed out that Lim was not fighting for a democratic Singapore (the cheek) but a communist one. Lim would have turned Singapore into “Mao’s China or Ho Chi Minh’s Vietnam”, the PAP insisted.

Besides, it was the Internal Security Council (ISC) under the command of the British and not the PAP Government, who ordered the arrest and detention of Lim and colleagues.

Straits Times, 17 Feb 96This was because there were only three PAP representatives on the ISC and they were “outnumbered” by the other four members on the Council, three British and one Malaysian.

Nothing could be more untrue.

Top-secret documents held by the British Government, now declassified, reveal some jaw-dropping facts about Lee Kuan Yew and how he came to power.

Two history scholars studied these papers and presented their findings in the book Comet In Our Sky (available at Select Books at the Tanglin Shopping Centre).

The first is Tim Harper who teaches Southeast Asian history and the history of the British empire at the University of Cambridge in London.

The second is Greg Poulgrain, a professor at Griffiths University in Australia who has been researching Southeast Asian history for more than 20 years.

This SDP feature presents a summary of Dr Harper’s and Dr Poulgrain’s chapters. It contains some shocking archival material.

It also attempts to answer questions like who were people like Lim Chin Siong and Said Zahari? Did they really pose a security threat to the country? Were they communists hell-bent on undermining constitutional/democratic means of governance in Singapore? Was it really the ISC that was responsible for their arrest and imprisonment? Most important, is the PAP’s version of history based on fact?

Remember, this narration is not the SDP’s rendition of events past. It is a collective summary of the research done by two historians.

To ensure that this present essay remains faithful to Professors Harper’s and Poulgrain’s works, quotes from the historians’ chapters are used liberally.

Still, don’t take our word for it. Get a copy of Comet In Our Sky and read for yourself the real history of the PAP and Barisan Sosialis.

Hard, historical facts are the greatest antidote to fear mongering by the state and to the use of national security as a bogey to suppress freedom and democracy.Why bother?

But why is this important? Why should Lim Chin Siong, a man who died more than ten years ago and who led a party which is now defunct, be relevant to the world in which we now live?

First, because those events are part of our history, and history defines who we are as a people and, more important, shapes the way we plan our future.

The textbooks that the Ministry of Education writes for our kids are not history but rather fables, starring Mr Lee Kuan Yew. We have a duty to teach our youths the truth.

Also, what happened in the 1950s and 60s continue to be relevant because many of Lim’s colleagues are still alive and the sacrifices they made for the independence of Singapore have been all but erased. Their stories must be told and their honour restored.

Third, and perhaps most important, not only is the PAP’s cloroxed account used to mentally condition (brainwash, if you prefer) our children, it continues to be used as a weapon to intimidate and silence voices of dissent.

If Lee Kuan Yew can manipulate the security apparatus for his own political ends in the 1950s and 60 as you will note from Dr Harper’s and Dr Poulgrain’s revelations, what does that say about the present use of the ISD to detain other Singaporeans?

More ominously, what if the PAP feels sufficiently threatened politically and resorts to concocting another conspiracy to detain without trial more Singaporeans and opposition politicians like it did to a group of professionals in 1987?

Hard, historical facts are the greatest antidote to fear mongering by the state and to the use of national security as a bogey to suppress freedom and democracy.

Knowledgeable citizens with a keen sense of history are the best protection against acts of repression in the future.

So if you are a discerning Singaporean unwilling to let the authorities tell you what to think and how to think it, if you are one of those who don’t want your mind raped, then introduce yourself to this four-part Special Feature and take part in the forum discussion.

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