The Singapore Democrats honoured Dr Lim Hock Siew at their National Day Dinner commemorations last Saturday. Dr Lim was detained by the PAP Government without trial for 20 years under Operation Coldtsore in 1963. Before presenting him with a memento, Dr Wong Wee Nam paid tribute to Dr Lim. Below are excerpts of Dr Wong’s speech:
Friends and Comrades,
The SDP has bestowed me a very great honour tonight. They have asked me to introduce to you a very remarkable man. He is Dr Lim Hock Siew.
I first met him at the wake of the late Dr Lee Siew Choh in July 2002. That was 20 years after he was released from an almost 20-year detention. I saw a friend sitting at another table. She came from Australia and I went up to say “hello” to her. Dr Lim happened to be sitting at the same table and she introduced us.
That was the first time I saw how he looked like.
I have heard of him when I was a young boy. He was the son of a famous fishmonger in the market where I had lived. The father was famous because he had a clever son. Not a lot of poor people then had children who are doctors.
I also heard of him as a young boy because of his reputation as a doctor. Not only did his clinic dispense free medicine for poor, he also gave them transport money to go home. This is not surprising coming from a doctor who believes that the most common cause of anemia is not iron deficiency but poverty.
It was understandable that I did not recognize him. After all, his pictures had never been splashed in the newspapers or over the TV. Nothing much was heard about him when he was incarcerated and nothing was seen or heard after his release.
In spite of the news blackout and the low profile he has kept, he is still a political legend, being the second longest political detainee after Chia Thye Poh. Therefore, my reaction was one of excitement mixed with surprise and discomfort when he was introduced to me.
Remarkably, in my encounters with him not once had he expressed any hatred for anyone or any organization for having deprived him of 20 years of the prime of his life.
In 1963, he was arrested because he was deemed a security threat to the interests of Singapore. To be kept in prison for 20 years, he must have had a pre-detention life that is more colourful or at least equal to that of Mas Selamat.
At a launch of the book The Fajar Generation, he made a speech. Martyn See, the filmmaker, recorded the speech and put it on Youtube. The video is now banned. It cannot be for security reason that the video is banned.
The speech was not fiery, there was no angry condemnation of government, no incitement to violence, no call to arms, no cry to overthrow anyone and no rousing appeal to unite and rally the audience for a cause. Indeed the speech was milder than any of the election rally speeches made during the 2011 General Election.
For months after the speech was made and aired, no investors pulled out of Singapore for security concerns and in fact, the economy recovered. Yet for inexplicable reason, the video was banned.
Confucius said: 知穷之有命，知通之有时，临大难而不惧者，圣人之勇也。”To understand that hardship is a matter of fate and success is a matter of the times; and to able to face enormous difficulties without fear or terror is to have the courage of a sage.”
Dr Lim Hock Siew may or may not be a sage but he must be a remarkable man. He was stored away for 20 years and then led a quiet life for the next 28 years. Yet when he made his speech at a book launch, he created enough anxiety for the video to be banned.
That is truly remarkable!
Tonight, an anonymous donor has donated a picture to the SDP to honour Dr Lim Hock Siew on our National Day. May I call upon Dr Chee Soon Juan to come forward and do the presentation.
Read also: SDP honours ex-ISA detainee Dr Lim Hock Siew