The Malay Mail
Chia Thye Poh may be forgiven for thinking that after 33 years in confinement, people from both ends of the Causeway have relegated him to the annals of history.
On the evidence of the reception he received at the Confucian Private Secondary School in Lorong Hang Jebat here yesterday, the 70-year-old is still fondly remembered, at least by the 400 people attending an award presentation.
Chia is Asia’s longestserving political prisoner, detained under Singapore’s Internal Security Act (ISA) from 1966 to 1998, with the last nine years under house arrest on Sentosa Island.
He was detained after being suspected to be an ally of the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) and viewed as posing a terrorism threat to the republic.
Yesterday, the former Jurong MP, between 1963 and 1965, was awarded the Lim Lian Geok (LLG) Spirit Award at the school’s function hall.
Chia largely spoke on the influence the former Nanyang University had on him and how its spirit would “live on”.
“I remember when the then governor of Singapore, Sir William Goode, wanted to come to the university’s launch in 1956, his motorcade was delayed by more than two hours because of the immense traffic of people who came for the launch,” he said in his acceptance speech.
“Nantah (Nanyang) was the wish of over three million Chinese citizens in Southeast Asia. The spirit of this university will never die.”
The university ceased to exist in 1980 when the Singapore government merged it with the University of Singapore.
This was Chia’s first public appearance as he spent his years of renewed freedom pursuing a doctorate at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague, Netherlands.
He was a former Barisan Sosialis party member and part of a movement that protested alleged ‘undemocratic’ acts by the then Singapore premier, Lee Kuan Yew.
Chia had opposed Singapore’s separation from Malaysia, and campaigned for the sustainability of Nanyang University, which was then Singapore’s only Chinese language postsecondary institution.
Asked if he would make his first public appearance in the island nation, he said he would wait for the “right occasion” to do so.
The LLG award, now in its 24th edition, annually honours individuals who have served the Chinese culture or people at large.
It was first given out in 1988 in memory of the late Chinese educationist Lim Lian Geok and is largely viewed as the highest honour in the Malaysian Chinese community.