Ex-top editor re-lives days in detention
James Wong Wing On
Jan 9, 06 12:49pm
The second part of the memoirs of former Utusan Melayu editor-in-chief Said Zahari will be published in Bahasa Malaysia, Chinese and English.
It is believed that the publication will be launched by former premier Dr Mahathir Mohamad in Kuala Lumpur soon.
The first part, Dalam Ribuan Mimpi Gelisah: Memoir Said Zahari, was translated into two other languages in 2001, with the English title being Dark Clouds at Dawn.
Singapore-born Said, now 77, was among the longest detained political prisoners of the Lee Kuan Yew government.
On Feb 2, 1962, he was held under the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance based on allegations that he was a communist and an agent of Indonesia. It was in the wake of a controversial strike he had organised among Utusan journalists against the takeover by Umno.
However, up to the time of his release in August 1979 at the age of 54, he was never charged or tried in a court of law. He spent a total of 17 years in detention - about a quarter of his life. Human rights watchdog Amnesty International declared him a 'prisoner of conscience'.
In the forthcoming publication, Said will formally call Lee (photo) an "Anglo-American pawn" (tali-barut Anglo-Amerika) and accuse him of acting on behalf of the "neo-colonial" political, economic and strategic interests of Britain and the United States in Southeast Asia during the Cold War.
Said will also tell his version of history of the anti-colonial struggles in Singapore and Peninsular Malaya as well as other parts of Southeast Asia, including Sarawak, Brunei, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Details of detention
The 265-page memoirs detail his life and experiences while under detention, including being interrogated by the Special Branch and being held in solitary confinement.
He will relate the physical and psychological tortures inflicted on fellow detainees like Lim Chin Siong, and the mental illnesses that some suffered as a result of torture.
While under detention, Said learnt the Chinese language from fellow detainees who were once student leaders of the now defunct Nanyang University.
Said will also reveal that, over the past few years, he has visited several top leaders of the Communist Party of Malaya such as Abdullah CD, Chin Peng, Rashid Maidin, Suriani Abdullah (Eng Ming Ching) and Abu Samah Mohamad Kassim in southern Thailand to conduct his research into the historical background of Malaya and Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s.
He also had a long-standing intellectual relationship with the late Dr Alijah Gordon, an American who passionately supported the Palestinian cause of national liberation.
On the current situation in Malaysia, Said expresses strong empathy with former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim and calls him a "statesman". However, he is also critical of some aspects of Anwar's style of political workings since being released from prison in September 2004.
Said calls for a reconciliation between Mahathir and Anwar, well as for the abolition of the Internal Security Act which allows for indefinite detention without trial.
The author is best known for leading a three-month strike by journalists and other employees in 1961, at then independent Utusan Melayu in Kuala Lumpur. As its editor-in-chief, he was opposed to the takeover of the newspaper by Umno.
While Said was visiting the newspaper’s Singapore office, Malaysian premier Tunku Abdul Rahman declared him persona non grata and banned his re-entry into Malaya.
The order was revoked on May 26, 1989 by Mahathir and Said's family moved to Malaysia in 1994.
Two years later, Said was appointed a guest writer by Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. In 2003, he was made a Resident Writer of official national security online publication Buletin Malaysia.
Books on ISA by Singaporean authors
To Catch A Tartar by Francis T. Seow
Published in 1994, copies of the book mysteriously disappeared from the shelves of Select Books at Tanglin Shopping Centre days after they arrived. It has never surfaced in any bookstore or library in Singapore since then.
To Be Free by Dr Chee Soon Juan
Apart from Select Books, no other bookstore in Singapore would dare carry this title. However, it is available for loan in most public libraries. The author has been prosecuted and fined for hawking the book on the streets.
Dark Clouds At Dawn by Said Zahari
Said Zahari launched his first book in 2001, alongside Comet In The Sky : Lim Chin Siong in History
Both titles are still available at Select Books.
Pak Said, as he is affectionately known in Malaysia, will launch The Long Nightmare : 17 Years in Lee Kuan Yew's Prison in Malaysia next month. Expect the book to meet the same fate as Francis Seow's To Catch A Tartar.
Monday, January 16, 2006
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
Straits Times,Jan 7, 2006
Ex-detainees to speak at local forum
By Ken Kwek
FORMER journalist and opposition figure Said Zahari is among a group of former political detainees who will speak at an arts forum next month.
Organised by The Necessary Stage, the forum on Feb 26 is part of the Singapore Fringe Festival.
The other speakers include two other ex-detainees, lawyer Tan Jing Quee and
former trade unionist Michael Fernandez. Also on the panel is playwright Robert Yeo, who wrote Changi, a tragic drama about political detention in which the lead character was inspired by Mr Fernandez.
They will take part in a discussion entitled 'Detention - Writing -
Mr Fernandez, 71, who was detained from 1964 to 1973 on suspicion of being a communist, said the forum was not a platform to argue his case politically or to refute the charges previously made against him.
'It is simply an occasion for healing, for sharing one's experience with a younger generation of Singaporeans who weren't around during those tumultuous years.'
Mr Said, 77, a Singapore citizen with Permanent Resident status in Malaysia, said he was 'rather surprised' to be invited to a public forum to air his views in Singapore, given his criticism of issues such as the Internal Security Act, which gives the Government powers of detention without trial.
'Such an event would not have taken place in the country even five years ago,' said Mr Said, who is now an academic in Kuala Lumpur. 'Perhaps there is a slightly more open political climate now,' he added.
The former editor of the Malay newspaper Utusan Melayu was also president of opposition party Parti Rakyat Singapura. In 1963, he was arrested in Operation Cold Store, a government security operation which saw 111 left-wing politicians and trade unionists being nabbed for suspected subversive activities.
He was released in 1979 at age 51 and became editor of the economic journal Asia Research Bulletin. He moved to Kuala Lumpur in 1992 and took up a fellowship four years later at the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia. The first volume of his memoirs Dark Clouds At Dawn was published in 2001. The second installment will hit Malaysian bookstores next month.
He is also the subject of a new film by local filmmaker Martyn See, titled Zahari's 17 Years.
Mr See, 36, has not decided when or where he will premiere his 50-minute film, but said he hoped it would not suffer the same fate as his last film.
Singapore Rebel, about opposition leader Chee Soon Juan's clashes with the Government, was deemed an illegal 'party political film' and banned by the Board of Film Censors last March.
Of his new film, Mr See said: 'Most Singaporeans, especially those from the younger generation, don't know who Said is. But his story is relevant, and offers an important if different view of Singapore's history.'
Today Weekend, January 7, 2006
Rebel See's new venture
Film-maker again makes documentary dealing with politics
FILM-MAKER Martyn See, whose controversial 26-minute documentary Singapore Rebel was banned here on the grounds that it was a political film, has made yet another film dealing with politics.
The subject of his new 49-minute documentary, Zahari's 17 Years, is left-wing journalist Said Zahari, who was arrested in 1963 for allegedly being a communist.
Mr Zahari, 78, was detained without trial for 17 years in Singapore. Prior to his arrest, he had been banished from Malaysia for being a part of a strike involving Malaysian newspaper Utusan Melayu.
A Singapore citizen, he now lives in Kuala Lumpur.
"It would be irresponsible for me as a film-maker not to document Zahari because he was a major figure in Singapore's struggle for independence.
"He is a living document of the leftist struggle for independence," Mr See, 37, told Today.
"Zahari's story is an alternative take on the history of Singapore that was presented in the Discovery Channel's The History of Singapore."
Despite the trouble Mr See found himself in because of Singapore Rebel - his video camera and tapes were seized by the police - he does not foresee any problems with Zahari's 17 Years.
He started work on the documentary after he was inspired by talk of Mr Zahari when he attended the Freedom Film Festival in Malaysia in July last year.
The documentary was completed last week.
"I don't think Zahari's 17 Years contravenes the Films Act. It's not a party political film simply because Zahari is no longer a politician. It's non-partisan."
In an interview with Time magazine in December last year, Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew said in reference to Singapore Rebel, which chronicles opposition politician Chee Soon Juan's political activities: "Well, if you had asked me, I would have said, to hell with it.
"But the censor, the enforcer, he will continue until he is told the law has changed. And it will change ... "
"The making of Zahari's 17 Years wasn't intentional, the subject matter just came up.
"I find myself drawn to people who struggle against the odds."
Friday, January 06, 2006
Zahari's 17 Years
Running time : 49 min
In the early hours of 2nd February 1963, security police in Singapore launched Operation Coldstore - the mass arrests and detention of more than a hundred leaders and activists of political parties, trade unions and student movements, for their alleged involvement in "leftist" or "communist" activities. One of those arrested was former newspaper editor Said Zahari, who had been appointed the leader of an opposition party just three hours earlier.
A staunch anti-colonialist, Zahari had assumed that the mass arrests, set against the backdrop of Singapore's struggle for independence, was no more than yet another turn of event in a politically volatile era. Freedom for him and the others, it seemed, would be secured once Singapore gained full independence.
On 9th of August 1965, by way of its separation from Malaysia, Singapore finally gained full independence and sovereignty. And as the republic embarked on a determined quest for economic prosperity, it dawned on Zahari that his new-found Singaporean citizenship did not accord him freedom.
By the time he was released in 1979, he had spent a total of 17 years in detention without trial. He now holds the distinction of being the second longest-serving political detainee in Singapore after Chia Thye Poh.
Ex-detainees of the Internal Security Act, which allows for indefinite detention without trial, are often reluctant to publicise their experiences. Zahari's 17 Years marks the first time that an ex-political detainee has broken his silence on film.
Said Zahari's upcoming book, entitled "The Long Nightmare - 17 Years in Lee Kuan Yew's Prison", is the second volume of his trilogy of memoirs which recount his experiences in detention and the anti-colonial struggles of his generation.
Zahari's 17 Years is directed, shot and edited by Martyn See.
Martyn See is currently undergoing police investigation for his first film, 'Singapore Rebel', which has been banned by the Singapore authorities for violating the Films Act pertaining to political films. If convicted, he faced a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment or a S$100,000 fine.
Excerpt from the Straits Times round-up of political news stories in 2005, published on 31st Dec 2005
Political expression: Speaking up
This year has been a year of white elephants, a silent banner/T-shirt protest and a documentary on an opposition politician.
The results so far: Several police investigations and a warning, leading to criticism of a clampdown on political expression.
Will similar attempts be made next year? Insight is betting on it.
The warnings may dissuade some would-be "protesters" but there will be others tempted to push the boundaries to see if the Government will honour its promise to open up. When that happens, it will certainly spark more debate.
Businessman Ong Yang Peng, 59, is one of many who are still bristling over the Case of the White Elephants. He says: "Freedom of political expression is the primary means for Singaporeans to feel ownership of their country...If they have no hand in determining the future of the country, how do they feel a sense of ownership?"
He wants the Public Entertainment Act to be amended or even scrapped, to give room for "creativity".
The Government has said it would reviewed the Films Act, which had caused film-maker Martyn See's documentary on opposition leader Chee Soon Juan to be banned and confiscated by the police. Singapore Rebel was defined as a "party political film", but Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew had said he would not objected to it.
No date has been set for the reviewing of the Films Act, but Mr See looks set to revive the debate over whether it is too limiting. He has made another political documentary about an opposition figure: Mr Said Zahari, the former president of opposition party Partai Rakyat Singapura. Now aged 77, Mr Said was detained for 17 years after he was arrested in 1963 on suspicion of being a communist.
Says MP Amy Khor of moves to open up: "We really have no choice... With growing affluence and education come the aspirations of the people to have a bigger say in the manner in which their country is governed, and to exercise their democratic rights beyond the ballot box, and in the arena of shaping public policy."