Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Martyn See writes to Minister on Zahari's 17 Years

Sent to RAdm(NS)Lui Tuck Yew, Acting Minister for Information,Communications and the Arts on 22 Sept 2009.

Appeal to review ban of Zahari's 17 Years

Dear Minister,

I am See Tong Ming, Martyn, the director of Zahari's 17 Years, a documentary film which is being gazetted as a prohibited film under Section 35(1) of the Films Act.

In a press statement released by your Ministry dated 10 April 2007, it stated that :

1. The film gives a distorted and misleading portrayal of Said Zahari's arrest and detention under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in 1963 and is an attempt to exculpate himself from his past involvement in communist united front activities against the interests of Singapore.

2. The Government will not allow people who had posed a security threat to the country in the past, to exploit the use of film to purvey a false and distorted portrayal of their past actions and detention by the Government.

3. The film could undermine public confidence in the Government.

This film was banned by your predecessor Dr Lee Boon Yang. I have no other recourse except to appeal to you now to review the ban on the film. My reasons are as follows :

1. It cannot stand to reason that the entire 49 minutes of the film is objectionable for the above 3 reasons. I am willing to consider amending or deleting any part of the film which the Government had deemed to be of against public interest. Therefore, I request that you state clearly which portion of the film you deem to be of against public interest.

2. The film has been freely available for viewing by anyone on the internet since it was officially banned in 2007. It has been watched by over tens of thousands of people. Has there been any evidence whatsoever that public confidence in the Government has been undermined because of this film?

3. I refer to the publication and publicity of Men In White : The Untold Story of Singapore's Ruling Party by the Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). The book features insights from former ISA detainees about their past and during its launch, a video containing comments by Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew was reportedly played to the audience. How is it that such a book and video be allowed while Zahari's 17 Years continues to be banned? Is the Minister applying the law equally?

4. I believe Zahari's 17 Years is the first and only film to be gazetted under Section 35 of the Films Act. Even the reportedly anti-Islamic film Fitna is not gazetted. Banning a locally-made film that is no more than an interview with a former political detainee while not gazetting films like Fitna under the same law creates the impression that the Government is more preoccupied with censoring their own artists than they do foreign ones.

5. Zahari's 17 Years does not address issues of race or religion. It is merely an honest interview with a Singaporean citizen, a former newspaper editor and political prisoner whom, like many others of his time, still believes that his long incarceration under the ISA was unjustified. I believe that the continued prohibition of this film will only serve to increase the public's desire to find out more about the darker aspects of Singapore's political history. Here, I quote the Minister Mentor, "When writing memoirs, you are talking to posterity. Among them will be historians who will check what you write against the accounts of others. So do not shade the past." (ST, July 17 2007)

Considering all the above factors, I ask that the prohibition of Zahari's 17 Years be given its due review.

I look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely,
See Tong Ming, Martyn

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Men In White author responds to Martyn See's blog post

Sonny Yap, one of three authors credited in the publication of Men In White, The Untold Story of Singapore's Ruling Party has responded by email to my earlier blog post. We also briefly spoke on the phone. I reproduced his email in full.

Dear Martyn,

I would like to respond to your posting on ''the glaring omission'' which has been making the round in cyberspace.

I contacted Dr Lim Hock Siew sometime in 2002 or 2003. Unfortunately, he refused to be interviewed and gave me a tongue lashing instead, accusing SPH of being closely linked to the government.

Our research head Leong Ching also paid a visit to his clinic and spoke to him. I asked the former leftist whom I got Dr Lim's contact number from and who knew him very well to explain to Dr Lim that we did try to call him contrary to the claim making the round in cyberspace. Dr Lim admitted that he might have forgotten the call.

Note that although Dr Lim refused to be interviewed, we drew material from his oral history transcript lodged in the National Archives for the book.

Again with the help of our former leftist contacts, I called Dr Poh Soo Kai's home around that time and was told that he had emigrated to Canada. I understand he has been back in Singapore for the last year or so but we were not aware of it.

The project has been so long drawn out that even some interviewees who were invited for the launch forgot that we interviewed them. Janadas Devan forgot that he arranged for me to interview his mother. And he's a much younger man than Dr Lim.

My response :

1. Sonny Yap has now said that Dr Lim was indeed approached twice for Men In White. Dr Lim told me earlier he was never approached. This is obviously a case of "your-word-against-mine" which can go on indefinitely so I'll leave it at that.

2. But let's say we give Yap the benefit of the doubt that he is right. For a book that took 7 years and more than a million dollars (my estimate) to produce, isn't it imperative that the views of a founding PAP member who was detained for 19 years (2nd longest in Singapore's history) be accorded more than 2 attempts (one for interview and one for permission to publish his oral history) over 7 years? Moreover, the authors admitted to Straits Times that many former leftists may not have spoken up earlier. Shouldn't Yap not have attempted to approach Dr Lim again since that one previous call in 2002?

3. To imply that Dr Lim may have forgotten a call in 2002 or 2003 (7 years ago!) is a no-brainer.

4. Leong Weng Kam, the other author of Men In White, was spotted at the launch of poetry collection Our Thoughts Are Free in March this year where both Dr Lim Hock Siew and Dr Poh Soo Kai were present. No attempts were made by Leong to seek their views. (Yap responded over the phone to me that the book would have gone into print by that time).

5. Michael Fernandez, a former detainee and personal friend of Sonny Yap, was interviewed for Men In White and had attended its launch. After reading an advance copy, he wrote in an email to his friends that "the Feb. 1963 "Cold Store" arrests of more than 120 leaders of the leftwing, which practically decimated the effective opposition to the PAP was not given due historical evaluation."

I am not going to ask you to buy the book. It's your hard-earned money. You make your own call.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Ban on 'Rebel' lifted; film by Young PAP under review

Singapore lifts ban on film about opposition politician
(AFP) SINGAPORE — Singapore on Friday lifted a ban on a film about a local opposition politician under revised guidelines introduced earlier in March this year. The Media Development Authority (MDA) announced the lifting of the ban on "Singapore Rebel" on its website, saying the documentary no longer violates the revised Films Act. Previously, the 26-minute documentary about opposition politician Chee Soon Juan was banned because under the old guidelines, it was classified as a "party political film. Before the amendments were introduced this year, the Films Act prohibited the making and distribution of films containing partisan political references or comments. Under the amended Films Act, the documentary "should therefore not be regarded as a party political film," the MDA said in a statement posted on its website. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last year the government accepted that its policies must evolve to remain relevant in the current media landscape in which Internet use has become more widespread.

Singapore has often been criticised by human rights and media groups for maintaining strict political controls despite its rapid modernisation but the government says the strict laws are necessary to maintain law and order -- a pillar of the country's economic prosperity.
Ban on film lifted
by Teo Xuanwei ,Today AFTER more than four years, film-maker Martyn See's Singapore Rebel, a documentary on opposition politician Chee Soon Juan, has finally been approved for viewing here by those aged 18 years and above. While commentators see as "irrelevant" the audience impact of the Media Development Authority's (MDA) lifting of the ban on Friday - given how the 26-minute video has been available online and viewed more than 400,000 times to date - they hail it as a symbolic move that marks the first signs of a more relaxed political space. It follows changes to the Films Act in March, which saw the easing of a decade-long ban on all political films. Those with factual footage, documentaries and recordings of live events are now allowed. Still, just how much clarity did the authority's decision on Singapore Rebel bring to film-makers hoping to explore the new OB markers? In a brief statement, the MDA said the Political Films Consultative Committee (PFCC) "is of the view that Singapore Rebel is a documentary film" falling within statutory exclusions. It, therefore, "should not be regarded as a party political film". While hailing this milestone as having "set the stage for future political films others might want to make", MP for Hong Kah GRC Zaqy Mohamad noted: "Elaborating on the considerations in evaluating films would serve as a guide for future projects, and people would be less worried about making such films." Though Mr Tan Tarn How views the ban's lifting as a "big step forward to a more liberal regime", the Institute of Policy Studies senior research fellow said: "The M18 rating is largely meaningless because in an Internet era, anybody of any age can access the film." And the mere fact that the Government still sets markers shows the amended laws remain "problematic", he argued. Whether this first clearing of a banned film signals "true and genuine liberalisation", in legal counsel Siew Kum Hong's view, will depend on how the PFCC rules on the next three to five new films. Both Mr Siew and Mr Tan also wished the "reasons and thinking process" of the PFCC had been revealed to the public. When asked for elaboration by Weekend Today, Ms Amy Chua, who chairs the Board of Film Censors, noted that the Films Act amendment allowed for more political films that "do not dramatise and/or present a distorted picture". Mr See had "requested his film be assessed as a documentary without any animation and composed wholly of an accurate account depicting actual events, persons or situations", she said.

Approving, law Professor Thio Li-ann said: "Singaporeans should be exposed to the lives and works of Singaporean politicians who are not from the establishment, so they can get a fuller picture of politics here and to make up their own minds ... You cannot be informed without viewpoint diversity." For now, Mr See said he has no plans to screen Singapore Rebel locally or abroad. He intends to submit his other banned film Zahari's 17 Years for evaluation. Only one other film has been referred to the PFCC for assessment - For I am a Young Singaporean submitted by the Young PAP, still under review.
Martyn See's "Singapore Rebel" film gets green light
By Satish Cheney, Channel NewsAsia

SINGAPORE : The government has lifted a four-year ban on the film "Singapore Rebel". The film, about Singapore Democratic Party chief Chee Soon Juan, is now rated M18, which allows those above 18 years old to view it. It is the first political film to be allowed since the Films Act was amended in March. This follows the formation of an independent Political Films Consultative Committee to assess if such films are suitable for public viewing. Even though the film was banned in 2005, "Singapore Rebel" has been extensively viewed by about half a million people online, according to its filmmaker Martyn See. In May this year, Martyn resubmitted the film to the Board of Film Censors for vetting. The Media Development Authority said on Friday that the Board of Film Censors had referred the film to the Political Films Consultative Committee (PFCC) for advice on whether it should be regarded as a party political film under the Films Act. And after reviewing the film, the committee said "Singapore Rebel" is a documentary and not a party political film. Amy Chua, chairman, Board of Film Censors, said: "The government has amended the Films Act to allow for more types of party political films that do not dramatise and/or present a distorted picture, as part of the government's move to further liberalise and expand the space for greater political discourse. The applicant (Martyn See) has requested that his film be assessed as a documentary without any animation and composed wholly of an accurate account depicting actual events, persons or situations. "The PFCC had assessed that the film would fall under the statutory exclusion set out in section 2(3)(e) of the Films Act." It is the first film to be assessed and allowed by the new committee. While the man behind the film has welcomed the move, he still has mixed feelings about the lifting of the ban. Martyn said: "First of all, it is symbolic. Symbolic because it has been watched by half a million people on YouTube and Google Video for the last four years. "In that sense, I am not too elated about it but on the other hand, it is a good step forward in the sense that other future film makers who want to attempt to do the same kind of films will know where the boundaries are." Martyn has no plans to screen the film any time soon. But he is hoping that his other film, "Zahari's 17 Years", about former political detainee Said Zahari, will get the green light as well. - CNA/ms

Censor okays Martyn See film on Chee
Singapore Rebel passed with M18 rating under the revised Films Act
By Sue-Ann Chia , SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT THE film Singapore Rebel, which features opposition figure Chee Soon Juan, was passed by the censors with an M18 rating on Friday - four years after it was banned. Produced by film-maker Martyn See, it is the first political film to make the cut after the Films Act was amended in March to relax the rules on such films. Instead of a blanket ban on what are deemed 'party political films', the law was changed to allow films which fulfil certain criteria, such as those featuring factual footage or live recordings of speeches and events. It prompted Mr See to re-submit his film to the Board of Film Censors (BFC) in May. 'I had no expectations,' the 40-year-old told The Straits Times on Friday, after receiving official word that his film had been passed. His nonchalance stems from his experience, since the film was was barred from being screened at the annual Singapore International Film Festival in 2005. It led to a 15-month police probe over its content - which revolves around Dr Chee and his activities - and his intent in making it. Since then, the film has been uploaded to video-sharing website YouTube and Mr See has become a staunch supporter of scrapping the Films Act. As the film has been viewed 'thousand-over times' online, Mr See views the BFC's decision more as a 'symbolic gesture'. However, he agrees it could embolden other film-makers to make more political films. On Friday, the BFC said it had referred Singapore Rebel to the Political Films Consultative Committee (PFCC), set up in May to vet political films. 'Having reviewed the film, the PFCC is of the view that Singapore Rebel is a documentary film falling within the statutory exclusions set out in section 2 (3)(e) of the Films Act and should therefore not be regarded as a party political film,' the BFC said, in a statement posted on the Media Development Authority's website. The film is the first passed by the PFCC. Another film under review is For I Am A Young Singaporean, produced by the Young PAP, the youth wing of the People's Action Party. The lifting of the ban on Singapore Rebel received a lukewarm welcome from observers and the arts community. Film-maker Tan Pin Pin said it was a step in the right direction, as it gives some clarity on what kind of political films will make the cut. "But more films will have to go through this process to give a clearer picture of where the OB markers are," she said, referring to "out-of-bound" markers that set the perimeter of what is allowed. Ms Tan, however, is highly perturbed by the M18 rating. "It is unclear why it needs to be there. Does it mean that if you're not yet 18, you're not mature enough to watch films on opposition politicians?" Nominated MP Audrey Wong, however, believes it shows a certain liberalisation that films on opposition politicians are more accessible to the public. "More access to information means people have more data and facts to judge for themselves," said Ms Wong, co-artistic director of arts venue Substation. "It might also send the signal to film-makers that it is safe to submit political films." But former Nominated MP and lawyer Siew Kum Hong said it would be better if the BFC listed in detail why the film was passed and viewed as a documentary. "It will a useful guideline for future film-makers," he added. Asked if it signalled that more political films will be given the green light, he replied: "One swallow does not a summer make. Let's wait and see." Still, MP Zaqy Mohammad, who is the Young PAP's vice-chairman, believes the passing of Singapore Rebel is significant as it "paves the way for other films to go through this process". Mr See is now on a mission to get the ban lifted on another of his films, Zahari's 17 Years, on former political detainee Said Zahari.

"The political left story needs to be heard fully," he said, citing the new book on the PAP, Men In White, which includes the account of leftists.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Ban on 'Singapore Rebel' lifted, rated M18

After four and a half years, the Government has lifted the ban on Singapore Rebel today.

It was first banned in April of 2005 whereupon I underwent 15 months of police investigation. After a "stern warning", the police dropped prosecutions, but the ban on the film remained in effect until today.

 Click here for a summary of the saga On May 29th 2009, I resubmitted the film under Films (Amendment) Act. Zahari's 17 Years remains banned under Section 35 of the Films Act. Only the Minister has the authority to lift that ban.

  Govt retains ban on Zahari's 17 Years

From the website of the Media Development Authority (MDA) BFC rates “Singapore Rebel” M18 with Consumer Advice Singapore, 11 September 2009: The Board of Film of Censors (BFC) has rated the film "Singapore Rebel" M18 with a consumer advice of "Mature Content".

 The BFC had referred the film to the Political Films Consultative Committee (PFCC) for advice on whether it should be regarded as a party political film under the Films Act. Having reviewed the film, the PFCC is of the view that “Singapore Rebel” is a documentary film falling within the statutory exclusion set out in section 2(3)(e) of the Films Act and should therefore not be regarded as a party political film.

 "Singapore Rebel" is the first film to be assessed by the PFCC, and allowed following the amendments to the Films Act in March 2009.


Sunday, September 06, 2009

What the left-wing stood for : Dr Poh Soo Kai

In a belated email reply to my questions about his views on the publication of Men In White, ex-political detainee Dr Poh Soo Kai has confirmed that he was never approached by any of its authors.

In 1954, along with other founding members of the PAP, Dr Poh had attended that historic meeting at the basement of Harry Lee Kuan Yew's house on Oxley Road to discuss the PAP constitution. When asked why he joined Lee at that time, he wrote, "you should read the original credo of the party at its founding."

On 2nd of February 1963, the former Assistant Secretary-General of the Barisan Sosialis was arrested and detained under Operation Coldstore. He was released unconditionally at the end of 1972 but re-arrested four years later. After spending a total of 16 years under detention without trial, he was finally released in August of 1982. Now 77, Dr Poh currently resides in Singapore.

In reply to my question on why he and other left-wing members broke from the PAP in 1961, he wrote :

I am of opinion you have framed it incorrectly. The conventional view is that the left wing of the PAP took the initiative to break with the party. (Thus your question why did left-wing split from the PAP to form the Barisan Sosialis.) There has been no convincing evidence to support this view.

The left-wing leadership had campaigned on a genuine anti-colonial, democratic platform. They had called for an end to arbitrary arrest and continued detention, an end to the restrictions on freedom and for observation of human rights, and an end to the obstructions put in the way of trade union unification.

It had invited the government to :

- Release immediately all political detainees;
- Assist in the speedy unification of the trade union movement;
- Grant the right of citizenship and franchise to all those loyal to the anti-colonial struggle;
- And to allow freedom of the press, speech and assembly and organisation.

Of note is that they regarded themselves as part of the PAP. There was no talk of a structural split. Harry Lee had threatened to resign if he lost Anson. The unionists said that was his business. A tougher tone than the statement before Hong Lim by-election.

The PAP leadership before the 1957 annual genaral meeting had decided to discard its powerful left wing. The issue was how, when and the consequences. Consequences both from the Singapore electorate and the Tungku who would much like to replace him.

By 1961 secret negotiations for merger and "the grand design" were well underway between Harry, Tungku and the Colonial masters. The PAP leadership grasped the safety line of merger initiated by the British. He decided to discard his powerful left wing, but the fight was now shifted from release of detainees, freedom, etc to that of merger. The initiative for the split thus was from the PAP leadership, not from the left-wing.

Poh Soo Kai

Review of Our Thoughts Are Free
Vistas of detention... voices of freedom

Thursday, September 03, 2009

New PAP book neglects founding members detained for 19 years

"It was a no-holds-barred report", gloats Richard Lim, one of three senior journalists who were commissioned to write the history of the People's Action Party in a new book entitled Men In White, The Untold Story of Singapore's Ruling Party.

The untold story of S'pore's ruling party
Making of Men In White

In the above reports, the Straits Times goes to great lengths to depict the book as a definitive and objective account of PAP's history, supported by interviews with its opponents - including former communists now exiled in Thailand and leftists (a catch-all byword for staunch anti-colonialists) who had left the PAP to form the breakaway Barisan Sosialis.

But remarkably, the two full page report mentions not a single whiff of Operation Coldstore, the infamous 1963 mass arrests that decimated the entire leadership of the political opposition to the PAP.

Another glaring omission was how the writers failed to contact two founding PAP members, Dr Poh Soo Kai and Dr Lim Hock Siew, who were arrested under Operation Coldstore and detained without trial for periods of up to 19 years. Along with Said Zahari, Lee Tse Tong and Ho Piao, both of them were Singapore's longest-held political prisoners after Chia Thye Poh.


Dr Lim Hock Siew was a founding member of the PAP. But like many of his anti-colonialist colleagues of the PAP, Lim broke away from the PAP and formed the opposition Barisan Sosialis in 1961. On 2nd February 1963, he was arrested and detained under Operation Coldstore. Even after Singapore's independence in 1965, Lim continued to be detained under the Internal Security Act by Lee Kuan Yew's government. On 6th of September 1982, he was finally released, capping a 19 years 8 months incarceration - making him Singapore's longest-held political prisoner after Chia Thye Poh. Dr Lim has confirmed with me that he was never contacted by the writers of Men In White. He is now 78 years old and continues to operate his clinic on Balestier Road.

Dr Poh Soo Kai and Dr Lim Hock Siew in the front row during the launch of Our Thoughts Are Free in March this year.

In a rare press statement released in 1972, nine years into his incarceration, Dr Lim Hock Siew recalled an interrogation session with the ISD where the jailers attempted to strike a "bargain" with the prisoner..

Dr Lim Hock Siew Speaks from Singapore Prison (Date - 18.3.1972)
(through his legal adviser)

(Released by Dr Beatrice Chen, wife of Dr Lim Hock Siew)

I and hundreds of others were arbitrarily arrested on the 2nd of February, 1963. Many are still in prison. Ever since that day, we were, and are, unjustly and arbitrarily detained in prison without any kind of trial whatsoever for over 9 years. We have gone through various kinds of persecution, struggles, hardships and difficulties during this very long period of over nine years of detention in prison. Recently an unusual development took place. On the 13th of January, 1972, I was taken to the Headquarters of the Special Branch at Robinson Road where I was detained for 40 days together with my brother, Lim Hock Koon.

Two high-ranking special branch agents of the P.A.P. regime indicated to me that if I were to issue a public statement of repentance, I would be released. They told me that 9 years had passed since the date of my arrest and that it was time that my case be settled. They admitted that 9 years was a long time. I told them that it was pointless to remind me of this long period.

A week after my transfer to the Special Branch Headquarters, the same two high-ranking employees spelt out the conditions of my release. They demanded from me two things. They are as follows: -

(1) That I make an oral statement of my past political activities, that is to say, "A security statement." This was meant for the Special Branch records only, and not meant for publication.

(2) That I must issue a public statement consisting of two points : -
(a) That I am prepared to give up politics and devote to medical practice thereafter.
(b) That I must express support for the Parliamentary democratic system.

I shall now recall and recapitulate the conversation that took place between me and the same two high-ranking Special Branch agents during my detention at the Special Branch Headquarters.

Special Branch - You need not have to condemn the Barisan Sosialis or any person. We admit that it is unjust to detain you so long. 9 years is a long time in a person's life; we are anxious to settle your case.

Dr Lim Hock Siew - My case will be settled immediately if I am released unconditionally. I was not asked at the time of my arrest whether I ought to be arrested. Release me unconditionally and my case is settled.

Special Branch - The key is in your hands. It is for you to open the door.

Dr Lim Hock Siew - To say that the key is in my hands is the inverted logic of gangsters in which white is black and black is white. The victim is painted as the culprit and the culprit is made to look innocent. Four Gurkha soldiers were brought to my house to arrest me. I did not ask or seek arrest or the prolonged detention for over 9 years in prison without trial.

Special Branch - You must concede something so that Lee Kuan Yew would be in a position to explain to the public why you had been detained so long. Mr Lee Kuan Yew must also preserve his face. If you were to be released unconditionally, he will lose face.

Dr Lim Hock Siew - I am not interested in saving Lee Kuan Yew's face. This is not a question of pride but one of principle. My detention is completely unjustifiable and I will not lift a single finger to help Lee Kuan Yew to justify the unjustifiable. In the light of what you say, is it not very clear that I have lost my freedom all these long and bitter years just to save Lee Kuan Yew's face? Therefore the P.A.P. regime's allegation that I am a security risk is a sham cover and a facade to detain me unjustifiably for over 9 years.

My stand on the Making of a Secret Oral Security Statement for the records of the Special Branch

I cannot and will not make any statement to condemn my past political activities. My past political activities were absolutely legitimate and proper. Whatever I had done or said was in the interest of and in the service of the masses of our people and of our country. Even an accused person need not say anything to incriminate or to condemn himself. Why should I who am arbitrarily detained without any kind of trial for over 9 years be coerced to act as an agent to the Special Branch by making a secret deal behind the backs of the masses? I resolutely reject this demand. Furthermore, I have not the slightest obligation to account my past political activities to Lee Kuan Yew.

A. My Stand on the Demand of Making a Public Statement

I completely reject in principle the issuing of any public statement as a condition of my release. This is a form of public repentance. History has completely vindicated my position. I was arrested for opposing merger with "Malaysia" because I held the view that "Malaysia" was a British sponsored neo-colonialist product and the creation of "Malaysia", far from uniting our people and our country, would cause greater dis-unity and dissension among our people. I believe that the formation of Malaysia would be a step backward and not forward in our struggle for national unity.

I have nothing to repent, to recant or to reform. If anything I have become more reinforced in my convictions, more reaffirmed in my views and more resolute to serve the people of Malaya fully and whole-heartedly. I have nothing to concede to Lee Kuan Yew. By right, he should make a public repentance to me and not I to him.

B. My Stand on the Demand that I must give up Politics in Exchange for my Release

I hold the view that these two demands are self-contradictory, because if there is democracy, I need not give up politics. The fact that I had been detained for over 9 years in order to coerce me to give up politics is proof enough that there is no parliamentary democracy. The question of taking part on politics is a fundamental right of the people.

An indirect offer was made to me to leave Singapore for further studies. I have replied to the P.A.P. regime that if I had to leave the country at any time, it must be on my own free volition and not under coercion by the P.A.P regime.

C. My Stand on the Demand for support for Parliamentary System

I hold the view that to support the P.A.P. regime's so-called parliamentary system would mean giving the public and the masses a false impression that there exist today a genuine parliamentary democratic system in Singapore Island. It is an undeniable and unforgettable fact that comrade LEE TSE TONG who was elected by the people of Singapore in the 1963 General Elections, was arbitrarily arrested and detained without trial soon after he was elected. Subsequently, he was deprived of his citizenship and he is still under detention as a so-called "banishee" in prisoner's clothes in Queenstown prison. The arbitrary arrest and prolonged detention of Comrade Lee Tse Tong affords concrete proof that the so-called parliamentary democracy is a cruel mockery. It does not exist in Singapore Island. Giving support to such a sham parliamentary system means complete betrayal of the people. I will never betray the people of my country under any circumstance. Bitter sacrifice strengthens bold resolve.

Parliamentary democracy does not mean merely casting of votes once in 5 years during election time. Far more important than this is the freedom of thought, the freedom of expression, the freedom of association, the freedom of organisation everyday during the 5 years period and continuously thereafter. I was arrested when the Barisan Sosialis was actively participating in the parliamentary system. For such participation, the colonial government, the Lee Kuan Yew and Rahman regimes had rewarded me with over 9 years of imprisonment. This again amply indicates the utter shamness of the so-called parliamentary democratic system. After over 9 years of detention, I am now asked to give support to their so-called parliamentary system in order to secure my release. I firmly refuse to give my support for the sham and illusory democracy in Singapore Island.

My Stand on the Request by the Agents of the P.A.P. Regime to Concede something to save Lee Kuan Yew's Face

Since history has fully vindicated my stand and my position, Lee Kuan Yew should openly and publicly repent to me and to all other political detainees, now unjustifiably detained in prison. By right a just and proper base for my release from my prolonged and unjustifiable detention (and this equally applies to all political detainees now under unjustifiable detention) should be : -

(a) Our unconditional and immediate release from detention and the complete restoration of all our democratic and human rights.

(b) Payment of adequate compensation to me and to all other political detainees for the prolonged and unjustifiable detention in prison.

(c) The issuance of public apology by Lee Kuan Yew to me.

We are willing and prepared to concede the last two conditions as listed above. We do not believe that an arrogant man like Lee Kuan Yew will apologise or to compensate us.

On the first condition that is to say, our demand for unconditional and immediate release from detention, and for the complete restoration of all our democratic and human rights - we must resolutely say : WE WILL NEVER CONCEDE, BITTER SACRIFICE STRENGTHENS BOLD RESOLVE.

+ + + +

The above was published with permission from Dr Lim Hock Siew.

Dr Lim is currently penning his memoirs.

Dr Lim's speech at the launch of Said Zahari's book in Johor Bahru can be viewed here.

Dr Lim is featured in a 10 minute video tribute to Lim Chin Siong which can be viewed at the Singapore History Museum.

Zahari's 17 Years remains gazetted as a prohibited film. Any possession constitutes a criminal offence.

The Straits Times is a publication of the Singapore Press Holdings, who commissioned the book.

Thanks to Isrizal for finding the above press release.


Further readings

Political detention in Singapore : Prisoner case histories

Detention of journalists and lawyers under the ISA

Surviving long-term detention without trial

The ISA as a political tool