Wednesday, July 04, 2012

An Eulogy

by Martyn See

In 2006, after I had made a documentary on Said Zahari, I found the world of former ISA detainees opened up before me. The late Mr Tan Jing Quee had invited me to his home on several occasions, and it was where I first met Dr Lim Hock Siew.

He was a mild-mannered, gentle and soft-spoken person. But everytime he spoke, I found myself leaning over to hear everything that he had to say. He was precise. He minced no words. He also hardly repeated himself, except for two refrain. One, that he had refused to sign any declaration while under detention for almost 20 years because the ISD had wanted him to confess to something that he never did or advocated. He would use the analogy : They wanted me to say that I'll stop beating my wife.

The other refrain was his utter contempt for Lee Kuan Yew. Even though Dr Lim was a founding member of the PAP and had met Mr Lee several times in his home on Oxley Road, he told me that he had found Lee to be totally untrustworthy very early on. In his one and only interview with the Straits Times, when asked by the reporter if he had read Mr Lee's autobiography, Dr Lim replied,"I read it like Harry Potter." That answer actually went into print in the Straits Times. 

I've heard from sources that MM Lee at that time was unhappy about the piece. And thus it was no surprise that when I submitted Dr Lim's first post-detention public speech, recorded at the launch of The Fajar Generation in 2010, to the Board of Film Censors at MDA, the minister Lui Tuck Yew decided to ban the film, stating that it "undermines confidence in the government." It was the same reason his predecessor Dr Lee Boon Yang had used to ban my earlier film on Said Zahari. A few days after the video was banned, Dr Lim texted me on my phone and asked how many hits it's been getting on YouTube. Like me, he was clearly delighted that the ban had generated more interest.

Dr Lim never dwelt in the past. He kept himself abreast with current issues of the day. He once mentioned to me that he read my blog daily. In his recent speech last year at the memorial of Mr Tan Jing Quee, he challenged the then Presidential candidate Dr Tony Tan to repeat his claims that the ISA had never been used on political opponents. He also brought up the Occupy Wall Street movement and how we are witnessing a revolt against capitalism.

Dr Lim Hock Siew was a hero to me. He exemplified all that which are sorely absent in our political leaders today - the courage to speak one's minds, the tenacity to stand by one's own integrity, a compassion for the plight of the poor, and a quiet humility to his own sacrifices and suffering for democracy and for the people of Singapore.