Tuesday, December 17, 2013

50 years under the PAP's grip

Transcript of speech by Martyn See at the forum 'Freedom of Expression and Democracy' organised by Maruah held on 15th Dec, 2013.

Report by Today.


From Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP's perspective, Operation Coldstore was a resounding success. It was the game-changer. In one fell swoop, the opposition was decimated, the student activists neutralised and the union movement crippled. Yet, there were no big protests on the streets. Suddenly, everything appeared calm and tranquil for the PAP.

 So from 1963 to 1965, Lee Kuan Yew devoted much of his political capital trying to woo the Chinese in the Malaysian Federation. But after a series of setbacks - the 1964 racial riots, the humiliating defeat of the PAP in the Federal elections and the near-arrest of LKY by the Tunku on charges of stirring communal tensions in Malaysia, the Merger came to an abrupt end on August 9th, 1965.

By then, the PAP had become the dominant party in Singapore. The Barisan was floundering and struggling as their leaders remained in prison. So you would think that the PAP would relaxed a little and allow more space for democratic processes (or whatever that was left of it) to play out. Instead, emboldened by the arrests of 1963, the PAP tightened its grip on power. ISA arrests became more frequent, and while the length of detention became shorter (with the exception of Chia Thye Poh), interrogation methods became more violent.

Here's an excerpt of an Amnesty International report published in 1980.

"One case that has come to the attention of Amnesty International is that of Chai Chong, who was tortured by electric shock treatment as well as beaten several times. On other occasions he had filthy rags forced into his mouth and red ants placed on his mattress.

Another detainee is Tan Kim Chong who was arrested on 9 April 1977. During interrogation he was frequently beaten and as a result lost several teeth.

Pang Hee Fat, a detainee arrested in 1967, had his jaw broken as a result of beatings. Because of his ill-treatment he tried to commit suicide by banging his head against the cell wall. During one interrogation session at Whitley Road, Pang Hee Fat's wife, Wong Kui Inn, also a detainee, was brought in to see her husband being beaten. Wong Kui Inn was herself badly treated during interrogation and was subjected to dousing in cold water and electric shocks."

Another detainee, Chan Hock Hua died shortly after he was admitted to hospital during his 7th year of incarceration. "Chan's family have repeatedly alleged that he was suffering from a lacerated liver caused by beatings he had received in the early years of his detention. No newspaper in the Republic was willing to carry an obituary notice from his family."

Another feature of ISA arrests in post-independence Singapore was that it was no longer front-page news. Reports were relegated to side columns of the newspapers. And after some time, the Government began issuing press releases one week or more after the arrests, which presumably offered the interrogators at ISD more time to extract confessions. This practice of delaying announcements continues today.

With the Barisan's boycott, the PAP won a clean sweep in the 1968 elections. From here on, Singapore became a one-party state.

Again, you would think that with the opposition completely neutralised and the PAP firmly secured in the driver's seat, LKY would relax a little and give civil society some breathing space. Instead, the government passed more laws to curtail civil activities.

If you had wanted to start a newspaper, you were prohibited to do so under the Newspaper Printing and Presses Act. If you had wanted to make a political speech in public, you were prohibited to do so under the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act. If you had wanted to start a human rights NGO, you were prohibited to do under the Societies Act. If you had wanted to form a union, you were prohibited to do under the Trade Unions Act. If you had wanted to conduct a march or a demonstration, you were prohibited to do under the Penal Code.

And if all these laws do not deter you, the ISA will. According to the just-published book on Operation Coldstore, the ISD detained 357 people in the 1970s. Although a good number of the detainees were remnants of the Chinese-educated Left - Barisan members and students of Nanyang University - majority of those arrested did not seem to fit into any specific profiles. There were lawyers, construction workers, housewives, businessmen, journalists, factory workers and doctors. The more well - known among them were Lee Mau Seng and Lee Eu Seng of Nanyang Siang Pau, renowned playwright Kuo Pao Kun and his wife Goh Lay Kuan, prominent lawyer TT Rajah and a young journalist by the name of Ho Kwon Ping.

By the end of 1981, all political prisoners (with the exception of Chia Thye Poh) had been freed. Some former detainees I spoke to believe the government had succumb to pressure from the Carter administration at the time.

So with the PAP winning all the seats at the 1980 elections and in absolute control, you would think that there would no use for the ISA. But something happened in the early 80s. A man named JB Jeyaretnam won the Anson by-elections and went on to retain the seat in the 1984 elections, along with Chiam See Tong winning Potong Pasir. At the same time, a group of overseas graduates of elite universities (some with links to exiled student leader Tan Wah Piow) had returned to Singapore armed with liberal education. Among those was current DPM Tharman, who was swiftly summoned to the ISD for questioning, but not arrested. Meanwhile, a motley group of local graduates, lawyers, social workers, theatre practitioners and professionals, energised by JBJ's electoral breakthrough, began taking an active interest in social and political affairs. So the ISD became active again, and coupled with the overthrow of Marcos in the Philippines by a people power movement led by the Catholic Church, an imaginary conspiracy began forming in the head of Lee Kuan Yew, one involving the Catholic Church, Law Society, Workers' Party and what-not - all of which culminated in the Operation Spectrum arrests of 1987.

By the end of 1990, the last of the its detainees - Teo Soh Lung and Vincent Cheng - had been released. So throughout the 90s, again with the exception of Chia Thye Poh, there were no ISA detainees in Singapore.

One suspects that this had to do with Goh Chok Tong not wanting his prime ministership to be marked by political detentions without trial. So Chia Thye Poh was exiled to Sentosa and eventually released in 1998, one year after the 1997 elections where the PAP regained two seats lost in the 91'elections.

At the time of his release, Chia Thye Poh was 57, relatively young in political age. One can only deduce that Chia was detained for over 3 decades on account of 3 factors : That he was young, that he refused to renounce politics and that Lee Kuan Yew was clearing all obstacles to ensure the smooth rise of Lee Hsien Loong's political career.

But lest you think the Goh Chok Tong era marked a gentler and kinder approach to civil liberties, think again. Truth is, at the start of the 1990s, Singapore had no civil society to speak of. There was no internet yet, no Think Centre, no TWC2, no Maruah. Yet, Goh Chok Tong escalated the use of defamation suits. Libel suits were filed and won against international publications, and not to mention crippling damages awarded against JBJ and Tang Liang Hong. Goh had managed to do something that Lee Kuan Yew could not in his time - that is to effectively cripple JB Jeyaretnam's legal and political career.

The Goh Chok Tong administration also passed new laws to further curtail political expression. Some of these laws are known as the 'Chee Soon Juan Laws' - meaning laws which were introduced in response to what Chee was doing at that time. One such law is Section 33 of the Films Act which criminalises party political films. This was introduced after after Chee's SDP produced a video to promote their campaign. In 2005, I was placed under investigation under this law after I produced a documentary on Chee.

Another is the Political Donations Act which bars all political groups from receiving foreign funding. This was introduced after Chee and JBJ had secured funding from the Soros Foundation for their political NGO Open Singapore Centre.

However, one positive by-product of a "Chee Soon Juan policy" was the opening of Speakers Corner in Hong Lim Park in 2000. Of course, the space didn't see much usage until the rules were revised in 2008.

It was during Goh Chok Tong's time that the first arrest of a cyber critic occurred. In November of 2001, police raided the home of ex - journalist Robert Ho after he had posted articles in a forum urging opposition candidates to enter polling stations, just as the PAP leaders did in the 1997 elections. The police classified the articles as attempts to incite violence or disobedience to the law. Ho was arrested twice more in 2002 but he was never charged, although he was sent to the IMH for psychiatric examination.

Then after 9-11 happened, Goh Chok Tong invoked the ISA again, this time on alleged Islamic militants, to almost no objections from the public and opposition parties. These ISA arrests continue today.

Now, moving on to the Lee Hsien Loong era. To his credit, Lee made two very significant concessions to relax political space. First, upon his inauguration in 2004, he waived police permits for indoor talks. This was a big deal. It will come as a shock to you that prior to this announcement, all indoor public talks and performances, political or otherwise, were required by law to seek police approval. A forum such as this would have been illegal before 2004.

But that did not placate Chee Soon Juan, who escalated his campaign of civil disobedience from 2006 to 2008, culminating in a protest against the high cost of living outside Parliament House, which resulted in fines and prison sentences for its 18 participants.

And seemingly in response, Lee Hsien Loong made his second big concession by announcing in 2008 that Hong Lim Park will be opened to demonstrations, protests and audio amplification equipment - all of which were disallowed in the previous 8 years of the Speakers' Corner. On hindsight, had Lee predicted that huge crowds would turn up for Pink Dot or Gilbert Goh's protests, I doubt he would have made the move to liberalise the space.

And sure enough, the government began rolling back the concession. After the first Pink Dot, the police installed CCTVs around Hong Lim Park.

And then in 2009, the government passed the most draconian law in recent memory. The Public Order Act criminalises all unlicensed cause-related activities, even by one person, held outside of Hong Lim Park. Exceptions apply to indoor talks, but I was hauled up for questioning by the police in 2011 after I organised a talk which had featured two foreign speakers. The case was eventually dropped, presumably after I had stated that it was a private function.

From Kuan Yew to Hsien Loong, the government adopts a one-step forward, two-steps back approach in calibrating space for political expression.

Today, there are three tiers of censorship in Singapore. The 1st tier are the legislations such as the ISA, Sedition Act, Films Act, Broadcast Act, Undesirable Publications Act, Public Order Act, civil and criminal defamation and the new weapon of choice - contempt of court.

The 2nd tier of censorship involves a combination of rules and regulations drawn up by government bodies, particularly the MDA. For instance, under the Broadcasting (Class License) Notification, all websites that "propagates, promotes or discuss political and religious issues relating to Singapore" are required to register with MDA. This week we witness a casualty of this regulation with the closure of the Breakfast Network. And we also learn that the definition of websites now includes facebook and twitter.

Finally, the 3rd tier of censorship which is the most insidious. We are seeing less and less of it but it is still prevalent. In Singapore, when politically sensitive subjects are raised in public, there is uneasiness that one's speech and movement is being monitored. The defence against this perceived State surveillance is avoidance - that is to say - stay away from discussing politics in public. This climate of political fear creates a culture of self-censorship.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

1999 LA Times report on release of Chia Thye Poh

Freed Dissident Tries to Understand the Past While Figuring Out Future

Singapore: Man was detained for 32 years under a draconian British colonial law.

SINGAPORE — One evening in November, just before dinner, three security agents entered the third-floor apartment Chia Thye Poh shares with his elderly parents. They had come many times in the past but always with files and questions and a brusque manner. Chia knew right away that there was something different about this visit.

For one thing, they were smiling. For another, they carried no folder stuffed with official papers.

"Congratulations," one of them said. "The restriction order is lifted. You are an ordinary citizen again. Watch the news at 7 and you will hear the announcement."

Then they shook Chia's hand and left.

With that simple declaration, and with no government explanation other than it no longer considered Chia a security threat, one of the world's longest-serving political detainees was suddenly freed.

Now, after 32 years under various forms of incarceration and restriction left him broke, in failing health and haunted by nightmarish memories, Chia is setting out to rebuild his life.

"Of course, the best part of my life is gone. That goes without saying," Chia, 57, said. "But if I had those years to live over, I wouldn't do anything differently. I wouldn't have signed the confession they drew up that I was a Communist because I never was, and I never advocated violence."

Chia, a physics teacher and member of Parliament, was imprisoned Oct. 29, 1966, along with 22 other suspected leftist agitators, under Singapore's Internal Security Act. He was never charged with a crime and never appeared in court. During his first 19 years behind bars--much of it in solitary confinement--the government never made public mention of him nor did it explain why he had been arrested.

The security act is an outgrowth of the Emergency Regulation, which British colonialists used to repress their subjects. It allows for detention without charges or trial for an indefinite period and is renewable every two years.

No Singaporeans have been held under the act since 1989, although Malaysia used a similar law last year to jail former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim. [This statement is not right!]

"I kept telling them, 'If you say I am guilty of something, let me defend myself in court,' " Chia said. "Of course, I never could because of the notorious Internal Security Act. Until it is repealed, we can never have a truly civil or just society."

Chia, a bachelor, is a frail and soft-spoken man of disarming politeness, hardly the sort one imagines as a fiery revolutionary.

His eyesight is failing after years in a dimly lit, windowless cell, and he had a prostate operation last October. He earns a meager stipend as a freelance translator, seldom leaves his apartment in a public housing block and fills his days caring for his parents, both in their 80s, reading and trying to figure out the future.

One thing he, and a lot of others, can't figure out is why a supposedly democratic country as prosperous (per capita annual income of $27,000) and stable (the People's Action Party has ruled since independence in 1965) as Singapore would keep on its books a draconian colonial law designed to circumvent the legal system.

"Our opinion is that it's a sign the regime isn't as stable as it claims," said Somchai Homlaor, secretary-general of the Bangkok-based Asian Forum for Human Rights. "The ruling party is frightened by the idea the opposition might get more seats in Parliament and change national policies, so the [security act] serves as a means of controlling people and maintaining the status quo."

Singapore's Ministry of Information was unable to find any government official willing to discuss the security act with a Western journalist, but clearly, political analysts said, the government does worry about civil unrest spilling over from Indonesia, about frayed relations with Malaysia, about avoiding ethnic tensions at home and about domestic debate that could jar Singapore's pursuit of economic well-being.

Having the security act, they said, is a safety net if crisis threatens. It comforts the Old Guard leaders to know they have a weapon of last resort against those who might upset the stability and tranquillity that have made possible a generation of stunning national development.

"I think the Internal Security Act needs to be looked at and thought about in the future, but I don't know if now is the time," said Simon Tay, a liberal member of Parliament and human rights activist. "Yes, we need to free up Singapore and look at a whole slew of things. What we should discuss first are the things that help the most people and threaten the least."

Chia says he was never physically tortured during his 22 years and six months in prison but sometimes feared that the isolation would drive him mad. He sustained himself not through spiritual beliefs but merely through the simple conviction that everything he had done--including leading an anti-Vietnam War protest--was constitutional and did not require any admission of guilt. He can still recite a poem he found scratched on a cell wall:

Ten years behind bars
Never too late
Thousands of ordeals
My spirit steeled.

Once, in the mid-1980s, security agents brought Chia's father to their headquarters and showed him two typed statements: one an unsigned confession of guilt, the other an order to renew Chia's detention for two more years. They told him that he should persuade his son to sign the confession. Then they spirited Chia out of prison and brought him into the room to sit and talk with his father.

"Don't bother yourself with these things, father," Chia said. "This is my battle."

He pushed the confession aside and scolded a guard: "You should not have done this to my father. You are taking advantage of an old man."

Other times agents would drive Chia through Singapore, trying to tempt him into signing the confession by showing off a city-state that held elections every four years and had been transformed into a gleaming metropolis.

"What do you think of the new Singapore?" they would ask. Chia said he would reply: "It's clean and it's green, but if life is so beautiful, why don't you just let me out of the car to talk to people?"

Unable to break Chia's spirit, the government started easing restrictions on him.

In 1989 he was released from prison and placed in a bizarre form of domestic exile on nearby Sentosa Island, which was being turned into an amusement park. Japan had used the island as a prisoner-of-war camp during World War II, and Chia, who lived in a one-room guardhouse, was Sentosa's only resident.

He was allowed to talk to nonpolitical visitors and curious tourists and to travel to the city to shop. Because the government contended that he was only under "observation status" and not a prisoner, Chia had to pay rent for the guardhouse and buy and prepare his own food.

In 1992 he was permitted to move back into his parents' apartment, and in 1997 he was allowed to accept a fellowship in Germany for politically persecuted persons. Yet he remained barred from making political statements, addressing meetings, belonging to any organization, taking part in political activities or associating with other former detainees.

Chia insists that he bears "no personal grudge against anyone" and rejects any comparison to Nelson Mandela, the nationalist who was freed in 1990 after 27 years in prison and went on to become president of a South Africa ruled by the black majority.

"I am not an ambitious man, nor am I a man of Mandela's stature," Chia said. "Besides, Mandela was at least charged and sentenced to life in a court of law. I never was. But I always knew if I signed that
confession I could never live in peace with myself. I had no choice."

Chia said he does not know what he'll do next.

"When people ask, 'What's your plan?' I can only answer, 'Politics is still in my blood,' but I really don't know. I have my health to worry about, and although I was a young man when I went to prison, I am now old," he said.

And what did he achieve by refusing for 32 years to cave in to the authorities?

"Well," he said, "politically, Singapore is more or less the same. The Internal Security Act is still there. The opposition is still operating under difficult conditions. So in the end, perhaps not a
great deal."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

PAP committed "crimes against humanity"

Speaking at a forum "The Enduring Consequences of Operation Coldstore in Singapore", former political detainee Dr Poh Soo Kai called on the current PAP government to disassociate itself from the actions of its past, which he characterized as "crimes against humanity." He also reaffirmed the call by former political detainees for a commission of inquiry.


Other videos of the event:

Dr Thum Ping Tjin
Prof Michael Hor
Why did Dr Poh trust Lee Kuan Yew?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Martyn See to Yaacob : Lift ban on films featuring ex-ISA detainees

Dear Dr Yaacob Ibrahim,


I am the filmmaker of the two aforementioned films.

1. "Zahari's 17 Years" was gazetted as a prohibited film under section 35 of the Films Act in April 2007 by the then minister Dr Lee Boon Yang.

2. Similarly, "Dr Lim Hock Siew" was gazetted as a prohibited film by your predecessor RAdm(NS) Lui Tuck Yew in July 2010.

3. However, both films are freely watchable by anyone at the following links.

4. Section 35 of the Films Act states that "any person who has in his possession or who distributes any film the possession or distribution of which has been prohibited under subsection (1) shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to both, and the film shall be destroyed or otherwise disposed of as the Minister thinks fit."

5. I am now informing you that I am currently distributing both films via links that appear on my blog singaporerebel.blogspot.sg

6. Please act accordingly - Either adhere to the strict letter of this archaic law, or if your moral conscience allows, lift the ban on the above two films.

7. Said Zahari and Dr Lim Hock Siew's account in the films do not distort history. In fact, they are supported by data released by the Colonial Office records in London and other accounts by fellow detainees of the time, particularly with regards to the circumstances behind Operation Coldstore and the use of physical and psychological torture on political prisoners by the Internal Security Department (ISD).

8. The families of Pak Said, the late Dr Lim and an entire generation of former anti-colonial activists would see your move to the lift the ban as a long-awaited reconciliatory gesture to heal the wounds of detention and exile.

See Tong Ming, Martyn

Friday, November 08, 2013

Police denies permit for March for Minimum Wage

The police has denied a permit for a March for Minimum Wage which was planned for International Human Rights Day, December 10th 2013. I had applied for the proposed route to start from Hong Lim Park and to end at the Istana. The police cited "risk of public order" in rejecting the permit.

My earlier correspondences.



SPF denies March for Minimum Wage permit

My Facebook posts




My previous open letter to the police commissioner


Monday, October 21, 2013

Photos : Will the real Kuan Yew please stand up?

Photos: Lee Kuan Yew's analects
Part l
Part ll
Part lll

From Truly Singapore blog.

"This in essence is what it takes to be a founding father – to put one’s life on the line for the freedom of one’s people. LKY never did that but cooperated with and worked for our British overlords instead just as he cooperated with and worked for Japanese overlords during the Japanese Occupation. LKY never fought for our independence. Instead, he fought to get Singapore married into the Malaysian family which was in effect an exchange of British lordship for Malaysian lordship. That by any definition is not an act of founding. Our eventual independence was thrust upon us without a fight, without us even wanting it. The mere act of receiving independence cannot be considered an act of founding for that would cheapen what it means to found. It was such a day of anguish for LKY that he cried on national TV. The stark contrast between the joy of leaders like George Washington and the sadness of LKY on the occasions of their respective nations’ independences marks the clear difference between true founding fathers and founding father wannabes."

To BBC – Lee Kuan Yew was not Singapore’s founding father
Blind gratitude is not gratitude

Don’t cheapen what it means to be a founding father
Revisiting congratulatory messages on LKY’s 90th birthday – Part 1

Revisiting congratulatory messages on LKY’s 90th birthday – Part 2

Revisiting congratulatory messages on LKY’s 90th birthday – Part 3

Singapore is testament to the vision of Sir Stamford Raffles and Dr Albert Winsemius, not Lee Kuan Yew
Wrong to credit Singapore’s transformation to Lee Kuan Yew

Sunday, September 01, 2013

At least 16 currently under ISA detention

Let us not forget

by Teo Soh Lung

This Hari Raya season we remember that there are at least 16 Muslims still imprisoned without trial under the ISA. At least four of them are now detained for more than 10 years. Haji Ibrahim bin Haji Maidin, Mohamad Anuar bin Margono, Alahuddeen bin Abdullah and Mohd Aslam bin Yar Ali Khan were all arrested shortly after 11 September 2001.

Will they be imprisoned for as long as Dr Chia Thye Poh whose refusal to admit a false allegation that he is a communist cost him 32 years of his life. Or like Dr Lim Hock Siew who was imprisoned for 20 years because he refused to “save the face” of Lee Kuan Yew by making the ridiculous statement that he believed in democracy but would give up politics? By the time both men were released, age and health were against them and they could not re-enter politics. That was probably the intention of the PAP.

It disturbs me that Haji Ibrahim, Haji Ibrahim, Alahuddeen and Mohd Aslam are imprisoned for so long without trial. Are the reasons for their detention akin to those of Dr Chia and Dr Lim? Were they asked to admit that they are members of Jemaah Islamiah and had planned to bomb our MRT station when they are not such members and have no plans to plant any bombs? Or is our government under instructions from the United States not to release them as the States have not released the prisoners of Guantanamo? Or is the reason simply to justify the existence of the ISA?

The government has not kept us informed of the well being of these political prisoners. In 1987, MP Chiam See Tong and NCMP Dr Lee Siew Choh raised the issue of the detention of the alleged Marxist conspirators in parliament. Today, Haji Ibrahim bin Haji Maidin, Mohamad Anuar bin Margono, Alahuddeen bin Abdullah, Mohd Aslam bin Yar Ali Khan, Jahpar bin Osman, Mohamed Rashid bin Zainal Abidin, Muhamad Yassin Khan bin Muhamad, Mas Selamat bin Kastari, Mohd Azmi bin Ali, Abdul Majid s/o Kunji Mohammad, Samad bin Subari, Sahrudin bin Mohd Sapian, Mohamed Rafee bin Abdul Rahman, Abdul Rahim bin Abdul Rahman, Husaini bin Ismail and Abdul Basheer s /o Abdul Kader languish in jail, forgotten by all.

If we care about the rule of law and human rights, we should not forget these 16 political prisoners still languishing in jail.

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Open letter to Police Commissioner on Public Order Act

Emailed to Commissioner Ng Joo Hee and police feedback unit on 6 Aug 2013.


Dear Commissioner Ng,

Criteria for approval of permits for cause-related events

I write to enquire about the criteria by which the Singapore Police Force approves public assemblies which publicise a cause.

On 2nd August, a platoon of actors dressed up in SAF attire had assembled in Raffles Place at lunchtime to perform army drills at the command of the public.

On 6th July, OnePeople.sg organised a Race Against Racism at the outdoor area of the Marina Bay Sands.

In recent years, the Embassy of the Philippines has held their Independence Day celebrations at Hong Lim Park, the last of which on June 16, 2013.

Under the Public Order Act (2009), an assembly (or procession) which require a permit is defined as follows:

A gathering or meeting (whether or not comprising any lecture, talk, address, debate or discussion) of persons the purpose (or one of the purposes) of which is —

(a)to demonstrate support for or opposition to the views or actions of any person, group of persons or any government;

(b)to publicise a cause or campaign; or

(c)to mark or commemorate any event,
and includes a demonstration (or march) by a person alone for any such purpose referred to in paragraph (a), (b) or (c);

My questions are as follows :

1. The army drill event at Raffles Place had involved the use of actors portraying SAF personnel for a commercial cause. Did the organiser National Geographic Channel apply for a police permit? Does the unauthorised use of SAF uniforms also amounts to a possible violation of section 6 of the Official Secrets Act (Chapter 213)?

2. The Race Against Racism event had promoted a religious and racial cause. Did the organisers apply for a police permit?

3. Does the commemoration of Philippines' Independence Day fall within the above definition of assembly? And if so, did the Embassy apply for a police permit to hold their annual events at Hong Lim Park?

4. Why did the police ALLOW these events while having REJECTED the following:

May 2010: Application by Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME) to hold a solidarity walk to raise awareness of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Domestic Workers' Convention.

Dec 2010 : Application by political association Singaporeans For Democracy (SFD) for a march for 30 persons from Hong Lim Park to Parliament House to mark International Human Rights Day.

Dec 2010: Application by HOME for a single lorry vehicle procession to raise awareness of foreign workers who were killed in lorry accidents.

Dec 2010: Application by HOME to distribute flyers to raise awareness of the United Nations' International Migrants' Day.

Mar 2011 : Application by Ms Rachel Zeng for a one-woman march from Hong Lim Park to Parliament House to mark International Women's Day

Jan 2009 : Application by a group which included Ms Rachel Zeng and Mr Seelan Palay for a "Gather For Gaza" peace vigil in Speakers' Corner was denied by NParks and was referred to the police. Would the police grant such applications?

Dec 2011 : Application by Mr Martyn See for an anti-racism rally in Speakers' Corner to mark International Human Rights Day.

May 2012: Application for 'solidarity walk' by HOME to commemorate Labour Day at East Coast Park.

May 2013 : Application by Mr Alfian Sa'at for a one-man demonstration to show "Support for the PAP" on Orchard Road.

May 2013: Mr Jolovan Wham's application to distribute flyers along Orchard Road to raise awareness for issues affecting low wage workers in Singapore.

4. Can you state precisely the security risks involved in each of the above denial of applications, and what steps can applicants take to minimise or eliminate those risks?

This is an open letter as your interpretation and application of the Public Order Act is of concern to the public, especially since Section 14 of the Singapore Constitution guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably.

See Tong Ming, Martyn


Received on 7 Aug.

Dear Sir,

I refer to your email of 6 August 2013 to the Commissioner of Police.

2 The Police have taken cognizance of your feedback and your feedback has been forwarded to our relevant department.

3 Thank you for writing in to us.

Yours faithfully,

Vivien LIM (Ms)
Manager Feedback Unit | Service Feedback Division
Service Delivery Department | Singapore Police Force
Hotline: 1800-358 0000 | E-mail: SPF_Feedback_Unit@spf.gov.sg

Monday, February 04, 2013

50th Anniversary of Operation Cold Store

Yahoo News : More than 400 mark anniversary of political arrests

50th Anniversary of Operation Cold Store 2 Feb 2013
Speech by Dr Poh Soo Kai

Dear comrades and friends,

Dear fellow ex-detainees of February 2 and the waves of repression thereafter till today,

Today, we gather to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Operation Cold Store, launched on February 2, 1963. On that day, The British colonialists, with the connivance of Lee Kuan Yew, arrested over a hundred left-wing activists, including myself. In one fell swoop, they wiped out the entire leadership of the Barisan Sosialis, the main opposition force in Singapore.

First and foremost, I want to take this occasion to pay homage and respect to the hundreds of brave young men and women, cut down, cruelly and undemocratically, in the prime of their lives on 2 February, and in the relentless waves of detentions thereafter.

This is also the moment to honour their families and loved ones, who endured immense pain and sufferings, and provided the unquestioning support throughout those endlessly dark days, months, years, and decades.

Every person arrested in that historical juncture of February 2;
every person arrested from the 1940s to the 1980s;
each and every one has undergone a persecution that is so deep that none is unscarred.

• Today, no one among us, the ex-detainees, should feel that his or her pain, sufferings, and sacrifices had been in vain.
• No one among us should feel any shame or humiliation that the cross had been too heavy.
• No one among us should feel he or she had contributed less than another detainee.
• Today, it is time that we all heal the wounds for we have been vindicated in our youthful pursuit of a better humanity.

For today, the unimaginable has happened. That we can stand, tall and straight, in Hong Lim Park (in this bright sunshine) – exactly 50 years after the sinister mass arrests of February 2 – and say, loud and clear:


Our youthful idealism in 1963 called for an independent, multi-racial, multi-communal nation that is non-discriminatory towards any race or community.

Our youthful idealism called for a nation where the people would enjoy economic dignity and social assurance. A Barisan Sosialis government would not have permitted the current obscene disparity in income between those whom we voted into power and the lowest strata of society. ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Our youthful idealism called for a nation that would enjoy full democratic and human rights. A Barisan Sosialis government would not have permitted any arbitrary detention without trial. ABSOLUTELY NOT.

Can the youth of today in Singapore imagine, the excitement, and magic in the air after World War II, where the youth of all races, on both sides of the causeway, dared to aspire for a united Malayan nation, free from communal politics, free from the Internal Security Act, free from economic humiliation experienced by the poor, the sick, the disabled and the aged?

Yes, our generation, cut down on February second 1963, was the proud inheritor of the People’s Constitution, the Hartal, the Malayan Democratic Union, and the PUTERA-AMCJA coalition that flourished from 1945 till 1948.

Are our youth of Singapore hearing these great names for the first time?

Yes, there existed a People’s Constitution, drafted by John Eber and Willie Kuok of the Malayan Democratic Union.

It was adopted after extensive consultations with the people of all races, up and down, the length and breadth of the peninsula of Malaya, and the island of Singapore.

It is salient to recall the fundamental principles of this constitution. They are:

1. Singapore is an integral and inalienable part of mainland Malaya;
2. There should be equal citizenship rights for all persons hailing from the various communities who qualify to be citizens of this country; the citizenship is to be known as Melayu citizenship;
3. Melayu citizenship is to be given to all persons born in this country and others who had settled continuously in this country for the past 10 years irrespective of whether they came from: Java, Sumatra, the Rhio islands, China, Burma, India, etc.

However, the British colonialists refused to listen to the people’s aspirations.

As a result, the PUTERA-AMCJA coalition, on the suggestion of Tan Cheng Lock, decided to hold a one-day HARTAL which was a call for a peaceful complete stoppage of economic activities on a pan-Malayan scale. On that day 20 October 1947, from Singapore to Malacca to Kuala Lumpur to Penang, workers did not go to work; shops and offices were closed; buses, trains, taxis and cars came to a standstill.

The HARTAL was a convincing proof that all communities, especially the Malay community, supported the non-communal politics that is at the heart of the People’s Constitution.

Imagine in the days when there was no internet or twitter, when even the telephone was an expensive luxury, a Hartal could be organizationally possible in the time span of a week or 2 , with teams of bicycle riders peddling away furiously from towns to villages to kampongs throughout the length and breath of Singapore and Malaya. So invigorated was the youth’s spirit for a People’s Constitution that no logistical problems could deter them.

This mass, non-communal, democratic movement had to be crushed. And so the British colonialists, who returned after World War II crushed this people’s movement with an array of repressive and deceptive instruments:

• With the brute military force of the Emergency of June 1948;
• With the inhuman uprooting of entire villages and their re-settlement in New Villages, which were, in actual fact, concentration camps. The people were bodily searched upon leaving and entering the camps. All communities – Chinese, Indians and Malays - were affected by this Briggs resettlement plan. The policy achieved the insidious aim of the British “to divide and rule’ over their subjects, especially the Malays and the Chinese – physically.

The British “divide and rule” also privileged communal politics and parties to replace the genuinely nationalistic MDU and PUTERA-AMCJA. If any political parties were not communal, then they were treated as subservient to British interests, like the PAP This disastrous communal politics rolled back the democratic and racially non-discriminatory Malayan nation concept of 1947. When the Malaysian merger was proposed in the early 1960s, it was already infested with racialism. The Malaysian merger was a distorted concept and a far cry from the 1947 Malayan model.

David Marshall characterized the phony referendum for the Malaysian merger in September 1962 as offering choices to beat your mother, or your wife, or your sister. Yet, Lee Kuan Yew forced Singapore into such troubled and turbulent waters, just to save himself from the Barisan Sosialis taking power from him, through the ballot box, scheduled in the second half of 1963.

Our generation, cut down by the mass arrest on 2.2.1963, was the proud inheritor of the momentous People’s Constitution, the peaceful and all-powerful economic boycott of HARTAL, the genuinely non-communally inspired parties like MDU, PUTERA, and AMCJA.

But we can be equally proud that we made progressive history in our own rights with

• the Fajar Sedition Trial;
• the May 13 movement of the Chinese middle schools students against compulsory conscription, in other words, they refused to serve as cannon fodder to British imperialist interests in the region;
• the struggle to set up the Nanyang University to popularize higher education;
• the massive trade union struggles for workers’ just pay and compensations.

It was we, who were the bedrock of the pro-people, anti-colonial constitution of the PAP when we founded the party together with the LKY faction.

Looking back, it is ironical that we had legitimized Lee Kuan Yew in those days!

But the people of Singapore were (and are) no fools. They quickly saw that their democratic aspirations were betrayed and, like all responsible people, they used the ballot box to express their dissatisfaction to the PAP-LKY faction then as they did in 2011 and last Saturday in Punggol East . They delivered two resounding defeats to the PAP in the Hong Lim and Anson by-elections of April and July 1961 – for LKY's failure to release political prisoners.


Looking back, it is so ironical that we had legitimized Lee Kuan Yew in those days!

• Had British imperialistic interests not been in the way;
• had there not been the ISA;
• had the playing field been level or BERSIH, as our neighbours across the causeway today called their mass movement for clean and fair elections;
• had there not been OPERATION COLD STORE of February 2,
Singapore’s history could have been different. And another generation of youth may not have to “restart” again today for they could build upon the democratic foundations that we could have laid in 1963.


Thank you, my comrades and friends, my fellow ex-detainees … THANK YOU.

Dr Poh Soo Kai

Dr Poh Soo Kai was one of 133 persons opposed to the terms of Singapore's joining the Federation of Malaysia who were arrested on 2 February 1963 in 'Operation Coldstore'. At the time, he was Assistant Secretary General of the opposition Barisan Sosialis. He was released in December 1973, but was rearrested in June 1976 and is currently held in the Moon Crescent Detention Centre.

After his release in 1973, Dr Poh returned to the practice of medicine but at the same time continued to be outspoken in his criticism of the Government. He attacked the Government for curtailing the application of the rule of law and detaining political prisoners without charge or trial. His rearrest came shortly after the withdrawal of the ruling People's Action Party from the Socialist International. At a meeting of the Socialist International in London in May 1976, the Dutch Labour Party had demanded the expulsion of the PAP for, among other things, violating human rights by detaining political prisoners without trial. A Ministry of Home Affairs statement issued after his rearrest contained the allegation that 'Dr Poh has actively helped pro-communist elements, had established links for collaboration with similarly-minded groups abroad, and was preparing the ground for the revival of Communist United Front activities in Singapore.'

The Government also alleged that he had advised 'student agitators' and had supplied medicine to a communist activist said to have been injured by his own bomb while trying to assassinate a local factory manager. This latter allegation was based on a statement made by a political detainee which was later retracted.

In February 1977, Dr Poh's wife, Grace Poh, was detained for 27 days during which she was held in solitary confinement and subjected to a series of round-the-clock interrogations for periods of up to three days.


50th Anniversary of Operation Cold Store, 2 February 2013
Speech by Teo Soh Lung

Good afternoon friends, ladies and gentlemen.

I am privileged to be given this opportunity to speak at this historic event and in this historical Hong Lim Park. I want to thank:

1. The organisers for working so hard in making this commemoration happen.
2. Mr Tan Kok Fang and his team for putting together a very important publication We Remember 2 February 1963 which is available to all of you today.
3. The contributors to this impressive publication for putting their thoughts down for posterity.
4. The survivors of Operation Cold Store and the survivors of all subsequent operations who are here today. Thank you.

The ISA is a cruel and draconian law which allows the government to imprison anyone without trial for as long as it wishes.

The Late Dr Lim Hock Siew had this to say about detention without trial.

“.. detention without trial is not a peaceful action. It is an act of violence. They come to see you not in the daylight with an invitation card. They come in the morning, 4 am. That is the time when decent people sleep, and when political terrorists and tyrants strike. And when you are detained, you are subjected to all kinds of mental and even physical torture.”

The result of Operation Cold Store was to instil great fear in Singaporeans. Wave after wave of arrests throughout the sixties, seventies, eighties and even the turn of this century, silenced the population and enabled the government to enact oppressive laws and policies that curtailed our fundamental freedoms and human rights. Instead of a government which listens to the people and carry out the wishes of the people, we have a government that did what it wanted to do. Those who opposed its plans were put away in jails, sued for defamation and charged for frivolous offences.

Periodic arrests throughout the decades divided the nation and even divided those who were detained. Detainees kept to themselves after their release. Few would speak about their traumatic experiences, not even to their children and grandchildren. The fear that telling their stories would expose them to rearrests and bring shame and discrimination was real. To be critical of the government and to be involved in politics became synonymous to inviting trouble. How often do we hear of parents telling their children to stay away from politics. And that was how Singaporeans became depoliticised.

When I was in prison in 1987, my only knowledge of the ISA dated back to the arrests of the so called Euro Communists in 1977. In that year, my employer, G Raman and several of his friends in the legal profession were arrested. According to DPM Teo Chee Hean, more than 800 were arrested in the 1970s. Though I was strongly of the view that Raman and others were unjustifiably detained, the majority thought otherwise. Their favourite rebuttal to my defence of those arrested was “they must have done something that you and I do not know”.

Raman and his friends were released after a year or so. Like detainees before them, they never tell their stories because the fear of rearrests was real. In all probability, they also felt that no one would believe in their innocence.

In prison, I was threatened with indefinite detention and reminded of Chia Thye Poh who was then still in prison even after 21 years. I was in the dark as to why he was detained and that itself generated even more fear. If the government could imprison a person for so long, how can anyone be sure of a release?

Today, people are beginning to be aware of Operation Cold Store because more and more literature of that era is emerging. Back in the 1970s, I knew almost nothing about those arrested in the 1960s. The first time I heard about Said Zahari was when I saw a friend, the late Francis Khoo, selling a little collection of poems by Said Zahari. The title was Poems from Prison. I bought a copy. I took another copy from him and attempted to sell it to a priest. I can still remember the shocked look on his face. He shook his head, refusing to even touch the little book and walked away hurriedly.

That sadly, was the political climate of the early 1970s. Taking advantage of the silence of released detainees and the fear of the ordinary citizens of being arrested under the ISA, the PAP governed without restraint.

We are very fortunate today that despite the devastation caused by Operation Cold Store, we still have survivors like Dr Poh Soo Kai, Said Zahari, Michael Fernandez, Tan Kok Fang and others. They have not only survived the darkest days of Singapore’s history, they have survived to tell their side of history. They have spoken and written books in the last decade, telling us the contributions of their generation which the PAP government have deliberately distorted and maligned.

And so to all of them and to all the survivors of Operation Cold Store, I say thank you for liberating us from the British colonial masters and thank you for sacrificing the prime of your lives in pursuit of a dream for a Malaya, embracing Singapore and building a land that believes in equality, democracy, multi culturalism and human rights.

Although that dream for a united Malaya was interrupted by Operation Cold Store and wave after wave of arrests under the ISA, I am confident that the decades of silence is over. In the last ten years or so, the internet has returned the voice to Singaporeans. Thanks to you, the young people of Singapore, this voice is getting louder and louder and it will not be silenced again.

Today, there are about 19 people in prison under the ISA, some of them for more than 10 years. This is wrong and I call upon the government to either charge them in open court or release them immediately. We cannot be expected to trust the reasons for their detention, when we ourselves have been wrongfully detained.

The abolition of the ISA is long overdue. Malaysia has abolished this law and I cannot believe that Singapore which possesses the most sophisticated weapons and spyware in Asia cannot do without this law that has caused and continues to cause untold miseries to thousands of detainees, their families and friends and silenced the people of Singapore. And so I call upon the government to abolish the ISA.

It is my hope that all those who have been imprisoned under the ISA will one day receive a public apology from the Government of Singapore. It is important that we recognise the invaluable contributions of an earlier generation of Singaporeans who fought selflessly for our country. An admission of how badly the ISA has been abused will be the beginning of a proud history of Singapore.

Last but not least, I call upon the government to let all exiles return to Singapore without conditions. They have sacrificed their youth for our freedom and they have every right to return home to the embrace of their families.

Thank you.




On 23 December 2012, I visited Said Zahari at the ground floor apartment in Puncak Alam 3, Selangor, Malaysia, where he lives with his daughter Riz and grandsons. As this day was a Sunday, his son Roesman and his family were also there paying their weekly visit to the grand old man.

Said came into the tiny cozy living room in his wheelchair, a broad smile on his face. We were instantly relieved at his cheerful and hearty appearance though we had been given the good news a few days earlier – that he had been discharged from hospital where he had been warded for two mild strokes.

On 16 Dec 2012 at about 8.30 a.m., a text message had appeared on my cell phone informing me that Said Zahari had a second stroke and was in Sungei Buloh Hospital, ward 4A, bed 24. The message was from his son Roesman.

Not knowing his actual conditions, I was anxious and at once, transmitted Roesman’s message to Syed Husin Ali, who fortunately was able to see Said that evening at about 7.45 p.m. After the visit, Husin emailed to say:

"Visited Said this evening. He can speak well, as usual, his mind is alert n memory good. But he cannot move his right hand n leg. He looks normal n not weak."

As good luck would have it, the following day of 17 December at about 10 p.m., I got a text message from Said’s son, Roesman that Said had just been discharged and had gone home.

During our visit on 23 December, Said was very happy and touched to know that many comrades and friends – and we went through their names - were concerned about his condition when they learned of his recent strokes. Among them, the Monsooners and not least was, of course, Soh Lung on behalf of friends in Singapore, who enquired:

"(Got) message from Roesman. Has anyone visited Said? How is he?"

In commemorating the 50th Anniversary of 2 February 1963, Said noted sadly that there are not many of us around any more.

Nevertheless, he has no regrets to have stood up for the editorial independence of Utusan Melayu. He knows today that the historic Utusan strike of 20 July 1961, which lasted for 93 days, continues to inspire the young people of today, who cannot imagine this glorious past of Utusan, given the paper it has become today as a tool of UNMO. This was evident from readers’ posting in Pusat Sejarah Rakyat’s facebook when PSR commemorated the Utusan strike on 20 July this year with a newspaper clipping of that time showing Said with other strike workers. In fact, Said had gleefully gone into Pusat Sejarah Rakyat’s facebook with the help of his grandson, and registered his “like”!

Said and I continued to dwell on the past, about Said’s great friendship with Lim Chin Siong. Recalling his passing on 5 February 1996, Said sighed and wished that if only Lim Chin Siong had lived to see today when the youth on both sides of the Causeway are stirring and moving to a new consciousness. Undoubtedly in early 1963 with Lim Chin Siong in charge of Barisan Sosialis and Said Zahari newly elected to head Partai Rakyat Singapura, this personal and political bond between these two men from the Chinese and Malay community respectively was too much of a threat to Lee Kuan Yew. Both men needed to be ruthlessly put away under Operation Cold Store on 2 February 1963.

In like manner, Said recalled his friendships with Ahmad Boestaman, the great Malay nationalist leader as well as A.M. Azahari of Brunei whose armed revolt provided the excuse for the British colonialists to launch Operation Cold Store under which we were all arrested.

Our conversation went on and on, to the present in Malaysia and Singapore. Said is buoyed by the recent developments and salutes the youth on both sides of the Causeway for giving us hope and cheers in our old age.

25 December 2012


Lee Tse Tong

Lee Tse Tong was arrested on 8 October 1963. He was held under the Internal Security Act until November 1967. In that month, he was released after bringing a successful application for a writ ofhabeas corpus but was immediately rearrested under the ISA. He was then deprived of his citizenship on the grounds that he had no proof that he was Singapore-born. In February 1968, he was served with a Banishment Order and transferred to Queenstown Remand Prison 'awaiting deportation'. Since 1975, when the Banishment Order was dropped, Lee has been held under the Internal Security Act. He has now been imprisoned without trial for more than 16 years.

A former secretary of the now banned Singapore Busworkers' Union, Lee Tse Tong was elected to the Singapore Assembly for the Barisan Sosialis in the elections of 1963. His case has been taken up by the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). At its conference in Caracas in 1979 the IPU passed a resolution urging the Singapore Government 'to release Mr Lee Tse Tong immediately and unconditionally'.


Chng Min Oh

English translation of speech here:

Chng Min Oh was arrested on 3 August 1970. He was Chairman of the Goldsmiths Employees Union. He was held in solitary confinement for the first six months of his detention. In August 1978, he was transferred to Whitley Road Holding Centre for interrogation. While undergoing interrogation at Whitley Road, he was assaulted and forced to pour his urine over himself. In protest at these conditions, he went on a hunger strike. By late September 1979, he had lost 40 pounds in weight and both he and Ho Koon Kiang, another prisoner who had been subjected to similar treatment, were transferred to Changi Prison Hospital. Chng Min Oh later complained of multiple injuries including damaged ears resulting in a loss of hearing. In November 1978, Chng was returned to the Moon Crescent Detention Centre.

How the press reported it :

STRAITS TIMES - A report with no byline and a glaring inaccuracy. "Operation Cold Store was the British colonial government's sweep of communist elements in both countries." With that sentence, Lee Kuan Yew and Tunku Abdul Rahman dodge culpability. Note: Many detainees of Operation Coldstore remained in detention even after Singapore's independence in 1965.

LIANHE ZAOBAO - It depicts Coldstore as a joint operation between Singapore, Malaysia and British Colonial governments. And ends with a quote to abolish the ISA, which was the rallying call at yesterday's event.


Read more :

HARD TRUTHS - Too Hard To Swallow
A renewed call from the past to abolish ISA