Friday, 5 February 2016

Part of Lim Chin Siong’s Q&A Posthumous Manuscript

Part of Lim Chin Siong's
Q&A Posthumous Manuscript

(Formerly translated as Fragments of Lim Chin Siong's Q&A Posthumous Manuscript)

作者原文(华文):《林清祥<答问>遗稿片段》

Translated by Ang Pei Shan, Yong Siew Lee and Chai Chean Nee

5 February 2016

[Text below (including Editor's Notes and captions) is translated from the original version in the Chinese language published at Sahabat Rakyat blog on 2 August 2014. In the case of any discrepancy between the English rendition and the original Chinese version, the Chinese version shall prevail.]

(Picture above) The portrait of Lim Chin Siong by an artist in the 1960s.  The portrait often appeared in the premises of left-wing trade unions as well as the left-wing political party - Barisan Sosialis in Singapore. Such phenomenon signified the command of respect and support for this eminent leader from among the anti-colonial democrats.
(Picture below) Some pages of Lim Chin Siong’s handwritten manuscript in Chinese, appearing in My Youth in Black and White by Lim Chin Joo.

[Editor’s Note]: In July 1992, the Current Affairs Division of Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) extended an invitation to Lim Chin Siong (who departed on 5 February 1996) for an interview. But he did not accept the invitation after due consideration.

He decided to put down in writing his responses to the questions intended to be raised by the interviewer from SBC. He also delved into some historical issues encountered in the early years of Singapore and Malaya, relying solely on his memory and the material available to him.

In July 2014, Lim Chin Joo, the younger brother of Lim Chin Siong, published some selected parts of Lim Chin Siong’s  Q & A posthumous manuscript (handwritten by Lim Chin Siong), as Appendix 2 of his book entitled My Youth in Black and White(我的黑白青春).

A Singapore enthusiastic web user produced an electronic copy of the manuscript, and forwarded it to Sahabat Rakyat. We uploaded it to our blog as reading, reference and research material for the readers as well as scholars interested in exploring the true historical aspect of Singapore and Malaya, particularly the history of the anti-British colonial struggle during the 1950s and 1960s.

Earlier on , we published in our blog a two-part article (in Chinese) written by Chng Min Oh,  entitled “Exploring The Problems Encountered by Singapore Left-wing Workers’ Movement in 1960s”- Part 1: In Commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Feb 2 Incident”, and “Part 2 : In Commemoration of the International Labour Day”. Chng is a registered TCM physician. He was a former trade unionist.

Since then there has been news spreading around in the Singapore left-wing circle that “Lim Chin Siong did leave behind his memoirs before passing on”. One of the former left-wing leaders intimated to his close friends that, in the course of performing his duty, he personally helped Lim Chin Siong to proofread at least four times the typewritten manuscript of his completed memoirs. He claimed to have a vivid memory of some salient points of the memoirs. The release of Part of Lim Chin Siong’s Q&A Posthumous Manuscript, to some extent, bears testimony to the veracity of this piece of news.

We decided to publish Lim Chin Siong’s Posthumous Manuscript, to satisfy the aspirations of the genuine “founding generation” of Singapore. The founding generation was oppressed and marginalised by the PAP ruling class. It was a special gift to Singaporeans in conjunction with the 49th anniversary of the founding of Singapore.

Singaporeans ought to ponder carefully with profound reflection on this special occasion what Lim Chin Siong had said towards the end of his memoirs. In the last paragraph of his Posthumous Manuscript, he said that “There will be no PAP without Malayan Democratic Union (MDU)”.

Appended below is the full text of Part of Lim Chin Siong’s Q&A Posthumous Manuscript published in Appendix 2 of Lim Chin Joo’s book entitled My Youth in Black and White.

Apart from the scanned copy of Lim Chin Siong’s posthumous manuscript at the beginning of this article, extracted from My Youth in Black and White, other illustrations and captions are added by our blog’s editor.



As a student in 1952, what were your aspirations?

I was born in 1933, when the Great Depression entered its 5th year. This economic downturn had great impact on various fields. It lasted for quite some time. Obviously, Singapore was also affected. Hence, when I was 3 years old, my parents moved from Telok Ayer Street, Singapore (my birthplace) to Pontian Kechil in Johor, where I spent my childhood.

In 1937, the Marco Polo Bridge Incident (July 7 Incident) broke out in China, it sparked off the Sino-Japanese War. In 1942, I was only 9 years old, studying in Standard 3 class in Pei Chun Primary School, Pontian Kechil. In the same year, Japan invaded Malaya. The Japanese colonial rule lasted 3 years and 8 months.

In 1938 or 1939, my only uncle (my dad’s younger brother) responding to the call initiated by Tan Kah Kee(陈嘉庚), headed for China to become a volunteer in the anti-Japanese colonial struggle. I was only 5 or 6 years old then, my uncle always held me and sang anti-Japanese and patriotic songs, like “China will not perish”  (“中国不会亡”), and ”Oh! the beautiful Chinese nation” (“美哉,美哉中华民族“).

In the primary school that I attended, Sun Yat-sen’s portrait was hung on the wall, with the couplet “The revolution has yet to succeed.  Comrades, you must struggle on”. Every day we sang the “Three Principles of the People“…. We also hoisted Kuomintang flag (Blue sky with a white sun). My hazy idea about patriotism was nurtured during that period of time. But of course, my devotion was to China then, and I hated the Japanese for occupying the Chinese territory.

During the Japanese Occupation which lasted for 3 year and 8 months, my father was running a sundry shop, and our residential house was just next to the shop. My house was the first one to be burnt down completely. We suspected that the fire was started by some customers who were unable to pay their debts.

Subsequently, my whole family fled from home, and went into hiding in the jungle, together with other town folk. I learned to rear pigs and poultry. I tended the store and did farm work.

I barely managed to escape arrest by the Japanese soldiers. I witnessed the incident where my dad’s friend fled to my house, when his wife and children were brutally murdered by the Japanese soldiers. [He has a son now a prominent figure (with the surname Ang) in Singapore]. These true live stories contributed to the development of my political awareness in my early years.

After the Japanese surrender, Pei Chun Primary School in Pontian Kechil resumed classes a few months or about one year later. In 1946, I continued my study in the primary school. I joined standard five class and completed my primary school education within two years. I was by then 15 years of age. That was the year 1948.

During that period, I read most of the popular biographies of the numerous Chinese national heroes. In school, apart from singing the songs of the “Three Principles of the People”, we also sang such songs as “Fight Back to the Northeast Provinces” and “Down with Red Imperialism”. I was even appointed as the school representative to deliver an anti-communist speech entitled “Draw Lessons from the Bitter Experience” during the Double-Ten Day Celebration (Editor’s Note: The Double-Ten Day, which falls on 10 October, was the national day of China before 1949 when it was under the rule of China Kuomintang government.[updated on 10th Feb])

Since I came from a poor family, after completing my primary school education, I had to work as an assistant for my dad’s friend running a foreign agency (洋土库). After a year or so, I left for Singapore early or mid 1949. I was admitted to the Catholic High School as a Junior Middle One student. I was admitted to the class meant for later half of the year, thereby skipping the class for the 1st half of the year. (Editor’s Note: Under the old education system then, there were 2 half-year terms in a year. A bright student could skip the first half-year term and went straight into the 2nd half-year term.)

Surprisingly, my performance in class was pretty good. In 1950, I switched over to the Chinese High School (华侨中学). I was admitted to Junior Middle II A Class. I had by then reached the age of 17. (Certain quarters, either being ignorant of the local history or harbouring ill intent, repeatedly and maliciously accused us of infiltration into secondary schools as over-aged students, for the purpose of getting involved in political activities.)

1949 and 1950 were the historic years. The Afro-Asian anti-colonial movement swept across the world. On 1 October 1949, the People's Republic of China came into existence.  The school went into ecstasies. Everyone was talking about it and singing away. With tears of joy, they welcomed the dawn of the new history of mankind.

Chinese students were the most suppressed lot and they were being treated like dirt. In the circumstances, they were akin to slaves shackled under the yoke of colonialism. They had bitter feelings. Their emotional outbursts were understandable.

I am a human. I was then an energetic teenager of about 17 or 18 years of age. I went through varied bitter experiences that my peers had not undergone in the normal circumstances. It was only natural that I lost no time in getting myself engulfed in the tide of history.

During this period of time, I sort of neglected my study by way of immersing myself in reading voraciously and indulging in activities other than attending school. I read a lot of novels and poems written by Russian writers. I buried myself in books on philosophy, history and politics.

I then realised that as a human being, one should not only live for oneself. If the country or nation and the people are yet to be free, an individual will not be free either. If a nation or the people wish to be free, the most oppressed and the most exploited must rise and be united, and struggle till the end. Perhaps you may say that, as a consequence of my reading those books, I started to be slanted towards socialism and accepted it as a beautiful vision of humankind.

I firmly feel that, no person in his right senses will reject the “realisation of a society where there is no exploitation and oppression of man by man, no poverty and illness; where everyone is equal, free and given the opportunity to give full play to his potential; from each according to his ability, and to each according to his needs”.

Accepting socialism, even accepting the beautiful vision that communism projects in theory, is entirely different from actually becoming a member of a Communist organisation.

Communism was one of the two main ideologies in the 1950s. It was extremely popular and generally accepted by the third-world countries. In Malaya (including Singapore), the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) was the political party having the longest history, and it took the staunchest position in opposing British colonialism.

Before the emergence of numerous political parties with strong nationalistic inclination, a large number of patriotic sons and daughters of this country had joined CPM in its struggle for freeing the nation from the shackles of the British rule.

Against this backdrop, I began to get involved in activities of the Anti-British League (ABL) towards the end of 1951.  Soon I became a cell leader. On reflection, I would pride myself on having responded to the call of the times, by involving myself in the anti-British movement, instead of joining the pro-British activities.

To sum up, my aspiration at that time was to rid the country of the British rule, and to strive for the realisation of an independent, free and democratic Malaya.

In a nutshell, I have always been reminding myself that I must be able to tell myself when I take my last breath:

Here lies an ordinary soul. Throughout his life, he has been trying all his best to dedicate himself to the most beautiful ideal of mankind, namely, to strive for the realisation of a peaceful and democratic society, where there is no exploitation and oppression of man by man, no poverty, no illness; where everyone is allowed to give full play to his potential!

These words are reminiscent of the time-honoured statement by the hero in the well-known Russian revolutionary novel How the Steel was Tempered.

How did you assume leadership of the trade union movement in Singapore?

In 1951, I was studying in Chinese High School (华侨中学) Junior Middle III class. Towards the end of the year, I took part in the boycott of the Junior Middle III Examinations. As a result, I was expelled from school by the Ministry of Education. Before that, I had been detained by the Special Branch for about one week.

After leaving school, I led a wandering life. I hardly appeared in public. I had spent overnight in almost every nook and corner of Singapore. Those days, once you were blacklisted by the Special Branch, your personal liberty would be at stake.

I had been a primary school “teacher” in several schools. I used a different name “Mr Yu”.  In the later part of 1953 or early 1954, on the recommendation of a bus driver, I became a paid secretary in the employ of the Singapore Bus Workers’Union, Changi Branch. I was then appointed secretary of the Paya Lebar branch. After that, I became the secretary of the Malaya Spinning Workers’ Union.

Around this time, I got to know Mr Lim Chin Kok(林振国), Chairman of the Amalgamated Malayan Pineapple Workers’ Union cum Chairman of the newly-formed Singapore Factory and Shop Workers’ Union (SFSWU). Mr Lim Chin Kok and his colleague Mr Yang Gaojin were quite impressed with my performance in the two unions. They invited me to take up the post of Secretary-General of the Unions.

I then came into contact with Mr Lee Kuan Yew. He was introduced to me by some university students from the University of Malaya and some Chinese secondary school students. I was invited to attend some of the meetings held in the basement of his house at Oxley Road. We discussed about the formation of People’s Action Party (PAP). The political party PAP was formed by the end of 1954.


(Picture above) Lim Chin Siong and Lee Kuan Yew were comrades-in-arm in the founding of PAP.  The objective of the party was to put an end to the British colonial rule in Malaya (including Singapore).

However, after coming into power in 1959, Lee Kuan Yew threw overboard the PAP founding manifesto. He opted out of the mainstream of the anti-colonial movement. He then collaborated with the British colonial masters and right-wing elements of the Federation of Malaya. He wiped out all his comrades-in-arm who had fought side by side with him in the seizure of the political power. He eliminated anti-imperialist and anti-colonial patriots.

These were bitter experiences that Lim Chin Siong went through in the relentless struggle for national liberation and democratic revolution in Malaya. Coupled with “two incidents” he encountered subsequently, he had been demoralised since then. (See his answer to the question: “What impact did you have on Barisan Sosialis?”)

The first general election under the Rendel Constitution was held in April 1955. At the ceremony introducing PAP candidates for the general election, performed at the office of the Postal Workers’ Union, Lee Kuan Yew announced that I was to be one of the candidates.

I won the election and became the legislative assemblyman for Bukit Timah constituency. If you wish to know why I was made one of the leaders of the labour movement, we have to recall the history of the Singapore labour movement during the period from the declaration of the Emergency in June 1948 to the year 1954.

In June 1948, after the promulgation of the Emergency, many “militant” trade unions were disbanded. A large number of trade union officials were either arrested or banished. The surviving trade unions were all yellow unions. They were allowed by the British authority to operate as usual because they catered to the interests of the British capitalists and local manufacturers.

These unions were least concerned with the interests of their members. Many workers were reluctant to join them. Secret society members seized the opportunity to lord it over the workers. They collected “protection money” from the workers. At the same time, they blackmailed the bosses into paying ransoms. Workers had nowhere to air their grievances.

The implementation of the Rendel Constitution indicated that the British were compelled to make some political concessions. The political environment was slightly more liberal. Many new trade unions emerged like mushrooms after the rain. These unions (such as SFSWU) were in a better position to look after the interests of workers. Gradually they gained the support and the trust of the workers.

During the election campaign in 1955, the emotions of the public ran high. They broke through the reign of “white terror” created since the implementation of the Emergency in June 1948. The fear created among the workers were gradually removed. They were brave enough to stay united. They then joined worker-friendly unions in the struggle for their legitimate interests.

In the general election, I was rather vocal and spoke up for the people. I managed to win the trust of the people, particularly the labouring masses and workers. In their eyes, I was the genuine popularly-elected representative, and they regarded me as the hero who was ever ready to sacrifice for them.

At the time when I joined SFSWU, the membership of the Union was only about 1,000. In less than a year, it was rapidly increased to 30,000. The Union became one of the strongest unions at that time.  In the absence of newly-developed historical conditions, without a sufficiently large number of trade unionists, as well as union office bearers who dared to make sacrifices and to act in unison, any effort on my part as an individual would have been futile.

Of course, I have some unique personal qualities in me. For instance, I am prepared to sacrifice; I can get on very well with workers. After being elected a member of the legislative assembly, I was still prepared to sleep on a bench in the union premises. I always had the interests of the workers at heart. I was able to unite like-minded people to work together. These unique personal qualities in me made me well equipped to be a trade unionist.

In the same year, the ringleaders of 18 secret societies attended the meeting organised by Ye Zhaofu at the office of Yap Association, Cecil Street. He invited me to attend the meeting. I accepted his invitation and went to the meeting alone. The purpose of the meeting was about “demarcation of spheres of influence” among various factions of secret societies.

After the triad meeting, a large number of workers who fell into the clutches of secret societies, became our union members. Those underground factions who lost their “territories” and unable to collect “protection money”, harboured an intention to mount attacks on me.

Those days, quite a number of secret societies with Tong Meng Hui or Hong Men Hui background, still had a sense of justice in them. They stood by us when others were out to sabotage our trade union movement.

Thus, the trade union movement today is no comparison to the one in the old days, since trade unionists now do not have to face such formidable challenges!

What were your objectives in getting involved in the trade union movement?

My objectives were none other than:
  • To raise the awareness of the workers, and to unite them to fight for their legitimate rights (including wages, working conditions, holidays, sick leave, bonuses, etc.)
  • To abolish unreasonable labour laws through uniting the workers into a formidable force。
  • To raise the political awareness of the workers with a view to waging a common struggle, for achieving an independent, free, peaceful and democratic Malaya.
  • In concrete terms, to call upon the workers to join the PAP at the material time, so that the party could win the election.
During the period 1945-1956, as a trade unionist, did you commit any error?

I am just a mortal, a product of history.  As an individual, I am helpless in the face of the inevitable imprint of history on me. Like others, I am subject to historical limitations. Certainly, I may make mistakes, and I have made mistakes.

At the inaugural congress of SFSWU, I reminded the trade union officials that they must always try to resolve problems through negotiations, instead of simply staging a strike. It is beyond doubt that we made some mistakes in the past. But it will not be in line with the objective reality, if one has the jaundiced view that the left-wing trade unions and trade unionists were born to be militant and deliberately stirring up industrial unrest.

We should not simply look at the past in the present-day context. Do not simply draw conclusion about the past. That might be just like criticising grandparents’ method of educating their children as outmoded as well as harmful to the children’s mentality, when compared to the ways parents educate their children today.

The trade union movement today requires, at times, the backing of the government, supported by a couple of legislation favourable to workers. The present day employers are rather open-minded.  Not only do they refrain from obstructing, some of them even proactively persuade the workers to organise themselves. They provide training for employees, provide benefits, and even share profits with employees… They try various means to increase productivity.  The environment today also makes employees realise the need to co-operate with the employers, to strive for productivity, and help each other out.

The situation back in 1950s was totally different. One of the main causes of Hock Lee Bus Company strike was, that the employer did not allow the workers to form a trade union. Instead, the employer hired new workers to sabotage the union. The company formed its own trade union for its workers, merely to stage confrontation with the workers on strike.

Those days, many employers even stealthily employed secret society members and special branch officers to beat up the trade union officials and arrest the trade union leaders. If I remember correctly, those days, Carlsberg aerated water manufacturers even introduced regulations prohibiting female workers from getting married.

If workers decided to fight for pay rise of just one cent, it could only be achieved through collective bargain.  This is the objective historical reason why there were so many strikes back in those days.

I remember once the unionised workers in Yeo Hiap Seng factory went on strike, demanding for pay rise.  A triad leader by the name of Chai, operating in the areas of Pasir Panjang and Bukit Timah, came forward to have negotiations with me.

About the riots in 1954 and 1955

If I understand it correctly, you are referring to the incident which happened on 13 May 1954. Some Chinese secondary school students applied for exemption from national service or conscription.  Clashes broke out between the students and the police in front of the Governor House near Penang Lane.  There was then also the strike involving Hock Lee Bus Company. The strike turned into riots on 12 May 1955.

Before delving into the subject, I think we should have a clear understanding of the meaning of “riot”. The literal meaning of “riot” seems to refer to a group of people, either in an organised manner, or spontaneously taking certain actions beyond the ambit of law, to achieve or attempt to achieve its specific objective. Riots may be spontaneous or organised, or they may also be caused by provocation. There must be a certain social mindset before a riot can happen. This is because such action will only be taken in time of emotional outbursts.

"Without the mentality of putting the value of money above everything else", "without the mental state of lacking in comprehensive understanding of the organisation and ups and downs of the stock market”, the recent large-scale riots of Shenzhen investors would not have broken out. “Without the social mindset of the black people who felt that they were being discriminated against”, it was impossible for the Afro-American riot to take place early this year.

Unless society has firmly established a solid democratic mechanism, which adjusts itself to new historical conditions, riots and commotions are bound to occur when society progresses from one stage to another, or an old order is transformed into a new order, or when certain sector of the old order has to be modified forthwith.

Equipped with such understanding, one will realise that there is no need to be overly concerned about the occurrence of some riots or commotions during a certain historical period. He who claims that “it is so peaceful today, and it was so chaotic back in those old days” displays sheer ignorance on his part, or intentionally indulges in obscurantism, with a view to consolidating his own political position. Anyone who airs such view is divorced from the historical conditions and social consciousness of the relevant historical era. He has also proved himself to be a megalomaniac practising self-deception.

The period from 1954 to 1959 was a turning point in the history of Singapore, and a turning point from the implementation of the Emergency to the reform under the Rendel Constitution. It was also a turning point where the highly oppressive reign of “White Terror” was transformed into one with limited freedom and democracy.

In the process of such historical transition, the struggle between the emerging power and the old forces, old habits, and old traditions, often becomes increasingly intense. Some excessive actions (such as “harassment” or “riots”) which are against procedures, regulations, conventions, etc., are inevitable. When new forces completely defeat or overpower the old order, then new procedures, regulations, and conventions will emerge in a gradual process, and become acceptable to all.  Thereafter, society naturally becomes stable.

What were your aspirations as a legislative assemblyman?

Political issues

The first general election under the Rendel Constitution was held on 2 April 1955. I was one of four candidates nominated by the PAP. I contested Bukit Timah constituency.  The pledges made in the PAP election manifesto were as follows:

A. To fight for a fully-elected and sovereign Legislative Assembly.
B. To have a multilingual Legislative Assembly;
C. To repeal the National Service Ordinance. Only a fully-elected Legislative Assembly has the power to enact legislation on  conscription;
D. Merger with the Federation of Malaya;
E. Those who regard Malaya as their permanent home should be granted citizenship; no voting right for privileged expatriates;
F. To remove those provisions in the Emergency Ordinance which impose restrictions on the freedom of speech and expression, freedom of assembly and association. A partially-elected Legislative Assembly has no power to issue any order for detention without trial;
G. To amend the labour laws.
 (Editor’s Note: In the book My Youth in Black and White, there are no other items immediately after A, B, C, and D. The auto-numbering function of this post automatically labelled parts of D  as items E, F and G respectively.)

Social issues

A. In respect of  settlement of labour disputes, to repeal provisions in any legislation which are detrimental to the interests of the labourers;
B. To enact  a “Workers’ Charter” containing provisions relating to :
1、 Minimum wage
2、 Equal pay for equal work
3、 40 working hours a week
4、 2 weeks’ annual leave
5、 Child labour allowances and maternity allowances
6、 Unemployment benefits
7、 To improve the Workmen’s Compensation Act, so as to provide aid for workers injured while on duty.
C. To provide free education for all children up to the age of 16; Every ethnic communities has the right to develop its own education and culture; and to provide financial assistance to schools of various ethnic communities;
D. To clear the slum areas; Singapore Improvement Trust to provide interest-free loans for construction of low-cost houses.

Economic issues

A. To carry out tax reform for protecting local industries.
B. To strive for trade autonomy for the whole of Malaya; that is, to do away with prohibition against the export of rubber and tin, and to strive for self-management of gold reserves.

When I was elected as the assemblyman or elected representative of the people, I genuinely hope:
1. To continue mobilising the masses within and without the Legislative Assembly through education, so as to fulfil the majority of, if not all the election pledges; and
2. To use my best endeavours to help solve the problems of the people in my constituency.

The Legislative Assembly had yet to implement the multilingual system then. It only allowed the use of English. I am Chinese educated. My English was not up to the mark. This had greatly impeded my eloquence in the assembly.

How was the atmosphere during the election campaign?

In the general election held in April 1954, there was a limited degree of political openness. PAP received enthusiastic response from the masses, because the PAP election manifesto was a timely articulation of the demands of the people.  (Editor’s Note: The year“1954”might be a typo error in the original book, or a clerical error in Lim Chin Siong’s posthumous manuscript.  The correct year should be 1955.)

The PAP leaders and candidates, such as Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong, bravely spoke out in defence of justice. They levelled severe criticisms against the colonial government for its political, social and economic policies which were detrimental to the interests of the people. Their speeches struck a responsive chord in the hearts of the masses.

During the election campaign, numerous mammoth mass rallies were held in full swing in a lively atmosphere. Shouts of Merdeka resounded through the skies.  More often than not, thousands of people, even tens of thousands, attended the rallies in an orderly fashion, and everyone was in high spirits.

The election campaign raised the awareness of the masses to a great extent.  Pro-colonial parties were cast aside by the people. On the Election Day, for the purpose of defeating those parties spurned by the people, the masses on their own volition resorted to the strategy of "travelling by car provided by the Liberal Socialists Party, receiving money doled out by the Democrats or Progressive Party, but giving their votes to PAP",

How did you feel after winning the Bukit Timah constituency?

I was gratified, but at the same time I felt that increasingly heavy responsibilities were placed on my shoulders. There were a lot of things to be done, and a lot more to learn. This was a constitutional struggle. You must have a minimum knowledge of the constitution and the relevant laws. They were written in English. I could not stop doing all work entrusted to me just to make a detailed study of these documents.

It has to be borne in mind that I am from the Chinese school, with merely junior middle three secondary education. Only that I had a strong sense of responsibility. I was prepared to withstand extremely high pressure. Perhaps due to my strong sense of responsibility, coupled with my whole-hearted dedication to the well-being of the people, I finally managed to carry out my mission through bitter struggle.

My recollection of the London Constitutional Talks (22-4-1956 to 13-5-1956)

Historical background

1. Limitations of the Rendel Constitution.
2. Popular demand for full independence and sovereignty.

Not long after the implementation of the Rendel Constitution, the Chief Minister entered into an argument with the British Governor. He requested for a proper office to work in, and for 4 assistant ministers to work under him.

On 25 July 1955, a week before the visit of the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Chief Minister tabled a motion in the Legislative Assembly, demanding for the “immediate independence of Singapore”.  The motion was accepted. But the Progressive Party assemblyman proposed an amendment, to change the word “independence” to “self-government”.

On 18 August 1955, The British government wrote to the Chief Minister, removing the powers of the Governor to appoint assistant ministers, but it welcomed the Chief Minister to send a Singapore delegation to Britain, and have consultations with Britain a year after implementing the Rendel Constitution.

Marshall seemed to have played a pivotal role in the Baling Talks

During this period, the people launched a signature campaign and held mass rallies, demanding for immediate independence of Singapore. A "Merdeka Week" was held in early March 1956, to welcome the British trade union’s delegation, enabling the people of Singapore to express the desire for freedom and independence.

The campaign reached its climax on 18 March 1956. All political parties jointly held a mass rally at Old Kallang Airport.  About 40,000 people attended the rally.

 The all-party delegation for the Constitutional Talk comprised the following 13 persons:

  1. David Marshall, the Chief Minister
  2. 4 ministers from the Labour Front:  Hamid Jumat, Lim Yew Hock, J.M. Jumebhoy and Braga.
  3. Government backbenchers: Yu Bingchuan, Huang Funan;
  4. Delegates from the PAP: Lee Kuan Yew, Lim Chin Siong
  5. Delegates from the Democratic Party: Lin Zi Qin, Chen Wei Lian;
  6. Delegates from the Liberal Socialist Party: Lin Kun De, Lin Chun Mao.
Some of the objective factors and subjective factors unfavourable to the negotiation were as follows:

A. The lack of consensus among the delegates was the main cause for the failure to form a united delegation. David Marshall was not firm enough in his stand and he was often emotional. Representatives from the Liberal Socialist Party were ever ready to compromise with the British.
Lee Kuan Yew wished to have a constitutional arrangement whereby he could secure ruling power for the PAP, while keeping the leftists under control.  He did not want David Marshall to outshine him in the struggle for self-government or independence.

B. Developments of some Commonwealth countries, like Cyprus, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), etc., achieved independence by constitutional means,  but resulted in right- wing elements within the British Conservative Party - the then ruling party in Britain, refusing to have much constitutional compromise with Singapore, the British military stronghold.

C. Singapore delegates merely expressed the view that “Granting Singapore immediate independence with complete self-government, is the only way to thwart the threats of communism…”And it was hardly expressed with full confidence.

D. Lennox Boyd, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, indicated in his conclusion that “The British government was asked to take the irrevocable step of abrogating all rights and powers of any sort in connection with Singapore for all time. They are asked to do this at a moment in history when there has been no appreciable period of stable democratic government in Singapore, when no political party at present holds a commanding majority, when it is impossible to foresee what the future may bring in internal political development and when strong subversive forces are known to be at work...” Thus, the British government must retain the final authority, to prevent Singapore from falling into the sphere of influence of communism.

E. There were many “differences created by history”, even between Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong as  the PAP delegates:

i.   After the founding of the PAP at the end of 1954, we ultimately agreed on a party manifesto of progressive significance. That was after having gone through prolonged consultations. The stormy mass movements in 1954 and 1955 split the party into so-called moderate and militant factions. Since then, the moderate faction had been labelled as “non-communist”, and the other faction as “militant pro-communist faction”.

Not long after the Hock Lee Bus Company strike in 1955, on the eve of the PAP second central executive committee election, Lee Kuan Yew requested all those committee members regarded as militant and pro-communist, to withdraw from the election. That resulted in the members from the first central executive committee, namely, Devan Nair, Fong Swee Suan, Chan Chiaw Thor and Lim Chin Siong (who was very likely to stand in the election) withdrawing from the election .

ii.   The above represents some differences between Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong from the historical perspective. It can be said that Lee was extremely afraid of the leftists within the PAP. They had strong grassroots support. Lee was worried that he would be side-lined or replaced. The unfortunate Lim Chin Siong was the product of history at the material time, and was seen as the open spokesman of the leftists in the PAP.

To Lee’s mind, the most ideal new constitutional arrangement was that “the British continued to provide safety net, allowing him sufficient time to build up his party organisation. He could then play a moderate role while the British were in control, holding the “big stick”.  In other words, to create a situation well within his control.

In this respect, objectively speaking, Lee and the British shared the same view, that is, “there is a need for the British to retain the final authority, to prevent Singapore from falling into the sphere of influence of communism.

iii.   While in London, Lee met Goh Keng Swee, who was doing his doctorate in Britain, Lee saw “how the pro-communist John Eber and the non-communist Goh Keng Swee engaged in a heated debate in the Malayan Forum and among students, with a view to extending their respective influence, and finally how Goh prevailed over John Eber…”. This had strengthened Lee’s belief in “non-communist” theory and “non-communist sure victory”.

iv.   In the eyes of Lee, Lim Chin Siong was "pro-communist" and he even became the spokesman of the pro-communist forces.  There was inevitably a delicate relationship between them.  They were seemingly in harmony but actually at variance with each other.

What was my stance on the constitutional talks?

1.   Against the backdrop mentioned above, I realised that the talk had a very slim chance of success.
2,   The stance I took in various issues, basically was also that of PAP as a political party:
i.   Full support for Marshall in the fight for a constitutional system with complete self-government,  inclusive of control over internal security;
ii.   The only limitation was that a Committee for Defence and Internal Security was to be set up, with the British members in the majority. But the British could only offer advice and consultation. They had no power to implement policies;
iii.   If the British were unhappy with the Singapore government for ignoring their advice, they had the power to dismiss the government and suspend the constitution.
The adamant attitude I adopted when articulating my stance, might have caused Mr Lee to have the misconception that if my stance could not be upheld, I would rather see that the talks meet with failure. This was in fact another area of differences history had created.

What did I hope to achieve in the Constitutional Talks?

   A. I hoped that the breakdown of the talk could at least be avoided. But it would appear that it was doomed to failure right from the very beginning.

   B. From the analysis above, I knew full well that I was totally working in isolation. I was fully aware that if the negotiations broke down, there would certainly be massive arrests.  Many of my colleagues and I would be arrested and would become the victims of the constitutional talks.

   C. Some "historical records" and commentators loved to say, "Lim was the only delegate who wished the talk would fail ......"  The logic behind this view was that Lim was a CPM member, and CPM was always militant and loved violence. Such critics should realise that whether Lim was a CPM member had yet to be verified.

They should bear in mind that Lim at least knew that CPM held a talk with Tunku Abdul Rahman in Baling on 28 December 1955. To Lim, this would mean that CPM was planning a great retreat. Perhaps, this was not so obvious at that time. If the CPM had retreated from its enemy-controlled rear area, would it be possible for Singapore, as an isolated island, to carry out a massive counter-attack?

The delegation acted like a circus

When I describe the delegation as acting like a circus, I am not belittling it, but I have been generous about it. At least a circus has certain rules of organisation, discipline, procedure, certain programme and spectators.

Some of the delegates started playing party politics immediately upon arrival in London. For example, David Marshall spoke to Malayan students in Britain, attempting to free the PAP from pro-communist influence. Lee Kuan Yew, on the other hand, engaged in activities aimed at showing off the PAP’s influence among the overseas students, the British government as well as the British opposition parties. All this worked against the solidarity of the delegation.

During the London talks, I shared a suite with Mr. Lee in St. James Hotel. He seemed to be busy with Goh Keng Swee, while I was accompanied by John Eber during my leisure time. This had somewhat deepened our “differences created by history". My political belief during that time was closer to that of John Eber and company.  I respected them very much. I also met with Lim Hong Bee, representative of the CPM stationed in Europe. But I did not agree with many of their practices, and always felt that they seemed to be very much divorced from reality.

The Malacca-born Chua Sian Chin (蔡善进) was also studying in Britain then. He once said “Lim Chin Siong was trying to bring about a rapprochement between Goh Keng Swee versus John Eber and Wan Hamid …”. (Chua later became PAP’s Minister of Home Affairs.)

Lee Kuan Yew mentioned this matter in one of his emails to Toh Chin Chye “Lim thinks I am not very enthusiastic about a friendly rapprochement – which after listening to Keng Swee, is true. They are even more difficult and impossible here than their counterparts in Singapore …

The episode above shows that at that time I still had high regard for Mr Lee. I also hoped to witness the forging of grand unity among the anti-colonial forces.

The talks reached an impasse, because both parties were unable to reach any agreement on the issue of control over "internal security". David Marshall wanted to call for a meeting of the delegates to reach a compromise. I supported his proposal, but it was sabotaged by some of the members. With the tacit agreement of the the British, some delegates plotted to replace David Marshall with Lim Yew Hock, since David Marshall had declared that he would resign should the talks fail.

When the talks broke down, the first thing I did was to approach Zhang Shi (张拭) to telegraph Jamit Singh, urging everyone to remain calm and not to act rashly. (Zhang Shi was doing research on atomic energy in the British Imperial College. In the early years, he worked for Rediffusion.)

In October 1956, were you arrested under the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance (PPSO)?

In the 1954 election, I was a hero in the eyes of the masses. I was seen as someone willing to sacrifice, and was resolutely opposed to the British colonial rule. (Editor’s Note: “1954”might be a typographical error or wrongly written in Lim Chin Siong’s posthumous manuscript.  The year should be 1955.)

In 1955, I became a left-wing trade union leader, or someone who genuinely represented the interests of the workers. I was not only in charge of the general affairs of SFSWU, I was also the adviser to a number of trade unions, women’s associations, farmers' associations and parents’ associations.

In the same year, history made me the spokesman or leader of the leftists in the PAP. I was seen as a staunch anti-British pro-communist leader in the eyes of the so-called “non-communist” leaders, the British government, the Federal government and all other right-wing political parties.

Around April or May 1956, the constitutional talks held in Britain broke down, largely over the issues of control over internal security, and how to get rid of people like me. As predicted, five months after the breakdown of the constitutional talks, many colleagues and I were arrested on 26 October 1956.

What was the impact of your arrest on the trade union movement?

It is no exaggeration to say that the student movement and trade union movement were the forerunners of the anti-British colonial movement. They were the two most powerful forces in the anti-British colonial movement in the 1950s and 1960s. Without their support, the PAP government would not have existed today.

Without the sacrifices they had made, the British would not have left the local political scene, or at least would not have quit that early, and Singapore would not have become what it is today. Viewed from the British position, it was an important strategy to weaken and split these two forces. Among the measures taken towards that end, were to arrest their leaders and grassroots leaders, and to dissolve their organizations.

This would mean that, if my colleagues in the trade union movement and I were arrested, certainly the movement would be adversely affected, temporarily and directly.  The workers’ livelihood would be affected, causing temporary chaos in the anti-colonial movement. Less than a month after the arrests, SFSWU was facing the threat of dissolution.

On 23 November 1956, English news media reported that “Middle Road workers were turning to the Trades Union Congress (TUC) for assistance”.  Jaganathan, the TUC president said, “Some employers were still exploiting their workers by cutting wages for flimsy reasons…a typical excuse was that the company could not afford to pay the present scale of wages.”

This piece of news reflected that, after our arrests, the employers seized the opportunity to retaliate. They were of the view that they had the government backing again. They therefore used various excuses to terminate the contracts entered into between us.

Taking a deeper look, I personally felt that, if we had not been arrested, the re-election of the PAP Central Executive Committee (CEC) held in August 1957 at Kallang Stadium would not have created such deplorable situation.

How did you feel during your detention?

I was arrested on 26 October 1956, and was released on 4 June 1959. Initially, I was detained in Outram Prison together with several political detainees pending banishment. I had a feeling that the authority also intended to banish me to China.

On 25 October 1956, in the middle of the night, a large number of special branch officers raided the office of SFSWU. They took away my belongings.  Even garbage in the wastepaper basket was taken away. I was living at the union office. My British passport and birth certificate kept in the union house were also taken away.  It gave rise to a problem about my actual place of birth.

I was in solitary confinement, locked up in a place called Refractory Block. The name of the block implied that it was a place meant for detention of recalcitrants.  My close colleagues Devan Nair, Fong Swee Suan, S. Woodhull, Chan Chiaw Thor, James Puthucheary and Tan Boon Eng, were all detained in a Medium Security Prison (MSP) free camp (later renamed Moon Bay Detention Camp).

I had been isolated from my colleagues for a long time. Around January or February 1958, the Special Branch suddenly transferred me to the MSP to be with my colleagues. Upon arrival, faced with a statement they drafted, only then did I realise why the sudden transfer.

In the early days of my detention, Mr Lee Kuan Yew visited me regularly. Initially, he talked about the problems regarding the dissolution of SFSWU. Then he expressed his worries about whom he could contact in the outside world after my arrest. Once he vaguely wrote a name “Lin Cun”( 林村), and asked if I knew him, and whether he was reliable. An extremely delicate question.  To a comrade who was also a lawyer by profession, I simply gave an ambiguous reply.

Later, he showed much concern about the 1959 general election, and asked me whether we should form a government. Sensing that he had to face so many worries for the future, I informed him that I intended to leave Singapore to further my studies in Indonesia.

During the solitary confinement, I focused on learning the Malay language. Relying on a couple of Chinese-Malay dictionaries (including a Jawi Malay dictionary), I had mastered the language, or basically I felt that I was able to master the Malay language. I was so keen on learning the Malay language then, probably because I was much influenced by the ideological trend prevailing at that time.

With a good command of the Malay language (which had been widely accepted as the national language) I would be in a better position to strive for national unity. Another reason for my proposing to further my studies in Indonesia was, that I was well equipped with the basic conditions for the studies, namely, I had almost finished reading the poetry, pantun and novels written in both the classical and modern Malay language and Indonesian language.

After my transfer to MSP, I was nearer to my colleagues. Everyone was on tenterhooks, wondering what my stance would be on their draft statement entitled The Ends and Means of Malayan Socialism (马来亚社会主义的道路). It turned out that Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee and others visited them rather often in the MSP, and requested them to issue a statement on their political position before their release from prison.

The thought of “parting ways with my colleagues, isolating myself and being more determined to leave for Indonesia” appeared to baffle me for quite some time. But, for sure, finally I did not depart for Indonesia.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew seemed to think highly of me to the extent of overestimating my ability. He kept persuading me to stay in Singapore.  In the early days of the formation of PAP, he said to me a couple of times, “as long as you are with us, 50 percent of the battle would have been won even before it starts!

After reading the statement drafted and duly signed by my colleagues, I amended a few words and signed it. This was the background of the famous written declaration issued upon our release from prison. Upon signing the statement, Devan Nair said to me light-heartedly that “You are one of the smartest communists I have ever come across”. The remark seemed to be of much significance.

Frankly speaking, I did not bother much with the contents of the statement. In principle, I felt that it was somewhat unwise to sign any statement when in jail.  (In the English language), it was done “under duress”.  In the end, the signing of a statement becomes a precedent. Political detainees have to sign a statement in exchange for their freedom.

I felt somewhat strange when Devan Nair told me on several occasions that, one day, someone from outside sent in a message, wrapped in gold foil paper, and mixed in mutton curry, brought to him by his wife.  The message was nearly swallowed up by a colleague. It had the psychological effect of causing skin sensitivity.

Subsequently, we were all transferred to St. John Island. We were treated like VIPs over there, enjoying a lot of freedom. About 4 June 1959, a week or two before our release, we were transferred back to Changi Prison. On 2 or 3 June, a day or two before I was released, the PAP CEC hastily held a congress at Hokkien Huay Kuan, to elect a new Central Executive Committee.

If I was requested to describe briefly how I felt about the detention, I would say that long-term detention without trial was a form of extremely cruel punishment.  On appearance, it looked gentle and civilised. I was given good food with two eggs every day. I continued to receive $500, being my monthly allowance for an assemblyman. I even had a semi-neurotic prisoner Wen Ali (温阿历) to clean up the cell for me.

But most of the time, I was of the view that this form of punishment was more brutal than the Japanese style of torture. The Japanese soldier would slaughter you with a sword, or shoot you with a gun and caused your instant death.  Detention without trial is a chronic, long term and gradual destruction of a human being.

Such form of punishment is crueller than the punishment meted out to criminals. If a criminal is guilty of arson and murder, he will be sentenced to death or life imprisonment.  At least he has a destination in life: If his appeal against death penalty fails, he will have an appointment with God.

A criminal sentenced to life imprisonment, needs only to remain in prison for only 12 to 13 years after deducting a certain number of days in a year. He knows that he has a definite date to wait for. But as a political detainee, you will be in prison for an indefinite period.  You have no opportunity of being released until you destroy your own self by succumbing to the demand of your political opponent.

One of the best ways for you to experience such cruel punishment, is to let me lock you in one of the most comfortable rooms. You will be given the best delicacies, but you are not allowed to read any books, or to communicate with anyone; no television and radio. You have given scheduled time for going to bed and getting up.  For just one month, let alone a year or so, then tell me how you feel?

During the detention period, because you are a political detainee, you do not have to work like other criminals. You may walk about in a confined small area. You are left with countless hours at your disposal. If you are unable to extricate yourself, then you will really appreciate the real significance of the Chinese idiom: “each day seems like a year”.

When you watch the stone walls of the prison, thinking of so many things that you want to do, things that you can do but you are not allowed to do, you will then really understand what is meant by frustration.

Narrated below are some of the incidents that had happened during my detention. They made me feel helpless and frustrated:

A. I vividly remember that Ahmad Ibrahim paid me a visit at Refractory Block, after the re-election of the PAP CEC in August 1957. I made known to him my disapproval of what TT Rajah and others had done.

But I expressed more forcefully my disapproval of the withdrawal of Lee Kuan Yew and others from the CEC.  They had openly caused the falling out with TT Rajah and others, leading to a clean break with them.

That was no different from inviting Lim Yew Hock to take actions against them as soon as possible. And it really happened as predicted.  Chen Say Jane, Tan Chong Kin, Goh Boon Toh, Ong Chye Aun, Tan Kong Guan and the CEC members belonging to the leftist faction, were soon all arrested.

I felt an extremely strong sense of frustration because of the incident.  I firmly believed that, if we were not under detention, we could have totally prevented the occurrence of such incident, and have the differences rationally resolved in a more appropriate manner.

B. The End and Means of Malayan Socialism - the joint declaration made by us upon our release from prison, was drafted by Devan Nair and duly signed by Devan Nair, Fong Swee Suan, S. Woodhull, Chan Chiaw Thor, James Puthucheary and others. On the whole, it was a weighty and forward-looking document.  But I could not agree with the manner it was produced as well as the motive for producing it.

The declaration was drafted when I was still in solitary confinement, and all my colleagues were still under detention. It was supposed to be a declaration of our position taken, but it was made under duress. I felt as if I had been fooled.

I had always been advocating honesty and openness. I believed that if we were not under detention at the material time, this matter would have not happened.

Even if the declaration was necessitated by the historical conditions then, we could have been honest with each other. In a free and completely normal environment, we could have produced one similar, if not a better document, that could be more convincing and could have greater ramifications.

C. At the material time, I did not sense any special significance in the sudden withdrawal of Chang Yuen Thong (郑越东), the Workers Party candidate, from the City Council election.   I never suspected that it was actually a “deal” between Lee Kuan Yew and the CPM underground organisation.

D. The constitutional talks were held in Britain in the months of March 1957 and May 1958.  Since I was involved in the first constitutional talks, I was quite familiar with the contents of the talks as well as the factors contributing to their failure.

I mentioned before, in order to make the second constitutional talks a success, many of my colleagues and I would have to be made sacrificial lambs. We were in prison when the second constitutional talks were held in March 1957 and May 1958. Basically the issues discussed in the talks were more or less the same as those of the first constitutional talks.

The worries that Lee Kuan Yew had before, were reduced relatively.  An agreement would therefore certainly be reached during the talks.  To the British, the formidable left-wing forces in Singapore would be crippled for the time being.

Besides, a new clause appeared in the agreement. It was to the effect that "well-known subversive elements are prohibited from taking part in the first general election".  It was accepted by the various political parties from Singapore。

The British and certain people were afraid and worried,  that we might be nominated as candidates even though we were still in prison, and we would certainly win the election,  and would thereafter have some influence in the future Parliament or in the government.

With this provision in force, their fear and worries were removed.  Therefore, all the relevant parties happily celebrated the success of the constitutional talks.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew and I had, in principle, different views on the meaning and opinion of the word “subversion”.  Generally, “subversion” refers to the undermining of the existing system by various actions. The prevailing historical conditions then were to destroy the then existing systems of imperialism and colonialism.

Not only the people of Singapore, but also the peoples throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America, were surging forward to dedicate themselves to the fulfilment of such historical mission. The founding of the PAP and its political manifestoes also reflected the spirit of that era.

To put it mildly, therefore, I felt that it was inconceivable for the PAP, as an anti-colonial political party,  to have such provision inserted in the agreement. Of course, if a country has already achieved independence, enjoying full sovereignty, and it is under the rule of a popularly-elected government, the matter would then be different in nature.

What was your reaction after knowing the 1959 general election result?

My reaction was "excitement and jubilance, but with a feeling of being somewhat at a loss". My excitement and jubilance were understandable since the political party that I helped to form and support, finally won the election and came into power.

Personally speaking, I would be free soon. How could I not feel excited and jump for joy?  I felt somewhat at a loss because I had a mixed feeling of disappointment and not knowing what to do next.  Others could hardly understand why I was emotionally troubled.

The declaration, namely, The End and Means of Malayan Socialism would give rise to differences in opinion, thereby leading to disputes.  Only a total of 6 to 8 political detainees having close relationship with the party leadership, would be released immediately. The rest of the detainees had to wait for some time before they could be released.  The high expectations arising out of the electoral victory were at variance with the realities. This might lead to conflicts.   The role to be played, or might be played by an individual, and Mr Lee Kuan Yew might still have some reservations about me… all this was enough for one to be “in a daze”!


The picture above was taken at the time of the release of S. Woodhull, Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan and Devan Nair from the Changi prison. The “man in white” walking in front is Ong Pang Boon.

Nanyang Siang Pau devoted one full page for publishing the pictures below. The release of Lim Chin Siong and 7 others was warmly welcomed and greeted by the labouring masses and PAP grassroots members. The picture (top left) depicts Lim Chin Siong addressing a huge crowd in front of the General Employees’ Union house at Middle Road.


How did you feel the moment you stepped out of the prison with other colleagues?

On 4 June 1959, we left the Changi prison, accompanied by Ong Pang Boon, Minister for Home Affairs. We got on a luxurious car parked outside the prison. It was then driven to the PAP headquarters at South Bridge Road. We held a press conference there, and released the statement: “The Ends and Means of Malayan Socialism”.

The masses were cheering merrily along both sides of the road. I was welcomed with cheers and firecrackers when I headed for the General Employees’ Union (GEU) office at Middle Road. The banner put up at the union house was written in big Chinese characters: “Welcome Lim Chin Siong, the national leader on his release”.

Then I went to the Jurong branch in Bukit Timah constituency.  Along the way, a big crowd gathered on both sides of the road, cheering non-stop. Apart from being excited and deeply touched, I realised that the masses pinned an extremely high hope on me. The question “What should I do? What could I do?” suddenly came to my mind!  My extensive experience of working among the masses as well as my gut feeling told me: “You are the real centre of gravity of the current mass movement!

On reflection, if I really wanted to seize power from PAP, or send PAP to his doom at that time, I just had to rally the crowd by a clarion call, and the newly-formed government would have had an extremely tough time in its struggle for survival, without the necessity of waiting till the year 1961 or 1962!

What was the Eden Hall Tea Party about?

July 1961 was an important month in the political life of Singapore. Lee Kuan Yew hinted that he would relinquish power in the well-known Hong Lim by-election held in April 1961 and the May Day Celebration held at Jalan Besar. On 27 May, Tunku Abdul Rahman, the Prime Minister of Malaya, put forward the proposal of forming "Malaysia".

By-election was held in Anson constituency on 27 July. Ong Eng Guan put up 16 resolutions.  That led to his expulsion from the PAP.  As a result, Hong Lim by-election was held. The 16 resolutions generally reflected the demands and feelings of the masses.

The upper echelon of the PAP leadership headed by Lee Kuan Yew viewed this as a challenge to their power, and an exposure of Ong Eng Guan’s personal ambition. From the ideological perspective, there were no significant differences between Ong Eng Guan and Lee Kuan Yew. But there were massive personal conflicts between themselves.

On 5 June 1959, the second day of my release from prison, Chen Yueying (陈岳英), one of the veterans of PAP, paid me a visit at GEU. He was a staunch supporter of Ong Eng Guan. He told me that Ong wished to meet me for a discussion about how to prevent the emergence of the authoritarian rule by Lee Kuan Yew, and to prevent Lee from leaning towards the right . But I turned down the invitation.

I did one thing that should be done, that is, to keep Lee Kuan Yew informed of such event. I knew he was skeptical about me. I could not help thinking that whether or not this was a trap he had set up.

Apart from Ong Eng Guan trying hard to look for me, the wife of a former close comrade of mine frequently came to me crying, indicating to me that she was seeking divorce. I was rather cautious about this matter. I merely lent her an ear without doing anything further.

Lee Kuan Yew knew full well that this comrade of mine had changed, but I had not. In other words, there were ideological differences between us.  If I were not cautious enough, Lee Kuan Yew would definitely use the opportunity to prove that “Lim Chin Siong is an out-an-out communist.  Once he finds out that any comrade of his has changed his stand, Lim would try by all means to level criticisms against him and destroy him.

The Hong Lim incident proved that Ong Eng Guan and Lee Kuan Yew could not see eye to eye with each other. Ong Eng Guan was quite in tune with the mentality and feelings of the masses. The 16 resolutions covered such issues as “release of political detainees” and “unification of the trade union movement”.

The resolutions caused predicament to some left-wing leaders, and served to mislead the masses.  A large number of left-wing leaders preferred Lee Kuan Yew to Ong Eng Guan. To them, both Lee and Ong were vigorously pursuing their own selfish ambitions. But they were more familiar with the character of one of them, while the other was almost a stranger to them.

Therefore, they would rather choose the former. But they could not find fault with the issues raised by Ong’s resolutions, like the demands for “release of political detainees” and “unification of the trade union movement”, etc.

Lee Kuan Yew was not happy.  He demanded absolute and unconditional support from the leftists, otherwise he threatened to “relinquish power”if PAP lost the re-election, and let the British wipe out the leftists.

Eventually, PAP lost the Hong Lim by-election.  In the wake of the threat issued by Lee Kuan Yew to “relinquish power”, on 27 May 1961, the Prime Minister of Malaya put forward the “Malaysia Plan” which included Singapore, Federation of Malaya, Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak.

Against such backdrop, those leaders in the PAP who were labelled as leftists entertained the idea of paying a visit to Lord Selkirk, the British High Commissioner of Singapore.  Lee Kuan Yew threatened to “relinquish power” and to “withdraw the protective umbrella and let the British wipe out the leftists”. The Malaysia Plan was to solve the problems of having “too many Chinese and too many leftists in Singapore”.  In such circumstances, the leftist leaders of course would like to understand the British stand on this matter.

Does the British government only allow the PAP to rule Singapore, but not other political parties such as the left-wing party to gain ruling power by legitimate constitutional means and to abide by the Constitutions?” This was the real purpose of attending the Eden Hall Tea Party. This was in fact nothing unusual in politics, particularly political activities conducted in accordance with the Constitution.  Such political activities were completely legitimate.

However, the PAP deliberately mystified it, labelling it as a “secret talk”. Lee claimed that the leftist leaders were duped by the British, creating the wrong impression that, except for a few oligarchs in the PAP, others were stupid enough to be easily manipulated.

In any political feud, leaders of all shades know how to deploy soldiers. “There is nothing too deceitful in war” is the principle applied here.  At times we could not avoid having a hand shake with the ‘devils’. This was just like Prime Minister Lee having secret meetings with CPM’s plenipotentiary before the 1959 general election. In such circumstances, no one could claim which party had been trapped, just like the case of both parties playing a game of chess.

To put it bluntly, insisting that we were “duped by the British”, would be tantamount to saying that “You are not allowed to do what I (Lee) can do. If you insist on doing it, then what you are doing is absurd, naive and illogical!

What was your stance on the merger of Singapore and Malaya?

On 17 September 1961, at the inauguration of Barisan Sosialis, I declared on behalf of Barisan Sosialis the party stand on the Merger:

“If a true merger cannot be realised immediately, and if no progress is made in the formation of a federation that includes Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak, we should strive for full internal self-government by 1963. A true merger with the Federation of Malaya implies that Singapore would join the Federation like Malacca and Penang, whereby its citizens would automatically become citizens of the Federation, having the same rights and obligations as citizens of the Federation.”

Singapore would become an integral part of the Federation. It will have a number of elected representatives in Parliament proportionate to the population. Just like the other states, we shall share a common political life and destiny with them. This is the basis of parliamentary democracy, and it is a form of constitutional arrangement, so that the Federal Parliament reflects the aspirations of the people of the whole of Malaya.

Certain quarters have accused us of being “anti-Merger” … How can those who take a fancy to half-cooked potatoes, start pointing fingers at those who really like fully-cooked potatoes, labelling them as people who hate potatoes? We are serious, and genuinely believe in the struggle for a full and genuine merger. If the Federal government would accept Singapore as an inalienable part of the Federation, we would be very glad to support such arrangement wholeheartedly.

Though both Tunku and we may have different views in certain aspects, we respect him as a popularly-elected leader of a country. We would express our views, and argue in the spirit of democracy on issues where our views differ. Similarly, we would support him by word and deed on issues where we are in agreement.

To have a true merger of Singapore and Malaya, is always the stand taken by socialists in Malaysia. If Tunku is prepared to accept us, we will not hesitate to support a true merger WITHOUT reservations about education and labour policies or some special rights. We would join Malaysia as equal citizens, working together for a bright future.

We are aware that we have to face a strong right-wing regime for the time being after the merger, and we may suffer suppression. The journey ahead will be arduous. We have experienced political detention and persecution, and we are prepared to make sacrifices. As socialists, we would not let our personal safety get in the way to the unification of the people of Malaya and Singapore. We have said that we are ready to meet with any people and convince them that ours is the right choice.

We demand for a general election across Malaysia to be held after the merger, to ensure that the Federal Parliament would truly represent the aspirations of all the people of Malaysia. National unity is not about partisan politics. We should set aside party differences and make every effort to mobilize the people to achieve a full and true merger.

If Tunku cannot accept a full and true merger at the present stage, the alternative is to form a confederation comprising the Federation of Malaya, Singapore, Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak, and to accord Singapore freedom and complete self-government under the auspices of the confederation.

What PAP advocated is not genuine merger. This is because, unless a person is a full citizen of a country, he cannot claim to belong to that country. Would anyone with dignity be willing to become a second-class citizen? If the people of the Federation are entitled to participate in the political life of Singapore, and to have influence over our people, but, on the other hand, we do not have the right to get involved in the political life of the Federation, and the right to jointly elect a truly representative central government, then what kind of merger and unification is it?

The merger proposed by the PAP will not therefore bring about national unity, but it will instead lead to serious adverse consequences.”

How did you feel when Singapore declared independence?

History has proven that we were correct (in opposing the Merger). Hardly 3 years after the “merger through Malaysia” was forcibly pushed through by Lee Kuan Yew against the aspirations of the people, it met with a total failure. Singapore was eventually driven out of Malaysia and forced to declare independence on 9 August 1965. As a result, the cordial relationship originally existed between the people of Malaya and Singapore deteriorated.

At a press conference held after his visit to Brunei on April 23 1993, Lee Kuan Yew said:

“It always reminded me of Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin each time when I visited Brunei. He was a soft-spoken and gentle man. I remembered the time when we attended a series of talks with the British about the establishment of Malaysia. It had reached the final stage of negotiation and we (Singapore) had reached a pact with Malaya, but they were still unable to reach an agreement. The British officials were getting impatient, but he remained calm and at ease as usual. However, he clearly stated that he would not change his stance.”

“Looking back now, I realise he was truly a wise man. When we were driven out of Malaysia a few years later, he asked, “How was Malaysia?” Thus he was right and I was wrong. I think his instinct at that time must have told him that my decision for merger was not necessarily a correct conclusion. So, I learnt my lesson from this incident.” (Lianhe Wanbao, 24 April 1993, Page 4)

We were always big-hearted enough to those who were willing to learn from mistakes, but we could not easily forget lessons learned from history that had left deep scars in the hearts of our generation. It has been 30 years since 1960 till now. From a historical perspective, 30 years were just like 30 minutes. Yet some people underwent drastic changes in their approach to numerous major issues in that short span of 30 minutes.

Lee Kuan Yew made a few sharp turns along the way towards nation building. The sharp turns took the form of political rhetoric such as “independence would cause destruction”, “they will send armies to attack” or “our pipeline for water supply would be cut”, etc. He then forcibly proceeded with achieving independence through merger with Malaysia, and finally he was “compelled” to declare Singapore independent.

The impact and consequences of the decisions made on such important historical issues, would perhaps become apparent only after a period of 50 years. From the outset, a true unification of Malaya and Singapore had encountered difficulties because of the selfish motives of both Tunku and Lee Kuan Yew, as well as the impediments created by the British. Now, more difficulties have clearly surfaced.

Though Singapore is small geographically, it does not mean that it cannot survive as an independent country. Under certain historical circumstances, we have no alternative but to have a complete self-government, or even independence.

We must be self-reliant by improving the economy and the livelihood of the people, and forging unity of the people of all ethnic groups. All such efforts should be regarded as national issues, and not merely a partisan matter. They would help create favourable conditions for neighbouring countries (particularly those countries historically inseparable from us) to be friendly with us.

Within a certain period of time, with the consensus of the peoples of various countries, and on an equal footing, we might be able to achieve full co-operation and national unity. This may become a reality only after a long historical period.

In view of the above, when Singapore pulled out from Malaysia and declared independence, I wrote a letter while still in prison to Lee Siew Choh, chairman of Barisan Sosialis, voicing my objection to his statement that the independence of Singapore was a fake one. I requested him to recognise the independence of Singapore. I also opined that the “Merger” a la PAP was a total failure. Barisan Sosialis should demand the immediate release of all those political detainees who were opposed to the “Merger” a la PAP.

Singapore would not be the centre of political leadership in this region for a long period of time. This was pre-determined by the British constitutional arrangement made in 1945 on the principle of “divide and rule”. The nation-building of Singapore was constrained by the federation in many aspects. There would be no radical change in the basic structure of society.
However, it did not mean that Singapore could not survive independently. If we truly observe the “Five Principles” laid down by the Bandung Afro-Asian Conference, Singapore would certainly survive, and it would develop steadily and have positive impact on the neighbouring countries. Only with the emergence of a government and leaders, who genuinely safeguard the interests of the nation and the people, will such a favourable situation emerge.

Merely for the benefit and survival of a handful of people, or for themselves, our political leaders may indulge in hanky-panky in the following manner: to resort to repeated provocations to aggravate the conflicts between their people and the peoples of the neighbouring countries; to emulate the British in creating division in order to maintain the so-called “balance”, thereby enabling themselves to be the indispensable balancing force in the region; to belittle others, priding themselves on their able management of a small city; and to impose their method of management on other countries.

All this would eventually cause damage to the neighbouring countries in this region, though these countries may have attained some achievements in the midst of their development.

What do you think of the Singapore after independence?

Like all reasonable persons, I acknowledge and I am glad to say that Singapore has made some achievements. But I often asked, “What is the price paid for such achievements?” We must not forget that Shanghai in China as well as Calcutta in India, each has an annual budget equivalent to our country’s annual budget. They have each a population of 12 million people. Each of them has a number of multinational companies (such as Boeing, etc.) Of course, we should not have inferiority complex in the circumstances, but we should not be conceited and cocky either.

Since independence, Singapore has excessively glorified English language in the field of education. The government is shaping Singapore by way of establishing English schools and using the English language. At the same time, it has neglected and discriminated against mother-tongue education of all ethnic groups. The use of Malay as the official language, has been confined to the singing of the national anthem “Maju-lah Singapura!” only.

Nanyang University (Nantah) was closed down (by Lee Kuan Yew government). There are no more national schools catering for mother-tongue education. Would it serve any purpose now by way of paying lip service, saying, “If things could start all over again, we would not have treated the Chinese schools in such a manner”, and at the same time, curtly eulogising the “the Spirit of Nantah”?

Our next generation is neither here nor there culturally [i.e. well versed in neither western culture nor oriental culture]. The youths indulge themselves in negative culture [i.e. yellow culture] and grey areas of culture. In such circumstances, passing the buck to parents does not cover up the fact that it is the government policy that leaves the parents with no other choice.

The population policy affects several generations to come, and it is an extremely serious matter. The so-called economic experts armed with doctorates, came up with the fallacy of compulsory enforcement of the policy of “having 2 children is enough for each family”. Such policy of so-called eugenics was blindly extolled. It eventually got Singapore into trouble. Now the government is anxiously looking forward for young families to have 3 or even 5 children.

In the economic field, the government policy is slanted in favour of foreign investors and government-linked companies. As a result, 70% of our national investments come from foreign multinational corporations, 20% from government statutory bodies or government-linked companies; merely a meagre 10% from small and medium private enterprises. Besides, there are numerous restrictive laws. How would world-renowned entrepreneurs like Sudono Salim (Liem Swie Liong) of Indonesia, Robert Kuok of Malaysia, Li Ka-Shing and Pao Yue-Kong of Hong Kong, be attracted to invest in Singapore?

During the colonial period, Singapore was a free trade centre relying on entreport trade. But, when Singapore started its nation building, it did not suffer any serious damage in a war-torn situation, compared with many other Third World countries. It had quite a solid foundation in all aspects. Singapore is small in size, and has both advantages and disadvantages geographically. The advantage was that it had an excellent port of great strategic and economic values.

But, faced with the invention and improvement of modern weapons, Singapore is losing its traditionally strategic advantages. Countries in the region are more self-reliant than before, and less dependent on Singapore. When the Cold War was at its height in the 1960s and 1970s, the transfers of technology and capital from the capitalist world were mainly directed to anti-communist “outposts”.

This had resulted in strengthening the forces of these self-proclaimed democracies with anti-communist stance, rendering them to be the showcase of success to the world. They were the “Asian dragons” that all are familiar with. Lee Kuan Yew volunteered to be the anti-communist spokesperson for the West in Southeast Asia. Singapore thus benefitted much from the technological and capital transfers. Those who are now middle-aged and above should be able to remember that Lee Kuan Yew was then infamous for being anti-communist and anti-China.

The world is ever changing. The two blocs of the world have finally recognized the need for dialogue. Peaceful economic development and competition will show which of the social systems on earth brings about better productivity, enables the people to have a fair share of the wealth of society, and creates as well as improves progressive civilisation, at the same time, allows the people to have the right to live, and thereafter the right to give full play to their talent, in participating in scientific and artistic creations as well as in state affairs.

Under such circumstances, the market for the transfers of technology and capital of the West and other countries has expanded on an unprecedented scale. Singapore therefore can no longer rely on its anti-communist stance for survival.

Traditionally, from the economic point of view, Singapore plays the role of a broker. Politically, perhaps it is also in the habit of playing the role of a broker. During 1960s and 1970s, when the world was engulfed in an immense ideological struggle, and the two camps were engaged in Cold War, but not coming into contact with each other, a broker indeed came in a bit handy.

For the sake of survival, a broker would not normally bet on one side only. But we from Singapore bet all on the West only. Eventually, we lost the opportunity to have better performance. Leaders of East Asia, and even the world-class leaders, such as Richard Nixon, Henry Kissinger, had dialogues with the leaders from China. The strained relationship between them gradually improved after the signing of the Joint Communique of the United States of America and the People's Republic of China.

Today, the world gradually moves towards the stage of engaging in dialogues and carrying out peaceful development. Countries tend to establish direct relationship with each other. A broker is no longer required. I venture to say that many advantages enjoyed by Singapore in the past and today, are not absolute but relative. Singapore’s economy has reached its saturation point.

Our economic structure requires us to maintain a strong currency. Our currency appears strong in the foreign exchange market. But in the recent assessment made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on the economic strength of each country, it has adopted a more realistic standard of assessing the purchasing power of currency. Such realistic assessment reveals that the economy of Singapore is only strong in appearance but weak in reality.

Singapore is small in size. It is therefore easy to exercise control over the country, and to carry out suppression. But Singapore is also the communication hub of the East and the West. When the world is increasingly open, and distances shortened, it is no longer advisable to administer threats against the people and to hoodwink them for long.

Some quarters erroneously believe that the people as a whole are like pigs. So long as they are provided with food and clothing, or made to feel relatively so, they will refrain from getting involved in state affairs. Such people also believe that the populace can be easily “manipulated by a handful of elite”. In reality, these people are like ostriches burying their heads in the sand.

World history has shown that, intellectuals are relatively well fed and clothed, and they are endowed with a sense of justice and social conscience. They are the people who are the first to be aware of social problems. They constitute the driving force for reform.

Why was Barisan Sosialis founded?

Background of the formation of Barisan Sosialis

Barisan Sosialis was inaugurated on 17 September 1961. Its founder members included James Puthucheary, Dominic Puthucheary, ST Bani, S. Woodhull, Dr. Lee Siew Choh, Lim Shee Ping, Tan Cheng Tong, Ong Cheng Sam, Wong Soon Fong, Chan Sun Wing, Fung Yin Ching, Low Poh Tuck, Tan Yam Seng, Fong Swee Suan, Sheng Nam Chin, Lim Ching Siong and others.

As soon as the People’s Action Party (PAP) under the leadership of Lee Kuan Yew came into power in Singapore in 1959, Lee collaborated with the British colonialists and the ruling clique of the Federation of Malaya. He began advocating the “Malaysia Plan” in 1961, in an attempt to curb the development of national liberation and democratic revolution movement in Malaya, Singapore, Brunei, Sabah and Sarawak.

Lim Chin Siong (left) was standing on the rostrum at the inaugural meeting of Barisan Sosialis. He advocated constitutional struggle to completely terminate the colonial rule, and resolutely safeguard the interests of the people. The backdrop was the party emblem of Barisan Sosialis.


After PAP came into power in 1959, its “revolutionary fervour” began to wane. It gradually renounced the revolutionary stand as enunciated in the founding manifesto of the party. It even decided to break up with the left-wing group subsequently, as evidenced by the following events:
   1.  In August 1957, a re-election of the central committee of PAP was held at the Badminton Hall. The group led by T.T. Rajah defeated Ong Eng Guan and others. Lee Kuan Yew then openly declared their break-up with T.T. Rajah’s group, leading to their arrests by the government.
   2.  PAP isolated Lim Chin Siong and he was vilified in all possible ways.
   3.  In 1958, PAP endorsed the clause that “well-known subversive elements in prison be prohibited from participating in general election” in the second round of British-Singapore constitutional talks held in England.
   4.  On 4 June 1959, just before the release of the eight leftist leaders who had close relationship with PAP leadership, the PAP CEC election was held in haste, at the Singapore Hokkien Huay Kuan, to ensure that the leftist leaders would not be able to participate in the election.

My comrades-in-arm and I were still in prison during the general election on 31 May 1959. Certain people who had influence over the left-wing forces were calling the masses to support PAP. It indirectly encouraged PAP to become arrogant and more determined to break up with the leftists later. The leftists (including the communists) had mistakenly thought that if PAP were to lose the general election and its ruling power, the leftists might lose the so-called “protective umbrella” and be done for.

They failed to understand that if the left-wing section collapsed, PAP would also perish. Probably, PAP would have no chance of recovery. The leftists (including the communists), had mistakenly thought that by forming a “united front” with the PAP, with their full support, PAP would put up resistance against the British.

I was released on 4 June 1959. Only then did I know of such “united front”. The issue of forming the “United Front” was soon verified in Lee Kuan Yew’s 12 radio talks on the “Merger”. The “united front” was formed on an inappropriate basis. It could only be lop-sided in favour of one party only. The leftists (including the communists) not only chose the wrong timing, but also had not made a comprehensive assessment of the situation.

At the time of forming PAP as a political party, if the leftists (including the communists) were undivided in their thoughts and actions, and sent their representatives to enter into negotiations with Lee Kuan Yew’s group. The result of such negotiations between the two separate groups, would have given rise to a different situation.

After the incident of the PAP central committee re-election at the Badminton Hall in 1957, a representative from CPM hurriedly proceeded to enter into a talk about establishing the “united front”. Once again, no comprehensive assessment was made of the situation. It was stubbornly believed that it was a situation where “the enemy was strong while we were weak”, and they would be done for without “Lee Kuan Yew’s protective umbrella”. Little did they realise that Lee Kuan Yew was at that time anxiously inquiring about “Lin Cun” when I was in prison.

On the one hand, Lee Kuan Yew was worried that PAP would perish if it did not have full participation in the election in order to come into power; on the other hand, he was also worried that, without the full support of “Lin Cun”, PAP would not be able to come to power, or could not stay in power for long.

Such mentality was in line with the thoughts passing through the minds of some left-wing leaders led by Devan Nair while under detention. They were anxious to declare their stand by way of coming out with the article The Ends and Means of Malayan Socialism. They seemed to be seized with the fear that they would be imprisoned for the rest of their lives if PAP did not come into power.

It never occurred to them that Lee Kuan Yew was the one who would deal with the communists, pro-communists or dissidents by resorting to the most ruthless means in the history of Malaya. They also forgot that PAP could not have prolonged their detention when it came into power, given their close relationship with the PAP leadership and their high prestige among the masses.

The price paid for the achievements of Malaya (including Singapore) today was the suffering of the leftists (including the communists) under the repeated acts of persecution. After the implementation of the Emergency Regulations, the Singapore Town Committee of CPM was almost completely wiped out. Most of the veterans who devoted themselves to the patriotic democratic movement and anti-British movement were forced to leave the political arena.

Lee Kuan Yew was lucky enough to have one in a million chances to fill the political vacuum created. He had the “opportunity” to reap the benefits of the constitutional reform bound to be introduced subsequently.

The leaders of the leftists (including the communists) were largely divided. They themselves were diverse in thoughts and actions, to say nothing of forming a “united front” with others. This might be the historical background for sending a plenipotentiary to meet up with Lee Kuan Yew, with a proposal to form a united front as late as 1958. And that was only made possible after encountering some difficulties.

Lee Kuan Yew who was in the open (with the co-operation of the Special Branch and the British Colonial Office) would certainly have the upper hand in the "united front”。The so-called "united front" was nothing but outright submission to the whims and fancies of Lee Kuan Yew. On several occasions, I had conversations with Chan Sun Wing (陈新荣), and I could not agree with him more when he made the remark “Lee Kuan Yew did not change at all. If he was appointed Secretary General of CPM, all these problems would not have come about!”

Yes, Lee (despite our political differences and all the injustices he had done to me, I as a gentleman still treated him as a friend) came forward with a mission to replace communism (if not for his own benefit, then it was for the benefit of the Anglo-American imperialists).

Anyone who had a false hope of fighting imperialism as well as the British and the Americans under Lee Kuan Yew’s “protective umbrella”, should bear in mind that, in Lee’s view, the most practical constitutional arrangement was to allow the British to carry on providing the “safety net”, providing him with sufficient time to build up the party. Then, he could speak with a gentle voice, and let the British exercise control over Singapore. In other words, this would create a “situation under control”. In this respect, his view was in line with that of the British, that is, they “must retain final authority to prevent Singapore (including Southeast Asia) from falling into the sphere of influence of communism.”

Nearing the end of the general election in May 1959, in a public rally held in front of the General Post Office, Lee Kuan Yew said, “The next battle is to win over the people’s heart and mind, and take over the “turf” of the communists”. The very first thing to be done was to decimate or even eliminate “the communists”. This was in fact the post-election agenda he had in mind. At that time, the term “communists” was defined to include, apart from a small number of actual CPM members, members of the Anti-British League, the Chinese-educated and all the progressive English-educated intellectuals.

Lee Kuan Yew manufactured a series of incidents in accordance with his pre-determined agenda:
 1.  When PAP took office on 4 June 1959, only 8 leaders having close relationship with the party leadership were released. Before I stepped out of the prison, I insisted that Lee Kuan Yew issue a written assurance to release all other political detainees within 3 months. He wrote the letter and it was kept by Devan Nair, but it sank without a trace.
   Why released the 8 leaders but not the rest? That was his trick. He tried to isolate the 8 leaders on the one hand, and dealt a severe blow to their supporters on the other hand. What was more important, he could hold them as hostages to compel the 8 leaders to succumb to him.
 2.  The law on citizenship was amended, and many left-wing leaders and anti-colonialists were deprived of their citizenship.
 3.  Before PAP was able to control the trade unions and turn them into tools for its own use, the unification of trade union movement was deliberately obstructed in all aspects.
 4.  The Hong Lim by-election in 1961 witnessed the PAP leadership going down the slippery road of leaning to the right, while Ong Eng Guan put up a “leftist” posture by way of raising the 16 resolutions. In a mass rally held on April 24, I urged PAP to seek accord while containing differences, and to have full and sincere cooperation with the leftists for resolutely carrying on with the anti-colonial struggle to the end.
   My speech was however misinterpreted to mean that I was indulging in double talk. In fact, I sincerely wanted the PAP candidate Jek Yeun Thong (易润堂) to win the by-election. I even went from house to house paying visits to many voters together with him. I was of the view that the impact of Ong’s prestige on the masses should not be underestimated.
   Lee Kuan Yew and some communists thought that the masses were like computer parts that could be manipulated by whoever in control of the keyboard. They forgot that the masses were humans made up of flesh and blood. At times, they acted according to their own subjective wishes. No matter how high was the prestige of the communists, left-wing leaders or PAP leaders, the masses might not succumb to their influence. The outcome of Hong Lim by-election was a lesson to them.
   Lee Kuan Yew in fact put the blame on me for the failure of PAP in Hong Lim by-election. On 1 May 1961, in a speech given at the May Day rally held at the Stadium Jalan Besar, Lee Kuan Yew threatened that, if PAP was again defeated in the coming Teluk Intan by-election, he would relinquish his power, and let the British mop up the leftists and communists.
 5.  On 27 May 1961, the Prime Minister of Malaya, Tunku Abdul Rahman hastily proposed the Malaysia plan, egged on by Lee Kuan Yew and the British. Lee Kuan Yew effectively exaggerated the communist threat to Singapore (in reality a threat to Lee himself). He repeated that, if PAP was defeated in the Anson (Teluk Intan) by-election, he would relinquish his power. Singapore would then fall into the hands of the communists.
   Tunku never wanted Singapore “since Singapore has too many Chinese, too many communists.” But why did Tunku change his mind abruptly? It turned out that Tunku had a wishful thinking. Through the Constitution, he would make special arrangements so that Singapore citizens would not be entitled to have an equal status as that of the Federal citizens in respect of citizenship right in the Federation of Malaya.
   By having such special arrangement, though the Chinese were in greater numbers, in reality, a favourable situation would be maintained to the satisfaction of the Tunku. As to the problem of having “too many communists”, it could easily be solved by mopping them up through the use of the ISA.
   The sudden proposal of the Malaysia plan really took the leftists, intellectuals and patriots by surprise. They had doubts about the plan.
 6.  On 2 June 1961, the “big six” of the Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU), namely, ST Bani, Sidney Woodhull, Dominic Puthucheary, Jamit Singh, Fong Swee Suan and Lim Chin Siong released a statement on the current situation, urging the PAP leadership to forge unity with the leftists.
   They called upon the people to continue giving their support to PAP, and to be persistent in the anti-colonial struggle till the end. In the coming Singapore-British constitutional talks, we should fight for complete self-government with power of control over internal security.
   The statement also indicated that, since the conditions were not ripe for merger, it was impossible to achieve genuine merger with the Federation on an equal footing. PAP should instead unite the people to realize a genuine internal self-government.
   On 9 June, Toh Chin Chye, in his capacity as chairman of the PAP, re-affirmed the stand of PAP to support the Malaysia Plan, and to strive for full independence through “Merger”.
 7.  The “big six” released a second statement on June 12. It pointed out that, if PAP wanted to unite the people and carry on the anti-colonial struggle to the end, in order to achieve genuine internal self-government, it should:
   
i.Immediately release all political detainees;
ii.Restore citizenship of all patriots;
iii.Proceed with the unification of the trade union movement for the well-being of the workers;
iv.Allow freedom of publication, freedom of speech, etc.
   Subsequently, on 20 June, they again issued another statement to re-affirm their support for PAP, to unite the people in order to achieve genuine and complete internal self-government. They pointed out that they had all along been in support of the 1954 founding manifesto of the PAP as well as all the policies formulated pursuant to the manifesto.
   They were not in support of certain individuals in PAP. Regarding Lee Kuan Yew’s threat that he would relinquish power, withdraw the “protection umbrella”, and let British teach the people a lesson, they pointed out that the people would certainly abandon PAP if the basic demands of the people were not met.
 8.  On 11 July, Devan Nair released a statement, condemning the “big six” for exploiting the demand for the release of political detainees and so on. He opined that it was just to confuse the merger issue with such demands.
   But 8 of the PAP assemblymen jointly expressed their support for us. At the same time, they also requested the party to hold a joint meeting of 51 party branches, for discussions in a democratic fashion about the prevailing political situation.
   However, the PAP leadership led by Lee Kuan Yew obviously believed that it was the right moment to break up with the leftists, by way of adopting the slogan “independence through merger”. It would not allow anyone to discuss it as a policy in the Anson (Teluk Intan) by-election.
   The outcome of the Anson (Teluk Intan) by-election was announced on 15 July 1961. PAP was defeated. They aggravated the problem by tabling a motion in the Legislative Assembly for a “vote of confidence” in the government. On 26 July, 13 PAP assemblymen decided to leave the PAP together with the political secretaries, namely, S. Woodhull, Fong Swee Suan and myself.
   During the debate on the motion for a “vote of confidence”, I did not go around threatening or canvassing, or trying to buy over any assemblyman by way of offering payment of over 100,000 dollars, as alleged by Lee Kuan Yew and the like. We did not have that much of money then.
   I remember clearly that at least 3 PAP assemblymen came to see me at that time. If I had put in a little more effort, at least 1 or 2 of them would have defected and joined us. Whatever disputes we had with PAP, were for the betterment of the country and people, not for partisan interests, nor were they targeted at any particular individual.
   The debate on the motion of “vote of confidence” resulted in 13 PAP assemblymen abstaining. They did not vote against it. This showed that the leftists at that time had no intention of seizing political power, as imagined by Lee Kuan Yew. On the contrary, we were still hoping that Lee Kuan Yew would sit down and had talks with us. (Subsequently, the 13 PAP assemblymen joined Barisan Sosialis).

The above facts showed that the leftists often reacted to the situation in a passive manner. It was solely for the sake of the national interests.

I always had this in mind: If there was a tiny bit of socialist thinking on the part of the PAP leaders, regardless of which brand of socialism they belonged to, they should treat the leftists as “brothers of the same stock” in those historical circumstances. But the fact was, they opted to be “at loggerheads with each other”! If anyone ever traded national interests for his own selfish ends, the leftists would certainly fight against him to the bitter end at any expense!

What was Barisan Sosialis fighting for?

 1.  The immediate goal of Barisan Sosialis was to expose Lee Kuan Yew’s deception in the so-called “merger through Malaysia plan”; to raise the social awareness of the broad masses; and to unite them to carry on the anti-colonial struggle to the end, hoping to realise complete self-government having control over internal security in the 1963 constitutional talks;
 2.  To unite the peoples of Singapore, Federation of Malaya, Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei for the realisation of the Federation or Confederation of Malaysia on the basis of genuine equality;
 3.  To implement a policy of culture and education that respects mother-tongue of all ethnic communities; and to accord equal treatment to the culture and education of all ethnic groups;
 4.  To release all political detainees arrested by Lim Yew Hock government and the colonial government;
 5.  To implement a balanced economic policy in the light of the national conditions and global trends, and to protect and support local entrepreneurs as well as foreign investments which are of benefit to the short-term and long-term interests of the country;
 6.  To restore citizenship of all patriots persecuted by the colonial government and Lim Yew Hock government;
 7.  To provide adequate housing for all;
 8.  To strive for unification of the trade union movement in the interests of workers, and call upon the workers to take into account of the plight of the national capital, while safeguarding their own interests;
 9.  Gender equality should not only be restricted to equal pay for equal work, but women comprising half of the total population, should have greater say in all fields (including politics);
 10.  To allow freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of printing and publication in line with the national development;
 11.  To fight for complete internal self-government or full independence, before the realisation of a genuine merger or a confederation of 5 territories or 3 territories.

What impact did you have on Barisan Sosialis?

I have never regarded myself as being indispensable. I was a historical product of that era. If I were non-existent, there would be someone stepping into my shoes. Probably the person might emerge endowed with better qualities meeting the requirements of that historical era.

On reflection, I was more or less demoralised by two incidents which took place between October 1956 and June 1959.

The first incident: After the mass arrests in 1956, some of my close comrades-in-arm in prison, succumbed to the influence of Lee Kuan Yew. They chose to leave me, only to embark upon the road of the so-called “Malayan Socialism”. The second incident: The so-called “united front with PAP” was formed by the underground elements. I was then in the dark. These 2 incidents had immense impact on me, and made me frequently feel demoralised. They were the cause of my relatively not so illustrious performance in the prison during the period from 1963 to 1969.

Fong Chong Pik (left) passed on in February 2004 in Southern Thailand. He had a great impact on the left-wing movement in Singapore in his capacity as an “underground element”. He had secret talks with Lee Kuan Yew in Singapore on two occasions, in 1958 and 1961. When they first met, Lee Kuan Yew was just an assemblyman. When they met up the second time, Lee Kuan Yew was already the Prime Minister.

The left-wing elements had always thought that such move by Fong Chong Pik was a show of CPM support for Lee Kuan Yew, and that CPM was always willing to cooperate with PAP, with a view to establishing a broad open “united front”, to rid Singapore of the British colonial rule. However, Lim Chin Siong, as the political leader as well as the leader of the left-wing trade union movement, was not aware of the existence of such “united front” until he was released from prison in June 1959.

Lim Chin Siong opined that “Lee Kuan Yew who was in the open (with the support and cooperation from the Special Branch and the British Colonial Office) would surely reap the maximum benefit from the "united front". The so-called "united front" was nothing but total submission” (See the chapter “Why was Barisan Sosialis founded?”). This is the sharp criticism left behind by Lim Chin Siong on the so-called “united front” formed by CPM with Lee Kuan Yew and PAP.

In the first meeting with Lee Kuan Yew, Fong Chong Pik introduced himself as the “representative of CPM”. Lee Kuan Yew thus described him as the “plenipotentiary” of CPM. Before Fong Chong Pik passed away, he had clarified that he was not the “plenipotentiary” of CPM. By the term “underground element”, was Lim Chin Siong in his posthumous manuscript referring to Fong Chong Pik? Or was it someone else who represented CPM to instruct the Singapore leftists to “form the so-called united front with Lee Kuan Yew and PAP” at that time?

Was it because of this wrong decision about the “united front” made by CPM, that led to Lee Kuan Yew and PAP coming into power in 1959, and thereafter, ruling Singapore for more than half a century until today? We shall leave these questions to historians and those who are interested to probe into such questions.

At the time when Barisan Sosialis was first founded, I indicated my intention not to take up the post of Secretary General. I requested that one of the 5 graduates from the University of Malaya in the central committee to be elected for the post. But my suggestion was not accepted. I had no choice but to hold the post of Secretary General when Barisan Sosialis was inaugurated.

Since the founding of Barisan Sosialis, as Secretary General (from 17-9-1961 until my arrest on 2-2-1963) I had played my part in uniting the people from all walks of life within and outside the party, for the purpose of achieving the objectives of Barisan Sosialis, through a democratic process.

Historical facts of separation and anti-separation of Singapore and Malaya

The enlightenment period of the anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle

It was not Lee Kuan Yew, Lim Chin Siong, PAP nor Barisan Sosialis that started the anti-colonial, anti-imperialist national liberation movement in Malaya. Neither were they who ended it.

As far back as 1875, there was a high-ranking British officer in Perak, by the name of J.W.W. Birch. He was not well versed in the Malay language and custom. But he started intervention in the state affairs of the Malay States, and expropriated the Sultan’s powers in many aspects. His conduct incurred the wrath of the royal family and the Malays.

Sultan Abdullah and Raja Ismail joined forces to put up resistance against him. Maharaja Lela, a Malay leader from North Perak declared, “I would never take orders from anyone. I will never allow Birch to step into my village for one moment.” On 2 November 1875, Birch attended a ceremony in Pasir Salak, in an attempt to coerce the Sultan into relinquishing his power to the British. But he was stabbed to death with a spear on the spot. The British colonialists then resorted to suppression. They sent troops to arrest the Sultan and all leaders, and sent them into exile. Maharaja Lela was executed. This seemed to be the first time the British exercised their power of arrest and banishment in Malaya.

The revolt was no doubt tainted with narrow-minded nature of feudalism, but it was in fact an anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggle in its enlightenment period.

In the 1950s and 1960s, I had talks with some progressive Malay intellectuals on several occasions about this historical event. They intended to project the image of the ethnic Malays putting up resistance against the British rule. I encouraged them to make some efforts towards this end.

The purpose of referring to this historical event, was to remind those self-righteous people, that they were not the forerunners of history. They should not be that self-opinionated.

Due to constraints of my work and life, I am in no position to elaborate on many historical facts about numerous incidents of strong resistance against foreign domination that had taken place since the dawn of the twentieth century. I will focus on some of the historical events taking place after the Japanese surrender until the founding of PAP.

Because of the heroic resistance put up by the people from all ethnic groups, supplementing the anti-fascist struggle against Japan, German and Italy waged by China, Russia, Britain, America and other countries, the Japanese militarists had no alternative but to declare unconditional surrender on 15 August 1945.

World War II saw the awakening of the peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin-Amerika, including the people of Malaya. In particular, the Malays saw through the vulnerability of the British and their selfish nature. After the anti-fascist struggle which lasted for 3 years and 8 months, the people of Malaya became more courageous in persisting in their anti-colonial struggle.

In the month of October 1945, about 260,000 hunger-stricken people held hunger march all over Perak. In December, industrial workers launched a series of strikes in protest against exploitation. To save the weak economy of Malaya ruined by World War II, the British colonial authorities intensified the exploitation and oppression of the people of Malaya. The people’s demand was met with military crackdowns, killings and arrests. But all this could not silence the voice of the people.

The demand of the populace was to rid Malaya of the British colonial rule and for independence. In response, the British Secretary of State for the Colonies delivered the following statement in Parliament on 10 October 1945:

“Our policy will call for a constitutional Union of Malaya and for the institution of a Malaya citizenship which will give equal citizenship rights to those who claim Malaya to be their homeland. For these purposes, fresh agreements will need to be arranged with the Malay State Rulers and fresh constitutional measures for the Straits Settlements.

The Malayan Union will consist of the nine States in the Malay Peninsula and the two British Settlements of Penang and Malacca. The Settlement of Singapore at this stage requires separate constitutional treatment, and in view of its special economic and other interests, provision will be made for it to be constituted as a separate colony.

His Majesty's Government are, however, well aware of the many ties between Singapore and the Governments of the Malayan Union and Singapore to consider in due course. His Majesty’s Government have carefully considered the new constitutional measures necessary for the political, economic and social advancement of Malaya, and have decided that fresh agreements with the several Malay Rulers need first to be arranged, which will enable His Majesty to possess and exercise full jurisdiction in the Malay States.

Sir Harold McMichael has, accordingly, been appointed to visit Malaya as a Special Representative of His Majesty’s Government to arrange agreements with the Rulers for this purpose. When His Majesty possesses the jurisdiction, it is intended by an order in Council to constitute the Malayan Union.”

The proposal of such constitutional measures in a way indicated that, with the mounting resistance put up by the people, the British colonialists had to bring about some changes. The British could no longer continue to rule by adopting the pre-War outdated measures. They must adopt new measures in order to split up the people and deal a blow to the national independence movement.

Sir Harold McMichael was rebuffed, because some Sultans were hesitant to surrender their sovereignty, while others refused to do so. He had to shamelessly threaten them, “If you do not sign the agreement, you will be dethroned.” In the end, the Sultans of the 9 Malay states were compelled to sign the agreement reluctantly and hand over full sovereignty to the colonialists who had resorted to coercing and coaxing, intimidation and bribery.

Constitutional Proposals for Malaya 1946 (White Paper)

On 24 January 1946, the British colonialists officially announced a Constitutional Proposal for Malaya (White Paper) and practised “divide and rule” for Singapore and Malaya. The Proposals aimed at:
 (1)  hindering constitutional development in Singapore, separating Singapore from Malaya, thereby turning Singapore into a permanent political centre within the British sphere of influence in Southeast Asia;
 (2)  turning Singapore into a military stronghold in the Far East, thereby becoming a British global military base;
 (3)  consolidating and strengthening the free port status of Singapore, thereby converting it into an important foreign investment centre for the British capitalists;
 (4)  splitting up the people of Singapore and Malaya, and thwarting the national independence movement, thereby rendering Singapore incapable of playing an important part in the political movement in Malaya; and
 (5)  taking advantage of the special status of Singapore, for the purpose of exercising long-term control over the economy and politics of Malaya.
In this respect, the British colonialists resorted to the same old trick, that is, splitting up a country like India into three countries, namely, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh; and dividing Iraq and Kuwait into two countries.

At this historical juncture, the Malay nationalist forces were expanding rapidly. In March 1946, a group of English-educated Malay intellectuals headed by Dato Onn bin Jaafar, together with local chieftains and senior government officials, summoned various Malay groups and founded UMNO (United Malay National Organisation). Dato Onn was elected president of UMNO.

Prior to this, the Malay Nationalist Party (MNP) and Angkatan Pemuda Insaf (API) led by Ahmad Boestamam had launched the movement of awakening the Malays, supplementing the national liberation movement led by CPM.

Malayan Democratic Union (MDU)

On 22 February 1946, the Malayan Democratic Union (MDU) held a congress of all Malayan left-wing organisations and formed the “Pan-Malayan Council of Joint Action” (PMCJA). MDU was formed on 21 December 1945 and made the following declaration on the founding of the party:
 (1)  To achieve complete self-government of Malaya within the British Commonwealth;
 (2)  To establish a Malayan Legislative Assembly comprising popularly-elected representatives;
 (3)  Right to vote for all Malayan citizens above 21 years of age, regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion, and wealth;
 (4)  Absolute personal freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of publication and freedom of association;
 (5)  To provide free education for all, and to carry out reforms in primary education, secondary education and technical education;
 (6)  To implement social welfare system, and to provide free medical services for the whole of Malaya;
 (7)  To improve the livelihood of the people;
 (8)  To eliminate racial discrimination so that the people of all ethnic groups will have equal employment opportunities.

The important founder members of MDU were: Lim Hong Bee, Lim Kean Chye, Kuok Peng Chen (郭炳清, 即郭鹤龄), Gerald de Cruz (He claimed to be a member of CPM. He was employed as the secretary of Singapore Labour Front in late 1950s), John Eber and Lawyer Philip Hoalim. They were all English-educated intellectuals.

Lim Hong Bee, Lim Kean Chye and John Eber studied in the University of Cambridge in Britain. Eu Chooi Yip and PV Sarma became important office bearers of MDU almost at the same time, shortly after it was founded. During World War II, John Eber was imprisoned together with some British prisoners of war by the Japanese. He suffered extensive persecution and humiliation by the Japanese, and even by the British prisoners during his imprisonment.

When Lim Hong Bee was studying in the University of Cambridge, he offended the university authority, when he organised anti-Japanese activities to support the anti-Japanese War in China. He returned to Malaya and became a farmer in Endau, Johor. He also participated in the people’s anti-Japanese movement.

Lim Hong Bee and Lim Kean Chye were once the top students in Raffles Institution, Singapore. Both of them were granted Queen Scholarships to further their studies in the University of Cambridge in 1937. In 1950, Lim Hong Bee was again imprisoned by the British. Upon his release from prison, he went to England and continued to carry out anti-colonial movement to strive for independence of Malaya.

In 1950, Lim Kean Chye fled to Beijing and worked in the Beijing Radio Station. In 1956, David Marshall, the first Chief Minister of Singapore, visited Beijing and met Lim Kean Chye who was then living in exile in Beijing. David Marshall was convinced that Lim Kean Chye was not a member of CPM, and Lim had stopped all his political activities. Lim was then allowed to return to Singapore. He is currently a lawyer in Ipoh.

I have taken pains to give a detailed account of these people. This is just to prove that certain people who went around propagating that the staunch anti-British elements were all from Chinese schools, and they were all members of CPM. This is factually wrong. What they had propagated was fictitious or sheer exaggeration. They distorted history in order to cover up the fact that they were guilty of discrimination against the Chinese schools.

The detailed account given above also served to show that, before the English-educated led by Lee Kuan Yew emerged on the local political scene, there were numerous highly–trained English-educated intellectuals, who had dedicated themselves to the national liberation movement in Malaya (including Singapore).

Pan-Malayan Council of Joint Action (PMCJA)

Back to PMCJA. The member organisations of PMCJA included Malay Nationalist Party (MNP), Pan-Malayan Federation of Trade Unions (PMFTU), Malayan Democratic Union (MDU), Malayan Indian Congress (MIC), Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Ex-Comrades Association (MPAJECA), Malayan New Democratic Youth League (NDYL), Barisan Tani Se-Malaya (BATAS) and Angkatan Pemuda Insaf (API).

In its political programme, PMCJA advocated:
 (1)  A unified Malaya including Singapore;
 (2)  That the Legislative Assembly must be established through popular election, so that it is representative of the people;
 (3)  Equal political rights for all who have made Malaya their real home and the object of their undivided loyalty;
 (4)  That the Sultans of all the States shall be the supreme rulers according to the State Constitution;
 (5)  That Islam and Malay custom shall be managed by the Malay community;
 (6)  That PMCJA will actively promote the development and progress of the Malays.

Controversy over the Blue Book on the Malayan Constitutional Proposals

The Congress (of PMCJA) demanded that the British Secretary of State for the Colonies recognise PMCJA as the sole representative organisation of Malaya. But such demand was rejected by the British colonial government. Instead, the colonial government on its own formed a “Consultative Committee” to collect so-called public opinion. The “Report on the Malayan Constitutional Proposals” was revised with some minor amendments and was known as the “Blue Book”.

On 8 January 1947, PMCJA held its second congress in Selangor. It unanimously adopted the following resolutions:
 (1)  The Blue Book was drafted in an undemocratic manner. Its content was devoid of democracy and human rights. It could not in any way contribute towards the development of genuine democracy in this country;
 (2)  As regards the proposals of the Blue Book relating to the position of the Sultans, the Sultans need not accept the directions of the High Commissioner. The Sultans should enjoy the actual status of constitutional monarchy. They were advised to accept the views and recommendations of the people channelled through the Legislative Assembly;
 (3)  The privileges enjoyed by the Malays on Islam and Malay custom should not be interfered with;
 (4)  The Blue Book only took into consideration the rights and interests of certain privileged groups of the Malays, but not those of the entire Malay community. The Malay community needed special attention in the political, economic and educational fields. Therefore, the future Constitution of Malaya should have special provisions to promote the political, economic and educational developments of the Malays.

On 10 January 1947, the General Trade Union (GTU), whose members were from all ethnic groups of Malaya, issued a statement, levelling severe criticisms against the Blue Book:

“The Blue Book, exposes the reactionary nature of the colonial government. Its most important characteristic is that the British are empowered to have centralised system of domination with the mandate from all the Sultans. The Executive Council and the Legislative Assembly were only adornments of the colonial bureaucratic rule. They had not even an iota of democratic elements in them.

This was evident from the fact that the High Commissioner was given supreme power above all others. The Legislative Assembly was the only institution that could represent the popular will. But its official members and semi-official members constituted the majority in the Assembly. The non-official members were not elected by the people, but nominated by the Executive Officer. They had no real power at all.

Any law to be passed in the Legislative Assembly, could be rendered ineffective by the Commissioner. Any law passed not to the liking of the High Commissioner, could be invalidated by him. Therefore, the will of the High Commissioner became the law, and the Legislative Assembly was merely his tool.”

On 10 January 1947, the CPM also voiced its criticism against the Blue Book:

“The so-called restoration of sovereignty of the Sultans is in reality the British government’s trick to allay the discontent of the Malays towards the British. In fact, the political power of the federal government and all the states of Malaya, are under the tight control of the High Commissioner and the British advisers of the states.

The term “citizenship” is interpreted to mean a supplement to the original concept of nationality, and it is not nationality itself.

This is an indication that the British government is going to deny Malaya of self-government in the future. If the British government genuinely had the intention to allow Malaya to embark upon the road to self-government, it should in the first place recognize Malayan citizenship for all those who regard Malaya as their permanent home and the object of their undivided loyalty.”

On appearance, the Blue Book allocated more seats for non-official members to the Malays, compared with the number of seats allocated to the other ethnic groups in the Legislative Assembly, and the subjects of the Sultans were entitled to automatic citizenship. But the so-called special position was, in fact, of not much significance to the Malays. It was merely a pretext to create jealousy and discord between the Chinese and the Malays, giving rise to the breakup of the various ethnic groups.

CPM endorsed the “3 Principles” advocated by PMCJA, namely:
 (1)  To establish a unified Malaya including Singapore;
 (2)  To form a responsible self-government in Malaya through a fully-elected central legislature;
 (3)  Equal citizenship for all who had made Malaya their permanent home and the object of their undivided loyalty.

At that juncture, people from all walks of life answered the call of PMCJA to oppose the Blue Book. On 28 January 1947, PMCJA held another congress in Kuala Lumpur and passed the following resolutions:
 (1)  To urge all members of the Consultative Committee to resign on the grounds that they are not really the people’s representatives, and they are incapable. They are merely the appendage of an autocratic government.
 (2)  To urge all the people to support the objective of PMCJA to serve the people of Malaya and strive for democratic constitution.

In January 1947, the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce ("The Chamber") also set up a special committee comprising 19 members, to study the Blue Book and to present a memorandum to the Colonial Office. The memorandum pointed out:
   1.  It was far from fair and reasonable for not having any consultation with the Chinese community before producing the Blue Book. The Chinese community had been living in Malaya for centuries. They had contributed to the prosperity of Malaya with their diligence and entrepreneurship.
     They defended Malaya with their lives during the Japanese Occupation. Their allegiance to Malaya was no lesser than that of any other ethnic groups. Therefore, any proposals for effecting changes in the Malayan Constitution should not ignore the interests of the Chinese community.
   2.  "The Chamber" was opposed to the separation of Singapore and Malaya. This provision about separation was added without the prior consent of the people in the colony. Singapore could not be geographically and economically separated from the mainland Malaya. Politically, the separation was bound to cause damage to the economic development and well-being of the people of the Straits Settlements and the states of Malaya.
     Singapore alone was too small for maintaining a separate government. It would only increase the burden of the people. "The Chamber" acknowledged that it was really important for Singapore to be a strategic centre for national defence. But special arrangements could be made in this respect. It was not necessary to separate Singapore from Malaya.
   3.  Provisions relating to the citizenship of the Federation: Granting citizenship to the Malays unconditionally, but imposing various restrictions on the non-Malays, was not acceptable to the non-Malays. Even the right-thinking Malays would not agree to such provisions.
     "The Chamber" was for the protection of the special position of the Malays of the states of Malaya. But at the same time, the other ethnic groups should not be denied of their legitimate rights and interests.
     "The Chamber" proposed the following principles for granting citizenship:
(a)All those who were born in Malaya should enjoy equal status and be granted citizenship automatically, regardless of race;
(b)Different citizenship provisions should be made for the existing residents of Malaya and future immigrants;
(c)The period of residence (for acquiring citizenship) should be 5 years, and not 15 years;
(d)To do away with any language qualification.
   4.  "The Chamber" was opposed to the unfair proportionate representation in the Legislative Assembly. The official language could be English, but any assemblyman should be allowed to speak in other languages with permission of the Speaker. The powers of the High Commissioner should be limited to national defence and security matters only.

On 19 February 1947, the Malay Nationalist Party (MNP), API (Angkatan Pemudia Insaf) and AWAS (Angkatan Wanita Sedar - Malay Women’s Association) organised an all-Malayan congress in Bukit Mertajam to oppose the Constitutional Proposals (Blue Book). They adopted the following resolutions:
 (1)  When the time is ripe, to declare the inauguration of the Republic of Malaya;
 (2)  To issue an ultimatum to the British government, demanding that it should withdraw from Malaya on a specified date.

“PUTERA” in support of PMCJA

On 22 February 1947, more than 100 Malay organisations, mobilised by the Malay left-wing political parties, attended a consultative meeting for the purpose of opposing the Blue Book in Kuala Lumpur. Pusat Tenaga Rakyat (PUTERA) was formed in the meeting. It resolutely supported the “6 Principles” of PMCJA. At the same time, PUTERA added “4 demands” as follows:
 (1)  Malay is the official language of the country;
 (2)  Foreign affairs are to be the joint responsibility of the Malayan government and the British government;
 (3)  Citizens of Malaya should be called “Melayu”;
 (4)  The Malayan national flag should use “red and white”, the Malay traditional colours, which are of strong historical significance, and it is also used by the Indonesian flag.

PUTERA and PMCJA worked closely together, and they both held high the banner of anti-colonialism and anti-feudalism. [Note: When PUTERA and PMCJA decided to work together, PMCJA changed its name to AMCJA (All-Malayan Council of Joint Action).] They waged an uncompromising struggle for the independence of Malaya. The People’s Constitutional Proposals for Malaya drafted by them was discussed by all the organisations of Malaya in a consultation meeting held in Kuala Lumpur from 7-7-1947 to 9-7-1947.

The main contents of The People’s Constitutional Proposals for Malaya were:
 (1)  To establish a unified Malaya including Singapore;
 (2)  To form a self-government;
 (3)  The Federal Legislative Assembly should be elected by secret ballot or direct by the people above the age of 18 years;
 (4)  The British High Commissioner should only have the power to control national defence and foreign affairs. But the internal affairs should be the sole responsibility of a popularly-elected minister;
 (5)  All those who were born in Malaya should be granted citizenship. Citizenship can also be acquired by:
(a)Any person above the age of 18 years;
(b)He has been living in Malaya for more than 8 years in the past 10 years prior to the application for citizenship;
(c)He is of good character and has passed the ordinary Malay oral test;
(d)He is loyal and swears allegiance to Malaya.
 (6)  Every citizen enjoys freedom of expression, freedom of publication, freedom of assembly and association, freedom of religion and freedom of movement. The property rights of citizens are protected. Encroachment without any due process is not allowed.
 (7)  To establish a Council of Races comprising 2 representatives from each of the ethnic groups, namely, the Malays, Chinese, Eurasians, Ceylonese, Arabs, Jews, Indians, Europeans and other minority groups. The Committee has the power to defer for a period of 3 years, any law considered prejudicial to any race or religion. It also has the right to present bills to the Legislative Assembly.
 (8)  Malay custom and religion are to be managed by the Malay institutions.
 (9)  The official language of the Legislative Assembly is Malay, but any assemblyman may use other languages.

“Summary of the Revised Constitutional Proposals” aroused public outrage

On 24 July 1947, the British Colonial Office published the Summary of the Revised Constitutional Proposals (“Revised Constitutional Proposals”). It was to come into force from 1948 onwards. The “Revised Constitutional Proposals” was drafted by the so-called “Anglo-Malay Consultative Committee” on the basis of the original Blue Book. It had the following features:
 (1)  Separate governments for Singapore and the Federation of Malaya. The Federation of Malaya comprised 9 Malay states and the Straits Settlements of Penang and Malacca. Meanwhile, Singapore, Christmas Island and Cocoa Island were preserved as British crown colonies;
 (2)  Automatic citizenship would only be granted to any subject (wherever born) of the Ruler of any State, and any British subject born in the two Straits Settlements. Any person who wished to apply for citizenship, must be locally born and had resided in Malaya for at least 8 years in the past 12 years. As for those who were not born locally, they must have resided in Malaya for 15 years;
 (3)  Members of the Federal Legislative Assembly could be Malays or non-Malays. The Malays would be allocated 31 seats, Chinese 14 seats, and other ethnic groups 29 seats. Out of the 75 seats, 50 were non-official members appointed by the High Commissioner;
 (4)  There were no provisions prescribing the rights of a citizen. But it was expressly stipulated that citizenship was not equivalent to nationality;
 (5)  The High Commissioner was conferred the supreme power over and above the Legislative Assembly. He was given the executive power to supervise all the Malay States or any colony. He could promulgate any law on his own, without going through the Legislative Assembly. He could overrule any policy made by the Legislative Assembly.
   He could also exercise the power of amnesty on behalf of His Majesty in the colonies. The power of making any final decision lay solely and exclusively with the High Commissioner;
 (6)  Members of the Executive Council were to be appointed by the High Commissioner.

The Revised Constitutional Proposals aroused public anger. It met with vehement resistance from the people of Malaya from all strata of society. On 18 August 1947, PUTERA - PMCJA held a congress in Malacca. It was attended by 68 societies and 53 chambers of commerce.

The following resolutions were adopted by the congress:
 (1)  To send a telegram to the Prime Minister of Great Britain and the British Secretary of State for the Colonies, to voice its protest;
 (2)  To organise Hartal (mass protest involving a total shutdown of workplaces, offices, shops, etc.) for one whole day throughout Malaya on 9 September 1947, to express strong protest against the “Revised Constitutional Proposals”.

On 9 September 1947, Hartal was launched in Malacca, Muar, Rawang, Kuala Selangor, Selangor, Butterworth and other major towns in North Malaya. As the resistance from the people intensified, the British colonial government expedited their move to make the “Revised Constitutional Proposals” a fait accompli. They organised in haste the elections in Singapore and Malaya.

On 10 September 1947, the Singapore People's Anti-Japanese Ex-Comrades Association (SPAJECA) issued a statement to the following effect:

“We are of the view that the Legislative Assembly election being organized in Singapore is not a move of goodwill. The British government attempted to establish a Legislative Assembly of Singapore in order to realize the split of Singapore and Malaya and push through the implementation of the “Revised Constitutional Proposals”.

The laws on elections and electoral procedures of the Legislative Assembly were extremely restrictive and undemocratic. For example, out of 22 members of the Legislative Assembly, 13 were appointed official members. But only 6 members were to be truly elected by the people.

There were strict requirements for being a voter (He must be a British subject above 21 years of age. For a foreigner to become a British subject by naturalisation, he must have resided in Malaya for at least 30 years before his application to be a British subject.) Even though 6 members were to be elected, they could only represent the views of a handful of people. Above all, the High Commissioner had been conferred the overriding supreme power.”

On 19 September 1947, Zhang Mingjin (张明今), the representative of the CPM, issued a statement entitled “Why did we boycott the Singapore Election?”. He said:

“Today, the controversy between the people and the government with regard to the constitutional changes of Malaya is one between unity and “divide and rule”, and between democracy and manipulation. The boycott of the Singapore legislative election, was the manifestation of the intensification of the dispute.

The demand of the majority of the Malayan people was for the immediate merger of Singapore and Malaya, in order to build a unified country and a federal government, representing the interests of the people. But the British government went against the peoples’ wishes. It proceeded with the “divide and rule” of Singapore and Malaya, merely out of its own selfish interests,… to retain Singapore as its colony under its monopoly for many years to come.”

The forced splitting of Singapore and Malaya and forced implementation of the “Revised Constitutional Proposals” provoked public outrage. On 6 July 1947, PUTERA - AMCJA adopted a resolution to give full support to the call by the Associated Chambers of Commerce of Malaya to organize an All-Malaya Hartal on 20 October 1947 to protest against the implementation of “Revised Constitutional Proposals”.

All-Malaya Hartal as protest against Revised Constitutional Proposals

On 29 October 1947, about 5 million people acting in unity launched the All-Malaya Hartal struggle. The All-Malaya Hartal was launched in towns and villages throughout Malaya from the north to the south. It involved workers, students, hawkers and businessmen. The People of all ethnic groups acted in unison. By the action they evinced their determination to fight for an independent, unified, peaceful and democratic Malaya, by way of shutting down shops, workers’ strikes, students’ strikes, and boycotting the markets. Their concerted efforts were of profound historical significance. The campaign indicated that:
 (1)  5 million people of Malaya had the will to demand for a unified Malaya including Singapore, to protest against separatism, and to defend democracy and freedom. Such strong will was unshakable;
 (2)  The people of Malaya were peace-loving and sensible people. They were prepared to tactfully strive for independence, unification, democracy and peace, through peaceful constitutional struggle;
 (3)  The British colonial government tried their best to sow discord among the people. But all the ethnic groups had common basic vital interests. They were able to attain common grounds by mutual respect and seeking accord while containing differences founded on democratic principles;
 (4)  Their struggle (from 1954 to 1955) had taught the British colonialists a lesson. Eventually the British colonial government had no choice but to make some concessions in the process of constitutional reform in Malaya.

The promulgation of the Emergency

In response to the patriotic, democratic and popular anti-colonial movement, the British colonial government promulgated the Emergency throughout Malaya (including Singapore) on 18 June 1948. Large numbers of patriotic democrats were arrested, deported or forced to go underground. MDU dissolved on its own volition. CPM was declared illegal. Once again, CPM went into the jungle to launch an armed struggle.

Would it be more favourable to the CPM if they had continued their armed struggle after the Japanese surrendered in World War II?

Was the move by CPM to re-launch the armed struggle after the proclamation of the Emergency, induced by force of circumstances? Or was it initiated by CPM on its own volition? Was the timing opportune?

These questions have often popped up in the minds of the people. These are in fact the internal problems which have emerged in the history of CPM. But, from an objective point of view, the unwavering struggle waged by CPM had directly or indirectly expedited the British colonial government in making concessions in the constitutional talks.

Malayan Democratic Union (MDU) hastened the birth of PAP

It has been said that the Malayan Democratic Union (MDU) had no alternative but to dissolve itself soon after the promulgation of the Emergency, because it boycotted the 1948 Singapore election, thereby forfeiting its right to carry on the constitutional struggle. This is a lop-sided view of the issue.

The main reason was that the leaders of MDU were arrested and put behind bars one after another, since they were not willing to be subservient to the British colonial government. The whole organisation was destroyed. Though MDU was short-lived, it had a significant impact on nation-building in Malaya and Singapore. The following facts cannot be denied.
 (1)  MDU raised the awareness of the English-educated middle class, encouraging them to actively participate in the nationalist movement and nation building in Malaya;
 (2)  It introduced and disseminated the concept of Malayan nationalism in place of the narrow racist view;
 (3)  It raised the issue of “nationality and citizenship” through the People’s Constitution of Malaya;
 (4)  The founding manifesto of the party became the blueprint of that of political parties (including PAP) formed in the later years;
 (5)  It proposed Malay to be the national language, and it accepted “Melayu” as the nationality of Malaya.

In an article 1945-1959 Struggle for Independence, David Marshall once mentioned:

“In December 1945, a political party named Malayan Democratic Union (MDU) was formed by a group of English-speaking people. Although it cooperated and became an ally with CPM, it was basically democratic and genuinely fought for the independence of Malaya. In spite of some radical actions later, it still appeared moderate, rational and responsible in the plan of fighting for independence. The feat of a few important leaders such as John Eber, Lim Kean Chye, Philip Hoalim and Lim Hong Bee was almost being blotted out. It was they who had awakened our consciousness.”

It can be said that “there will be no People’s Action Party (PAP) without Malayan Democratic Union (MDU)”.

However, after coming into power in 1959, Lee Kuan Yew threw overboard the PAP founding manifesto. He opted out of the mainstream of the anti-colonial movement. He then collaborated with the British colonial masters and right-wing elements of the Federation of Malaya. He wiped out all his comrades-in-arm who had fought side by side with him in his ascendancy to power. He had a hand in eliminating anti-imperialist and anti-colonial patriots.


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通告 Notification

人民之友 对我国下届大选意见书
(华 巫 英)3种语文已先后贴出

作为坚守“独立自主”和“与民同在”的立场的一个民间组织,人民之友在今年9月24日对即将来临的第14届全国大选投票,发表了一篇以华文书写的“意见书”,题为:投票支持"反对国家伊斯兰化的候选人": 反对巫统霸权统治!莫让马哈迪帮派"复辟"!

这篇意见书的英文译稿(标题是:Vote for “candidates who are against State Islamisation”: Oppose UMNO hegemonic rule! Prevent “the return to power of Mahathir’s faction”!)已于10月22日张贴在本部落格。马来文译稿(标题是:Undilah "calon yang membantah pengislaman negara": Menentang pemerintahan hegemoni UMNO! Mencegah puak Mahathir kembali kepada kuasa!)也已接着在11月13日在此贴出。

此外,人民之友也将通过电子邮件、微信、WhatsApp等方式,尽可能向全国各民族、各阶层、各行业、各宗教的团体和个人,传送我们的这份“意见书”供参考。我们欢迎跟我们对下届大选的立场和见解一致的团体和个人,将这份“意见书”传送到更多的人手中去!

我们希望,我们在意见书内所表达的对下届大选的立场和观点,能够准确而又广泛地传播到我国各民族、各阶层的人民群众中接受考验,并接受各党派在这次全国大选斗争和今后实践的检验。


Pandangan Sahabat Rakyat terhadap PRU akan datang telah diterbitkan dalam tiga bahasa (Melayu, Cina dan Inggeris)

Sebagai sebuah pertubuhan masyarakat yang berpendirian teguh tentang prinsip "bebas dan berautonomi" dan “sentiasa berdampingan dengan rakyat jelata”, Sahabat Rakyat telah menerbitkan kenyataan tentang pandangan kami terhadap Pilihan Raya Umum ke-14 yang bertajuk "Undilah calon yang menentang Pengislaman Negera: Menentang pemerintahan hegemoni UMNO! Jangan benarkan puak Mahathir kembali memerintah! " (投票支持"反对国家伊斯兰化的候选人": 反对巫统霸权统治!莫让马哈迪帮派"复辟"!)dalam Bahasa Cina pada 24hb September 2017.

Penterjemahan Bahasa Inggeris kenyataan tersebut yang bertajuk Vote for “candidates who are against State Islamisation”: Oppose UMNO hegemonic rule! Prevent “the return to power of Mahathir’s faction”! telah diterbitkan dalam blog kita pada 22hb Oktober 2017 manakala penterjemahan Bahasa Melayu telah diterbitkan pada 13hb November 2017.

Selain daripada itu, Sahabat Rakyat juga akan menyebarkan kenyataan ini seluas mungkin kepada pertubuhan dan individu semua bangsa, strata, profesyen dan agama seluruh Negara melalui email, wechat, whatsApp dan pelbagai saluran lain. Kami amat mengalu-alukan pertubuhan dan individu yang berpendirian dan pandangan sama dengan kami untuk turut menyebarkan kenyataan ini kepada lebih ramai orang!

Kami berharap pendirian dan pandangan kami berkenaan pilihan raya kali ini yang dinyatakan dalam kenyataan tersebut dapat disebarkan dengan tepat dan meluas untuk diuji dalam kalangan rakyat semua bangsa semua strata sosial melalui penglibatan mereka dalam amalan pelbagai parti politik dalam pertempuran pilihan raya umum kali ini mahupun amalan masa depan.


The Chinese, English and Malay renditions of Sahabat Rakyat’s opinions about next election have been published consecutively

As an NGO which upholds “independent and autonomous” position and "always be with the people" principle, on 24 September 2017, Sahabat Rakyat had released a Chinese-written statement of views with regard to the voting in the upcoming 14th General Election, entitled “Vote for candidates who are against State Islamisation: Oppose UMNO hegemonic rule! Prevent the return to power of Mahathir’s faction!” (投票支持"反对国家伊斯兰化的候选人": 反对巫统霸权统治!莫让马哈迪帮派"复辟"!)

The English rendition of this statement entitled "Vote for “candidates who are against State Islamisation”: Oppose UMNO hegemonic rule! Prevent “the return to power of Mahathir’s faction”!" and the Malay rendition entitled "Undilah "calon yang membantah pengislaman negara": Menentang pemerintahan hegemoni UMNO! Mencegah puak Mahathir kembali kepada kuasa!" had been released on 22 October and 13 November respectively.

Apart from that, Sahabat Rakyat will also make every effort to disseminate this statement as widely as possible to organizations and individuals of all ethnic groups, religions and all walks of life throughout the country via email, WeChat, WhatsApp and other channels. We welcome organizations and individuals with the same position and views to spread this statement to more people!

We hope that our position and views pertaining to the next General Election expressed in the statement will be accurately and widely disseminated and also examined by the popular masses of various ethnicity and social strata through their involvement in the struggle of the next General Election carried out by various political parties and their practices in all fields in future.

Malaysia Time (GMT+8)