Landmark of historic falsehood

I refer to the 5 Nov 2014 Straits Times report “Landmarks marking historic events to get prime locations”.

No communists in Singapore’s early years

There is no need to place a marker along Queen Elizabeth Walk to honor those who fought communists in Singapore’s early years because there were no communists in Singapore’s early years.

Singapore’s early years were years following our founding in 1819. It would be more than a hundred years later in 1925 that the South Seas or Nanyang Communist Party would be established in Singapore.

No communists in independent Singapore’s early years

Independent Singapore’s early years were also not known for communist activity. The first Malayan communist insurgency had ended in 1960, 5 years before our independence with the successful defeat of the Malayan communists by the British and their decimation and collapse in Singapore while the second Malayan communist insurgency was confined almost exclusively to the jungles of Malaysia and barely touched Singapore.

The British fight against the communists was successful. While the state of emergency lasted until 1960, the insurgency was put down earlier, giving birth to the Malay Federation as an independent state on August 31, 1957.

[The History of Singapore, Jean Abshire, page 114]

The British responded by appointing Sir Gerald Templer as high commissioner and commander-in-chief in February 1952. Using near dictatorial powers, Templer broke the military power of the communists in two years, and by 1955, they were no longer a serious threat to the British. This allowed for independence … and the proclamation of the Federation of Malaya in 1957.

[Historical Dictionary of Singapore, Justin Corfield, page 167]

The Malayan Communist Party … was not particularly effective. It hosted a meeting … most notable … for the comprehensive surveillance by the British Special Branch … Subsequent mass arrests decimated the MCP

[Jungle of Snakes: A Century of Counterinsurgency Warfare from the Philippines to Iraq, James R. Arnold, page 134]

In December 1949 the Special Branch obtained the full list of the STC through a planted informer, and conducted a raid on 1 May 1950. Singapore Town Committee Vice Secretary Ah Har and three other committee members were arrested … Later that month, 20 more MCP and ABL members were arrested. Seven months later, on 5 December, because of an alert Special Branch officer, STC Secretary Ah Chin and his assistant, Ho Seng, were caught …the mass arrests caused the near collapse of the MCP’s operations in Singapore

[Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Post-war Singapore, Michael D. Barr and Carl A. Trocki, page 61]

The first thing to realise is that although left-wing and anti-colonial radicalism flourished to unprecedented levels during the first half of the 1950s, the Communist Party itself was diminishing as a controlling force in Singapore over the same period

[Constructing Singapore: Elitism, Ethnicity and the Nation-building Project, Michael D. Barr and Zlatko Skrbiš, page 26]

The MCP itself … seems to have been more a figment of the imagination of … the British Special Branch and the right-wing forces in Singapore. Its “ghost” may have lived a much longer and more active life than the real one ever did. While the party … attracted idealistic recruits from Singapore … we may question the extent of its organization and power in Singapore, particularly during … 1952-63. Repeated waves of arrests, banishments and defections between 1948 and 1963 severely limited its ability to launch an effective organization

[Singapore: Wealth, Power and the Culture of Control, Carl A. Trocki, page 101]

S R Nathan did not deal with pro-communists

‘Pro-communist’ is a misused word that has been too often used by Lee and his associates to fix his political opponents without justice. Tan Lark Sye was a good example of those unfairly labeled ‘pro-communist’ and fixed. Tan Lark Sye has since been rehabilitated and no longer a ‘pro-communist’ but a model philanthropist to be emulated today. This speaks volumes about the falsity of the pro-communist charge that all honest Singaporeans today should collectively reject. Mr Nathan did not deal with ‘pro-communists’; he dealt with nationalists, anti-colonialists and patriots fighting for Singapore’s betterment.

Foremost among these men are Tan Kah Kee and Tan Lark Sye. Both … operated in pre-independent Singapore but were hitherto linked with the communist cause by the state: Tan Kah Kee professed admiration for Mao … while Tan Lark Sye had his Singapore citizenship papers revoked in 1963 on the grounds that he had “actively and persistently collaborated with an active antinational group of communists.” Hence recent public references to both men have been singularly focused on their munificence toward education … Their politics as understood by the state is left unmentioned, as is the context of Singapore’s anticolonial history. Singapore’s heroes are thus in limbo – an intermediate state of simultaneous exposure and suppression …

With the clarification of the “misunderstanding,” that the two men were actually selfless champions of Chinese education rather than communists, both men have become fit for emulation in public discourse, for their enterprise and public spiritedness. A PAP member of Parliament who considers himself to be the voice of Chinese-educated Singaporeans … prescribed the emulation of heroes such as Tan Kah Kee. Recalling the tycoon-philanthropist image and erasing the communist label have made them suitable heroes …

Tan Kah Kee’s and Tan Lark Sye’s posthumous rehabilitation and transformation from communists to communitarians, effected collaboratively between the state in search of local role models, and the scions of the families … perpetuates a pop-up story-book dimension … of their human agency.

[New Terrains in Southeast Asian History, Abu Talib Ahmad and Liok Ee Tan, page 226-230]

During the election campaign, the Barisan tried to capitalize on Tan Lark Sye’s status, his activism in the struggle for Chinese education, and his antagonistic relationship with the PAP leadership. They asked Tan for financial support and later for a public endorsement of the Barisan candidates who were Nanda graduates or students. Tan did both, donating $20,000 towards the campaign cost of the 10 Nanda candidates while publicly urging Chinese voters to support them in the election. His hope was that a Nanda graduate would become the Minister of Education in the Barisan government … On 22 September, the day after the election, the Singapore government began legal proceedings to revoke the citizenship of Tan Lark Sye on the grounds that he had “collaborated with a group of communists at Nanda”. Lee Kuan Yew wrote: We had decided to make an example of prominent figures who had acted as front men for the communists, believing that their wealth and standing in the Chinese-speaking community gave them immunity. Number one on the list was Tan Lark Sye, then honorary president of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the founder of Nanyang University.

The PAP used this reasoning as pretence to take out a strong leader with much clout amongst the Chinese electorate, eradicating a possible avenue for an alternative to its own power base. Tan Lark Sye could remain in Singapore only because he had gone through the process of British naturalization in the 1950s. Disgruntled, he later took some of his business ventures abroad … In Ipoh, Malaysia, he set up the Tasek Cement complex. At the launch of this industrial venture, he emphasized the considerable financial involvement of Taiwanese partners, defiantly asking the Singapore government why these fiercest of Chinese anti-communists would ever cooperate with him if he had really been a communist sympathizer. He had a point because as a businessmen and a multi-millionaire he was not interested in a communist ideological line. He did think that Chinese language, culture and identity were important issues … however, that did not make him a pro-communist.

[The Business of Politics and Ethnicity: A History of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Sikko Visscher, page 155]

… the key leadership in the majority Chinese community were millionaire philanthropists who would thus make good candidates for canonisation, but they either displayed sympathy for the … Chinese Communist Party as was the case with Tan Kah Kee, or like Tan Lark Sye, the largest donor of funds to building Nanyang University, did not necessarily support the PAP’s cultural politics; in fact Tan was stripped of his Singapore citizenship by the government. Pan Shou, the assistant to Tan Lark Sye in the early years of running the Nanyang University, suffered a similar fate.

Nevertheless, in the 1990s these men were conscripted as heroes, after being rehabilitated as exemplar visionaries who supported the cause of education and culture.

Tan Kah Kee’s nephew … responded … to the ‘rehabilitation’ of his uncle’s name by emphasizing that for years ‘some people mistook him to be a communist or a communist sympathizer, but he was neither. He has simply focused his energy to help China and win a place for ethnic Chinese in the world, by contributing to education here and in China. This was not valued in the beginning. But now, it is recognized that there is a need to revive the Tan Kah Kee spirit – this spirit of contributing to society.’

[The Scripting of a National History: Singapore and Its Pasts, Lysa Hong and Huang Jianli, page 163, 173]

Why Singapore commemorate peace agreement not involving Singapore?

It is ridiculous for Singapore to commemorate a peace agreement that didn’t involve Singapore. Since the peace agreement between the Communist Party of Malaya and the Malaysian and Thai governments didn’t involve Singapore, why should Singapore partake in commemorating it? In that case why not also commemorate the August 1978 peace agreement between China and Japan or the August 2005 Aceh peace agreement? If Mr Wong’s ministry can find the remotest justification to commemorate the Haadyai peace agreement, surely his ministry can also find similar justifications to commemorate a whole multitude of other peace agreements unrelated to Singapore?

No evidence of strong community support for markers

Mr Wong should show us evidence of strong community support for the markers instead of just saying it. He should also consider the possibility of even stronger community apathy or disapproval of these markers of falsehoods.

Thus far, the so-called communist violence and assassinations that retired police officers have recounted are not first person experiences but experiences shared by their Malaysian counterparts. Doesn’t it say a lot about the so-called ‘truth’ of ‘communist violence’ in Singapore when retired police officers can only borrow Malaysian accounts and not use their own?

The following is an example of a so-called ‘account’ of ‘Singapore’s confrontation with Communist Party of Malaya’ that was nothing more than Malaysia’s encounter instead:

When Singapore confronted the Communist Party of Malaya, it had to deal with female communists …I knew a Malaysian military intelligence officer who fought the communists. Part of his duties was to turn them to gain intelligence and to aid in search and destroy missions. In his experience, the women were more deadly. It was possible to crack or turn a male communist, given time and incentives, he said. However, try as he might, he could never turn a female communist. They were prepared to die for the cause “no matter what”, he said. He once led an ambush of a communist patrol and a heavily pregnant communist charged at one of his soldiers with a parang. He knocked her down with a shot but she got up and tried to charge again. He had to shoot her again, this time, to her death. In his opinion, female soldiers are as good as male soldiers … Chew Kok Liang

[STforum online, Don’t underestimate female soldiers, 20 Oct 2014]

Retired police officers wrongly accused student demonstrations and labour strikes as incidents of communist violence when they weren’t.

At that time, workers worked 12 to 14 hours a day with only two days leave during Chinese New Year. Of the 1955 strikes, half were sympathy strikes while subsequent ones were mostly economic in nature. The strikes brought about an increase in pay, sick pay and two weeks’ annual leave for workers. Various ordnances between 1955 and 1957 gave workers eight-hour work day and Sunday off, something we take for granted today. The unions sought to address genuine workers’ grievances and to restore their rights and dignity.

[Michael Fernandez and Loh Kah Seng, Paths not taken – political pluralism in post-war Singapore, Chapter 11]

… it is important to note that even though some Leftist members of the CEC were associate with the MCP, their actions were not directed by the Party. Their aggressive push for power grew from local frustrations and not from any sort of strategic planning or instructions … it seems that even at this senior level, the Party was unable to keep control of events … since 1956, the MCP had considered the Singapore operations as a whole to be overly ‘left’ and too militant and had criticised the 13 May 1954 riot and the May 1955 Hock Lee Bus riot as overly ‘left’. A directive … reached Singapore in late 1956 urging moderation, but the political situation in Singapore was moving faster than the courier communication system. Isolated directives arriving months after the events … had little impact on the ground

[Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Post-war Singapore, Michael D. Barr and Carl A. Trocki, page 65]

Even the Security Liaison Officer then, Maurice LB Williams, also reported no evidence of the united front being directed by communists and that the united front was nothing more than a broad coalition of nationalistic, grieving and frustrated populace.

In spite of intensive investigations, no evidence has been obtained of C.P.M. directions to open United Front workers as to how they should carry out their activities.

As the scope of the United Front widens to include a major element of the trade unions, as well as peasant and student organisations, it must become increasingly difficult, if not impossible for a secret caucus of Party members (assuming that such exists) to control all its ramifications and direct all its activities.

If they were indeed doing this successfully, it is inconceivable that Special Branch investigations would have failed to yield any evidence of such control and direction.

It is far more likely (as was envisaged by the Party themselves in the October Resolutions of 1951) that the “United Front” represents an amalgam of different and conflicting interests, individual ambitions, industrial grievances, Chinese nationalism, housing problems of the peasant population and educational frustration of the students.

At present they are united only in their dissatisfactions with the P.A.P. Government, and they cannot be considered to form a monolithic Communist edifice under strict Party management


Retired police officers didn’t stand up against communists; they were accomplices to Lee Kuan Yew who did Lee’s bidding in perpetrating a police state that destroyed the lives Singapore patriots like Chia Thye Poh.

Singapore sovereignty not threatened

There is no truth to Mr Wong’s claim that the Malayan communist insurgency threatened Singapore’s sovereignty. Singapore sovereignty couldn’t have been threatened during the first Malayan communist insurgency between 1948 and 1960 as there was no Singapore sovereignty to speak of then. Singapore sovereignty existed only after 1965. Prior to 1965, Singapore only had British followed by Malaysian sovereignty. The second Malayan communist insurgency was largely fought in Malaysian jungles which again hardly threatened Singapore sovereignty.

Contrary to Mr Wong’s claim, the communists couldn’t have been around to win anything after their ejection from Singapore by the British around 1955. But Barisan Sosialis was around and did win some parliamentary seats but Barisan was no communist party but victim of Lee Kuan Yew’s political machinations and abuse of the Internal Security Act.

‘the MCP did not exercise the control over its fellow-travelers that it sought’, ‘the very idea of a “Communist United Front” is perhaps a misnomer’ as ‘most of the groups caught up in leftist popular radicalism … were neither communist, united, nor a front for anybody but themselves’ and the equating of disorder on the peninsula as a “Communist plot’ was ultimately made only as ‘a leap of faith’.

Harper … concluded that ‘hard evidence is hard to find’ about Singapore left’s complicity with the Communist underground. While some colonial officials had strong reservations, others made the leap based merely on circumstantial evidence. The failed MCP armed uprising, its retreat into deep jungle bases, the demise of the Anti-British League, and the work of colonial intelligence, infiltrators and agents provocateurs meant that ‘the MCP’s influence on the radical politics of Singapore in the late 1950s and early 1960s was, if anything, weaker than it had been between 1945 and 1951’.

Harper devoted considerable attention to ‘authoritative new archival research’ which suggested that Lee had been manoeuvring intensely to wield detention power from behind the scene and letting the British and Kuala Lumpur authorities take the blame for the suppression. British officials, including William Goode, Philip Moore and Lord Selkirk, had expressed strong reservations about Lee’s approach. The United Kingdom Commission in Singapore had even ‘attempted to stall and block these arrests’. Lord Selkirk had warned his superior that ‘Tunku’s and Lee’s respective bids for 25 and 250 arrests in July 1962’ were moves against their political opposition for which the British were to take the blame. Most strikingly, Selkirk assessed that Lee was ‘probably very much attracted to the idea of destroying his political opponents. It should be remembered that there is behind all this a very personal aspect … he claims he wishes to put back in detention the very people … with whom there is strong sense of political rivalry which transcends ideological differences’. However, such internal British reservations were rendered redundant by the momentum of decolonisation and the larger considerations of the Whitehall and British officials in the Federation of Malaya, as well as by Tunku’s pressure. Operation Cold Store was eventually launched on 2 February 1963, but subsequent British internal assessment had to admit that ‘the interrogations have so far produced little new evidence about the Communist conspiracy’.

[The Scripting of a National History: Singapore and Its Pasts, Lysa Hong and Huang Jianli, page 148]

Mr Wong is merely continuing Lee Kuan Yew’s unfair and unethical tactic of branding Singapore patriots as communists without hard proof in order to sully their good names and to perpetuate the falsehood of their own deeds.

Had Barisan won, Singapore would have been more like Hong Kong, more dynamic, more entrepreneurial but prosperous just the same.

It is important that the young and future generation Singaporeans understand Mr Wong’s fallacies and reject the landmark he will lay. It is also critical that they know that Singapore forefathers refer more to those who came during colonial times than to the generation that did Lee Kuan Yew’s bidding.

Communist threat wasn’t 40 year long

Singapore did not battle the Communist Party of Malaya from 1948 to 1989. The First Malayan communist insurgency had ended in 1960 with the communists’ defeat and retreat into Malaya about five years earlier. The Second Malayan communist insurgency was mostly fought in Malaysian jungles and hardly touched Singapore. Singapore’s communist threat was essentially from 1948 to 1955 only. It couldn’t have been 40 years long.


The placing of the landmark is the ultimate act of betrayal to historical truth and honesty that no honest Singaporean should condone.

Straits Times, Landmarks marking historic events to get prime locations, 5 Nov 2014

Landmarks marking historic events to get prime locations
More than 250 people attended a memorial service in front of MacDonald House on 11 March 2014, the 49th anniversary of the bombing there.

AS SINGAPORE heads towards its 50th year of independence, two landmarks to commemorate historic events in its turbulent past will be set up in bustling areas in the heart of the country.
A memorial to the victims of Konfrontasi will stand on Dhoby Ghaut Lawn opposite MacDonald House in Orchard Road.
Similarly, a marker to honour those who fought the Communists in Singapore’s early years will be placed in Esplanade Park along Queen Elizabeth Walk.
The central and prominent location of the marker in the Civic District, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, means it will be near the Cenotaph, the Lim Bo Seng Memorial and the Tan Kim Seng Fountain, which have collectively been gazetted as a national monument. “By putting these markers and memorials together, we create a larger sense of Singapore’s history and the context of our early years,” he told Parliament yesterday.
Former president S R Nathan, who dealt with pro-Communist activists in the trade unions in the 1960s, will be the guest of honour at the unveiling of the marker on Dec 8.
December marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the 1989 Haadyai Peace Agreements between the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and the governments of Malaysia and Thailand.
The agreements marked the end of the CPM’s four-decade campaign of violence and subversion.
The Konfrontasi memorial is expected to be completed next year.
Mr Wong said it would be a reminder of the events that unfolded on March 10, 1965 – “a date remembered by many as the darkest day of Konfrontasi”. Two Indonesian marines bombed MacDonald House that day, killing three people and injuring more than 30.
Mr Wong gave details of these commemorative efforts in his reply to Nominated MP Tan Tai Yong, on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who had announced the plans at a National University of Singapore Society event last month.
Professor Tan, a historian, also asked if they were a community effort or a government decision.
Replying, Mr Wong said both the community and the Government strongly support them.
The marker on the fight against Communism came from feedback that the Home Team received in recent months from retired police officers.
Recalling the incidents of Communist violence, assassinations, student demonstrations and labour strikes, they asked for recognition for the people who stood up to the Communists.
The Konfrontasi memorial was an idea the Singapore Armed Forces Veterans’ League came up with earlier this year.
But, even before this, members of the public sent letters suggesting various ways to commemorate the MacDonald House bombing, said Mr Wong.
Both events not only claimed lives, “but fundamentally threatened Singapore’s sovereignty and security”, he said. “Had the Communist side won, we would be living in a totally different Singapore today. Likewise, if Sukarno’s campaign to ‘crush Malaysia’ had succeeded.”
He added: “Therefore, it is important to have tangible landmarks to help younger and future generations of Singaporeans understand how we got here, and why it was critical that our forefathers supported and fought for the security and future of Singapore.”
These landmarks, he added, will also remind Singaporeans to remain vigilant in safeguarding the country’s peace and security.

Communist threat: A 40-year-long battle
SINGAPORE battled the violence and subversion waged by the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) for 40 years, from 1948 to 1989.
In June 1948, a state of emergency was declared when the CPM launched an armed insurrection to try to capture Malaya and Singapore and install a communist regime.
Thousands of civilians and security personnel were killed and injured on both sides of the Causeway, with at least 28 deaths in Singapore.
Konfrontasi: Armed conflict over Malaysia
THE Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation – known as Konfrontasi – spanned three years, from 1963 to 1966.
It was an armed conflict started by Indonesian President Sukarno to oppose the formation of Malaysia. Singapore then had only two regular army units and they were deployed in Malaysia.
The defence of Singapore was entrusted to the Singapore Volunteer Corps and the Vigilante Corps, established in 1964.
In two months, more than 10,000 people volunteered.


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