Changing Times and Operation Coldstore
By Teo Soh Lung
Clearing my bookshelves, I chance upon an album of photographs taken at the customary Day 3 Lunar New Year lunch in 2012. I was suddenly struck by the importance and significance of the photos. They were a valuable record of time and change.
The tradition of having lunch on the third day of the lunar new year was started by the late Mr Lim Chin Siong. According to Mr Tan Kok Fang, Mr Lim wanted to gather together all those who have suffered under Operation Coldstore. The lunch was restricted to Chinese educated survivors of the ISA until 2011 when for the first time, the English educated ISA survivors and activists were invited.
The album contains photos taken at the lunch on 1 Feb 2012. It was perhaps my sense of history that made me ask a friend, Kai Xiong to take photographs at the lunch. I was not sure of the reaction of the guests. I didn’t see any photography in the previous year. I wasn’t sure if the guests would be upset or angry for after all, it was their lunch party and we were merely guests. I recall telling Kai Xiong that if any guest should object, he should just move away to avoid trouble!
Photographing the guests was tedious. We started off with the table where a friend was seated. That was easy. The guests at the subsequent tables were difficult to organise. It was very slow because we were unsure if they would mind us taking photos. Luckily for us, Zhuang Minh Oh stepped forward and he organised the tables quite quickly. He was indeed a good leader. Still, Kai Xiong missed the major part of his lunch!
I am very grateful to Kai Xiong for taking these photographs. There were some lovely shots of the Late Dr Lim Hock Siew. Sadly, Dr Lim passed away on 4th June that year. We were fortunate to have these photos.
Times have changed. Survivors of Operation Coldstore today do not mind being photographed on any occasion. At the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Operation Coldstore at Hong Lim Park on 2 Feb 2013, we were even able to make videos of the event and have them posted online.