The People’s Hero’s article 5
A Tribute to My Respected Dr Lim Hock Siew
Chan Sun Wing
Amongst the people who lived in the same era and in the same country as me, there were two for whom I hold utmost respect. Both of them did not come from rich family background. One of them was Chinese educated and the other English educated. They both stood out among the people in the fifties and sixties of the last century who had the keen passion for knowledge and a keen sense in search of humanity’s direction for future development. One is Chia Thye Poh who graduated from the Nanyang University and the other is the one we are holding memorial service for him today, Dr Lim Hock Siew.
Both of them possessed iron-clad determination and would never yield to persecutions and seducements from the power that be. They persevered in their belief in upholding social justice and fighting for the well-being of the oppressed masses. Both of them had been subjected to the extreme tormenting of more than or close to 20 years of political imprisonment, putting up with the severe hurt, both physically and mentally, that had been inflicted on them and their family members. This is not something that every one of the righteous persons who aspire to be involved in the reformation of the unjust society can withstand. For this, I hold utmost respect for both of them.
I personally did not have deep personal friendship with them. However, I did work shoulder to shoulder with them in helping, and then opposing the ruling party who had changed color the moment they became the ruler. This ruling party has degenerated from one party who was opposing the colonial rule and serving the suffering masses, into one that had made use of the colonialist power to suppress the progressive anti-colonial forces. It became a party that A Tribute to My Respected Dr Lim Hock Siew was driven by a small group of powerful upper echelon elites, serving only the interests of the monopolistic group of state capitalism. It is understood that this party has also degenerated into only listening to a certain family. I am very proud and honored that I had the opportunity to have worked with these two university graduates in fighting for the ideals of socialism.
I remember the event more than 20 years ago, that Mr Foong Zhong Han, then senior correspondent of Singapore’s Shin Min Daily, came to Hatyai, South Thailand to interview me. He asked me:
“The life of guerilla warfare in the jungle is so tough. How did you overcome it?”
“There is nothing that cannot be overcome whenever I think of what Chia Thye Poh has gone through. How lucky I am to have the opportunity to have worked with so many people who uphold the same ideals, are well disciplined and are prepared to make ultimate sacrifices in pursuit of our common lofty ideals!”
It is indeed the case that Chia Thye Poh has greatly inspired me with his fearless determination and tenacity. He is younger than me by 10 years. I came to know later that he studied in the same school as me, Singapore Chinese High School, but only at different periods. I still can remember vividly that when I was contesting the Nee Soon constituency as a candidate for Barisan Sosialis, he came to support me. We were then opposing the deceitful and coercive “Merger” of Singapore and Malaya under unequal conditions.
As for Dr Lim Hock Siew, he was editor and writer for Barisan Sosialis’s English publication (Plebian). He imprinted on me an impression of a man who had attained a high level of knowledge in socialist theory. With his quick wit and oral skills, the then PM and lawyer Lee Kuan Yew had found himself in an awkward position of not being able to gain an upper hand. In the early part of 2010 I read the news about the publication of the book (The Momentous Era of the Fajar Movement), which filled a gap in the history books about
Singapore and Malaya. I completely agreed with what lawyer Lim Kian Chye had said during the book launch:
“The pioneers of the Socialist Club are not the same as those ordinary university graduates.”
Dr Lim was a key member in the Barisan Sosialis delegation to the United Nations to appeal against the formation of Malaysia. When I was in the Exco of Barisan Sosialis, I had the chance to observe that, Dr Lim being a man with few words but in possession of incisive viewpoints, comparable to PAP’s Dr Goh Keng Swee.Dr Lim was also the match for Lee Kuan Yew in being equally alert and eloquent. If not for the Operation Coldstore in 1963 that threw into jail the key decision makers of Barisan Sosialis (Dr Lim included), and the more than a hundred of anti-colonial progressives, Barisan Sosialis would have replaced PAP as the ruling party in Singapore. And no one can deny such a judgement.
About one to two years ago, some old friends who were poring through the colonial department’s archives in London told me:
the decision makers of the British Empire had long deduced that the pioneers of the Malaya Socialist Club did not agree with the path of armed struggle.
In recalling the past now, it is my belief that Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who had a firm grasp of the British colonialists’ intention, had harbored grave misgivings against the core members of the Fajar movement. Well before the formation of the Barisan Sosialis, Lee Kuan Yew had decided to smear and throw into jail those who were perceived to be his obstacles. The British colonialists were most pleased to trust and help Mr Lee and his ilk, who came from universities in Britain and had been fully assimilated. Without a doubt, what Dr Lim and his comrades went through in their life time is a true reflection of the historical path of Singapore and Malaysia.
I admire Dr Lim greatly because, despite having spent close to 20 years in jail, he did not hold a grudge againts the person who did this to him. It is indeed true that one should transcend above personal grievances with a broad-minded disposition and with a high level of perception. We should all learn from Dr Lim.
I am very much in agreement with what Dr Lim said when he was interviewed by the Straits Times in January 2010. He said:
“The leadership of the Barisan Sosialis was already prepared to make sacrifices for what they believed in.”
“We regard taking part in A Tribute to My Respected Dr Lim Hock Siew politics as answering to the calls of the era, to be a responsibility. To serve the people is a privilege, not a career.”
It was reported that well before Dr Lim passed away, various emerging opposition parties had invited him to join their ranks, to provide suggestions to them on opposing ruling party’s deceitful policies that have caused hardship to the working class. The frail and aged Dr Lim did not take up the invitations. Instead at this advanced age he would still from times to times go to the Rakyat Clinic to provide medical care for the toiling masses at a low fee or at no charge at all. They also reflects that more and more young people are awakening. It does looks like the future of Singapore will be better!
The concluding comments of the article on the interview of Dr Lim Hock Siew by the Straits Times is most apt:
” Mr Lee probably enjoy high reputation internationally, but as a person Mr Lee was no match with Dr Lim’s noble stature.”
Dear comrade Dr Lim Hock Siew, the people of Singapore will remember you forever!