The People’s Hero’s article 8
Dr Lim Hock Siew – the resolute and
faithful son of the people
Ho Yik Meng
Malaya after the Second World War went through a historical period that was both deeply unforgettable and deeply touching. On one hand, the British colonialists resorted to the use of high handed rule in a bid to maintain their strategic economic and military interests. On the other hand, the people of Malaya, after going through the suffering and rising in resistance during the Japanese occupation, began to struggle pointedly against the British colonial ruler. Declassified documents have shown that from the period between 1948 and 1955, a total of about 30,000 patriots were either arrested or forcibly deported by the British colonialists. The British records would brand these anti-British women and men as “bandits” and “terrorists”. In 1954, there came a turning point when middle school students from Chinese schools started the 5.13 student movement. It signaled the beginning of the anti-colonial struggle, fought within the constitutional confine and conducted by the people of Singapore when it was separated from Malaya. They fought for a united, independent, democratic, just and equal Malaya nation that would include Singapore. The anti-colonial fighters would rise one after another to take up position of their fallen comrades in the struggle. They were subject to imprisonment, persecution, deportation and the ultimate sacrifice and they finally achieved the creation of the selfgoverned administration in 1959. Turbulent undercurrent emerged within the anti-colonial movement thereafter. The pro-British Lee Kuan Yew clique openly colluded with the British colonialists and the ruling authorities in Malaya and plotted for a Malaysia that would suppress the leftist forces, paralyze parliamentary democracy, and strip off democratic rights and basic human rights of the people.
It was under this historical background that there emerged, from the English speaking sector in Singapore, an outstanding friend of the people who was fearless to the might of the power that be and who upheld the truth. He was none other than Dr Lim Hock Siew, whose resolve was greatly strengthened by his immense sacrifice. On the day of 2nd February 1963, under the tremendous weight of the popular forces, the British, Malaysia and Singapore authorities were deeply fearful of losing the Singapore general election. They resorted to taking off their hypocritical masks and trampled on their trumpeted “sacred cow” of parliamentary democracy, and made use of the notorious Public Order Preservation Act (predecessor of the Internal Security Act) to wantonly arrest political adversaries and dissidents. The fighters were detained without trials and through indefinite detention, were made to suffer both physical and mental torments and subject to threats and inducements of all sorts, with a view to destroying their political will. The firm and unyielding Dr Lim, who held on to the truth and advocated democracy and human rights, spent 20 years of his life in jail during which he suffered immensely but emerged even stronger. In the eye of the masses, comrades, relatives and those who had fallen ill, Dr Lim was more of a cultured, softspoken, friendly gentleman who exhibited the noble characteristics of a man with great generosity, compassion, encouragement, care and empathy.
Formation of lofty aspirations while still a student
Back in 1931 in a house at Campbell Lane in Little India, a baby was born. That was Lim Hock Siew, who was the third child in the family. There were subsequently 7 more siblings. His father was Dr Lim Hock Siew – the resolute and faithful son of the people illiterate and was a fish monger at Tekka Market who put emphasis on the children’s education. Lim Hock Siew was educated in an English school since young. His study was halted during the Japanese occupation and he had to distribute tapioca and palm oil for a living. He later helped his father selling fish at the market. When the war was over, he enrolled into the nearby Rangoon Primary School to continue for two school terms and then went on to the prestigious Raffles Institution. Being highly intelligent and studious, and with a ferocious appetite for knowledge, the library had become a place for the nourishment of his mind. He participated in school debates and speech competitions, and also became editor of the school magazine. More than only being gifted with eloquence, he excelled in thinking and writing capabilities. Being a child who went through the baptism of war and grew up to be a mature youth early, he said: “The environment in which I grew up had made me realized the problems and difficulties that the poor are facing. That is a lesson in political education in itself.” The young Dr Lim was deeply influenced by Nehru, especially by the letters that the latter wrote to his daughter. Rejecting his school being in awe of the British Empire, Dr Lim had early developed patriotic and people loving aspirations. He cared deeply for the people around him, availed himself to meaningful knowledge, and thought about the future of the country. These were early indications of Dr Lim’s chosen path for his life. The periodduring which he was receiving medical education at the University of Malaya (1951 – 1957) was the crucial time when his political aspirations were formed and his dedication to the country was firmed up.
Involvement in the anti-colonial movement
Lim Hock Siew was passionate about the medicine subject at the university. By his own words: “It is a humanitarian subject”. When he was in the first year at university in 1951, his course work was very heavy due to the need to catch up with some science subjects which had not been taught at Raffles Institution. In spite of being working hard at his studies, he helped to organize the non-boarding students who made up 40% of the student population. He was a founding member of the Socialist Club of the University of Malaya in 1953, and was a council members of the University of Malaya Students’ Union for three terms, one of which serving as the chairman. In March 1954 the Socialist Club of the University of Malaya was charged with slander by the colonial government for publishing the article (On Aggression to Asia) in the seventh publication of its magazine Fajar (meaning the dawn). Lim Hock Siew scouted around for donations and helped to look for lawyers to represent the affected students. It was then he came to know Lee Kuan Yew who also came from Raffles Institution and who had become a lawyer. During the court trials Dr Lim assumed the responsibilities of being the editing committee member of the Fajar magazine, as well as being the editor of the Students’ Union journal. Lim Hock Siew’s university days coincided with the time when the British colonial authorities were ruling with the Emergency Act to brutally suppress the forces of the people. After a period of relative lull, the anti-colonial movement began to regain its elements. Workers began to unite around their unions and the labor movement was gathering strength. A new batch of progressive students emerged in the University of Malaya. While the anti-vice movement was gathering steam, students from the Chinese schools had awakened in droves when the preparations to set up the Nanyang University had culminated into waves of defending national education. Meanwhile the Socialist Club of the University of Malaya had defeated the colonial government’s judiciary persecution. The ground had been reverberating and finally a breakthrough occurred on 13th May 1954, the May 13 Incident in which Chines school students rose to oppose the military service enactment. Dr Lim Hock Siew described what happened on that day as: “A turning point in the people’s struggle for political freedom and social justice.” At the end of the year the People’s Action Party was formed. Dr Lim, who had interacted with Lee Kuan Yew before, became one of its Dr Lim Hock Siew – the resolute and faithful son of the people founding members. It is apt to say that Dr Lim, by now 23 years old, had ideologically embraced socialism; and politically determined to break free from the British colonialism and to stand together and share the same hardship as the people. Coming from an English educated professional this is indeed a special rarity. From then on Dr Lim’s life had been intertwined with the causes of the people of Malaya and Singapore. When Lee Kuan Yew was still deceitfully masking his pro-British stand, Dr Lim regarded him as a comrade such that he would readily go in and out of Lee’s residence at 38 Oxley Road. During the general election in 1955, Dr Lim assisted Devan Nair in contesting the Farrer Park constituency, and Lim Chin Siong at the Bukit Timah constituency.
In 1956, Dr Lim witnessed firsthand what the police did to the unarmed students and the gathering crowd outside the Chinese High School. The people had conscientiously initiated acts of antipersecution and this led to island wide riots which the British colonialists took full advantage of to suppress and disband labor, farmer, student and cultural organizations. Many patriotic anticolonialist leaders from all ethnicities were arrested, including Lim Chin Sion whom Dr Lim regarded as a “national hero”.
The first party purge by Lee Kuan Yew
The flame for change have been ignited and there was no way it could be extinguished. The anti-colonial forces re-grouped and set off once more. Lee Kuan Yew’s position was challenged in the PAP party convention in 1957, and Dr Lim, who was then working at the General Hospital, did not manage to mediate in-between. Having ulterior motives, Lee rejected the party’s election result, relying on the British to destroy his opponents by throwing them into jail, deportation and marginalization. With the aid from the British, Lee regained control over PAP’s executive committee. He implemented the cadre system in the same year, thus hijacking PAP’s grassroots with undemocratic methods to entrench the party central which was ubservient to him. This had paved the way for his betrayal of the people’s causes and collusion with the British and Malaysian authorities in the later days. The Lee clique thereby deprived Dr Lim and other party members who were upright and outspoken, and even some founding members, of their rights to be qualified as cadres and prevented them from becoming candidates for the legislative council election. After the general election in 1959, the party membership of Dr Lim and some 140 people were annulled without reason. With this Lee walked further down the road of betrayal. In 1961, the British, Malayan and Singapore authorities finally tossed out “Malaysia” with a view to eliminating in one fell swoop the popular forces that were determined to carry on with the anti-colonial struggle. Both Dr Lim and Dr Poh Soo Kai resigned from their posts at the government hospital and jointly set up the Rakyat Clinic. Together with Lim Chin Siong they founded Barisan Sosialis to confront the PAP directly, within the constitutional confine, on the issue of Malaysia and the Merger. Being a central committee member of the
Barisan, Dr Lim saw through the trick of the authorities in Britain, Malaya and Singapore, that they were not striving for a genuine, united and equal merger so that people from across the land could enjoy the same rights accorded to citizens, and the same right of political representation. Rather they all had their own axe to grind, made underhand secret dealings and completely disregarded the longterm interests of the people of Malaya and Singapore. In July 1962, Dr Lim, together with Dr Lee Siew Choh and Woodhull, set off to New York to elucidate the stand of the Barisan Sosialis to the United Nations Colonialism Committee. Dr Lim repudiated Lee Kuan Yew during public debates that:” In our struggle for the genuine unification of the people of Singapore and Malaya, PAP’s merger plan is a step backward, not a step forward.”
Arrest under Operation Coldstore on 2nd February
On one hand playing with merger options, on the other hand using Dr Lim Hock Siew – the resolute and faithful son of the people threats and smears, the PAP regime dishonorably “won” the referendum on merger on 2nd September 1962. In recalling this episode in history, Dr Lim said: “The result of the option A of the referendum did not change our analysis. Barisan had steadfastly proposed to hold a general election so that the people of Singapore could make genuine decision. During the general election we will make full preparations to convince the people of Singapore to give us their mandate to strive for full and complete merger and to achieve independence on the framework of an integrated nation of Malaya.” The expressed views and plans of Dr Lim and other Barisan’s leaders had shown that they were acting within constitutional confine. However, to prevent their predictable election debacle, the PAP regime created a political earthquake on 2nd February 1963 by arresting more than 100 anti-colonial leaders and core members, Dr Lim included, under the so called Operation Coldstore. Dr Lim, a man who was an idealistic and aspiring university graduate, a founding member of PAP, a humanitarian doctor who persisted on serving his patients despite his own illness, a founding member of the Barisan Sosialis, a loyal patriot who opposed a merger plan that would bring calamity to the nation and misfortune to the people, would thus lose his own freedom for 20 solid years, but not 5, 10 or 15 years! What had he done and who had decided he was guilty? Let’s see what Dr Lim himself said: “To take part in politics is to safeguard the people’s interests, to strive to fulfill their wishes. For this I firmly believe that we must be in possession of integrity, intellectual faithfulness and certain basic principles.” He would later pointedly said aloud: “The failure of the merger plan will further exacerbate the gap between the people of Singapore and the people of mainland Malaya. Not only will there be a lost golden opportunity to create a united Malaya nation caused by the opportunistic PAP, the federal government and the British, but also the perspective of the Singapore people regarding the whole of Malaya will be strangled by PAP in order to mask the failure of its merger plan.” The true fact of the history is that Malaysia was not what Lee Kuan Yew had trumpeted it to be “like the sun rising from the east”. The merger of Singapore and Malaya did not even have a “rosy future”. Less than a year after the Merger, Singapore witnessed unprecedented ethnic riots in succession in July and September of 1964. Lee did not have the gut to face up to the reality, but to discard his previous “solemn commitment” and boastful talks. Who in the end had said it right and done it right? Who had acted according to the law? Who had pleaded for the people? Isn’t all this as clear as it can be?
Struggle against persecution in the prison
British declassified documents have shown that Lee was the mastermind behind Operation Coldstore on 2nd February. His selfishness caused him to make use of the colonial era Public Order Preservation Act to conduct arrests in the middle of the night, to wantonly and without court trials imprison and demolish others in jail indefinitely. The British had used this brutal act to maintain white terror for the preservation of the colonial interests. Lee inherited this tool for maximum effect. When Dr Lim was taken away by the secret agents he had been married for less than two years, leaving behind his baby son of five months old. He had been to prisons big and small in Singapore, from Outram Prison, Queenstown Prison, Central Police Station to Changi Prison, Mount Rosie, and Jervois Road residences for home affairs’ senior officers, and Tekong Island. In July 1963, he was transferred to E Hall of Changi Prison and lived among more than 100 political prisoners. Low Tai Thong, a former leader of the labor movement who had been imprisoned for 13 years and then deported by PAP, recalled those days:” Dr Lim was the most respected leader among us political detainees. Being friendly to everyone and carrying no air, he would speak with a soft voice. He would think through issues calmly and comprehensively and would become our think tank and advisor. We would naturally think of approaching him for help or opinion whenever there were personal or family issues that we could not sort out. Being a medical practitioner, Dr Lim Hock Siew – the resolute and faithful son of the people he would become our health advisor, dispensing his professional opinions and care. Dr Lim was also our nutritionist, seeing to it that our daily supply of foodstuff met with the daily basic nutritional requirements.
Under his leadership we lived together with high discipline. All of us would perform our own tasks conscientiously and cooperatively in this collective living, such as preparing for our 3 meals, area cleaning, studying and recreational activities.”
However, the PAP regime would soon make life harsher for the political prisoners, using all ways and means to coerce the detainees to “confess”, “repent” and “make a stand”. Dr Lim had been subject to solitary confinement in the Central Police Station which was dark and filthy, insect-infested, and devoid of reading materials. “This place was not even fit for locking up livestock. The five of us went on a hunger strike. I was admitted to hospital due to bleeding from stomach ulcer”. The persecution by the PAP regime were to further intensify later, treating the political prisoners as criminals and imposed forced labor upon them. They said: “This is one of the training programs for reform….doing this will be beneficial to you as a medical doctor, rendering your hands to be more nimble…. This is the law and you will be paid 8 cents per day.” “ So we conducted the hunger strike, some persisted for 3 consecutive months and the women political detainees lasted 130 days. 3 weeks after my hunger strike, they came in and said to me they would relieve me of forced labor.” The forced labor plan of the PAP regime met with failure eventually.
The hypocrisy of “act according to law” exposed
In order to strike at the morale of the detainees in the prison, the authorities went to the extent of using the English language newspaper the Straits Time to disseminate false information about fighting in the Changi Prison between Dr Lim and Lim Chin Siong and others, and Lim Chin Siong was injured and admitted into hospital. In reality, Lim Chin Siong and Dr Lim was locked up separately in RB and E Hall respectively. There was complete separation between these two wards and there was no way they could move to each other’s ward to make physical contacts. Dr Lim initiated a libel suit against the Straits Times who had to apologize. However, the mastermind behind this went scot free. The PAP regime had resorted to unscrupulous tactics to advance its hidden agenda and Dr Lim had struck back accordingly, exposing the hypocrisy of their so called “act according to the law”. Dr Lim had also given scathing lashes at the advisory committee which existed in name only under the Internal Security Act. This committee consisted of 3 members, with a judge being the chairman. They summoned Dr Lim for hearing, but deprived him of his right to engage lawyers on the pretext of law. The apparent errors on the charge sheets were not allowed to be corrected and he was left to be unclear about the blanks in the charge sheets. Dr Lim was asked to take part in a judiciary farce under a closed, non-transparent, and undemocratic environment. It was of no surprise that such a system of advisory committee, which was cloaked in legality but was actually meant for indefinite detention, was boycotted by the warriors in the prison. In 1971, Dr Lim was transferred to Central Police Station prison to be detained with his brother Lim Hock Kun in a cell with better conditions. The objective was to seduce him to profess his stand in exchange for the release of him and his brother. This was roundly rejected by Dr Lim. In 1972 Dr Lim publicly released his statement-in-prison, through his wife Dr Beatrice Chen , categorically refuting the ridiculous logic of ISD officers: asking him to support parliamentary democracy but barring him from political activities, to denounce publicly “violence” which he had never advocated, to save the face of Lee Kuan Yew. Dr Lim remarked with scorn: “They found the wrong actor.” Because of this, Dr Lim was made to endure another 10 years of suffering in the prison. Finally, at their wits’ end with Dr Lim who was described by the Amnesty International as a prisoner of conscience, and to ease international pressure, the PAP regime had to move this iron-willed Dr Lim Hock Siew – the resolute and faithful son of the people man to Tekong Island for confinement. This was to create a false impression of release but would in actual fact continue depriving him of his freedom and basic human rights. This was to continue till 1982, when his “sentence” had lasted more than the limit of a life imprisonment, and Dr Lim would become the longest serving political detainee at that time.
Joint names to demand for abolishment of Internal Security Act
In the 4 years of exile on the Tekong Island, Dr Lim was able to provide medical services to the few thousands of residents and became the only people’s doctor on this island. Having nothing else to repay his kindness, the island residents would contribute poultry and eggs as a sign of gratitude. Dr Lim’s spirit of serving the people had remained the same throughout. What had motivated Dr Lim to be so resolute and loyal? He said: “I am firmly convinced of the stand of the Barisan Sosialis on the Merger issue. This has helped me to a great extent in enduring the protracted prison life, in hardening my resolve for struggle and to endure all the hardships, to triumph over all attempts to break me up. History has proven correct our stand and Barisan’s stand.” He further said: “All these hardships have opened my eyes wider to see through the real face of this regime, the nature of its dictatorship and its brutality.” After his release from jail, Dr Lim returned to Rakyat Clinic at Balestier Road. Parliamentary democracy Singapore in the eighties existed in name only, with the PAP being the dominant party. Elitism, utilitarianism, loss of cultural bearing, tossing about in education, and political persecution were merely means for the purpose of entrenching the PAP ruling party and enriching a minority. The road to democracy, freedom, human rights, equality, justice and happiness was unprecedentedly bumpy. However, the conscience of the people was still alive and Dr Lim, just like many others, guarded and upheld personal integrity at that time. He followed the current affairs closely, cared for the sick, lent helping hands to others, remembered old friendships and received many new ones and was attracted to the arts. The prolonged hardships meted out to him did not douse his passion for life. In the later stage he stood out without fear for personal safety to devote himself for social justice. On 9th February 1996, his comrade Lim Chin Siong passed away. Dr Lim delivered the eulogy (Salute to Lim Chin Siong) at the memorial service with heart felt emotion that was truly rousing. He revered Lim Chin Siong as a national hero who “motivated and led the masses and valiantly liberated them from the colonial rule”, “Chin Siong had exhibited a gigantic sense of justice that transcended above personal gain in order to serve the people wholeheartedly”. He made the clarion call to “commemorate, cherish and consolidate the lofty and uncompromising spirit” of Lim Chin Siong. Some of his remarks are in fact so befitting to Dr Lim himself today. On 4th November 2009 he attended the book launch of (The Momentous Fajar Era) despite his own sickness, and charged at, from the vantage point of constitution and with his personal experiences, the brutality of the PAP regime’s ISA. He pointed out: “The most important democratic right is the constitutional right of the Singaporeans……. Imprisonment without trials is against peace, and an act of violence.” Martyn See, a young local film director recorded his speech into a short film which was subsequently banned by the PAP regime. This truly exhibits a lack of conscience! On 21st September 2011, a total of 16 former detainees, including Lim, Poh Soo Kai, Said Zahari and others jointly petitioned for the abolishment of the colonial era ISA. On 25th October in the same year, he spoke of his own experiences and observations in, and insight gained from being involved in politics.
His opinions that merit out attention
Dr Lim held several pieces of opinion during his lifetime that merits our attention.
Firstly, he had chosen to adopt parliamentary democracy from the beginning. This does not merely include holding election every four to five years, but also encompasses freedom of Dr Lim Hock Siew – the resolute and faithful son of the people ideas, opinions, gathering and publication. However, being with the British and in order to hold on to his power, it was none other than Lee Kuan Yew who practiced dictatorial rule under the guise of parliamentary democracy and suppressed the genuine anti-colonial patriots. This is exactly the difference between both sides.
Secondly, the absence of the left gave rise to racialism. The British, PAP and UMNO had spared no efforts in exterminating the left and this had prevented the unity among the working class who made up more than 80% of the population, providing a fertile ground for racialism. The result is not only the unification of Malaya could not be achieved, but this had also severely tore apart the intimate connection between the people of Singapore and Malaya.
Thirdly, from a historical perspective, changes will surely arrive. We must continue to be optimistic in this. There will be an intense, “hopefully non-violent” struggle in future.
Fourthly, Dr Lim had firm conviction that socialism will be the final outcome of human’s struggles. “No one should let his idealism and faith evaporate. Under any circumstances one should persist in consolidating his own conviction……a life that is devoid of conviction and idealism is but only a meaningless existence.”
Fifthly, he was highly self-disciplined but was generous towards others, and would reason with friends on what is right. “Whenever one is downcast or is losing the will to fight on due to prolonged detention, one must act according to his own conscience……and stand firm……and expose the injustice in our country and the realities of the lack of democratic rights and basic human rights.”
Sixthly, one cannot rule out that the mischief perpetuated by traitors within Barisan Sosialis had caused it to be disunited in the later days. But one should also look at the dilemma caused by the arrest of the key Barisan leaders. The debate between Barisan and the leftist labor unions was to lose its focus. “It is going down a wrong path by incessantly shouting about false independence in order to oppose the PAP, because using slogans for our struggle can only confuse the people.”
Living forever in the heart of the people
In spite of his ill health in his later years to the extent of having to go for regular dialysis, Dr Lim was still in possession of strong will and was availed with good care from his family. For him it was work and study as usual, and social activities had never ceased. He would still drive his old Mercedes to Rakyat Clinic to provide medical care for patients, be it rain or shine. Weekends were for meeting friends, learning to paint or visiting galleries. He would never miss the gathering among old friends on every third day of the first lunar month to let each other know all was well. Little did we expect to hear of the sad news of his sudden departure due to heart attack on 4th June 2012. Dr Lim left behind his family and friends, and the people for whom he fought for the whole of his life. There are people who availed themselves with immerse power in their hand, who resorts to pulling the wool over the eye of the public and enameled themselves with glamour. They indulge themselves in self-deception and selfflattery. There are also people who are righteous, indomitable andaboveboard, and dedicate themselves to serving the society. They never forget their mission to bring about happiness to the people throughout their life. Lao Zi said: “longevity is one who dies but is never forgotten”. This has been aptly manifested in Hock Siew (literally meaning Happiness and Longevity).
Dear Dr Lim Hock Siew, you will forever live in the heart of the people!
在英国人的记录中，这些抗英人士成了“暴徒”(bandit) 和 “恐怖分子”（terrorist)。1954年华校中学生掀起五一三学生运动，是一个转捩点，标志着从马来亚被分割出来的新加坡人民，在宪制范围内开展反殖斗争，争取包括新加坡在内的统一、独立、民主、公正、平等的马来亚。反殖斗士前仆后继，饱受坐牢、迫害、驱逐、牺牲，最终换来1959年自治邦政府的成立。之后反殖运动内部暗流汹涌，亲英的李光耀集团公开与英殖民主子和马来亚当权者勾结，策划一个以镇压左翼力量和瘫痪议会民主、剥夺民主权利和基本人权为目标的马来西亚。
英国人的解宻文件显示，2.2“冷藏行动”的幕后主要推手是李光耀，他的私心决定他不惜借助殖民地时代的“维护公众安全法令”，三更半夜上门捕人，不问青红皂白、不经正式法庭審讯、可以无限期把人摧残在獄中。英国人曾以这个暴行实行白色恐怖，维持殖民利益。曾几何时，李光耀接过这个衣钵，发挥到了极致！林福寿医生被秘密特务带走时，结婚不足两年，留下5个月大的男婴。他坐遍了新加坡的大小监狱，从欧南监狱、女皇镇监獄、中央警署，到樟宜监獄、Mount Rosie和Jervois Road内政部高官住宅、德光岛等。1963年7月，他被转移到樟宜监狱E Hall，与100多位政治被拘者生活在一起，曾被监禁13年后遭行动党驱逐出境的前工运人士卢大通回忆那段日子：“Dr Lim是我们政治拘留者中最受尊敬的领袖。他为人和蔼可亲，没有架子……思考问题冷静和全面，是我们的智囊和顾问。”政治被拘者组成生活委员会，林福寿医生担任主席，领导众人“有纪律地生活在一起，同心协力处理好集体生活的一切事务，如每日三餐的炊事、卫生、学习和康乐活动。”