The People’s Hero’s article 10
Dr Lim Hock Siew – A Staunch Socialist
Wang Rui Rong
I have not met Dr Lim Hock Siew in person ever.
I was still a young boy when Dr Lim, together with Lim Chin Siong and others who were in the vanguard led the left wing parties and organizations in the arduous struggle against the Lee Kuan Yew regime.
I had chanced upon Dr Lim but once and it was a pure coincidence. One day, the car I was in stopped at the traffic lights in front of the Rakyat Clinic at Balestier Road for pedestrians to cross. I saw him walking across the road slowly with a briefcase in his hand. He is my most respected elder, amiable and kind!
At the memorial gathering for Dr Lim, I received a book in memory of him titled Remembering Dr Lim Hock Siew Our Freedom Fighter. I pored over the book and gained a deeper understanding of him.
Dr Lim Hock Siew was undoubtedly a worthy son of our motherland and the people.
Though an English educated intellectual, he was steadfast in his ideological belief and conviction. Dr Lim spent a precious part of his life in the prisons under Lee Kuan Yew fascist regime, and held on steadfastly to his political stand and intellectual conviction. It was particularly challenging for an English educated intellectual in Singapore during the sixties who was an elite to decide to go through 20 years of political imprisonment. But Dr Lim did it!
With great determination, Dr Lim released a statement from prison on 18 March 1972 rejecting Lee Kuan Yew’s threats and inducements.
What he said in his statement has left an indelible impression on me:
‘I am not interested in saving Lee Kuan Yew’s face. This is not a question of pride but one of principle. My detention is completely unjustifiable and I will not lift a single finger to help Lee Kuan Yew to justify the unjustifiable.’
‘Since history has fully vindicated my stand and my position, Lee Kuan Yew should openly and publicly repent to me and to all other political detainees, now unjustifiably detained in prison.’
For the great cause of our motherland and the people, Dr Lim had, without regret, lived through 20 years in Lee Kuan Yew’s prisons!
Dr Lim was full of compassion and showed care for his comrades in arms.
Dr Lim spoke highly of Comrade Lim Chin Siong at the latter’s funeral:
‘No amount of distortion by his detractors can conceal the fact that Chin Siong was the most fearless and uncompromising ﬁghter against British colonialism in Singapore.’
‘Although denied a formal higher education, Chin Siong, in the course of his political struggle, had graduated from the highest institution of political education – the political prison. Those who knew him could not but be impressed by his intelligence and knowledge.’
‘Chin Siong, you have been a Mount Taishan in our midst! Now, it’s time for you to take your well-earnest rest!’
At the memorial gathering for Tan Jing Quee, Dr Lim commended:
‘He was released three months later (note: second arrest) but Jing Quee became even more resolute rather than cowed by his detention. He devoted himself to writing the alternative history of Singapore.’
‘His untimely death has deprived us of an intellectual who had devoted his life to the socialist cause. I am proud to salute a brave and dedicated socialist warrior, Comrade Tan Jing Ouee.’
When viewing and judging events, Dr Lim always took a broadminded attitude and an objective and scientific viewpoint. As Chin Siong’s and Jing Quee’s comrade in arms, Dr Lim recognised their contributions in the anti-colonial struggle for independence.
Dr Lim was a student activist who did not merely stop at idealism without action. Aimed at achieving freedom, democracy and equality for the people, he and his comrades played an active part in founding the PAP and helped it to win the general election which brought it into power.
However he was not concerned with personal interest and did not seek any official post in the Lee Kuan Yew regime. When the Malaysia plan was proposed, he and his comrades immediately threw themselves into the struggle to oppose the unequal terms of merger between Singapore and Malaya as put forward by Lee Kuan Yew, and struggled to advance the status of Singapore from self-government to full independence free from the British colonial rule.
He joined his comrades when they were expelled from the PAP to set up the Barisan Sosialis in Singapore. Once again they were to pay a heavy price for the sake of their belief and conviction. Taking advantage of the common desire of Tunku Abdul Rahman, the prime minister of the Federation of Malaya, and the British colonialists to continue their control of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew despicably resorted to Operation Coldstore on 2 February 1963. More than 130 people including Dr Lim and his comrades were detained without trial for long periods of time. Dr Lim was arbitrarily imprisoned for close to 20 years.
On 20 February 2010, Dr Lim was interviewed by Cai Haoxiang of the Straits Times. Commenting on the PAP’s rule, he made some notable remarks.
On workers’ wages, he said that
the Barisan would have provided legal safeguards for the workers, like minimum wage, retrenchment benefits, social welfare benefits and retirement benefits. On the issue of housing for the people, he said the Barisan Sosialis would not have priced flats at a subsidised rate below market rate but would have provided cheap housing at cost.
He also pointed out that the CPF
was meant for retirement and not to tie people down to a housing project.
the introduction of two integrated resorts threatened moral standards by making Singapore a playground for the ‘international filthy rich’. Singapore might eventually be like Las Vegas where everything has a price but no value.
‘I don’t think this is a society we all like to have. That the Government places such high hopes on the two casinos shows what a desperate situation the Singapore economy is in.’
Dr Lim thought that
instead of attracting investments from multi-national companies, Singapore should have encouraged small and medium enterprises so that entrepreneurship would flourish as in Hong Kong….
On the remuneration for the ministers, he noted that
a symbolic amount of $10,000 or $20,000 a month would be enough. He said that Barisan leaders were prepared to sacrifice their lives for their political belief. ‘We consider politics as a calling, a responsibility, and a privilege to serve our country, not a career.’
While laid up in hospital, Dr Lim did not forget to support and encourage the younger generation in their activities and struggle.A rally was planned for 2 June 2012 at the Hong Lim Park Speakers’ Corner to mark the 25th anniversary of the 1987 Operation Spectrum.
Though physically weak, Dr Lim was keen to show encouragement and support for the younger generation. He had planned to attend the gathering. However, he was too sick to do so.
On 26 May 2012 he sent short messages to Ms. Teo Soh Lung, reminding her to ‘to press for public inquiry on detainees and abolishment of ISA at the meeting.
Even while he was seriously ill, Dr Lim did not forget his unfulfilled socialist dream.
In remembering Dr Lim on his passing, Dr Poh Soo Kai wrote:
‘Dr Lim had intended to attend the gathering at Hong Lim to mark the 25th anniversary of Operation Spectrum on June 2, but fell ill. I was told he was lucid in the ICU on June 3. News of the event must have made him feel very happy to have lived to see this day, to see the evaporation of fear, and to realize that his sacrifices have not been in vain.’
Dr Lim had devoted his whole life fighting for a free, democratic and just society in his motherland! He is indeed a great socialist of the motherland and the people.
During his long year of imprisonment, Dr Lim had gone through various persecutions and ill-treatments but his fighting will was by no means weakened. Instead, he became even more resolute and steadfast in his conviction!
It is about 5 years since Dr Lim’s passing. The precious legacy he had left us is:
In order to further our great cause of realising freedom, democracy and equality for the country and the people, we shall maintain unwavering confidence, be firm in our stand and strong in our will even facing the strong and brutal fascist rulers!
Dr Lim, you will be forever remembered and respected!