The Online Citizen

“Operation Spectrum was political rape”

May 26
08:40 2009

The Online Citizen officially ends its “Marxist Conspiracy: Truth or Government Propaganda” Special Feature Week with this article. We thank our readers for their patience and indulgence as we took the week to highlight the events of 1987. TOC also would like to give special thanks to everyone who has contributed, in one way or another, to the feature. We leave you with the words from some of the people who were most involved in that episode of May/June 1987 – and comments from some others. [You can view all our articles from the special feature here.] [For more pictures of newspaper reports, please visit TOC's Facebook photos.]

“It is not a practice, nor will I allow subversives to get away by insisting that I’ve got to produce everything against them in a court of law or (produce) evidence that will stand up to the strict rules of evidence of a court of law.” 

Lee Kuan Yew, 1988


What is the case against them? What evidence do you have? Although the Government has been saying, “Yes, we have evidence, otherwise we would not have arrested them.” What evidence? You tell me. There is no evidence. The only evidence is their own confession. That is all. Any court of law would throw out this kind of a confession. 

Chiam See Tong, 1987


As far as I am concerned, the Government’s case is still not proven. I would not say those fellows were Red, not from the stuff they presented…I think a lot of people have this scepticism.

Walter Woon, now Attorney General, 1991


Although I had no access to state intelligence, from what I knew of them, most were social activists but not out to subvert the system.

Tharman Shanmugaratnam, 2001


It defied belief — and it still does — that while the ministry of home affairs was assiduously accusing you in a series of official press releases of complicity in this dangerous conspiracy necessitating your arbitrary detention, the puissant prime minister was telling an anxious Roman Catholic Archbishop Gregory Yong and others at a private Istana meeting with a straight face that you were in fact “do-gooders”. And not dangerous Marxists at all! That there was a serious contradiction in accusations did not seem to faze him. For the truth only surfaced long after the event at the defamation trial between Lee Kuan Yew and the Far Eastern Economic Review and others!

Francis Seow, 2002



The detention without charge or trial, ‘brainwashing’ interrogation techniques and other physical and psychological maltreatment by the Internal Security Department amount to clear and grave violations of the human rights of those detained and an abrogation of the rule of law. With only one hour’s interval, detainees were interrogated continuously by relays of interrogators for 5 days and nights, with complete sleep deprivation. (This is a well-known torture practice).

There is no evidence of a Marxist conspiracy or that this informal network of community development groups and workers posed any imminent threat to the security of Singapore. 

The Singapore government has continually rejected demands for it to prove this alleged ‘conspiracy’ in open court, and give those detained a fair trial. We believe it has refused because its evidence of a ‘conspiracy’ is simply too weak to stand up in court. 

International Commission of Jurists

A mere five weeks after the initial arrests, then Foreign Minister S. Rajaratnam complained that over 200 organizations from around the world had sent protest letters to the government.

ECHRS, 31 August 1987


The Australian government on Tuesday called in Singapore’s High Commissioner in Canberra, J. F. Conceicao, to express its concern and regret over the re-arrest on April 19 of eight former political prisoners and their lawyer under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

Reuters News, 1988


Japanese human rights activists… called for the immediate release of nine political detainees in Singapore in official letter to Singapore Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

Japan Economic Newswire, 1988


List of organizations that officially supported the 1987 ISA detainees.


1987 was like a ghost haunting many church workers.

Bridget Lew (2007), Founder President of Humanitarian Organisation for Migration Economics (HOME)


What got ingrained was the power of the state and the instruments that the state could use. What we embraced was fear. This kind of thing takes a lot of time to shed.

Braema Mathi (2007), former Nominated Member of Parliament; past President of AWARE; past President of TWC2


The Government does not ill-treat detainees. It does however apply psychological pressure to detainees to get to the truth of the matter … the truth would not be known unless psychological pressure was used during interrogation.

Lee Hsien Loong, 1988


Psychological disorientation is evil whether it happens in South Africa, the Soviet Union, China, Singapore or the United States. Yet here they seem almost proud of their psychological tactics – breaking down the defenses of people in captivity. They need to be more sensitive to the definition of what constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

 Jerome A. Cohen, a prominent legal representative of Asia Watch, while on a visit to Singapore at the time.



In the midst of the accusations being hurled at me, I retorted, “Now, look here…” or words to that effect. I never completed my sentence: one of the interrogators slapped me across my left cheek, not with a flick of his wrist but with the full force of his body. I fell to the ground and my glasses landed on my chest. I was completely shocked by the assault and wished I could faint as I felt that I could not take any more. I had never felt more humiliated in my life.

Tang Fong Har


I noticed, too, dried sunburnt blisters peeling from the skin of both arms. I could not at first comprehend how I could have acquired them until I realized that I had been burnt by the powerful rays of those spotlights, which had also dried up the moisture in my eyes. Cold rashes had broken out all over my atrophied limbs under my clothes. Unlike many people who are sensitive to sunburn, I am susceptible to cold rashes. It was always troublesome for me whenever I had perforce to travel abroad during winter. In this instant case, as if signaled by a faithful built-in thermometer, the rashes broke out in chilling confirmation of the coldness of the room. My interrogators had swaddled themselves up in warm winter clothes and left it, time and again, whenever they could no longer withstand the wintry cold.

Francis Seow


Many people told me they understood I was not a criminal, just someone whose thinking was different from that of the Establishment.

 Teresa Lim Li Kok


I cannot forget, nor forgive, the harsh treatment meted out to me in prison to extract information – the freezing room, the slapping and the beatings, including the blows to my abdomen.” 

That last act which triggered my abject subjugation haunted me for a long time. 

To mitigate the duress, I decided to allow myself to be abused and bullied into writing tracts of self-incriminating lies and half-truths. It seemed less painful to surrender in the interrogation room, but it was more painful when I was put back into the cell.

Vincent Cheng


“Are you a Marxist?”

“No. I’m a Catholic.”


“Are you a Marxist? 

“No. I’m a Catholic. 


“Are you instigating workers?”

“No. I’m helping workers. 


“Are you a Marxist?”

“No. I’m a Catholic. 


“Are you instigating workers?”

“No. I’m helping workers.”


I felt cold, very cold and numb. Surely this can’t be real, this can’t be happening. But the blows to my face kept coming after every reply.

Men kept coming and going out of the room, talking among themselves, barking at me, shaking their heads.  J.T*, another little man with a moustache, the case officer. T.*, a little woman, his assistant case officer. Long Jaw, who slapped me with powerful swings of his arm and the full force of his body behind every blow.

I wanted to forget it all but I couldn’t. It was humiliating. I was crying out that it was totally unwarranted. Were they stupid? Marxist? Me? I tried to tell them what I am – a Catholic. 

But they were not interested in my answer, but continued hitting me and dousing me with cold water in an air-conditioned room.

Tang Lay Lee


The period of detention turned out to be the most traumatic years of my life – the strip search, the blindfolds, the interrogations in the cold room, the sleep deprivation, the television interviews, the slaps on the face, the three-legged chairs I was forced to balance on during the initial interrogations, the solitary confinement and, most of all, the fear of long-term incarceration without trial.

Kevin De Souza


The 22 Detainees

Arrested on 21 May 1987:

1.  Vincent Cheng Kim Chuan, 40: Detained for a total of three years. Considered by the press release of the Minister of Home Affairs as the leader of the group, was a former theology student, a full-time worker in the Church movements. He was the secretary of the Justice and Peace Commission where he had worked since 1983. From June 1982 to June 1983, he undertook the coordination of the volunteers and their activities in the Catholic Centre for foreign workers. (But) he no longer belonged to the group since 1984.

2.  Ng Bee Leng, 23: A full-time employee at the Catholic Centre for foreign workers. She was formerly a student of the Polytechnic of Singapore where she had been president of the Students Union.

3.  Tang Lay Lee, 33:  Lawyer, was an employee of the Young Christian Workers of Singapore. 

4.  Kevin Desmond de Souza, 26: Graduate of the Law Faculty of the University of Singapore, was, at the time of his arrest, an employee of the Association of Catholic Students at the Polytechnic. He was a member of C.O.R.D.

5.  Mah Lee Lin, 22: Graduate of the Polytechnic of Singapore. From 1982 to 1984, she had been the secretary of the Students Union. Within the framework of the Chai Chee Catholic Centre which was an extension of the Catholic Centre for foreign students. She belonged to a group of volunteers which helped Malaysian workers.

6.  Teo Soh Lung, 39: Lawyer. Detained for a total of 2 and a half years. Offered her services to the Catholic Centre for foreign workers. She had been one of the first collaborators of the Centre at its foundation in 1980, especially in its activities regarding Malaysians and Filipinos. Together with Tan Tee Seng, she had organised English lessons and an introduction to workers’ rights. That went on until 1982. She was then engaged by the Director of the Centre as an advocate-councillor.

7.  Kenneth Tsang: A graduate of an English University, was an economist by training. In 1983, he gave English courses at the Catholic Centre for some months to foreign workers. He collaborated in the Justice and Peace Commission.

8.  Jenny Chin Lai Ching: Wife of Kenneth Tsang and the sister of Juliet Chin, a student who had been expelled from Singapore in 1974. Jenny was a journalist for the Malaysian newspaper New Straits Times and a collaborator for the Justice and Peace Commission.

9.  Tan Tee Seng, 28: Former student of the Polytechnic and Vice-President of the Students Union. With Teo Soh Lung, he was one of the first volunteers of the Geylang Catholic Centre, where he had been active until 1984. He, too, had taken part in the activities of the Justice and Peace Commission.

10. Low Yit Leng:  A graduate of the Polytechnic, she had carried out the charge of Secretary General of the Students Union. She had also been the Secretary General of the Association of Asian Students which had its headquarters in Hong Kong (81-83). She collaborated in the Justice and Peace Commission. She was the manager of a printing firm.

11. Teresa Lim Li Kok, 32: Publisher. She took part in the activities of The Third Stage. (See report on her life after detention here.)

12. Chung Lai Mei, 22: A graduate of the Polytechnic, just ended her term as Assistant General Secretary of the Association of Asian Students, a position she had occupied since 1985.

13. Wong Souk Yee, 28: Detained for 15 months. Former member of the Students Union, she had written and produced theatrical plays for The Third Stage group, of which she was the president.

14. Chia Boon Tai, 36: Graduate of a British University, was a Malaysian who collaborated with The Third Stage group. 

15. Tay Hong Seng, 36: Worked in the government controlled television station SBC. He was a founding member of the theatrical group The Third Stage

16. William Yap Hong Ngian, 40: A graduate of a British University collaborated in a television chain. He was a member of the group “The Third Stage”.

Arrested on 20 June 1987:

17. Tang Fong Har, 32: Lawyer, arrested on 20 June 1987 and served with a one-year detention order. Released on 12 September 1988. She was one of the nine signatories of the joint statement recanting their earlier statements made under detantion but escaped the re-arrest as she was overseas at the time, and has remained in exile to this day.

18. Chew Kheng Chuan: Printer, arrested and detained on 20 June 1987.

19. Chng Suan Tse : Lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic and president of an experimental drama group.

20. Fan Wan Peng

21. Ronnie Ng

22. Nur Effendi Sahid

Others who were also arrested:

Francis Seow: Lawyer for three of the detainees, who, while waiting to meet two of the detainees, was himself arrested within the premises of the ISD. The government accused him of “colluding with U.S. diplomats to build an opposition in Singapore.”

Patrick Seong:  Lawyer, whom the government accused of having been a “propagandist” in providing information to foreign correspondents during the 1987 detentions.


The detainees, while under detention, had made statements admitting their guilt. Some of the them were released after issuing the statements. Nine of those who were released later issued their own statements, recanting their earlier ones. The following was the statement to the media by the nine. The day after this statement was released, they were rearrested by the ISD.

We, the undersigned, were detained by the Internal Security Department (ISD) on 21 May and 20 June 1987 and released in stages after the suspension directives and/or restriction orders in June, September and December 1987.

While we had privately always maintained our innocence and kept a rueful and cheerful silence about the unjust treatment we were subjected to, and would have been inclined to keep our silence, the government has repeatedly raised the issue of our arrest and detention and made false and damaging statements about us. On the one hand, we have been intimidated by implicit and explicit threats against our safety, should we speak up about our arrest and detention; on the other hand, the government and its spokesmen have continued to make bold and untruthful statements regarding the reasons for our arrest and detention and have denied that any of us were subjected to ill-treatment or torture.

We make this statement as principled men and women who will speak the truth and state our position for the record… we do not intend to challenge the government, we do not seek any official response, neither is there any desire to make political capital out of this. Our sole purpose is to clear our names.


We are accused of being involved in an alleged Marxist conspiracy to subvert the existing social and political system in Singapore using Communist united front tactics to establish a Marxist state. We categorically deny the government’s accusations: we have never been Marxist conspirators involved in any conspiracy.

We were never clandestine, Communist or a Marxist network and many of us did not even know of one another before the arrests. We were rather community and church workers, legal reformers, amateur dramatists, helpers of the Workers’ Party, professionals and ordinary citizens exercising our constitutional rights to freedom of expression and association in Singapore. We have never propagated in words or in actions a Communist state for Singapore. Rather we have through open and legitimate organizations and legitimate means advocated more democracy, less elitism, protection of individual freedoms, greater concern for the poor and the less privileged, and respect of freedom in the private lives of citizens.

We hold completely the beliefs expressed by fellow ex-detainee Chew Kheng Chuan in his representation to the ISD advisory board where he stated: “We are believers in an open and democratic policy and in the virtues of an open and accountable government. We strongly believe that for society to be meaningfully called democratic, interest and action in politics cannot be the sole prerogative of the professional politician. A citizen of a democracy, to be worthy of that society, has not just the right but indeed the duty to participate in the political life of his or her society. It is a grave danger to democracy to suggest that for one to comment on political and social issues or to hold differing political opinions, one should go and form a political party.”

We believe that, as in the case of an individual citizen, so too has an organization the same legitimate role to play in a democratic country. It seems to us that we were arrested and detained for the legitimate exercise of our rights as citizens, through registered and open organizations. We did not infiltrate these organizations but joined them as members, volunteers and full-time workers. Neither did we use these organizations as forums to propagate subversive activities. All acitivities carried out by these organizations are legitimate, open and approved by elected executive committees whose members clearly stand on their own right as capable, autonomous and intelligent individuals. Neither were we instructed by any person or organization, not Tan Wah Piow, Paul Lim, nor any political party.

Treatment during detention

Following our sudden arrest we were subjected to harsh and detailed interrogation. Some of us were for as long as 70 hours inside freezing-cold rooms. All of us were stripped of our personal clothing, including spectacles, footwear and underwear and make to change into prisoners’ uniforms. Most of us were made to stand continually during the interrogation, some of us for over 20 hours and under the full blast of air-conditioning turned to a very low temperature. Under these conditions one of us was repeatedly dowsed with cold water during interrogation. Most of us were hit hard in the face, some of us not less than 50 times, while others were assaulted on other parts of the body during the first three days of interrogation.

We were threatened with the arrest, assault and battering of our spouses, loved ones and friends. We were threatened with indefinite detention without trial; Chia Thye Poh, who is still in detention after 22 years, was cited as an example. We were told that no one could help us unless we cooperated with the ISD. These threats were constantly in our minds during the time we wrote our respective statements in detention.

We were actively discouraged from engaging legal counsel and advised to discharge our lawyers and against taking legal action, including making legal representation to the ISA Advisory Board so as not to jeopardize our chances of release.

We were compelled to appear on television and warned that our releases depended on our performances on TV. We were coerced to make statements such as, “I am Marxist-inclined”, “My ideal society is a classless society”, “So-and-so is my mentor”, “I was made use of by so-and-so”, in order to incriminate ourelves and other detainees. What we said on television was grossly distorted and misrepresented by editing and commentaries which attributed highly sinister motives to our actions and associations.

We state once more, clearly and unequivocally, that we never acted in any way to subvert the security of our country.

Teo Soh Lung

Ng Bee Leng

Kenneth Tsang

Chng Suan Tze

Tang Lay Lee

Kevin De Souza

William Yap

Wong Souk Yee

Tang Fong Har



Fortunately, the human person is blessed with the capacity to rise above the ashes. Eastern religions believe that humans possess a human spark that can potentiate into a prairie fire. It all depends on your mindset. 

Seen in this light, I have never regretted the three years in prison for standing on the right side of the struggle. It was a good time to train myself to understand the strengths and weaknesses, and to appreciate the dynamism of the human spirit in trying circumstances. One may or may not see the fruits of one’s struggle for justice, but every struggle is a step forward. It can therefore be seen as an achievement, a victory. 

In prison, I made a candle out of toilet rolls and affixed it on the wall. It burns with a bright red flame. On the candle, I inscribed my motto: “To give light, the candle must endure burning.” Above the candle, I placed a cross. These images signified for me sacrifice and victory. And victory it will be. It is only a matter of time. 

I still feel angry at the injustice of the whole incident, and that the perpetrators have not been brought to account. ‘Operation Spectrum’ was political rape… Victims of injustice must not give up the fight to regain their dignity. I believe that forgiveness and letting go is genuine and meaningful only when justice has been, or is seen to have been, done.”

Vincent Cheng


You can purchase a copy of the book, in which the detainees tell of their treatment in detention, at:
The Online Citizen thanks:
Martyn See
Yaw Shin Leong
Gerald Giam
Nathaniel Koh
Bernard Chen
Teo Soh Lung


  • lips

    Guys, thanks for researching and publishing all this. You really have opened the eyes of many people


    From reading all your commentaries, i feel that these people have been guilty. Guilty by association.

    Its a pity they had to get to know tan wah piow which instigated so many of them, mixing politics with religion i.e vincent with the catholic movement.

    Lee Kuan Yew is indeed quick to quash his enemies, or friends of his enemies for the matter of fact.

    I am amazed at his boldness for such a move. Abit high handed i admit but you gotta give credit to where credit is due, this man is a genius at holding on to power

  • Dreamer

    Heartfelt Solidarity to all victims, their families and friends. Salute to the extensive research and thoughtful presentation. With much hope, in the years to come, we’ll not only commemorate labour day in May, but a month to raise the MayDay alarm to the younger generations, such that they know that the life story of a few ordinary Singaporeans is not any ordinary story.

    On a side note, deep inside me hopes that reincarnation would eventually happen to all those involve behind the arrests, hopefully, it is one that their memories of this wolrd remain intact as they live their reincarnate lives, whatever it may be.

  • 3 Pink Toombs Erected on standby

    “What is the case against them? What evidence do you have? Although the Government has been saying, “Yes, we have evidence, otherwise we would not have arrested them.” What evidence? You tell me. There is no evidence. The only evidence is their own confession. That is all. Any court of law would throw out this kind of a confession.

    Chiam See Tong, 1987″


    To my respected Mr Chiam,
    I wish to confess that I am one of those who doubted you.
    By what you have done, by questioning, when none dared to,
    I salute you for your bravery and sacrifice for the people.
    For standing up and voicing up and questioning.

    I am sure no one dared to ask that question DIRECTLY (vs in the internet) to that guy. But you did.

    Kudos to you and wish you a Speedy Recovery.

    Unclear answer 3.3 to 6.7 bln

  • Does the end justify the means?

    I hope one day, the perpertrators will be brought to justice.

    I hope one day, our exiles will be able to return to our homeland.

    I hope one day, we can recite our pledge without feeling hollow.

    I hope one day, our political differences will be tolerated.

    I hope on that day, the sun will shine in our lives again.

  • Anon

    definitely propanganda

  • NoAnswer

    Those who trust the government will say that the Marxist group was planning something and LKY was quick to add. Those who do not trust the government will term this as a conspiracy. The truth will never be out.

  • No Need Evidence – just ‘psychological pressure’ it out?

    Wow, amazing revelations of a piece of history where the passage still applies today.

  • Daniel

    “Operation Spectrum was political rape”
    When a rapist rape, he get punish (few strokes of rottan), but when our gahmen rape “politically”, it is the victim that get the punishment. One law for layman and another law for demi-god.

  • Blur

    The key question that Chiam asked has still not be answered.
    Where is the evidence?

  • Daniel

    “It is not a practice, nor will I allow subversives to get away by insisting that I’ve got to produce everything against them in a court of law or (produce) evidence that will stand up to the strict rules of evidence of a court of law.”

    we have Detention without trial so we also have “defamation without trial”. Old man can accuse and defame any body he wants since no evidence is needed (not even the simplest and obvious evidence) ?

  • what do yourself think ?

    7) NoAnswer on May 25th, 2009 10.11 am

    so what do you yourselve think. marxist or conspiracy ? plus Remember 21st at HLG, surely someone needs to act. or that it is not so clear cut after all.

    or that different ideologies, be it marxist, communist, socialist, capitalistic, can be acceptable at times given that no single system is perfect and it is a mix of a little of this and that that all countries may practise from time to time depending on situation.

  • Alan Wong

    Does the wrongful ISA detentions make the old man a war criminal under international human rights convention law ?

    Is there still hope that such wrongful detention shall never happen in Singapore ?

    Why do we still need to have such an abusive Internal Security Act if we have so many other applicable laws which can take care of subversive activities ?

    Can our PM care to answer ?

  • gemami

    What have we learned in these 22 years? The citizens at that time, in 1987, were taken in, hook, line & sinker, with every word reported by the MSM and the government. There were many who did not believed the detainees were Marxists conspirators but were themselves too frightened speak up against the lies that were being dished out by the government.

    If the same situation is played out today, how would we react?

  • http://TOCSingapore Edward

    #5) Does the end justify the means?

    LKY and PAP and PAP supporters will say: “YES”

    LKY has frequently told off foreign critics and reporters that he had built a prosperous Singapore from scratch when no other third world leader had done so. Like Hitler, a dictatorship or totalitaran regime can fast-track a country’s development without interference and distraction from a strong opposition.

    LKY’s son had publicly admitted that if there were more than 10 opposition MPs he would have little time left to run the counrtry beside having to deal with them. So the government (meaning PAP and the government departments and NGOs) would have to fix them up and remove them from parliament. The constitution provides for only a minimum of 8 SMCs. I believe PAP is prepared to lose only the SMCs.

    The 66% who voted for the PAP would consider those detained as a small price you have to pay for disrupting the good work of the elected government. However, to Liu G D, the ex-table tennis coach the end does not justify the means. Not even when he is the one who is mainly responsible for bringing the Olympic silver medal to Singapore after 44 years.

  • http://TOCSingapore Edward

    #14) gemami
    ‘If the same situation is played out today, how would we react?’

    I think it will be the same as 1987. Maybe 100 opposition sympathizers would gathered at Hong Lim park to make some noise. Definitely, much less then the pink dot supporters. FEAR is still in the air not H1N1. We are still a bunch of cowards. As Li Au, a Taiwanese politician had said: “Singaporeans are stupid except for LKY and 2 others (sorry, cannot recall their names). Many are still waiting for his demise before they can rid themselves of the fear.

  • lobo76

    #14) gemami
    ‘If the same situation is played out today, how would we react?’


    I do feel that the Aware sage gives us some hope that people WILL act.

    minus those who had to be ferried by bus to vote, the rest went by themselves They needed little urging, when they see what they felt to be a ‘wrong’ has been done.

    Of course, the dynamics will be drastically different when the ‘offender’ is the government. … still, there is SOME hope where there was previously none.

  • phoenix from ashes

    It is said that from the ashes, a pheonix will arise.

    I believe it is up to the forward looking Walter Woon, Minister Tharman and other like minded politicians to bring this up in parliament and allow apologies to be made and for the nation to move forward.

    PAP will then soar up and above all our expectations.

    If it does not happen, then PAP must fall and something must take over.

    What is there to prove that the current Malay ISA detainees are truly terrorists?

    How many are incarcerated?

    I don’t know. Do you?

  • Observer (SG-HK)

    The sufferings and the torturing acts are definitely inhumane. That I felt painful to read when it was depicted by the people who experienced it and it does stir up emotions. What really puzzled me is that if the government had claimed that they had the evidence; I wonder why they would not publish it for citizenry to judge and settle the score. I can understand the sensitivity of the issue 30 some years ago or even in the early days when this nation was on its way to independence. What about now? What is there to fear? This government had the 66% mandate to rule and surely they must have that confidence in them to silence its critics with undoubting evidence that they had done the right thing then? They surely have archived this information. That is what I perceived a clean government will do or am I too naïve?

    I conceded my naivety as one of the lesser educated older generation of citizenry, submissive, ignorant and apathetic then and perhaps even today, but I think our younger generation (tomorrow’s leader), the well educated and intelligent enough to stand on their own, deserves to know the history of this event. I certainly hope that my beloved country will live up to her words in our sacred pledge. There is nothing shameful if it is proven that wrong arrest had been made when the evidence are publicized and scrutinized by a truly independent inquiry board (albeit if it will use tax payers’ money to fund this inquiry, I believe rational citizenry will not even finch as we deserved to know the ultimate truth and nothing but the truth). If this is too much to ask for, I think our independent and impartial judicial system should accord the light of the day to this case and examine the evidence archived. If proven that the government had made a mistake in this event, those who had suffered unjustly should be justly compensated (not that monetary compensation can erase the psychological damage that they have to shoulder for the rest of their life), but at least this is the right and humane thing for a matured, inclusive and clean government to do.

    I like to submit this quote from Alexander Hamilton ( ) and Martin Luther King Jr. (,_Jr. ) respectively for your thoughts and reflections:

    “I think the first duty of society is justice.” ~ A. Hamilton

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” ~ Martin Luther king Jr.

    Observer (SG-HK)

  • Why TOC bother to relook at history when….

    Come on TOC, we know your good intentions.
    But hey singaporeans many of whom also know about this piece of history.
    They have kept quiet.
    Why sacrifice yourselves by being so high profile toucing on such sensitive thingy?
    Is it worth it for people who knew about it but brush it aside? For example , where is the evidence? How did the detained relatives and family members, friends and loved ones felt? what did they go thru?

    Since people have chosen to ignore pursuing such issue, why bother and put yourselves at risk?

    but good article nonetheless.

  • patlah

    Definitely the PAP is guilty of using torture throughout the system even in the army etc…and not only on political detainee but ordinary citizen as well up to the whim and fancy of that one man a bastard called Lee Kuan Yew. Indeed can be termed the bastard of the century.

  • TOC Keep Up Your Good Work

    Well done, TOC. Keep up your good work. Thank you

    “You can bend it and twist it… You can misuse and abuse it… But even God cannot change the Truth.”

  • Jackson Tan

    I think TOC has done an excellent job here, and above all, I think a key objective has been achieved: to refresh the memories of those who remembered, and to informed those who grew up ignorant.

    Lest we forget…

    gemani (#14):

    If the same situation is played out today, how would we react?

    Certainly not the same way as in 1987. To begin with, there is the Internet which breaks the monopoly of information. But more importantly, the political scene has changed: people are more willing to stand out and question authority now (and it will be quite a backlash if the government suppresses these people).

  • truth hurts

    Where is the response from the diehard admirers of LKY ?
    Where is your steadfast loyalty in speaking up for him ?

    To members of YPAP, I hope you take note of the means to justify the ends.
    Ask yourself whether S’pore can become a nation with political cowards at the helm ?

  • prettyplace

    Well done TOC,,,,such history must be mentioned for us to remember not only the past…but to look into our future….as well…

    Winston Churchill said…the further backward you look, the further forward you can see…

    Most Singaporeans tend to have bad memories….
    that is one of the main reason we keep coming back to the same issue…
    Politics in Singapore….

    I hope we will have a clear sight of where we are heading as a country….
    and the recent talk of change in politics …might be real or maybe just to contend certain sectors…

    but we need to understand the political manoeuvres and the under lying factors….
    how it affects each one of us and our families….our rice-bowl….our way of life and lifestyles…..

    The only way to go about this ……. is what you have presented, present and will present in TOC in the coming years ahead……

    You are the Fourth Estate…..Wish You Well and Thank You.

  • To KopitiamApek

    I miss your excellent comments.
    Could you comment on this article, your excellency?
    Or have you been listening at Copitiams too busy to chat here? kekeke

  • dololo

    Whatever LKY had done is for the benefit of Singapore. Cant you guys show respect and gratitude to him. He was and is a Great Leader. This tiny red dot wont become a top class country without LKY and PAP.

    For those who are anti LKY, please go to a country where you think Freedom is everything. Migrate and Drop your citizenship. So, your quota can be filled by others who appreciate and love Singapore wholly.

    Can you simply imagine Singapore without LKY? I believe you may be a coolie unloading goods at Singapore River.

  • Sylvester Lim

    Thank you TOC for the elaborate writeup and for helping to remind Singaporeans of LKY’s & ISD’s transgressions against the citizens. Singapore would have had a even greater civil society today had these Singaporeans been allowed to continue with their dreams.

  • David

    I hope these articles do not dissappear so soon. Is there a way to keep it as part of school curriculums and have history told in full.

  • semantics at its best

    “The Government does not ill-treat detainees. It does however apply psychological pressure to detainees to get to the truth of the matter … the truth would not be known unless psychological pressure was used during interrogation.”

    Semantics at its finest. When harsh actions could be twisted into friendly pats, there won’t be any worst acts left in this world. Who will feel the pain more, the one giving pain or the one receiving pain.

    Could you please let us know what sorts of psychological pressure were being used. Just explain it will do, do not need to really show it as everyone will have an inkling that even harmless term like psychological pressure is no fun either.

  • Daniel

    “Could you please let us know what sorts of psychological pressure were being used.”

    Last time when “psychological pressure” were used against the MPs using fire (burning clown), threat (phone call) and violence (throwing chair), the “victims” are been arrested. How is it that “psychological pressure” is legal and rightful then when used by gahmen ? Oh,… I forget that our gahmen has their own unique definition of “”psychological pressure”” just like credibility, integrity, rule of Law, justice etc.

  • http://None GABRIEL

    Well done, TOC. I salute your courage, and all who have openly expressed their support of those who had to endure pain and deprivation after having been branded part of an alleged Marxist conspiracy.
    Fighting for social justice has always been part of the bedrock of the Catholic Church. And I am sad that it has been misinterpreted as a struggle to overthrow the government of the day.
    Perhaps it’s a vain hope on my part — but I wonder if one of those handled the questioning of Vincent Cheng et al will have, over the years, pondered their callous action — and come forward to justify their behaviour. Or, dare I hope, even recant?

  • LOL

    27) dololo on May 25th, 2009 11.34 pm

    You could also say, watever LKY and PAP did was for themselves to create a subservient nation to pay taxes for their huge paychecks and get scott free for laws they have broken themeselves. World class country would have subsidized the poor and needy’s transport fares and housing, would have provided freedom of speech for its people without a FEAR factor in it. Have u looked at other nations? Swiss standard of living my foot, the most u get is swiss bar of chocolate.

  • dololo

    33) Are you aware of the tax rate that we are paying now? It is peanut compares to countries that provide subsidy to their needy citizen.

    Take Australia for an example:

    Surely, they can provide subsidy considering their tax is 6-8 times higher than Singapore.

    Is that what you want? You must be screaming and trembling in toilet when your company announce a 20% salary cut to support the needy.

    Freedom of speech? Come on … Do you really have proofs that LKY and PAP is not developing Singapore? Look what they have done for the past 20-30 years. Singapore was a kampong and now it is a metropolis.

    Of course we are better than Swiss standard of living. We are ONE SINGAPORE!

  • Jackson Tan

    dololo (#27):

    Okay, I assume you’re not being sacarstic, so here’s my response:

    Whatever LKY had done is for the benefit of Singapore. Cant you guys show respect and gratitude to him. He was and is a Great Leader. This tiny red dot wont become a top class country without LKY and PAP.

    For those who are anti LKY, please go to a country where you think Freedom is everything. Migrate and Drop your citizenship. So, your quota can be filled by others who appreciate and love Singapore wholly.

    Can you simply imagine Singapore without LKY? I believe you may be a coolie unloading goods at Singapore River.

    True enough, and personally, I have immense respect for the old guy! Like it or not, I cannot deny that Lee Kuan Yew has done tremendous stuff for Singapore, especially in terms of economics. We may scrutinise and criticise for all we like, but the fact is that he has transformed Singapore to a modern city-state. I give him this credit.

    However, just because he has done great things doesn’t mean we can close our eyes to the flaws in Singapore and shut our minds from criticism. In fact, personally, the more I respect a person, the more I criticise him. But whether you subscribe to that philosophy or not, I think it cannot be disregarded that a sceptical mind is vital to a healthy democracy.

    Finally, an analogy: take Michael Jackson. He has created wonders in the entertainment industry. He has also done much to rally people to help combat poverty in Africa, as well as raise the cause for helping AIDS victims. But does that mean, due to his achievements, that we should turn a blind eye to the allegations of molestation?

  • LOL

    34) dololo on May 26th, 2009 1.00 pm

    Of cos i am aware of the tax rate but have u compared their salaries, working hours, benefits they get from the government and their standard of living and world happiness index?

    1st thing, Australia may have a high tax rate, but they get higher salaries and hence offset the tax rate. Even my sister studying there and working part time gets paid 13 AUD per hour as a bookstore helper. Now compare that with a singaporean factory worker getting full time pay-which is about 800-1000 SGD.
    How to pay for their own house lest feed 2 children and a wife? How about the car prices plus coe in singapore? How about medical bills?

    Next, I m not complaining for myself cos i am one of the more fortunate ones who has a good job typing this to u. I m complaining for the less privileged singaporeans who has problems about housing, food and education for their children. To think i see kids sleeping in graveyards cos their families got ain’t no money, people who get evicted from their houses and not enough money to feed their familues and the emotional trauma they get, how do u feel? My fren is a social worker and he told me, u will be surprised at the number of less fortunate families in singapore and i was, cos i tot singapore was rosy and that was self centred.

    Next, y would the company cut my pay 20% to pay the needy? U mean the government impose a special tax for the needy? I have no qualms if the rich who earns 200k or more a year (which includes ministers, ntuc chairman, dbs chairman) are paying that.

    No freedom of speech? Then when they lock u up for no rhyme or reason like operation spectrum or cold store, dun expect anyone to stand up for u. When they lock u up for 20+ plus years like Chia Thye Poh when he did nothing wrong, dun complain.

    And i note in 27) that u say anti LKY means we should drop our citizenship. Sorry, i bet most of us here are singapore loving but not government loving.

  • To dololo

    27) dololo on May 25th, 2009 11.34 pm

    you said “For those who are anti LKY, please go to a country where you think Freedom is everything. Migrate and Drop your citizenship”

    How could you say such heartless and cold blooded thing?
    Very anti-social psychological behavoir.

    1. are you implying or assuming there is not enough FREEDOM?
    2. Are you Anti-People with Alternative views?
    3. Are you Anti-Plurality of views?
    4. Are you Anti-Democracy? bear in mind in a democracy, people have freedom to express their views and can have the right to agree to disagree.

    5. Does the migration of those who don’t like it here make you feel better? Why? Why are you so anti-diversity-of-views?

    nice to see you again, kopi…. ooops, its dololo.

  • who are the Catholics in Cabinet?

    George Yeo, Lim Hng Kiang?

    Is there a universal Justice and Peace for all Mankind, or not at all in Singapore?

    If these Catholics can keep quiet in Government, then it comes as no surprise that we cannot do a thing in Myanmar and we hobnob with the myanmar generals.

    And for the current 20+ Malays in custody – who are the real terrorists?

  • Daniel

    Stop telling us that our government is world-class. It is world-clown not world-class. Where else can you find a government so deceiving and lying to the republic of Singapore when it comes taking money. Last time, when they sayy that Singapore is short to help the poor and increase the GST to 2%, everyone swallow the bitter pill, and boom, only to find that Temasek and GIC accumulate so much billions and yet lost astronomical billions that easily can be used to help the poor. It will be naive to think that our reserves & CPF are not used as gambling stake to feed the expensive gamblers.

    If those clowns say that they going to increase the GST again and raise their salary again., ask them them to fart off because such deceptive government has no moral authority to govern country without accountability and transparency anymore. Enough is enough. I will not be surprised that the government will be thick-skin to tell us to need increase GST because they touch reserve. What is these reserves compare to more than $50 billions loss by temasek and GIC ?

  • Tan Kee Mong

    These losses, would there be side effects that indirectly lead to rising cost of living? if money is needed to help the people, surely no issue?

    i have no clue leh. any of u have or not?

  • dololo


    Australian get benefits, because they pay higher tax than Singapore. We pay much lesser tax, but we dont get benefits. Arent they the same? The benefits are your money. It’s just another form.

    I always work from 9-6PM in Singapore for the past 10 years. I work in IT line as senior software engineer and I seldom do OT. If I do OT, I will surely claim for day off. If you do OT, it means that you are afraid to voice out your grunt to your manager. Freedom of Speech? You may start telling your boss now to give you day off.

    Have you ever considered how much your sister needs to pay for lunch and dinner?

    In SG S$1.80 chicken rice …. in AU AU$5 sandwich
    In SG 2% home loan fixed rate …. in AU 8% home loan fixed rate
    In SG public transport frequency is within 2-10 minutes …. in AU 15 – 40 minutes
    In SG you purchase insurance for medical …. in AU you purchase medicare
    In SG shopping is cheap …. in AU shopping is expensive
    In SG school fee is cheap …. in AU you are in debt after graduation
    In SG S$2 by train n bus to city …. in AU 2 hours ticket from zone 3 costs you AU$8
    In SG childcare is around S$300 …. in AU childcare may cost you AU$1500-2000
    In SG you hardly see drug addicts …. in AU they may throw syringe into your backyard.

    Car is a luxury and liability. Dont complain when you have to pay COE, ERP, road tax, insurance, etc. Dont buy a car, if you cant afford it. You may save 1000+ monthly.

    Less fortunate families are everywhere … even in Aussie you can easily find them in parks, train stations, lobby of buildings, etc. In Japan, you can see them everywhere at Shinjuku.

    And i note in 27) that u say anti LKY means we should drop our citizenship. Sorry, i bet most of us here are singapore loving but not government loving.

    Then stop complaining. PAP is a party that won in election which means majority support PAP.

  • LOL


    Obviously u dun get wat i mean.
    It is not for me i m complaining but for the people who are left behind WITHOUT much help from the government. I agree i and many others are more fortunate than others BUT have u seen the less fortunate ones wihtout much help and hence left to charitable organisations. Having done so much charity work in my life, u obviously feel nothing for the less fortunate ones who are struggling terribly to meet everyday needs. U talk to them and u understand how dire straits are they becos our government refuse to subsidise or look after them. Its always left to charitable organisatons to look after them.

    As u said, the benefits are another form of our money so i dun see your logic of your 1st argument that we pay lesser taxes than australia, hence its better. Its not say they dun get anything back. Then they should start rioting.

    In austrailia, The less fortunate get enough help from the government. However, some of these are bums who spent them on alcohol and smokes or drugs etc instead of essentials. This is unlke singapore who some stay in shacks or in graveyards.

    The majority is 66% seats in parliament cos tey won 66%. Not making grcs to impose their 98-99% seats in paliament. U noe wat we are angry about? holding 98% of the seats is totally unrealistic of the representation of the will of singaporeans. Where is voice of the 33%? We dun claim to be the majority but where is the 33% of the seats?

  • Mohd Hisham

    Dear TOC,

    This is a good article from you. I suppose; we’ve always had our suspicions about this; but due to lack of information or rather lack of coordinated gathering of information, there is no way we could be sure.

    I like your timeline of events. That structuring was done pretty well. I hope no one forgets this. If you sense that you will be brought in, by the Singapore Police or the ISD, please let the word out as soon as you can.

    I’m commenting with my real name and my real site. I hope people who comment s here, try to do likewise. But if you want to remain anonymous, there’s of course net neutrality which I support as well.

    TOC, please continue the good effort that you are doing.

    best regards,
    Mohd Hisham

  • dololo


    It would be easy for SG Government to provide those benefits, but are the employees and employers willing to pay taxes as high as in Australia?

    Have you ever had an experience with Australian tax office? I had and they hunted me down for every single dollar that I made like robbers. By then, you will thank Singapore Government for their low tax rate.

  • free as a bird

    @ dololo,

    at least the Aussie govt is far more civil , they just wanted you to pay what is due.
    Perhaps you have not told the truth about yourself…….was there some attempt to evade tax or whatever ?

    now back to the real topic, show us one instance where the Aussie govt hunted political rivals like enemies of the state and do you think their MSM and judiciary are truly independent of govt influence ?

    how about the British govt. ?
    bear in mind they invented the ISA and again show me one instance the British govt abused the ISA on political rivals.
    i also need not elaborate on the independence of their MSM and judiciary.

  • Yellow Earth

    How ironic, they very happily invited the Malayan Communist Party (the REAL DEAL) leader Chin Peng to NUS for a “seminar” in 200x.

    Er Ren Xian Gao Zhuang.

  • Yellow Earth

    In SG S$1.80 chicken rice …. in AU AU$5 sandwich
    Good if u are chicken rice seller in AU.

    In SG 2% home loan fixed rate …. in AU 8% home loan fixed rate
    Err there is many choices when it comes to home loans in Oz. Some are variable rates, taken at ur own risk.

    In SG public transport frequency is within 2-10 minutes …. in AU 15 – 40 minutes

    Not everywhere in SG and not at peak hours.

    In SG you purchase insurance for medical …. in AU you purchase medicare

    Apples and oranges.

    In SG shopping is cheap …. in AU shopping is expensive

    Earn more, spend more.

    In SG school fee is cheap …. in AU you are in debt after graduation

    This one I have to agree. However, ultimately someone has to pay the bill (aka the taxpayer).

    In SG S$2 by train n bus to city …. in AU 2 hours ticket from zone 3 costs you AU$8

    $2 ONLY if you live next to MRT and few stops. And I tot increase lately?

    In SG childcare is around S$300 …. in AU childcare may cost you AU$1500-2000

    I tot Asians use relatives for childcare.

    In SG you hardly see drug addicts …. in AU they may throw syringe into your backyard.

    In SG, what backyard? You think only poor people are drug addicts?

    Dont like Oz, why the Fxxx did this guy go to Oz in the first place?

  • George

    The truth of the matter was these people were trying to empower the people through their charitable work but obviously PAP see that as a treat. So they had to be put away using our SinKapore fair and just legal system. If there were no evidence, no problem just torture them until they confess and incriminate themselves. Job done. This is our gahment. Do we want more of the same for our children for the next 50 years? If your answer is No, then it is time to do something creatively to help speed up the good bye that is long over due to LKY and the rest of PAP. Any religious order mandate is to help the poor and needy in whatever way possible. Obviously LKY and the rest of the crooks see that as a treat to their power base. We are fed up, angry and wanted change. We are wished it could done overnight but sadly in politic we have to learn the magic word patience. We have to be creative and stay out of sight from big brother and keep ahead of them. To do nothing is not an option any more. No venture no gain. God Bless

  • Jafri

    We, the citizens of Singapore,pledge ourselves as one united people,regardless of race, language or religion,to build a democratic societybased on justice and equalityso as to achieve happiness, prosperity andprogress for our nation.

  • mic o mic

    … and still the majority of the population continued to vote for this government, convinced that it had to do what it had to do for the sake of “happiness, prosperity, and progress of the nation”.

    The poor emasculated peasants of Singapore, continues to bitch about life in a high pitched voice.

  • mic o mic

    If our AG Walter Woon is as good as he pretends to be, he would have charged the MM for crimes against humanity. So much for his high falutin judicial bullshit.

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  • Braema Mathi

    Dear TOC Team,

    thank you very much for doing this. The arrests of alleged Marxist Conspirators – it was an awful time then when many of us stood by – confused, questioning, looking for ways to express our bewilderment, and so afraid that we spoke in whispers. Today we need to stand up for them and stand by them. thank you writers and researchers for doing this.

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