Straits Times of May ’87 – Four days of government statements on “Marxist Conspiracy”

Coming next on TOC: Ex-ISA detainee, Ms Teo Soh Lung, writes a personal piece for The Online Citizen. Stay tuned!

Andrew Loh / With special thanks to Martyn See

For four days, from 27 May to 30 May, 1987, the Straits Times carried the statements of the Ministry of Home Affairs – ad verbatim – detailing its investigation into the so-called “Marxist conspiracy”.

There were a total of 13 full-pages of the MHA’s statements in those four days – all accusing the detainees of being “communists” and “Marxists”, together with pictures of the accused (including one of a detainee in “a terrorist camp”) and even a graphical representation of the alleged “Marxist” network of “conspirators”.

One would be hard-pressed to find any newspaper in the world which would allow its government to have its views published – ad verbatim, pages after pages  – for four consecutive days in its paper. Conspicuously, except for the write-up on the front pages (which incidentally did not carry any names of the authors), there were  no reports or write-ups by Straits Times’ reporters.

22 years later, with back copies of the Straits Times from the archives, we take a look at how the main broadsheet in Singapore covered the events of 27 May to 30 May, 1987 – the first four days.

A curious week of silence

On 22 May, Singaporeans woke up to a chilling headline splashed across the Straits Times’ front page:


And then, nothing – for the next four days.

On  27 May 1987, this Straits Times front page greeted Singaporeans :



The Straits Times edition of 27 May brings up several questions: Why were there no reports about the arrests in the papers for the four days preceding it? What were the reporters and the journalists in the Straits Times doing during those four days after the news first broke on 21 May?

We publish here the front and inside pages of the Straits Times of 27 May to 30 May. We ask our readers to decide for themselves the professionalism of the Straits Times.

These were the front pages of 28 May to 30 May:





The government’s statements, carried in the inside pages of the Straits Times, could be divided into 4 parts:

  1. May 27: An overview of the alleged “conspiracy”, with focus on Tan Wah Piow being the “mastermind”.
  2. May 28: Revelation of Tan Wah Piow’s plans to topple the government and who Tan Wah Piow was.
  3. May 29: Focus on Vincent Cheng and the alleged “network of conspirators” which he was accused of setting up.
  4. May 30: The infiltration of the Workers’ Party.

The reports did not carry any authorship but were headlined: “Full text of Ministry of Home Affairs statement on the Marxist Conspiracy”. In the next three days, the headline would include the words “Part Two”, “Part Three” and “Part Four”.


The inside pages of May 27:





The inside pages of May 28:






The inside pages of May 29:






The inside pages of May 30:



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