The Fajar Generation

An account of S'pore history seldom heard - the Singapore Story.

“The decades in which the club existed were tumultuous times in the history of Singapore as they coincided with the genesis of the quest for nationhood and ended tragically with the unprecedented suppression of those who argued for an alternative path. In a sense, the club was founded at a time of much promise for an opening in public discourse but ended when the basis of such public discourse was denied. It marked a closing of the mind from which a new opening must surely come at some future time.” – The Fajar Generation.

The Online Citizen is happy to have permission to make this remarkable book, The Fajar Generation, available to you, our readers. (Please see below for details.) The book tells the story of a group of men and women and their struggle during Singapore’s more tumultuous times, a story few have had the chance to hear – until now.

The 361-page book consists of contributions from former members of the University Socialist Club, most of whom were on the editorial board of the club’s organ, Fajar (Arabic for dawn). Apart from the editors who have chapters, the rest of the contributors are: Jeyaraj C. Rajarao, Edwin Thumboo, Agoes Salim, Ahmad Mustapha, Syed Husin Ali, and Dr Lim Hock Siew.

Read the introductory chapter here. (By Isrizal.)

Blurb from The Fajar Generation:

The two decades from 1945 to 1965 was an extraordinary era of political turmoil in the modern histories of Malaya/Malaysia and Singapore. The end of the war unleashed concerted demands for greater political representation, self-rule and eventual independence in the face of British attempts to manage the decolonisation process. The character and direction of this struggle were deeply contested. Different strands of nationalist thinking and competing political formations battled to define and shape the character of the future nation states.

The Fajar Generation tells the hitherto neglected story of a remarkable group of men and women who advanced a radical agenda of anti-colonialism, democracy, multiculturalism and social justice through the agency of the University of Malaya Socialist Club. Through personal memoirs and analytical essays the contributors to this collection illuminate their own roles in that struggle – the hopes and despairs, the triumphs and defeats. At the same time they remind us of just how much of that progressive political agenda is still to be won in contemporary Malaysia and Singapore.

‘The University Socialist Club (USC) was formed in February 1953. In the 1950s and 1960s the USC and its organ Fajar were a leading voice advocating the cause of the constitutional struggle for freedom and independence in peninsular Malaya and Singapore. In May 1954, the British colonial government arrested the entire editorial board of Fajar and charged them with sedition. In the subsequent high profile trial the Fajar Eight, as the members of the board had become popularly known, were acquitted. The monthly periodical continued to be published until it was banned in February 1963, following the massive wave of political arrests codenamed Operation Cold Store. This collection of essays by leading members of the USC provides a timely documentation and narrative of the personalities who contributed to the struggle for freedom and independence in both countries. The foreword by the doyen of the Malayan Democratic Union, Lim Kean Chye, pays tribute to this group of English-educated intellectuals who participated in and sacrificed for the cause of national independence and a continuing vision of a more equitable social order’ .

Dr Lim Hock Siew

The two decades from 1945 to 1965 was an extraordinary era of political turmoil in the modern histories of Malaya/Malaysia and Singapore. The end of the war unleashed concerted demands for greater political representation, self-rule and eventual independence in the face of British attempts to manage the decolonisation process. The character and direction of this struggle were deeply contested. Different strands of nationalist thinking and competing political formations battled to define and shape the character of the future nation states. The Fajar Generation tells the hitherto neglected story of a remarkable group of men and women who advanced a radical agenda of anti-colonialism, democracy, multiculturalism and social justice through the agency of the University of Malaya Socialist Club. Through personal memoirs and analytical essays the contributors to this collection illuminate their own roles in that struggle – the hopes and despairs, the triumphs and defeats. At the same time they remind us of just how much of that progressive political agenda is still to be won in contemporary Malaysia and Singapore.

Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew each served in leading positions in the University Socialist Club at the University of Malaya, Singapore.

The Fajar Generation is published by Strategic Information and Research Development Centre or SIRD. It is edited by Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew. Foreword by Lim Kean Chye, founder member of Malayan Democratic Union (MDU).

To purchase this book, please send us an email at: [email protected]

The price of the book is S$34.24 (GST included).

Read about the book launch here.

Also: A personal journey in search of Fajar by Lim Cheng Tju.

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Dr Lim Hock Siew is Singapore’s second longest-held political prisoner. He was accused of being a communist and was arrested without trial in 1963 in Operation Coldstore.

After 9 years in detention, he was asked to issue a statement of “repentence and contrition”, which he refused. His sentence was then extended by another 10 years which, Dr Lim says, made the total period he spent behind bars “longer than a life sentence.”

He was released in 1982.

Dr Lim made his first post-detention speech on 14 November 2009, to coincide with the arrival of US President, Barack Obama, in Singapore for the Apec Summit.

Watch the video, shot & edited by Martyn See, of Dr Lim’s speech below.

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