The following transcripts are by Donaldson Tan of New Asia Republic. The video on Dr Lim Hock Siew has been banned on Youtube and on Martyn See’s – the fimmaker – blogsite at http://singaporerebel.blogspot.com . It is however available on other host sites such as this one.
On 12 July 2010, the Media Development Authority announced its decision to ban the film (starting from 14 July 2010) depicting Dr Lim Hock Siew speaking publicly on his experience being detained under the Internal Security Act.
A founding member of the ruling People’s Action Party, Lim was accused of being a communist and was arrested without trial in 1963, and had his detention prolonged by the then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew until his release in 1982.
On 14th of Nov 2009, Lim made his first post-detention speech in Singapore during a book launch. The day coincided with the arrival of US President Barack Obama in Singapore for the APEC Summit.
My contribution to this book is very modest. Because of my ill-health, I’ve not been able to write too much. It comprises mainly of a statement which I made when I was in prison in 1972, after 9 years of incarceration.
As you know, I was detained in Coldstore Operation in February the 2nd 1963, and I was the last one to come out from the batch of detainees almost 20 years later. Now this statement mainly stated my stand on my detention.
After 9 years of incarceration, they wanted me to issue a statement to firstly support the so-called democratic system of Singapore, and secondly to renounce politics. I told them that these two demands are self-contradictory, because if there is parliamentary democracy, then I don’t have to give up politics.
So they said, “You must say something to show repentance other wise Lee Kuan Yew will lose face.” For me this not a question of pride, it’s a question of principle. In the first place, if a person has to save his face by depriving somebody else of his fundamental rights, then that’s not a face that’s worth saving.
So the, the main democratic right is a fundamental constitutional right of the people of Singapore. And no one should be deprived of their right, and held ransom to extort statements of repentance and contrition. So the whole thing bogged down to having to issue a statement of repentance, which I refused.
Subsequently, I was detained for another almost 10 years, after that statement was issued. So a total of 19 years and eight months, longer than a life sentence. Life sentences will be released after 13 years, after the initial one-third remission, but for no charge, no trial, I was detained for longer than life sentences.
A lot of hullabaloo have been said recently on the right of political detainees to appeal to an Advisory Board. I want to tell you about my experience in this Advisory Board.
After about one year of detention, I was asked to the prison main gate at about 4pm, and a statement of notice to say that I had to appear before the Advisory Board the next day, and I was given a two fool-scap paper of so-called charge sheets.
I said I wanted to keep these sheets of paper so I could prepare for my next morning’s appearance. They said, “No, you cannot keep it. Just read it and we’ll take it back.”
I said I want to inform my lawyer about this. They said, “No, you have the right to inform your lawyer, but you cannot telephone him now.” I said, “In that case, how do I contact my lawyer?” He said, “That’s the law.”
So the next morning I was called to the High Court in handcuffs and all that to appear before an Advisory Board comprising three persons. A judge called Judge Winslow and two other persons. One is a certain Elias, I think he’s a lawyer, and the other one a Chinese gentleman whose name I cannot remember.
So, on these so-called charge sheets, there were a lot of blank spaces. I asked Judge Winslow what do these blank spaces mean? He said, “Oh, these are charges which are so sensitive that they can be shown only to the Advisory Board but not to you.”
I said, “How the hell can anybody defend himself against a charge that’s not even revealed to him?” I asked him for advice, he just said [shrugs shoulder]. I said, “Is this a mockery of justice or what?” He said, “This is the law.”
You see, the whole thing is a judicial farce. I mean, it’s incredible that anyone has to face this kind of mockery, this kind of so-called justice, and the fact that a High court judge is being put as the chairman of this Advisory Board gives the public an illusion that there is judgement, there is justice. And I told him that if I were a High court judge, I would not lend credence to this mockery by my presence.
Then this Elias threatened me with contempt of court. I was very happy when he with contempt of court, because after all I was already in prison, so threatening me with contempt of court and al that makes no difference to me. By the way, in my 20 years in prison, I was detained in practically all the prisons in Singapore, except of course the female prison.
In the end, the judge said, “No, no, let the doctor have his say, there’s no question of contempt of court.” So I gave a three-hour statement to debunk all the so-called charges. One of the charges was in fact a false charge.
I was charged for being one of the right Fajar students who were charged for sedition. I said, “As a matter of fact, I didn’t have the privilege to be one of the eight. In fact, I would be flattered to be one of the eight, and that I was not one of the eight.
So why should I be imprisoned for allegedly being one of the eight, when these eight were acquitted without being called, and acquitted and defended by Lee Kuan Yew himself, who is now detaining me?”
He said, “This is the law.”
Everything is the law. So recently you have heard all this so-called rule of law. Now there is detention without trial by ISA [Internal Security Act], a law which makes a mockery of the concept of rule of law. It is a law that is outside the rule of law. Once you are detained under the ISA, you have no legal defence whatsoever.
I tried the habeas corpus twice. On one occasion I succeeded on the technical error on the side of the government–they did not sign my detention order. It was supposed to be signed by a minister, but it was delegated to a civil servant. So on that account the court has to release me on a technical point.
So when I was released, there was the Special Branch waiting for me outside Queenstown Prison. I was re-arrested one minute later. It was a mock release. And for that habeas corpus, I was punished and sent to the most hideous of all detention centres, the Central Police Station head office.
That was a place that is not fit to keep animals let alone human beings. The place was so dark, so stinky and so ill-ventilated that you cannot stand inside for more than 24 hours, but I was locked in there for 24 hours a day. And the whole place was infested with bugs. I had a lot of bugs for company.
No reading material and the light was so dim that I could hardly see the crease of my hand. So immediately the five of us went on hunger strike, and my ulcer bled and I had to be transferred to hospital. That was the so-called habeas corpus right there you have. Try it at your risk, or be severely punished.
The second time I went for habeas corpus case was when they tried to force me to do manual labour. That was in 1972. They said all detainees should do manual labour as a programme of rehabilitation. I was supposed to do carpentry. So this superintendent told me that it was good for you as a doctor, you try to become more dexterous with your hand.
So I said, “You do not have the qualifications to enter a medical college, and here you are telling a doctor what is good for post-graduate education. Are you over-reaching yourself?”
He said, “This is the law. You have to be paid 8 cents a day.” So we all went on hunger strike, and some of us went on hunger strike for three months in order to frustrate their attempt to make us labourers like criminals. I went on hunger strike for three weeks before they came in and said, “Okay, we exempt you from that.”
And the women detainees in Moon Crescent Centre went on hunger strike for 130 days, and they were forced-fed. Some of them vomited after being fed milk by the tube inserted forcefully into their oesophagus.
One girl vomited and the superintendent forced for wardens to carry her and wiped the floor with her pants. This is the kind of treatment meted to detainees. All these of course suppressed by the press, but this is the thing we all had to go through.
Now all of us had to go through detention in solitary confinement. Solitary confinement according to Lee Kuan Yew himself is a very bad form of torture. I will read to you what Lee Kuan Yew said of solitary confinement: “The biggest punishment a man can receive is total isolation in a dungeon, black and complete withdrawal of all stimuli. That is real torture.” Lee Kuan Yew, January 2008.
Although he knows it is real torture, he had no compunction in meting out this real torture to all detainees without exception. Some of us had to undergo this real torture, not for one day, two days, but for six months. Now under the law, there is a protection for even criminal prisoners from this kind of torture.
A criminal prisoner when found guilty of infringing prison rules will be sentenced to solitary confinement for not more than two weeks, because of the obvious mental health effects. But for political detainees, there is no protection.
And Lee Eu Seng, the general manager of Nanyang Zhao Pao, was put into solitary confinement not once but twice, and it is to his credit he withstood that kind of real torture.
TT Rajah, a lawyer who was detained for two and half years, was put under solitary confinement for six months. Twice. Said Zahari was put into solitary confinement four times in his long 17 years of detention.
It is to our credit that we did not back down despite our difficult ordeal. We stood our ground and held on to our integrity. Today, they are asking us to be magnanimous. What does magnanimity mean? Only those who have suffered have the moral right, the moral standing to be magnanimous, not the culprit.
The culprit can seek forgiveness, if they admit their mistakes and apologise for it. Not for the victims of this torture to seek forgiveness. We are the ones who have to be magnanimous, and we are prepared to be magnanimous provided the culprits admit their mistakes and seek our forgiveness.
In my statement which I released to the press in 1972, through my wife Beatrice Chen, and which was of course suppressed by the newspapers, but was distributed a lot to all student organisations–I said the proper way to settle our case is that you must release us without conditions.
Unconditional release. Moreover, you must compensate us for our long detention and also apologise. I said I’m prepared to forgo these two last conditions of having to compensate us and also having to apologise to us because I don’t believe an arrogant man like Lee Kuan Yew would concede easily.
On that question of release unconditionally–that we stand firm, I stood firm and had to suffer for two decades. That is the price that we had to pay for our integrity.
In Singapore, we have a situation where the government leaders said they have integrity that has to be sustained by the highest pay in the world, but yet they demand from political opponents and detainees an integrity that has to be sustained by the longest imprisonment in the world.
This kind of two types of integrity, to compare them is to compare heaven and earth. Why should anybody has to sacrifice so much just to sustain his integrity and his beliefs? And the government have to reward themselves with so much high pay. This is the immorality of the political situation in Singapore today.
Now, detention without trial is not a peaceful action. It is an act of violence. They come to see you not in the daylight with an invitation card. They come in the morning, 4am. That is the time when decent people sleep, and when political terrorists and tyrants strike. And when you are detained, you are subjected to all kinds of mental and even physical torture.
This is not only unique for the 1963 batch, it was also practised in many other batches of detention: 1972, and as late as 1987. When Teo Soh Lung and her group of so-called marxist detainees were subjected to mental and physical torture. And women lawyers can be subjected to torture. But when these women lawyers came out and issued a statement to describe how they have been tortured, they were again detained and compelled to withdraw their accusation.
What type of rule of law is that when the accuser can be punished by the accused against the government, and compelled to withdraw their accusation? Is it not a rule of law justice turned upside down? Now this is a situation where even the Law Society dare not utter a word of protest. They are so impotent after what they had done to the Law Society in 1987.
Now, Poo Soo Kai has written a very good article on Operation Coldstore. In it, he has revealed a lot of declassified British archive documents, showing how the British and Lee Kuan Yew conspired and collaborated to crush the opposition before the 1963 General Elections. The whole aim of this merger was to crush the opposition before the 1963 elections.
And today, the PAP is standing on high moral ground, demanding human rights in other countries, even demanding the realise of political detainees in Myanmar. But precisely on what moral ground are they standing to have this demand? In examining their past records, they are standing on a pedestal that is leaking with worms and vermin, Let them repent first their own dismal record of human rights and then you may have the moral right to cast aspersions on other people’s lack of human rights.
Poh Soo Kai has also written the last chapter of this book [The Fajar Generation], about the future of Socialism. Many of you may ponder what is the relevance of Socialism in this era. after 50 years when the club was formed, Socialist movements all over the world has suffered a lot of setbacks and even defeats, and some wonder whether we are still relevant.
The recent economic crisis, the recent financial crisis, has once again exploded the corruption and immorality of the capitalist system, and feel that human beings should deserve something better than a system that is generated by greed and by corruption.
Now some of you may have heard that when you are young you are idealistic, when you’re old you are realistic. Now this is the kind of rubbish that is used by those who have either lost their ideals or have sold their ideals for self-interests. Each should not wither one’s ideals or convictions.
If anything, it should only consolidate and make it more resolute. If age has anything to do with it, it is only by way of expression and application of these ideals and convictions having the benefit of a youthful experience. And a life without convictions, without idealism, is a mere meaningless existence, and I’m sure most of you will agree that as human beings, we are worthy of a life much more meaningful than just that.
Dr Lim Hock Siew is currently 78 years and is a retired physician.
He remains a staunch socialist.
Lee Kuan Yew remains in political office, and now holds the title of Minister Mentor.
Headline picture from Ravi Philemon’s blog.