By Ravi Philemon –
"Avenues of dissent are being blocked in Singapore as a new generation of hand-picked leaders, one of them Mr. Lee's son, Brig. Gen. Lee Hsien Loong, move into place. With general elections expected to be called within a year, the Prime Minister is known to fear a swing at the polls away from his People's Action Party, which suffered a decline in its percentage of the vote in the last general election, in 1984.
The governing party lost only two seats in Parliament, but one of the opposition members, J. B. Jeyaretnam of the small Workers Party, has since resigned after a series of court challenges that Singaporeans describe as legalized harassment that drove him out of both his office and, ultimately, his profession. He was later disbarred."
What has the alleged Marxist Conspiracy got to do with the by-election in Hougang?
At the Singapore People's Party's (SPP) event on 20 May 2012, 'That we may dream again: Chiam's finest hour', Ms Teo Soh Lung, one of the former detainees of Operation Spectrum launched by the Internal Security Department in 1987, said that she and several others who were detained with her , openly supported the Workers' Party.
The Workers' Party under Mr J B Jeyaretnam won the Anson by-election in 1981. He successfully retained his seat as a Member of Parliament in that ward in the General Election that followed, in 1984.
Then in December 1986, he lost his seat following a conviction for falsely accounting the party's funds (a conviction that was subsequently overturned by the privy council in the United Kingdom, which called the conviction a grievous injustice.) But a by-election was not called, and in the General Election held a good 20 months after the seat in Anson became vacant, in August 1988, Anson disappeared completely from the electoral map.
Ms Teo said at the SPP's event that many of those detained were professionals and were sympathetic to the cause of the opposition; and one possibility for the detentions of 21st May 1987 could be because the People's Action Party (PAP) wanted to pre-empt the possibility of these well educated professionals standing as candidates for opposition in the election which had to be called.
Jagjit Kaur in writing about the alleged Marxist Conspiracy for National Library Board, Singapore in 2009 states:
"In a two-part television documentary titled Tracing The Conspiracy, the detainees spoke of the roles they played in an intricate network…Tan (Wah Piow) also insisted that they infiltrate the Workers' Party and on his insistence the group helped to print and distribute Workers' Party pamphlets during the 1984 General Elections. After the elections, (Kenneth) Tsang and Tan Tee Seng slowly moved into positions of influence within the party. They later took control of the party's publication, The Hammer, which they used as a channel to propagate anti-government sentiments and influence public opinion against the government."
In a phone conversation Mr Tan Tee Seng (one of the 16 detained) however, disputed the assertion that the detainees had 'infiltrated' the Workers' Party. "We were discussing if we should join the Party, but when we were arrested, we were not Party members. How then could we have moved to positions of influence within the party?" Mr Tan asks.
'Our association with the Workers' Party is open and known. Our actions within the party were not clandestine," Mr Tan adds. At the SPP's event, Ms Teo emphasised that there was also no 'group'. She did know some of the detainees, 'about half,' she said, but certainly not every one of them. If there was no 'group' and if there were no 'infiltrations', only one thing can adequately explain the need for the detentions under the Internal Security Act of 1987, the paranoia of the PAP of the opposition. Mr Lee Kuan Yew perhaps articulated this paranoia best in the book 'Lee Kuan Yew, The Man And His Ideas' when he said, "If you are a troublemaker… it's our job to politically destroy you. Put it this way. As long as JB Jeyaratnam for what he stands for – a thoroughly destructive force – we will knock him. Everybody knows that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet, we meet in the cul-de-sac." It is this same paranoia (I suppose) which made PAP MP Denise Phua exclaim at a PAP rally yesterday, "even without the opposition, citizenry who have higher expectations and demands would have stepped in, to shape and influence government policies and programmes. If you don’t believe this, go and check out the views of ex-NMP Siew Kum Hong, Calvin Cheng, Paulin Straughan, Eugene Tan and even bloggers like Mr Brown, Kin Mun. They do not have allegiance to any specific political party but they together with many Singaporeans who have minds of their own – the people are the real check on the PAP". One Facebooker aghast at the lack of these checks in the 1987 Parliamentary debate on the arbitrary detentions of the alleged Marxist Conspirators comments, "THIS IS WHAT GOES ON IN A PAP CONTROLLED PARLIAMENT DONT LET IT HAPPEN AGAIN…vote in WP at Hougaing…. and the others in 2016." The call for the government to come clean on the 1987 arrests under Internal Security Act is not some esoteric idea that is distant from 'bread and butter' issues. Many of those detained in 1987, were allegedly detained because they were speaking up for the disadvantaged in society. They had spoken up and acted because they were unsure of the direction the country had taken. 25 years later, we are realising that they were not very wrong after all. So, how is the alleged Marxist Conspiracy related to the by-election in Hougang? It is related by the quest for unfettered powers. The alleged Marxist Conspiracy happened supposedly because of such powers the PAP had; the by-election will determine if these almost unrestrained powers should be given to the PAP. I agree with Braema Mathi who was a panelist at SPP's event, that the 'Marxist Conspiracy' is a "national wound". In my opinion, this wound can only be nursed and healed when and if the power of the one who inflicted this wound is curbed. And our vote is an invaluable tool we can and should use to curb excessive power; for we all know that power corrupts, and that absolute power corrupts absolutely.
More information on the 'Marxist Conspiracy' of 1987 is HERE.
Function 8 Limited and MARUAH as well as other civil society organisations, have come together as partners to remember the 25th anniversary of Operation Spectrum through a series of activities.
A session themed That We May Dream Again. Remembering the 1987 “Marxist Conspiracy” will be held from 3pm to 7pm on Saturday 2nd June, 2012 at Speakers’ Corner, Hong Lim Park.
More details about the event HERE.
This article is published by The Online Citizen, 20 Maxwell Road, #09-17 Maxwell House, Singapore 069113.