A marker dedicated to those who fought against communism has been unveiled at the Esplanade Park. Given that Singapore now nears its momentous 50th birthday, it is imperative that we recognise all contributions that have made the birth of our nation, its survival and its continued growth possible.
The efforts of all those that have fought against communism must of course be commemorated. But what of those made by citizens who have found themselves on the losing side of the war? Should their names and the roles they played be buried under the sands of time? Is it a case of the victor rewriting history?
Communism as an ideology may have long lost its lustre but the labours undertook by the communists in opposing colonial rule must not be overlooked. There is a difference between glorifying communism and acknowledging the pains borne by those under the banner of communism. It is possible to pay homage to their toil without endorsing their philosophy.
As our country nears its 5th decade, it is of vital importance that all its pioneers (no matter where their political allegiances may lie) be given their rightful due in history. The story of our nation cannot be complete otherwise.
This is even more necessary in the day and age of mass media and the Internet. Most Singaporeans already know about the fellow citizens who have become exiled from Singapore for ideological differences, be it communism or otherwise, with the ruling government. They are also aware of how certain individuals have been made persona non grata by the state sanctioned recounting of history.
Yet, the blatant disregard for those deemed undesirable by the ruling government looks set to continue. To what end and for what purpose?
Communism has proven not to work. This was proven years ago. But yet, communism is still the convenient bogeyman used to dismiss and discredit some types of opposition. The 60s, 70s, and 80s all had its share of alleged “communists”. Granted some may well have been reds in the 60s and 70s, but all of them? It just doesn’t add up.
Besides, why should the fact that they may have been communists negate the roles that they also played in nation building, in particular independence? After all, the fact that we have now reached this auspicious age is partly owed to their tenacity.
Hot on the heels of the banning of To Singapore With Love, where some of the protagonists have been labeled as communists by the Singapore government, we now have a marker publicly unveiled to commemorate the efforts of those who fought against communism. Is it meant to serve the dual purpose as a tacit reminder of the evils of communism? Is it a timely aide memoire to justify all that was done in the name of this fight against the red scourge? I don’t know the answer and it may well be coincidence. But the timing and nature of it is curious.
I have nothing against the marker and am certainly in agreement that communism would not have worked for Singapore. But ideology is not the issue here. The issue is about acknowledgment and recognition. Give the communists their place in history. Communism may not be relevant now. But it was relevant then and it was popular for a season for a reason now past. It was a rally point for anti colonist movements without which we may still remain a colony. For it to be truly history, it must first be acknowledged.
A commemoration of a conflict is incomplete and one sided without also recognising those they fought against. I am not asking for a marker for communists, only for the acknowledgement of the individuals that have sacrificed for Singapore. Communists or not, they were first and foremost Singaporeans who have played a part in the formation of our nation. We will be 50 years old, and it is time to be more inclusive, rather than play up divisiveness along political lines.