Image - Teo Soh Lung

“Battle for Merger” exhibition does not reflect true history of Singapore

Image - Teo Soh Lung
Image – Teo Soh Lung

By Teo Soh Lung

This morning I visited the Jurong Regional Library which is now hosting the Ministry of Home Affairs’ exhibition called “The Battle for Merger”.

As expected, it was a one sided portrayal of Singapore’s history. The exhibits showed how the British and then, more importantly, the PAP and most importantly, how Lee Kuan Yew “killed off” the “communists” who were allegedly wrecking this peaceful island. In a series of 12 radio talks, Lee Kuan Yew “convinced” the people to accept his preferred terms for merger with Malaya.

If the exhibition had been paid for by the PAP, I would have no complaints. But this one sided portrayal of the so called “Battle for Merger”, as if there was any battle at all, is entirely paid for by us, the public. I don’t think the Jurong Regional Library receive any rent for the use of the large exhibition space.

What is even more disagreeable is the library’s role in this biased exhibition by their display of books. Why didn’t the display include titles such as “Comet in Our Sky”, “Fajar Generation”, “The 1963 Operation Coldstore in Singapore Commemorating 50 Years”, “We Remember”, “The May 13 Generation”, and “Youth on Trial”, just to mention a few of the titles that contradict Lee Kuan Yew’s 12 radio talks? These books are available at the library.

If these books are displayed, the library could at least have the excuse that it has partially fulfilled one of its stated responsibilities, that of “preserving and making accessible the nation’s literary and publishing heritage, and intellectual memory”.

That said, I did find the exhibition a little intriguing. Some of the merger documents are quite interesting. The Extraordinary Gazette notification and Statement of 17 August 1962 must have caught the eye of the opposition parties then. The referendum was called not to decide whether Singapore would join Malaya but on what terms Singapore should enter Malaya. Merger was already decided by the governments of Malaya and Singapore (and I should think Britain) as can be seen from the Statement that accompanied the notification.

And so half a million voters voted on this fake merger referendum. I wonder why that gazette notification was not challenged in court.

This one dimension exhibition also took a swipe at non-existent communists. It was the usual scare tactics employed by the PAP. Industrial strife was depicted as unreasonable violence committed by the communists. Like the one off anger at the inefficient and bullying policemen patrolling Little India which resulted in the damage caused to public properties, the panel titled “The Communist Threat to Singapore (1948 – 1989)” warned of the ghosts of violent communists as late as the 1970s and 1980s.

The “communist threat” had to end officially with the Hatyai Agreement in Dec 1989. The PAP had to justify the arrests and imprisonment without trial of thousands of innocent people during those periods. And it seized that opportunity by reminding the public that “communists” were still lurking around.

The authors of “Renewed Armed Struggle” and “Into the 1980s” have certainly sold their conscience for I am sure they would have read the books I had mentioned and the archival materials now released by the British and published in writings of Dr Poh Soo Kai, Dr P J Thum and Dr Hong Lysa.

The PAP government intends to celebrate the 50th anniversary of independence of Singapore in a very big way. SG50 is seen everywhere. This exhibition which is travelling round the libraries is clearly intended to publicise the PAP history and to win votes in the next general election. It is simply to glorify the PAP. And it is paid for by each and every one of us!