Lim Ching Siong says: I’m not a communist

The following was written by Lim Ching Siong and published in The Straits Times on 31 July 1961.

Your editorial comments and news reports in the law week have focused attack on me. By repeating the fiction that I am a Communist front-man. I suppose my political antagonists hope that it would stick in the minds of some.

While Mr. Lee and his men keep crying over Communism to cover up a mulititude of sins, let me, for my part, try to get the record straight.

Let me make it clear once and for all that I am not a Communist or a Communist front-man or, for that matter, anybody’s front-man.

My political association with Mr. Lee began in 1954 when together we conceived and brought into existence the PAP. I was at one time its assistant secretary general and a PAP assemblyman.

Since 1956, and particularly since my release from jail in 1959, Mr. Lee has sought to isolate me from the rest of my colleagues and the party by smearing me as a Communist front-man. Despite this sustained smear in private, he found it fit to persuade me to accept the post of political secretary.

Not only was I reluctant to accept the post, but I had offered to withdraw from politics if he so desired it. He did not desire it. Instead, he wished to show the people that I was identified with the Government.

For my part I was prepared to do what he urged of me because I felt I should do everything in my power to support the PAP Government so that there could be stability in Singapore and we could get down to solving some of the problems that face our people.

Even after having been appointed political secretary I was not allowed any say in the formulation of Government policy. On the other hand, I soon discovered that my responsibility was to support any action or chance utterance of Government Ministers.

Having denied me any participation in the party and Government. I was still to be used as political secretary to give the impression that the workers and the Government were one.

But this position could not go on for ever. During the Hong Lim by-election, I gave my categorical support to the PAP though the election sub-committee was instructed by Mr Lee not to allow me to appear at any of the party mass rallies.

After the defeat at Hong Lim the campaign against me was intensified. At the party conference some Ministers tried to attribute the causes of defeat to me and my associates in the trade unions.

Every protest or criticism from the party branches against the absence of internal party democracy or the policies of the Government was considered to be engineered by me. By trying to turn me into a whipping-boy it was hoped to cover the failings and sins of the leadership.

However, I and my colleagues had felt it our responsibility to remind the leadership of its every deviation from party policies in respect of civil liberties, trade unions and the release of detainees, in the hope of getting it to rectify.

In spite of their blatant disregard of our advice, we continued to emphasis the importance of left-wing unite. This was taken to mean that we had no alternative but to support the Government.

On the question of our constitutional future we had proposed, what we considered, certain minimum and realistic demands so as to help point the way ahead. Instead of considering these proposals, the party leadership had committed the entire people and party to the Malaysia proposals without letting anyone know the details.

Even when they acted in this callous manner, we sought for the details in the hope that proper consideration could be given to the matter.
The leadership, on the other hand, was more interested in playing politics. They said they were going further than we – who are now branded as the Communist left – by demanding “the total eradication of colonialism”

Quite obviously, it was their intention to impress the people by this apparent militant stand. But when we asked for certain concrete steps to be taken to strengthen the anti-colonial stand we saw how nervous and jittery the leadership became.

In their nervousness they began the shout about communism and chaos, expecting to frighten some people into believing them.

The Communist left who are supposed to be arch-conspirators have now, we are told, been taken for a ride by the British. How funny can people get?

My meetings with Lord Selkirk have been few and far between. If meeting Lord Selkirk makes one a plotter then Mr. Lee is the greatest of all poltters for he has dealings with Lord Selkirk more than anyone else in Singapore

By crying Communist on the one hand and British imperialism on the other. Mr Lee must have hoped to win sympathy from both the Chinese-educated and the English-educated.

Unfortunately, he treats the people as simple onlookers who could be impressed by his political acrobatics. This time of course he has learnt that the people are not all that simple.

Amid all his song and dance, Mr. Lee has been forced to make three important admissions:

1. He has agreed to consult the people on the question of merger, and this is what we have asked for all the time.

2. He now declares that he will not start a wave of arrests of political opponents, in contrast to his threats of earlier days, though he still hopes that the British will do it for him.

3. He now openly promises to release the detainees. Sometime ago, Mr. Lee stated that so long as the Federation Government remains anti-Communist and there are British bases in Singapore, it would be impossible for Singapore to become Communist. He now raises the alarming prospect of a Communist Singapore.

Mr. Lee contradicts himself this time without his usual sophistry. We may look forward to such further contradictions.


Background and footnote

Lim Chin Siong co-founded the People’s Action Party (PAP) in 1954 with Lee Kuan Yew.

At the young age of 22, he was elected into the legislative assembly as a member for Bukit Timah in 1955 and together with Lee, represented PAP in the 1956 constitutional talks in London.

He then left the PAP and formed the Barisan Sosialis in 17 September 1961 after PAP tried to eliminate its own left-wing sections.

Mr Lim and many opposition party members were detained under the Internal Security Act by the ruling PAP government via Operation Coldstore on 2 February 1963 after the referendum of the merger with Malaysia.

The PAP government continues to refer to Mr Lim as a Communist and the threat that he and his party posed for Singapore, in order to justify Operation Coldstore.

One can argue about whether a socialist government under Mr Lim would produce a better outcome for Singapore, or if it will eventually become more repressive than Lee Kuan Yew’s regime.

But it is hard to disagree that the election was stolen from Lim Chin Siong, considering that he was vastly more popular than Lee Kuan Yew back then. There was also hardly any rational reason why he would resort to an armed insurrection when many signs indicated that the Barisan Socialis would defeat the PAP at the General Election in 1963.

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