(Left - Dr Poh Soh Kai at the age of 33, when he was arrested in 1963, Right - Dr Poh at age of 88)

Lim Tean: Shame and blight in Singapore’s history caused by PAP’s abuse of ISA must be wiped away

by Lim Tean (first published on Facebook)

I had the great privilege of meeting up with Dr. Poh Soo Kai recently. He is a hero to me and to many Singaporeans who value steadfastness in the defence of one’s political beliefs.

Dr. Poh is 88 years old now but in incredibly good health. He was a founding member of the People’s Action Party but was ironically a victim of the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) which Lee Kuan Yew used against his political opponents to decimate them, and not to counter communism which was the intent behind the law.

Dr Poh was no communist! His sin, in the eyes of Lee Kuan Yew, was that he was the Assistant Secretary-General of the Barisan Socialis (which was a breakaway from the PAP) in 1963 when Operation Coldstore was mounted. He was one of 132 political opponents of Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP who were rounded up and detained without trial. Elections were due later that year, elections in which the PAP were expected to lose.

In May 1962, the UK Commissioner to Singapore at that time, The Earl of Selkirk, had cautioned against the use of the ISA for political rather than security reasons and opined: “Lee Kuan Yew is quite clearly attracted by the prospect of wiping out his main political opposition before the next general elections”.

Dr Poh was detained 3 Times under the ISA. After 1963, he was further detained in 1972 and 1986. In total, he spent 17 years in detention. All of us should read his incredible life story in his autobiography – Living in the Age of Deception.

Despite the shameful and inhumane treatment he received whilst in detention, Dr Poh refused to cave in to the pressure and to sign any confession to the trumped-up charges which he faced.

In 1987, the ISA was again used, this time against a group of innocent young men and women who were accused of a Marxist conspiracy. The ludicrousness of that charge is apparent to all of us now, some 31 years later.

But it is no laughing matter because the ISA is a blunt instrument that destroys lives. Detainees are not allowed to defend themselves and clear their name in a Court of Law. The State does not have to prove its case. It is against the Rule of Law.

One day, we must wipe away the shame and the blight in our Nation’s history caused by the PAP’s abuse of the ISA. We must have a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to right the injustices. And we must repeal the ISA!

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