On 18th August, Malaysian community organisation Engage organised a forum in Johor entitled ‘Can Singapore do a Malaysia?’ The forum centered around the historical shake-up in Malaysia’s recent 14th General Election which saw the 61-year ruling government ousted from office by the fresh new coalition of opposition parties called Pakatan Harapan. This peaceful change of government in Malaysia begs the question of whether or not Singapore, which is now ruled by the longest serving political party in the world, can pull off the same change.
The forum featured panelists who are both witnesses and actors to the history of both countries: YB Hassan Karim, MP of Pasir Gudang Johor, veteran activist and human rights lawyer; Hishamuddin Rais, veteran activist, film director and writer; Tan Wah Piow, lawyers and former Singapore student leader who was exiled in 1976; and PJ Thum, historian and research fellow at Oxford University.
One of the questions posed directly to Tan Wah Piow is whether or not he is a Marxist or supports Marxist views.
Tan Wah Piow fled to the UK in 1976 on a Singapore passport with forged renewal endorsement and sought political asylum after he convicted and sentenced to one year’s imprisonment for instigating workers of American Marine (Singapore) to agitate against their employers.
He was later accused by the Singapore government of being the alleged mastermind behind the Marxist Conspiracy. The Government of Singapore arrested 16 people for their role in an alleged Marxist Conspiracy, which involved plans to overthrow the Government to form a Marxist state.
According to the state media, Tan had been influenced by Marxist and ideas since the early 1970s. His citizenship was then revoked via the Singapore Consitution Section 135 (1).
In response, Wah Piow talks about his thoughts on Karl Marx’s analysis of capitalism and how it relates to the present understanding of the capitalist system as well as the post capitalist world. He also points out that he does not subscribe to the idea of setting up a Marxist state in Singapore; instead that was the invention of Lee Kuan Yew.
Political exile Tan Wah Piow had consistently maintained that former PAP Member of Parliament and union leader, Phey Yew Kok had framed him and other unionists for the riots in the mid-1970s.
When Phey has recently returned to Singapore after 35 years on the run, he was convicted for 12 charges which he pleaded guilty to. This include 10 counts of criminal breach of trust, one count of abetting the fabrication of false evidence to a public servant and one count of failing to attend court.
In the additional charges, Phey is also accused of dipping into the staff funds of the Singapore Industrial Labour Organisation (SILO), and the Pioneer Industries Employees Union (PIEU).
In sentencing Phey, Presiding Judge Jennifer Marie said of Phey, “The facts reveal that Phey, like a serial criminal, systematically and with deliberation over a period of six years, perpetrated these offences. He had no qualms in trying to evade detection and had the temerity to instigate his staff to fabricate false evidence.”
Tan wrote to the Attorney General’s Chambers asking for the convictions in 1975 against him and another two individuals to be quashed in view of the conviction against Phey.
AGC just replied Tan saying that his conviction can only be quashed through the Singapore court and that he did not appeal his conviction in 1975.
AGC notes that Tan’s points about Phey’s charges of fraud are entirely unrelated to his conviction on charges of rioting as Phey could not and did not give material evidence to the incident. It further referred to the judge had convicted him after hearing all the evidence and gave his reasons for doing so.
In response to AGC’s reply on his request, Tan has written a reply to them.
“The relevance of Phey Yew Kok’s physically presence at the “riot” I further take issue with the following assertion in your letter: “Mr Phey was not present at the rioting incident on 305 October 1974. He could not and did not give evidence as to what happened during the incident.”
It is not in dispute that Phey was not present on the 30th October when his own trade union officials overturned the furniture, and smashed the glass panels of their own office to fabricate a ‘riot’. Phey Yew Kok’s absence at the scene does not undermine the defence case that he was responsible for the frame-up, and the “riot” was fabricated to advance his agenda. In conspiracy cases, the real mastermind is often absent from the scene of the crime. “
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