Historical Perspective of Fake News

by Patrick Low

There will come a day  when a full disclosure  on the Marxist arrest of 1987 will be made public.

The so-called “Operation Spectrum” was one of the biggest fake news exercises ever orchestrated by the Singapore government. It was fully collaborated and  supported by the cowardly local Press and the full panoply of state TV and Radio then.

For weeks on end the Singapore population was given one of the most dramatic plots ever to be woven by the Internal Security Department on how 22 young Marxists plotted to overthrow the government of Singapore.

Vincent Cheng whom I knew in the 70s was one of those young idealistic Singaporeans who had wanted to become a priest. But along the way he got to know a social studies graduate from the University of Singapore who was very passionate about helping workers in the Jurong industrial Estate. So they got together and formed the Jurong Industrial Mission whose objective was to help improve the social and economic conditions of local workers. At that time Chew Beng Lan had yet to meet Tan Wah Piow who in 1974 had incurred the full wrath of the People’s Action Party because he dared to mobilise University students to fight for social justice.

PAP Member of Parliament and trade unionist Phey Yew Kok fixed him by  staging a frame-up of a riot which led to Wah Piow’s arrest followed by a protracted trial presided by a so-called Justice TS Sinnathuray. The guilty verdict issued was a one year imprisonment term on the trumped-up charge of rioting at the PIEU office in Jurong. For 10 weeks or more Singaporeans had to watch in utter disbelief the full display of fake news orchestrated by the State and the Straits times.

Upon his release Wah Piow of course left Singapore to seek political asylum in Britain and then the truth of his frame-up and incarceration went viral across the world.

He became a successful lawyer after graduating from Oxford University and maintained an abiding interest in his  homeland. It was not surprising that the government  resurrected him in 1987 as the Mastermind of the Marxist plot to unseat the Singapore government. So the fake news Operation went into top gear. TV confessions were extracted from Vincent Cheng and some of the others who were jailed, tortured and solitarily confined. It was one of the darkest chapters in Singapore’s political history.

When the full  declassification of “Operation Spectrum” material occurs in the future we will likely to find the old man’s fingerprints on the Playbook. I believe from Francis Seow’s account in his book “To Catch a Tartar”, the old man referred to by “Smiley” the Deputy Director of ISD is none other than Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew. Only he has the gall to go it alone to smash an otherwise idealistic talented and passionate group of young activists whom he deemed a political threat to the PAP. This included Teo Soh Lung an upright talented and courageous lawyer  who had to serve close to 3 years in the WHITLEY DETENTION CENTRE for a spurious fictional role she played in Operation Spectrum. She had since been released and was the first to publish her truthful account of what actually happened in “BEYOND THE BLUE GATE, Recollections of a Political Prisoner.”

So back in 1987, it was a different era  when no social media existed and the truly fake news was that manufactured by the Ministry of Culture, the secret police and The Straits Times.

These days when we are constantly bombarded by the charade of legislation being enacted by the rubber stamping parliament, we should never forget that the greatest purveyor of falsehoods and fake news is and has always been the government itself.

Against the onslaught of anti-democratic laws being enacted currently, only a vibrant social media and a vigilant citizenry can put a brake on the totalitarian impulse of an ultra-repressive government whose life blood is  to drown out all democratic impulses that still exist across this 720 sq km island which we still call home.

This is a letter written by a member of public and it does not represent the publication’s view on the matter.