by Teo Soh Lung
Watching television yesterday about the protests in Hong Kong and the violence that erupted late in the night, I cannot help reflecting on Singapore’s history.
Most of us grew up with the history that was taught in school. We simply believed that the unrests in Singapore in the 1950s and 60s were caused by communists and that they were all to be blamed for the Hock Lee “bus riot”.
The violence in Hong Kong in recent weeks brought to my mind some incidents in Singapore as well as what I studied in law school about the role of “agent provocateur”, a term which refers to the involvement of the police with informers.
Why would thousands of peaceful protesters suddenly turn violent? Did they lose their cool or were they provoked or made use of? Who started the violence? Agent provocateur?
Did the protesters retaliate or were they just victims of violence. I don’t know the answer. Only a full and independent investigation or prosecution of those responsible can reveal what actually happened. It may take a long time to unravel what actually happened. Until we know what happened, we should maintain an open mind as to why violence had erupted.
In Singapore, historians and the public did not have access to archive documents in London until the 1990s. When the documents were made available, several historians and former political detainees started to investigate and question the official narratives.
We are fortunate to have historians like T.N. Harper, Greg Poulgrain, Lysa Hong and Thum Ping Tjin and Poh Soo Kai, a doctor who pored over thousands of these old and faint documents for years before putting down their thoughts and research in writing. Today, we have a few books reflecting the other side of Singapore’s history.
Dr Poh Soo Kai’s “LIVING IN A TIME OF DECEPTION” edited by Hong Lysa and Wong Souk Yee is an indispensable and invaluable book for anyone who wishes to know the other side of Singapore’s history. It has a comprehensive index and contains information that has never been discussed in other books.
Dr Poh Soo Kai lived through the times and has personal knowledge of what happened. Though incarcerated for 17 years without trial, Dr Poh retains his sharp faculties and analytical mind. He ponders over documents, checks, discusses and critiques them with historians and friends before putting his thoughts on paper. His personal knowledge of events enabled him to analyse evidence as he would do when treating a sick patient or cutting him up on the operating table.
If you have not read LIVING IN A TIME OF DECEPTION, do borrow the book from the National Library or buy a copy from the usual bookshops – City Bookroom, Kinokuniya, AGORA when there is an event or online from Ethos Books.
This was first published on Function 8’s Facebook page and reproduced with permission.