by Function 8
In the year 2000, Lee Kuan Yew published his memoirs From Third World to First, The Singapore Story: 1965-2000.
At pages 172-173, Lee justified his decision to close down Chinese schools as well as the arrests under the Internal Security Act in early 1970s of Lee Mau Seng, the general manager, Shamsuddin Tung Tao Chang, the editor-in-chief and Ly Singko, the senior editorial writer of Nanyang Siang Pau. He said they glamorised communism and stirred up chauvinistic sentiments over Chinese language and culture.
In addition to making these allegations and arrests, Lee accused Nanyang University students of refusing to accept the order that English would be the language for examinations.
In his book, Lee Kuan Yew alleged that Ho Juan Thai was removed from his post as president of the union because he instigated his fellow students to use Chinese instead of English in their examination papers. Lee further alleged that in the 1976 general election, Ho Juan Thai as a candidate of the Workers’ Party had accused the government of “exterminating Chinese education and urging the Chinese-speaking to oppose the government or risk losing their cultural identity”. Lee claimed that Ho Juan Thai would have been arrested during the election but that the Internal Security Department did not do so for fear of repercussions. They, however, attempted to arrest him soon after the election.
No one knew what happened to Ho Juan Thai after his narrow escape from Singapore a few weeks after the general election.
In 2012, Function 8 published ESCAPE FROM THE LION’S PAW, Reflections of Singapore’s Political Exiles. In this book, Ho Juan Thai refutes Lee Kuan Yew’s allegations and tells us about the injustices he and his fellow students in the Nanyang University suffered when Lee carried out his policy of diminishing the importance of the Chinese language through Minister Lee Chiaw Meng.
Like many opposition candidates in earlier times, Ho Juan Thai’s world was turned upside down soon after the general election in 1976. In a matter of weeks, Ho became a refugee in the United Kingdom.
Ho Juan Thai survived and survived very well despite the injustices he suffered. Today, he is happily married with two sons. But his heart is still in Singapore. Like Francis Khoo (who passed away after 35 years of exile), Dr Ang Swee Chai, Tan Wah Piow, Tsui Hon Kwong, Tang Fong Har, Ho Juan Thai wants to return home and refuses to give up his Singapore citizenship even though the Singapore authority has adamantly refused to issue him with a Singapore passport or recognise his two sons as citizens of Singapore.
Read these sad but spirited stories of Singaporean exiles in ESCAPE FROM THE LION’S PAW. It is available from Ethos Books at 28, #06-131 Sin Ming Lane, Midview City, 573972 or its online store. Price: S$20.00