First published on Function 8
Today is the 8th anniversary of the death of Dr Lim Hock Siew (21 February 1931 – 4 June 2012).
Dr Lim was imprisoned for nearly 20 years without trial by the Lee Kuan Yew government.
We remember Dr Lim’s contributions and sacrifice for Singapore. We also remember the hardships and miseries suffered by his family.
In remembering Dr Lim Hock Siew, we do not forget the other victims of Operation Coldstore which took place under the cover of darkness on 2 February 1963.
Operation Coldstore is touted by the government as the biggest national security exercise. More than 133 people were arrested in pre-dawn raids conducted under the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance (PPSO). In noting the great number of people arrested, we often forget that in all the news reports, there was no mention of any weapon or subversive document seized from their homes. We can safely conclude that those arrested did not possess any weapon or subversive document.
Indeed, they did not even attempt to escape or resist arrest. How can the government assume that they were dangerous and had to be put away?
Dr Lim Hock Siew, a member of the Central Executive Council of the now defunct Barisan Sosialis, was warned of the approaching raids by his friends in Kuala Lumpur where the Security Council meeting was convened. He remained at his home and did not resist arrest. So did Dr Poh Soo Kai and all the others.
If they were real subversives and terrorists, would they not have attempted to escape?
It is completely ludicrous for the People’s Action Party to claim that those arrested were subversives and disloyal Singaporeans. The only people who possessed weapons were the Gurkhas and the thousands of police personnel involved in the raids. For every person arrested, at least ten armed personnel were deployed. Shock and awe tactic was used in 1963 and continues to be used today.
As the government did not have any evidence of subversion against those arrested, none was put on trial.
Under the Internal Security Act (ISA), the executive is completely free to abuse its power. It can imprison political opponents like Dr Lim Hock Siew indefinitely. Detention can go on for life.
Into his 10th year of detention, Dr Lim Hock Siew was made an offer of release upon acceptance of conditions. He refused to accede to the demands of late Lee Kuan Yew who was then the Prime Minister.
His statement from prison released by his wife, Dr Beatrice Chen on 18 March 1972 showed that he had refused to “save the face” of Lee Kuan Yew by accepting any condition for his release. His character of steel cost him another ten years in prison.
The danger of having the ISA in our statute books is that without a change of government and effective opposition, detainees like Dr Lim Hock Siew will be forgotten and be left to languish in jail indefinitely. Are we, therefore, willing to let our government continue to abuse us with this law?
A week before Dr Lim Hock Siew passed away, he texted us, the organiser of the event to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Operation Spectrum:
“Suggest on your rally on Saturday u all press for the public inquiry on detainees and abolishment of ISA …”
Fifty-seven years have gone by since Operation Coldstore. We are still waiting for an independent public inquiry for those who were unjustly detained. But we remain optimistic that change of government will take place one day and the grave injustice done to the victims of the ISA will be redressed.
Thank you, Dr Lim. We will always remember you, your sacrifice and contributions to Singapore.