November 23, 2012
Winds of Change knocks at Lee Kuan Yew’s Door
by The Malaysia-Chronicle (11-22-12)
UPDATE3: Comparison and analysis about the styles and qualities of two notorious Southeast Asian autocrats – Lee Kuan Yew and Mahathir Mohamad – are bound to be reignited with the release of two books published this year to coincide with the 25th anniversary of Singapore’s infamous Operation Spectrum that saw 22 social activists, lawyers, journalists and church workers detained without trial in May 1987.
One of the books ‘Prelude to the Post-Lee Kuan Yew era‘ written by political exile Tan Wah Piow, who was thrown into jail for allegedly “masterminding a Marxist plot”, will be launched on Saturday November 24 at the Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall in Kuala Lumpur.
According to Wah Piow, “Many Malaysians do not see “the other side of the moon”, and, especially the Chinese Malaysians such as those in the DAP thinks Lee Kuan Yew is the alternative”.
The former student leader, who was forced to flee to the United States, was referring to the Democratic Action Party – one of the three parties that form Malaysia’s main Opposition coalition, the Pakatan Rakyat, and which is often accused by Prime Minister Najib Razak’ UMNO party of being a tool of Singapore’s PAP.
While PR leaders have often lambasted UMNO’s “mischievous” claims, Wah Piow is right in that many Malaysian Chinese do admire Kuan Yew for transforming Singapore from a tiny, backward tropical island with few natural resources into a regional economic powerhouse, known for its ‘squeaky-clean’ administration and meritocratic education policies.
“UMNO will tag any rival a Jew or US or Singapore lover. That is the extent of its political maturity. I haven’t read the Singapore books yet but I would certainly agree that while Kuan Yew has achieved much and will on the balance be respected by history, there is a very dark side to his political hegemony,” PKR Vice President Chua Jui Meng, told Malaysia Chronicle.
“In this aspect, he does not differ much from our Dr M. Both are leaders who demand complete control and obedience from their people. They are ruthless and will scheme to get their way. This is something that Malaysian Chinese must be aware of and reject outright. No amount of super efficiency or great governance can compensate for the loss of basic human rights or the freedom to choose particularly over who should lead a nation.”
The Other Side of the Moon: Forum on Saturday
Till today, many Singaporeans do not believe in the PAP government’s claim of a Marxist plot, and despite the lapse of time, the issue continues to haunt the political credibility of the regime, and a lingering embarrassment to the more liberal elements within the ruling PAP.
Coincidence or not, across the Causeway in Malaysia the same year, former leader Mahathir Mohamad also carried out a crackdown against dissidents that saw the arrest of 106 persons under the Internal Security Act (ISA) and the revoking of the publishing licenses of two dailies, The Star and the Sin Chew Jit Poh and two weeklies, The Sunday Star and Watan.
Operation Lalang (Weeding Operation; also referred to as Ops Lalang) was carried out on October 27, 1987 by the Malaysian Police to prevent the occurrence of racial riots due to the provocation from DAP leaders and press. DAP leaders including adviser Lim Kit Siang have accused Mahathir of using the crackdown to mask corruption issues including the controversy over the high price of building the North-South expressway.
Wah Piow will also participate in a panel discussion to be moderated by social activist Maria Chin Abdullah at 2pm to 4pm. The other speakers are political analyst Wong Chin Huat and Dr G Raman, a Singapore laywer and former legal adviser to the University of Singapore Students’ Union in 1969.
Kuan Yew’s infamous Operation Spectrum
Smokescreens & Mirrors is not only a powerful rebuttal of the Singapore government’s allegations against him in 1987 as the “Mastermind of a Marxist Plot” to overthrow the PAP, it is, in the words of one Singaporean reviewer:
Smokescreens, however, is not simply a historical analysis of the political machinations that took place in 1987. It closes in the present with a call to action: Tan pushes for a re-examination of Operation Spectrum as “an initial education process to mobilise public opinion to Restart, Rejuvenate and Reclaim the Constitution” (p.72, capitals his). He establishes the foundation of his arguments upon the Singapore Constitution, which he avers “has to be the first point of reference in any political debate where liberties are at stake” (p.30). G. Raman states in his foreword that “the book contains Wah Piow’s agenda for a true democratic society in Singapore”. Smokescreens is thus polemical – and openly so.
In ‘Escape from the Lion’s Paw‘ edited by Teo Soh Lung and Low Yit Leng, Wah Piow published his long awaited account of his escapade from Singapore in 1976. The chapter “The Making of an Outlaw” is a mini-autobiography of this former student leader who was thrown into prison in 1975 following a fabricated charge. Immediately following his release, he had to devise his escape routes to avoid being inducted into the military. It became an enormous blow to the authorities when he managed to escape from the the Lion’s Paw, and and sought political asylum in the United Kingdom where he now resides and has his own legal practice. His citizenship was revoked in 1987.
This book also carries stories of escapade published for the first time of other dissidents who had to flee from LKY’s iron-fist rule, among them, the late Francis Khoo and Wah Piow’s colleagues during the University days, Tsui Hon Kwong from Hong Kong and ex-detainee, Ms Tang Fong Har.
PAP in trouble if it ignores the Winds of Change
In the Forward to Smokescreens & Mirrors, G Raman wrote: “Twenty-five years later (from 1987), Wah Piow’s dreams may not have been realised. But the dreams are taking shape and it is a matter of time before the ideals that Wah Piow espoused become a reality… It will be an opportunity missed and a road to their downfall if the PAP does not take note of the winds of change that are blowing so strongly amongst Singaporeans, especially the young”.
The call for the revamp of the way politics are managed in Singapore is inevitable, and this is becoming morepressing especially after the 2010 general elections and the 2011 Presidential Elections when the ruling PAP, though still safely in power, nevertheless suffered strategic defeats in public perception as a party which could do no wrong.”
The 3 speakers including Tan Wah Piow will address these issues in Prelude to the Post-Lee Kuan Yew Era.
Dr G Raman has been a practising lawyer in Singapore since 1969. His doctorate thesis is titled “Law as an Instrument of Social Change in Singapore”. It deals with how the PAP used law to perpetuate its hegemony in Singapore.
Raman was the legal adviser to the University of Singapore Students’ Union in 1969 and later in 1974. He represented one of the two workers charged with its student leader, Tan Wah Piow on the trumped-up charge of rioting in 1974. He was detained for more than a year in February 1977 for alleged subversive activities under the Internal Security Act.
Author of a book on probate practice in Singapore and Malaysia, Raman has contributed articles to the Journal of Contemporary Asia and other local publications.”
Dr Wong Chin Huat is a Malaysian political scientist, an university lecturer, a political activist and a columnist. He is also a committee member of Malaysia’s famous BERSIH movement, which champions free and fair elections.
Obtaining his undergraduate degree from Universiti Malaya, he completed his Master’s degree at Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia and in 2012 was awarded his PhD on electoral system and party politics in West Malaysia between 1982 and 2004 at the University of Essex. He is currently attached to Penang Institute, a think tank linked to the Penang State Government, currently led by the DAP.
BOOK LAUNCH & FORUM
Prelude to the Post-Lee Kuan Yew Era
Date: Saturday 24 Nov 2012 time: 2-4pm
Venue: Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall
1 Jalan Maharajalela, Kampung Attap, Kuala Lumpur, Transit: Maharajalela
Smokescreens & Mirrors by Tan Wah Piow
Escape from the Lion’s Paw edited by Teo Soh Lung & Low Yit Leng
These two books on Singapore will be launched by
Mr Tan Yew Sing & Dr Kua Kia Soong
Followed by a panel discussion:
Prelude to the Post-Lee Kuan Yew Era
Moderator : Maria Chin Abdullah