Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My awakening

By Natalie Koh of the Young Democrats, May 27 2010

I am an ordinary Singaporean student who, until now, has been brainwashed like many of you. Now I know the ugly truth. I'd like to share my experience with you about my struggle in taking off the blindfold the PAP has tied on me for years.

I believe it is about the same for most young Singaporeans as it was for me. The brainwashing starts at the secondary school level when most students still do not have the maturity to be able to accurately judge if what they read is true or false. Most of them would not even be interested in politics at that age.
Like some of you, I also viewed Social Studies and National Education as propaganda of the government. But for the sake of getting good grades, many just memorise the PAP’s version of Singapore’s past and regurgitate it when needed.

Drilled into our minds from young that the PAP are the good guys and all who oppose it must be bad, more and more Singaporeans come to accept this twisted view without question.

The awakening for me came when I took up a political science module at the National University of Singapore where I'm now studying. It was about politics and governance of Singapore. That got me thinking about Singapore’s history and the role the PAP, civil service, and trade unions played in it. I also started to examine the subject of the PAP’s political hegemony.

When I signed up for the module, the first thing that I wanted to do was to find out the truth. I thought that in university, there would be more freedom to scrutinize criticize the Government and its policies. But, this turned out not to be the case at all.

The lecture notes given to students spoke highly of the PAP, and denounced the opposition. The lecturer himself, Dr Bilveer Singh, did not take an unbiased view. Whenever he mentioned the opposition, it was to criticize them and to emphasize that they were puny compared to the PAP.

I remember Dr Singh saying that Dr Chee Soon Juan is a symbol of blundering. I was thinking, “Okay, so where’s your evidence?” But he didn’t even bother to support his point and took whatever he as if it was factually true.

And most of the students just accepted it without questioning the accuracy of his statement.

In his textbook (which was a compulsory text for all of us), the lecturer wrote that Dr Chee had ousted Mr Chiam from the SDP. This was, of course not the truth, as those of you who have read Dr Chee’s detailed account of what actually happened would know.

But as this article is about how I discovered the truth about Singapore’s history and politics, I will not digress any further.

What jolted me to the truth was Dr Chee’s books, A Nation Cheated and The Power of Courage. What I read shocked me. I read and re-read it again and again to make sure I had read everything correctly.

The shocking truth has been scrupulously kept away from the eyes of Singaporeans. I am sure the majority of Singaporeans are blissfully unaware that Mr Lee Kuan Yew was not the hero who fought for Singapore’s independence. Rather the true hero was Mr Lim Chin Siong, who failed to become Singapore's first prime minister only because he was continuously thwarted by Mr Lee Kuan Yew and the British.

The book documented from declassified papers that “it was Lim Chin Siong who insisted that Singaporeans’ freedom and independence were not for compromise.” And that was also why the British considered him such a threat to their colonial rule, and tried all ways to cripple him. Please refer to A Nation Cheated for more details.

Everyone knows that there were riots in Singapore’s history, and these riots were explained by the Government that the Malayan Communist Party “in charge of Lim Chin Siong” was behind the whole affair and that it was (Chief Minister) Mr Lim Yew Hock who purged Singapore of the troublemaking communists.

But I learnt from this book that “it was then Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock who had purposely provoked the riots to enable the detention of Mr Lim Chin Siong.” The colonial government and Mr Lee Kuan Yew (London’s “best ally”) had no qualms employing the tactic of provoking a riot and then using the outcome to “achieve a desired political result”.

Lim Chin Siong (left) and Lee Kuan Yew

Another shocking fact that A Nation Cheated reveals is that “Lee had confidentially said that he values the [Internal Security] Council as a potential scape-goat for unpopular measures he will wish to take against subversive activities."

Another controversial issue was the clause the British introduced that would bar ex-detainees, or subversives, from standing for elections. It is revealed that “Lee Kuan Yew was secretly a party with Lim Yew Hock in urging the Colonial Secretary to impose the ‘subversives ban’.”

Yet, in Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs, he wrote “I objected to [the introduction of the clause] saying that ‘the condition is disturbing both because it is a departure from democratic practice and because there is no guarantee that the government in power will not use this procedure to prevent not only the communist but also democratic opponents of their policy from standing for elections.”

Mr Lee pretended to be the good man by pushing all the blame to the British. It was written that “Lee told Britain’s Seceretary of State, 'I will have to denounce [the clause]. You will have to take responsibility.'”

After I first read the book, I was thinking “no, no way, this can’t be the truth, everyone knows that Lee Kuan Yew was the founding father of Singapore.”

But after I reread the book repeatedly, I finally accepted the concrete evidence. And after the initial denial came the horrid shock. We have been emulating and glorifying this person all this while.

I told my mom what I had read from the book. She got very angry with me and scolded me harshly. She said that I should not get involved in politics, and implied that I (and everyone who wants to stay safe) should just turn a blind eye to the truth.

I was thinking, “This is injustice!” My mom got angry with me that day. I was afraid that she might throw away my copies of Dr Chee’s books.

Now that I know the truth, I feel burdened. I cannot continue to propagate the stand that Lee and the PAP are righteous without lying to myself. I was also scared because what I wanted to tell others was akin to blasphemy, heresy.

I thought of people like Dr Chee who know far more about this subject than I do would feel much more aggrieved because not only do most people not believe us and may even say we are subversive and spreading lies about the Government, but the authorities will also do everything to hide the truth and fool the people.

Even now, I still need to mince my words whenever I discuss politics and Lee Kuan Yew in my family. Youths are forced to self-censor and cannot say much in public because we do not have any freedom of speech (unless it’s about singing the Government’s praises).

What has become of our so-called "democratic" country? I urge all of you, for the sake of your own honor and integrity, to please read and find out for yourselves the truth.

Natalie Koh is currently studying Chemistry at NUS.

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