Head and Shoulders above us all

Posted by under Opinions on 28 November 2009

Dr. Lim Hock Siew, you have our deepest and utmost respect for the integrity, courage, conviction and commitment you have shown to your cause, beliefs and principles.

Fajar Generation

Of late, I have been wondering about the greatness of some leaders to remind myself that all is not lost in the brave pursuit for a renewed, revived and reformed Malaysia. With the dearth of genuine leaders of caliber, I was greatly encouraged when someone told me about Dr. Lim Hock Siew, a Singaporean who holds the record of being the second longest serving political prisoner. Yup- you read it right. While many may wax lyrical about Singapore, the untold story is that they have their own version/practice of ISA.

Dr Lim, a founding member of Singapore's ruling PAP, was incarcerated for 19 years without trial from 1963 to 1982 on "suspicions" of being a "communist". Singapore's longest political prisoner is Mr Chia Thye Poh, who spent 32 years behind bars, longer than Nelson Mandela and Aung San Suu Syi.

When I first watched the following video , I was awestruck by this humble, gentle-looking elderly person - soft spoken and yet radiating a strength from his eyes and not by sheer force of personality. I had to turn up the volume of my speakers and at certain times was miffed by the sound of laughter that drowned the sincere voice of a giant called Dr. Lim.

The video was taken of Dr Lim during the book launch of the "Fajar Generation", a book relating the history of the University Socialist Club and the politics of post-war Malaya and Singapore.

In the video , Dr Lim first described the ordeals he had been through as a political detainee, including being placed in solitary confinement in the most "hideous" prison in Singapore – the Central Police Station:

"That was a place not fit to keep animals let alone human beings. The place was so dark, so stinky and so ill-ventilated that you cannot stand inside for more than 24 hours but I was locked in there for 24 hours a day and the whole place was infested with bugs. I had a lot of bugs for company, no reading material and the light was so dim that I could hardly see the crease of my hand."

On the basis of principles which he held dearly and not because of pride, Dr Lim did not relent to the demands of his captors to renounce politics and show "repentance".

In the course of his career as an activist, he had tried to challenge and overturn the government's decision to detain him on several occasions to no avail. When he was released from detention briefly due to a technical error, he was re-arrested a minute later by the Special Branch.

Upon his release in 1982, Dr Lim retired from politics altogether. Very few young Singaporeans have heard about him or his colleagues in the opposition Barisan Sosialist. I am sure many Malaysians have not heard of him either. I would encourage you to watch the following video not once, but many times, to hear for yourself, the horrible experiences that he went through.

And as you do, please remember the other ISA detainees in Malaysia, Singapore and other places that practise this archaic law that has outlived its original usefulness and then to step up our effort to lobby for this law to be abolished once and for all.

"You must say something to show repentance," the ISD officer told his captive, "otherwise Lee Kuan Yew will lose face." Dr Lim Hock Siew recounts his 20-year ordeal under the caprice of the PAP Government. The speech is peppered with humourous remarks, but Dr Lim's horrifying experience is anything but that. This is a video, courtesy of Mr Martyn See, that everyone in this world, must watch.

Dr. Lim, you have my deepest and utmost respect for the integrity, courage, conviction and commitment you have shown to your cause, beliefs and principles.

Did you know that Singapore Law Minister told an American audience a few weeks ago that the ISA is not abused in Singapore and there are "proper" procedures in place to safeguard the welfare and rights of the detainees?

He did not elaborate the "proper" procedures in place to safeguard the welfare and rights of the detainees".

Dr. Lim paid the price for integrity - 20 years of his life. I have tears in my eyes as I type this. How many people would have been able to withstand the aftermath of paying such a heavy price of freedom for ideals and then to emerge from it all with a deep sense of peace and with an even stronger conviction? Innocent ISA detainees (past and present) all over the world must be remembered.

People such as Dr. Lim, Said Zahari, Dr. Chia Thye Poh (the longest serving prisoner of Conscience in the World); Lim Chin Siong (deceased) and the many unsung heroes must not be forgotten.

Their sacrifices must not be swept under the carpet of sanitized history. For the benefit of our children and their children and future generations…to come, this story and that of many ISA detainees must be told.

Sources and Relevant Links:

masterwordsmith HEAD AND SHOULDERS ABOVE US ALL 19 November 2009

Singapore Rebel Dr Lim Hock Siew - Singapore's 2nd longest-held political prisoner speaks out

Gerald Giam Mr Tan Tee Seng - 1987 ex-ISA detainee 19 May 2009

Gerald Giam Was our phenomenal GDP growth worth selling our soul for? 18 November 2009

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