Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Who is Tan Wah Piow? "I will not go around shopping for justice in Singapore."

Tan Wah Piow, the man charged by the government to be behind the 1987 Marxist plot is rather distant from our everyday memories. Who or what do we know him as? A violent communist? A freedom fighter? An exiled activist? A draft dodger? It is no miracle that our impression of him is blurry. History taught at the O and A levels stopped in the immediate post-independence period. Very kosher indeed. Even the history of the tumultuous 70s and 80s are taught in shallow breath rather than in depth at local universities. Each day, as we procrastinate the exploration of our past, we are doing injustice to the deeds and decisions we come to today.

The prominence of Tan Wah Piow or TWP came to light in the heady 70s when he was an active student activist in National University of Singapore. Influenced by leftist and neo-colonialists movements, TWP's involvement in the student union and various other socio-political causes earned him an eager following and like-minded friends. They saw the inequalities that descended on Singapore as economic booms and dooms set itself upon the global trade economy that Singapore was plugging into. Conditions were definitely not as comfortable as today and there were many grievances as well as improvements to be made. However, not so much as the causes he advocated, his methods of confrontation and disruption perhaps meant that he was on a collision path with the government.



In Febuary 1975, TWP was sentenced to one year imprisonment for rioting in the Pioneer Industries Employee Union (PIEU) incident where an industrial dispute led to the PIEU office being smashed up. On 30 October 1974, a planned meeting between PIEU and TWP, workers from the American Marine company and students erupted into a riot. TWP countered that the Sec-Gen of PIEU was nowhere to be found at the stipulated meeting and that PIEU union officers had themselves smashed up their own premises. While TWP claimed that a Straits Times reporter saw him outside during the incident, various eye witnesses during the trial thought otherwise.

An excerpt of the ST article dated 23rd Feb 75

http://newspapers.nl.sg/Digitised/Article.aspx?articleid=straitstimes19750223.2.2

On his conviction, TWP daringly said to the judge in court, "I congratulate you on your future promotion to the High Court..." After the judge warned him of being contemptuous, TWP continued: "I do not have to bargain justice with you. I will not go around shopping for justice in Singapore. I want justice now. There is no rule of law in Singapore. You can imprison my body, but not my spirit."

Daring words indeed from someone who perhaps have no fear of authority.

On his release from prison, TWP was drafted to serve National Service. Perhaps he was due to serve, perhaps government was trying to keep away the troublemaker. However, TWP made the decision to dodge the draft and escape to the UK. TWP, for better or worse, decided that NS was too dangerous for him and that the government would "assassinate" him or cause an accident such that he would be silenced forever. “I too was worried for my physical well-being since ‘accidents’ can easily happen in the army,” he says. See here for a more detailed TOC article.

Published in May 1987


According to official reports, TWP sought help from pro-communists elements of the Southeast Asia Research Services (Sears) which helped him enter Malaysia illegally by sea. Sears was formed in 1973 to promote Marxism among intellectuals, students and workers. He hid in Malaysia for a month before securing his passage to the UK, via Thailand and Amsterdam, on a passport with a forged exit permit. Three members of Sears who helped TWP later sneaked out of Singapore joined the Communist Party of Malaya.

Apr 88: Q&A with Home Minister Jayakumar


“When I came to the United Kingdom to seek political asylum, I enjoyed the support of the World Council of Churches, and the British Council of Churches,” says TWP. “Many other organizations and prominent individuals from all over the world supported my case.” But most importantly, TWP got a place in Bradford University and a student visa through the contacts of Malcolm Gladwell. TWP was hence later able to legitimise his stay in UK where he resides today.


Endnote: In 1978, few years after he had helped TWP, Cladwell was mysteriously killed in Cambodia when he was there on the invitation of Communist Khmer Rouge. In 1966, he was invited to raised funds to buy funds for the Vietcong. He was a 'far-left' member of the British Labour and a sympathiser to liberation struggles in Southeast Asia. He was said to be involved in the Euro-Communist plot in the 1970s to exert pressure on Singapore government to relase communist detainees.

17 comments:

  1. the teaching of singapore history in schools is a shame. thank you for sharing here. maybe his methods are wrong, but tan wah piow was fighting for a just cause. too bad the support for pap was very strong at that time.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. my cause justified so I can beat up and kill people?! crap. Ends and means are equally important.

      Delete
  2. Is TWP still a citizen?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. His citizenship was renounced shortly after the arrests in 1987.

      Delete
  3. Tan was unfortunate to run into Phey Yew Kok, a thug that was being groomed by Devan Nair into union leader of NTUC. Years later, when Phey resisted the implant of a MIW, his dirt was dug up, and he was caught embezzling union funds. Conveniently, his passport was not impounded, and he was allowed to fly off to avoid embarrassment to his former political masters.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Wah Piow would be still with us if he had not dodge the draft. If he had came back before 87 he would only be jailed couple of years and still could contest along with JBJ. After 87 there was no way he would be back. Escaping NS was perhaps his worse move.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. if he didn't, he wouldn't be around. What he earlier said came true.

      Delete
    2. ya right lor...chee soon juan and gang nearly died in prison, jbj and his sons nearly got ran over by a car and sylvia lim's bf was seduced by a prc hooker so she is still single today!! LOLz!!

      Delete
  5. David,
    if it is just a matter of been jailed, why didn't you do what he do today especially with internet ? I doubt you been jailed for that for voicing your opinion.

    It is so easy to say that it is a matter of been jailed when you did not even realize that the whole prison and police machinery is under PAP control and they are free to do whatever to please the emperor. Why don't you read Teo Soh Lung's account of isa first ? If you yourself can't do today to expose the truth, why tell other to do it then in those time ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Do you also mean that should SDP or WP be the incumbent, then the whole Police and Military machinery would also be to please the respective emperor?

      Delete
  6. I admire chee soon Juan for going to prison and fighting for singaporeans and what he believe. hope singaporeans can vote him in. will government let twp say his side of story?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I hope one day to see csj enter parliament as a truly democratically elected politician. it depends who's the government of the day to hear twp's side of the story. by then too late, you have to get 2 key players back - sinnathuray and phey

      Delete
  7. If one reads the records from the British Archives, there is a seldom mentioned (at least by the state historians) a little note which proposes that a riot can be instigated so as to justify the arrest of key political opponents. Going by this precedent, there is always the possibility that the events at PIEU might have been planned and stages do the same to Tan and his supporters. I could not help but smile at the reporter’s attempt at sarcasm when he quotes “Now a High Court Judge” to echo Tan’s "I congratulate you on your future promotion to the High Court..." Well nothing has changed much since then, many, me included have predicted the future of many an AG and Judge based on their judgments and comments. And at this moment it looks like one AG is destined to be the next CJ and one particular judge would be retiring soon.

    ReplyDelete
  8. For the record, Sinnathuray was appointed High Court Judge on 1 Oct 78 and he presided over the Adrian Lim case.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Tan Wah Piow seems to have given up Singaporeans and Singapore. Maybe, he is now oni dedicated to his profession and or his loyalty and care are oni for his present Country Of Abode.

    patriot

    ReplyDelete
  10. The Record shows that Justice has been done by Tan Wah Piow's Evacuation to the UK where the British Communist Party is a recognised Party for the Election to Parliament. The ISA for Singapore and Malaysia of pre and post British Colonial Era still unrepealed was expressly an instrument used to ensure a Non-Violent Electoral Succession of Governance in the countries ! The marxist-Socialist Ideology politically will not renounced Violent Means to achieve its political purpose,its is therefore naturally a Security Issue of National Significance !

    Gerald Heng Sr. Metrowest Boston,MA.USA

    ReplyDelete
  11. I do not think TWP has lost interest in Singapore. he continues to ahve close association with Singaporeans and Mlaysians. He is now a prominent lawyer in London and takes up many cases especially heling Chinese illegals. I have known him since he came to Britain and he is not the man that the Singaporean press had described him. it is a shame that Singapore had lost such an intelectual son.

    ReplyDelete