Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Mystery Behind Tan Wah Piow's Flower Wreath

On 29 September 2013, theonlinecitizen.com published an article claiming that Tan Wah Piow denies having sent the flower wreath to Chin Peng's funeral. Aside from his denial, Tan added that "the Sin Chew report was ... publicised in a Singapore blog which was devoted to demonising me and those detained in 1987 Operation Spectrum as 'Marxist conspirators'".

Upon reading this, the history buff in me came alive, ever so hopeful to find another like-minded individual who blogs about such long forgotten historical issues. Alas to my dismay, a simple search on the internet turned up only two blogs which mentioned the Sin Chew report. My own blog and another titled Where Bears Roam Free which carried a rather dim view of Tan Wah Piow, calling him "a commie sympathizer" who "achieved nuthin in life". The commentary may be crass but to each his own.

Just to clarify, my interest in this long forgotten past of Singapore is rooted in facts scoured from openly available resources and painstakingly pieced together as a coherent whole for the reading pleasure of like-minded history buffs.

From this latest development, the question that begets me was: "why would anybody "plot" against Tan Wah Piow'"? There are a few plausible conjectures:

Firstly, there may be the possible involvement of the Malaysian tabloids. The media focus after Chin Peng's death revolved around the Malaysian authorities' refusal to allow him back in to Malaysia. What better way to differentiate oneself from the other run of the mill press articles than to get a firsthand scoop of Chin Peng's close affiliation with Singapore activist Tan Wah Piow? In this cut throat industry, reporters are constantly looking for new sexy angles to publish their articles and we should not be surprised at what reporters are willing to do.

Secondly, there is also the nefarious possibility that the Malaysian authorities are the orchestrators behind this entire facade. The mounting flak heaped on the Malaysian government after their high-handed handling of Chin Peng's passing, the Malaysian authorities turned to their favourite bogeyman Singapore to deflect some of this negative attention. Just recall the number of times Malaysia made use of little brother Singapore during periods of domestic crisis and such a plot is not entirely impossible.

The third possibility may be as what Tan Wah Piow claims and "the person or persons behind the “mysterious wreath” falls on his “detractors in [Singapore]", in particular the Singapore government. On account of the past antagonism Tan Wah Piow had with the Singapore government, the government of Singapore does indeed have an axe to grind.

But then again, my lonely sojourn on this part of Singapore's history reflects an unfortunately dismal public and academic interest in this topic. Hence, this "sleek piece of dark propaganda" appears rough at the edges and only succeeds in shining the spotlight on the Singapore government. An ill-conceived move like this by the Singapore government ultimately provides a platform for Tan to hit back at his detractors and backfires spectacularly on the Singapore government.

This brings us to the last possibility where Tan Wah Piow staged this entire show to bring further attention to his case. Having explained the negative trade offs for the Singapore government in the previous point and the somewhat unsophisticated method employed, this potential soliloquy by Tan Wah Piow should not be rejected outright.

If we were to juxtapose Tan's public denials of being a member of the Communist Party of Malaya together with his penchant for offering assistance to known CPM elements in the past, Tan Wah Piow's words and actions do not often go hand in hand. Just as the Singapore government has an axe to grind with Tan Wah Piow, I am sure Tan is no pushover either.

All these are but speculative talk and the mystery of the flower wreath remains unresolved. What we do know for sure is the attempt by someone to leverage on the death of an old man to further their own selfish agenda.