Wednesday, 27 November 2013

The Marxist Sojourn of Comrade Bala

Shocking news gripped the United Kingdom when a 73-year-old man named Aravindan Balakrishnan (aka Comrade Bala) was arrested on suspicion of holding three women captive in a south London flat for 30 years. According to the UK press, the victims were brainwashed by the Marxist Comrade Bala, held against their wishes for years, and were often beaten by Balakrishnan and his wife. 

The three victims were Josephine Herivel (daughter of a renowned Bletchley Park codebreaker during the Second World War), Aishah Wahab (a Colombo plan scholar who came to Britain to study in 1968) and Sian Davies, who died in 1997 (a high-flying law student who studied at Cheltenham Ladies’ College). Having an academic discussion about Marxism is one thing but taking it to the extreme is disconcerting to say the least. Furthermore, the victims being western educated individuals rekindles the point that Communism is not reserved exclusively for the typical Chinese chauvinist but also Western intellectuals who are equally attracted to the ideology.  

In a weird turn of events, the perpetrator of this heinous crime is apparently a Singaporean so obsessed with Marxist ideology that he left for England to set up a commune in the 1960s. By the 1970s, he had worked his way up and became a member of the Communist party of England's central committee. However, he soon left the party in 1974 and set up a separatist group styled as a direct component of Maoist China, calling on the Red army to come to south London to liberate working people. 

Because of his Marxist ideology, the Singapore government deemed him to be pursuing "activities that are prejudicial to the security of Singapore" and stripped of his Singapore citizenship for his close ties with Eurocommunists in 1977 (see below for newspaper clippings). Was this a blessing in disguise for Singapore? No one can say for certain but history has its unique way of eventually unravelling the truth. 

Another interesting point observed was the time period (1960s) in which Balakrishnan left for England. If we recall it was in 1963 that Operation Coldstore was launched to counteract the spread of Communism in Malaya. Was Aravindan Balakrishnan one of those Communists who slipped past the security dragnet and escaped to the United Kingdom?

In the 1960s, the United Kingdom was viewed as a safe haven for Communists and notable local Communists like Lim Chin Siong went into self-exile in the UK after being released from detention. This trend of Communists/Marxists relocating to the UK stretched till the late 70s; the most notable of whom was Singapore Marxist Tan Wah Piow who fled to the UK with forged immigration renewal endorsement and sought political asylum.

Wednesday, 20 November 2013

More Questions Than Answers in New Coldstore book

Recently, a book "The 1963 Operation Coldstore inSingapore: Commemorating 50 Years" was launched in Singapore. The book edited by Poh Soo Kai, Tan Kok Fang & Hong Lysa aims to present history from the perspective of those arrested during Operation Coldstore. (Note: Poh Soo Kai was one of those detained during Operation Coldstore)

From excerpts and articles published online, Operation Coldstore was positioned as a political move that aimed to shore up Lee Kuan Yew's waning political support during 1963. Apparently, Lee Kuan Yew's own party base was not supporting him and due to that, he sought help from the Malayan Communist Party and then the British. Furthermore, it is claimed that Lee Kuan Yew inserted names onto the arrest list to ensure that even if his own popularity collapsed after the arrests, there would be no real alternative to the PAP. 

With such mouth watering details extracted from de-classified British documents, I look forward to reading the book! To make this even more mouth watering, what the British documents said were in contradiction to other British documents and the records of the local government and Special Branch. For the uninitiated, read Dennis Bloodworth's Tiger and the Trojan Horse.

Strangely though, amongst the publicity there was little mention of the links between these individuals and the Malayan Communist Party, especially for those who were in the Barisan Socialis. This is problematic as we know for certain that Lim Chin Siong, the leader of the Barisan Socialis was a Communist and this important fact was conveniently omitted. Even Fong Chong Pik, the leader of the then Singapore underground  Communist network admitted in his book written in 2008 that he possessed a special relationship with Lim Chin Siong. 

Interestingly, perhaps in their attempts to whitewash their relationship with the Communist cause, it is such glaring gaps in narrative that draw further attention to their relationship with the Communist Party of Malaya. 

Despite this historical tug of war between the PAP government and ex-ISA detainees, one fact is for certain - the Communists were an armed insurgency that caused undeniable physical damage to Singapore's infrastructure and terrorized the population. At the end of the Communist insurgency, no less than 12,000 people perished. This violent doctrine only officially ended in 1989 when the CPM signed a peace treaty to cease all hostilities. Therefore, maybe it is the CPM's violence that presented the advantage and legitimacy to Lee Kuan Yew's PAP government to clamp down on the Malayan Communist Party and its affiliates.

That said, there were innocent individuals scooped up for their political allegiances and became the collateral damage in this Communist insurgency.  But at a time when the CPM waged a physical insurgency and conducted shrewd political manoeuvrings through its political proxies, weeding out the Communists at its bud would be no easy task.

For your viewing pleasure, I have embedded a History Channel documentary on the Malayan Emergency depicting the the dire situation at the height of the Communist insurgency (1948 - 1950s).