Tuesday, 7 October 2014

What did the Communists say about Operation Coldstore?

So it seems even former Permanent Secretaries, the highest of life form in the public service if you don't want to wear white on white, can't help but to wade into the historical debate. Over the weekend I saw this:

In case you didn't know who's Bilahari, he is none other than retired Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Bilahari Kausikan, who by the way gave one a kick-ass speech to the privileged boys at RI. But you wonder why was he talking about a TOC article that was already much talked about in Dec 2013? Maybe he missed out on the party back in Dec?  

Of course the former Permanent Secretary was not alone, and he was quickly rebutted by the rising star of local revisionist historian, Thum PJ:

Anyway, I have earlier written what I think about the current revisionist history here. Maybe both sides are trying too hard to prove the other wrong? One uses (extensively) records from the British Colonial offices and the other quotes history books written by what some may call sanctioned historians. Maybe one should get creative when official records are still held closely by the tightfisted Ministry of Home Affairs...

So what did the communists themselves have to say about Operation Coldstore and the Communist United Front? Has anyone researched the memoirs of former Communists operatives? For example, Chiam Chong Chian, a CPM cadre who was said to orchestrated the May 1954 Anti-National Service riot.

This is what Chin Peng, the former leader of Communist Party of Malaya wrote about Operation Coldstore and Communist United Front:

- Referring to the "numbers of people we controlled" in Singapore in 1959, Chin Peng wrote, "I can certainly say that most of the island's workers sympathized with the left-wing trade unions and members of these unions were well appreciated they were under the control of the CPM. (p.409).

- On plans to sabotage merger, Chin Peng, Siao Chang and Eu Chooi Yip had a discussion in Beijing in mid-1961. Chin Peng wrote: "Our Peking meeting also examined in the detail the Malaysia Plan that was being hatched between London and Kuala Lumpur. The three of us came to the conclusion that it would be in the best interest of our Party if we plotted to sabotage this. If we couldn't derail it, at least we might substantially delay its implementation." (p. 437) (This is in line with what the Plen and Lim Chin Siong did in Singapore to frustrate merger?)

- On Operation Coldstore, Chin Peng wrote that it "shattered our underground network throughout the island. Those who escaped the police net went into hiding. Many fled to Indonesia." (p.439) (The clearest admission by CPM that those arrested were CPM or CUF members?)

The leader of Communist Party of Malaya in Singapore, Fong Chong Pik, better known as The Plen, also wrote about Singapore's security situation from the mid 50s to 60s:

- The Plen wrote that at a secret meeting with other CPM leaders in Jakarta in 1957 (after the the 1954-1956 strikes, demonstrations and riots): "We were informed that the Central Committee took a positive view of the widespread development of the open mass movement in Singapore and sent its praises." (p.124) (That is, CPM approve of what their front men had been instigating in Singapore in the mid-50s.)

- The Plen wrote that the CPM "central leadership had decided to establish a working group...to directly and completely lead the struggle in Singapore" and that "both he [Eu Chooi Yip] and I had been appointed to the working group". (p. 122) (This reiterates CPM role behind the scenes in Singapore.)

- The Plan frankly revealed that he had used the Chinese press to delay merger. He wrote: "A lot of opinions expressed in the newspapers originated from me. These included slowing down the process of merger, and adopting the form of confederation." (p.161) (Wonder if revisionist historians can spot The Plen writing in the newspapers?)

- On his relationship with Lim Chin Siong, who was said to the CPM open front leader, the Plen wrote cryptically, "LIm Chin Siong and I did have a "definitely not normal association" and that Lim was a person "with whom I have had a special acquaintance." (pp. 170, 176-177)


All this debate and research is a good sign for the understanding of Singapore's history, especially the period of 50s and 60s where there has been a lack of neutral scholarly work. While some say that there was no communist conspiracy in Singapore's pre-independence political landscape, the memoirs of several communists leaders and operatives had indicated that they were active in the fight for independence of Singapore and against the LKY's idea of merger with Malaysia.

Maybe next year when Singapore celebrates our 50th birthday, the government would decide to declassify more information for scholars to discover, discuss and debate. 

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