Dr. Poh Soo Kai Speaks at FUEMSSO
( Federation of United Kingdom and Eire Malaysian and Singaporean Students Organizations )
The following is the transcript of a tape recorded talk by Dr. Poh Soo Kai played at a FUEMSSO meeting in London on the 1st of February, 1975.
Ladies and gentlemen, friends,
I would like to thank the FUEMSSO for providing me with this opportunity to address to you all. It is indeed an honour and a pleasure to be able to communicate with all of you and I would like to express my thanks to the National Union of students, friends in the trade unions, and liberal and progressive organizations for helping in this campaign to seek the release of all political prisoners in Malaya and Singapore, and to see that justice, freedom and democracy prevails in my country.
We in Singapore and Malaya are greatly encouraged to learn that students, our own students, as well as freedom loving friends in distant United Kingdom and Eire have exerted no small efforts to explain and propagate to the people of the United Kingdom the true and ugly features of the Razak and Lee Kuan Yew regimes. Your present activities to mark the arrest on 2nd Feb 1963, ie. the twelve anniversary of “Operation Cold Storage” have further raised our morale – the morale of those in prison as well as those outside – and have strengthened our determination to struggle on to see that fascism is overthrown, and that truth, justice and democracy prevails. In this struggle for democracy, for justice and for freedom, for the rights of the people, we who are struggling in Malaya and in the United Kingdom are ONE. Your struggle is our struggle and our struggle is your struggle. It is the people’s struggle for a better society.
The 2nd of Feb, 1963 is a day of historic significance for the people of Malaya. It is on this day and periodically thereafter that hundreds of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist patriots were arrested and detained indefinitely under atrocious conditions and some subsequently banished from Malaya and Singapore. It is on this day and thereafter, that severe repressive measures were taken in Singapore against progressive and popular mass organizations of workers, undergraduates, students, farmers associations, cultural associations, etc., resulting in the banning and liquidation of these organizations by the lackeys of imperialism. Feb 2nd, 1963 marks the start of arbitrary arrests of all effective political opponents, the full and complete control and manipulation of all mass media and all educational establishments, by the Lee Kuan Yew regime in Singapore. It marks the foistering of the PAP sponsored and controlled National Trade Union Congress on the workers of Singapore. It marks the birth of a police state.
But Feb 2nd, 1963 is also significant in that it has shattered forever the illusion of those who sought to change society by parliamentary and constitutional means. It has served to illustrate that in a society where arbitrary arrest and indefinite detention without trial is the norm in politics, and where hundreds are still languishing for years in the country’s political prisons, the so-called general elections have become a farce, an exercise conducted to keep the ruling regime in continued office. I myself was kept in prison without trial for close to 11 years, not because I had advocated unconstitutional struggle. Feb 2nd, 1963 is a bitter lesson for many, but it is a lesson one should not forget.
In the context of parliamentary struggle, I would like to tell you about a comrade of mine, Mr. Lee Tse Tong. Mr. Lee Tse Tong’s case illustrates the farce of elections under the Lee Kuan Yew regime. It also illustrates the way the instrument of citizenship right has been used to remove effective political opponents.
Mr. Lee Tse Tong is a trade unionist. In 1963, he stood for election and defeated the ruling party’s candidate. That was the mistake Mr. Lee Tse Tong made. His election victory meant that it was to be his last election. For immediately after the results of the election was made known, Mr. Lee Tse Tong was arrested under the Internal Security Act, thrown into prison and he has remained there since. His citizenship was taken away. He thus became a stateless person, and has since been imprisoned as a so-called banishee. Here is a man whose loyalty to his country is beyond doubt, as proved by his years in prison. Here is a man who has the trust of his constituents. And yet he has been made a banishee and has been kept in prison since. His prison conditions are such that he is allowed a visit once every five weeks, and except for biscuits, no food is allowed to be sent in. No doctor is known to have attended to him. His health is now extremely poor. Years of prison life has had its deleterious effects. However, cruelties and persecution will not cow men dedicated to serve the people, men, dedicated to truth, justice and democracy. Persecution by the Razak and Lee Kuan Yew regimes will only serve to further strengthen their resolve and determination.
Feb 2nd marks the 13th year of prison life for Dr. Lim Hock Siew, Said Zahari, and Ho Piaw. They have been in prison for the last twelve years without trial. Their only crime is their determination to stand for their rights as human beings. How long more will they be held in prison? Much depends on your effort and determination to see that justice is done. In this respect, permit me to point out to our friends in the United Kingdom that these three political prisoners were arrested and thrown into prison in 1963 when the British government was represented in the Internal Security Council which decided on their arrest. Britain therefore has full responsibility for their arrest, and thus a continuing responsibility - at least morally – for their continued detention. No amount of legalistic argument can remove Britain’s responsibility. The British government not having expressed an opinion continues to share the responsibility for their continued detention. I therefore suggest that you pressurize your own government to shoulder this moral responsibility for it cannot evade the responsibility by pretending that it does not exist.
Political prisoners in Malaya and Singapore are subjected to various forms of ill-treatment including the latest in psychological torture techniques. Beatings, strippings and round the clock interrogations in very cold rooms have been described by the political prisoners. Prolonged solitary confinement is the rule. For example, of those arrested in June 1974 and after that date, practically all are in solitary confinement, at the notorious Top Floor, Central Police Station, or at the Whitley Holding Centre, or some ungazetted secret holding centres. A few months at the hands of this S.S. set-up, and Mr. Chong Chee Seng had to be admitted to the Thomson Road General Hospital for medical resuscitation. Mr. Chan Sun Choy, a senior pressman attached to a local Chinese daily, has been so disoreintated by such tortures that he required electric convulsive therapy. T.T. Rajah, a prominent lawyer was known to have been found in a state of collapse in his cell and had to be carried out of his stuffy cell for resuscitation. Now he is suffering from severe nerve pains.
The aim of prolonged solitary confinement is to cut a person off from all social contact; and from being part of society. The final effect of solitary confinement in a narrow space is to disorientate a person, to break him down, to make him insane. The deleterious effects of solitary confinement is well known to medical science and to the authorities. And it is precisely of these deleterious effects that laws have been enacted to protect common criminals from this form of torture. Thus we have a situation when criminals are protected from prolonged solitary confinement but political prisoners are deliberately subjected to it. Mental derangement of detainees is what these sadistic and totally inhumane perpetrators hope for when they resort to this form of torture. Humanity is a word not to be found in the vocabulary of Lee Kuan Yew and Razak and their ilk. Fundamental human rights as proclaimed in the U.N. Charter is a concept totally alien to their concept of society. People are just digits. Law is the secret police.
How long will this illegal confinement and imprisonment continued? How long will these tortures last? I can only say that those dedicated to justice, to truth, to democracy and freedom will never be broken. Dr. Lim Hock Siew, Said Zahari, Ho Piaw, Chia Thye Poh, Lee Tse Tong, T.T. Rajah, and many others have shown that their revolutionary spirit will finally triumph.
How long can a system based on threats, and fear last? Already the groundswell can be fely. Already the Razak and Lee Kuan Yew regimes had to use force to contain student criticisms. Already their regimes are finding themselves isolated. They see an enemy behind every bush. Critical comments by students are regarded as challenges to the power structure of the ruling parties. The Communist Party, the Church, the CIA, the New Left, and even the Australian and New Zealand and the United Kingdom Student movements have been blamed for the so-called student unrest in the country. All this only serves to illustrate the increasing isolation of the ruling regimes, and their increasing reliance on the bureaucracy, the police and the armed forces.
Finally let me repeat, that your efforts have given us in Malaya and Singapore much encouragement, and I would like to join you in the demand for the unconditional release of all political prisoners and the restoration of fundamental rights to our people. Let us march forward together in seeking a better society for all mankind.
Friday, January 15, 2010
Dr. Poh Soo Kai Speaks at FUEMSSO