Friday, January 15, 2010

Dr Poh Soo Kai's Speech at the "Fajar Genaration"Book Launch at Ipoh.


‘FAJAR GENERATION” book launch at IPOH

Friends and comrades,

Thank you for your support and for attending this book launch.

The book “FAJAR GENERATION” was launched in November last year.

Some of you would have already read it.

In the Johore Bahru book launch, I talked about some events in prison that I did not mention in the book. I talked about my cell-mates Ho Piow, Chia Thye Poh and Zhang Fook Hua; about Fook Hua’s torture at the hands of the Special Branch, about his terminal illness, his bravery in face of death, and our solidarity.

Today I shall talk about my articles in the book.

In this book, I have contributed four chapters. The most important one to me is Chapter 14, where I look ahead and argue that the only alternative to the present capitalist system, of whatever variant, is socialism. Thus the title: “The Future as History”. A philosopher wrote a book to argue that humankind will either move into Socialism or Barbarism. I am a little more optimistic and have more confidence in men and women’s ability. Of course there is no reason to believe that the human species like the dinosaurs and many other animals and plants cannot totally disappear from the earth.

But to many, Chapter 10 entitled : Detention in Operation Cold Store – A Study in Imperialism, is arguably more interesting. Here I attempt to answer some of the key accusations made during Operation Cold Store, that we were pro-Communists and Communists, that we were subversive and a security threat, that we were anti-merger. I attempt to weave together local political forces at play with that of imperial politics in Southeast Asia during this period. I quoted from the British archives, materials on the British-US scheme to destroy Soekarno and thus Indonesian nationalism. I also quoted that one of the aims of the British Naval Base in Singapore in this period is the stationing of nuclear weapons aimed at China. A high ranking British official was quoted in 1961, as pointing out to Lee Kuan Yew that “the agreement to merger must, among other things, always be dependent on a satisfactory means being found to meet our defence requirements. He {LKY} said that he fully understood this and there was no change in his policy .”

I quoted extensively from the British Archives the long period of collaboration between Lee Kuan Yew and the colonial master. I pointed that LKY’s advocacy for merger and then agreement to separation was far from that of a leader with a vision of a united, and prosperous Malaya, or Malaysia.

I have challenged the official version of Singapore’s history of this period. Ex-detainees have been warned that they would not be allowed to rewrite history. It is often said, that history is written by the victors. I am now quoting the victor’s version of history from the victor’s archives.. Whether you accept this version as more truthful than the version dished out by their minions, I leave it to you. To me, I draw a distinction between history and mythology.
I had great difficulties in writing this chapter. It is very sensitive to some in power. The risk of being made a bankrupt is ever present. I have kept the British archive material for years. Now, as I have no intention to write nor influence events from my grave, I have finally decided against the advice of well meaning friends, to publish it.

However, there are many things not said, opinions not expressed. I have in the main just arranged materials from the British Archives into a coherent, readable form. This is the British Archive version of our history during the period. Yet its publication has not just caused widespread interest but also consternation.
I have touched upon some important and fundamental theoretical, and strategic issues. I have refrained from discussion about them. I suggest that after you have read the chapter, it may be worthwhile to reflect and discuss some of these old, thorny problems.

I will list just a few:-

What is the meaning of “United Front”? What is its structure and dynamics. Was the PAP a “united front” ? What are the conditions for its existence, its termination or its re-establishment?

Was the left wing policy during the Hong Lim bye-election appropriate ?

Was the left-wing leading the people or the other way round ?

The importance of initiative in any strategy.

No force or strategy is sure of victory nor fail-proof. Could a better strategy not provide for a less severe defeat, if defeat is inevitable?

The question of constitutional struggle and violent un-constitutional struggle. Both need not be successful per se, as success depends on a judicious mix of many other factors, including leadership ability.

On this point, the chapter illustrated that the Barisan Sosialis did not deviate from the policy of Consitutional struggle, The British admitted it. Yet plans were made to destroy it by use of violence and armed force. It was a posse of fully armed men who raided my house in the wee hours of the morning of 2nd. February.—Operation Cold Store is a military operation, not a form of constitutional struggle.
Thus my retort to the often asked question as to why I was detained and why for so long is: “It is British democracy, stupid!”

In conclusion I would like to say we must not be dogmatic, we must learn from imperialism, must learn from the capitalists.



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