Monday, January 11, 2010

Interview with Dr Lim Hock Siew: Part 2

 Interview with Dr Lim Hock Siew : Part 2.

How Would Barisan Have Ruled Singapore?
Straits Times
Friday, 19 February 2010
Page: A17
(C) Singapore Press Holdings Limited

WHAT if Barisan Sosialis had beaten the People’s Action Party (PAP) in the September 1963 General Election? How differently would it have ruled the country?

Barisan gave the ruling party its closest call in Singapore’s
political history when it garnered 33 per cent of the votes in the
polls. It toppled two ministers and nearly knocked out another four

Although PAP’s 47 per cent score was its lowest electoral mark in the record book, the first-past-the-post system awarded the party 37 seats versus Barisan’s 13 in the 51-seat legislative assembly.

There had been much speculation that had it not been for Operation
Cold Store, which put more than 100 leftist politicians and unionists
behind bars just seven months earlier, the opposition party would have swept into power.

Former Barisan leader Lim Hock Siew, who would have stood for the elections if he was not detained, admits that if his party had won, Singapore’s gross domestic product growth would have been slower, but believes that there would have been more welfare for the people.

There would be legal safeguards for workers like minimum wage,
retrenchment benefits, social welfare and retirement benefits, he

Peppering his interview with criticisms of various government
policies, the man regarded as one of the “brains” behind Barisan, says that his party would have done more for the poor and working class.

For example, he points out that his party would not have priced flats
at a subsidised rate below market rate but would have provided cheap housing at cost. “CPF is meant for pensions, not to tie people down to a housing project,” he says.

Turning to more current issues, he argues that the introduction of two integrated resorts here threatens moral standards by making Singapore a playground for the “international filthy rich”.

Singapore might eventually be like Las Vegas, where everything has a price but no value. “I don’t think this is a society we all like to
have. That the Government places such high hopes on the two casinos shows what a desperate situation the Singapore economy is in.”

Instead of attracting big foreign multinational companies, he says,
Singapore should have encouraged small and medium enterprises, so that entrepreneurship would flourish as in Hong Kong.

Hitting out at ministerial pay, noting that a symbolic amount of
$10,000 or $20,000 a month would be enough, Dr Lim says that Barisan leaders were prepared to sacrifice their lives for their political beliefs. “We considered politics a calling, a responsibility, and a privilege to serve our country, not a career.”

He believes enough talented young people will come forward to serve the country. “Leaders should not be discovered by inviting and enticing them with high pay and high office... you harness the people, let them decide. They’ll do wonders.”

He feels that the Government cannot inspire the young to participate
because it is alienated from the people and is afraid of “letting go”.

Criticising the various restrictions on freedom of speech, assembly
and organisation, like the Internal Security Act and the Newspaper and Printing Presses Act, he notes: “When Lee Hsien Loong came to power, he promised to leave no stones unturned to remake Singapore.

“But what we see is just the little stones and pebbles being merrily
kicked about, raising so much dust and din, but the big boulders of
repression are still very much in place.”

He calls for a public inquiry into past and present human rights
abuses in Singapore, under an internationally-renowned judge, with
immunity provided for former detainees to give evidence.

The young will feel for Singapore, he says, when they feel they can
speak out and decide their own future.

Given his strong anti-government views, it is no surprise that the
79-year-old doctor is much sought after by the opposition parties.

He reveals that two parties wanted to recruit him but he declined,
citing old age.



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