About 150 persons attended the Fajar Generation book launch on Jan 9, 2010 in Penang. Many young persons were among the audience. Members of the Press were also present.
The forum began with Mr. Lim Kean Chye rendering his reminiscence of events occurring and personalities involved during those tumultuous years before the independence of Singapore. He recalled the struggle of the people to secure genuine independence from the British colonial rule .
Dato Dr Toh Kin Woon reinterated the original aim of the Socialist Club of the Malayan University in Singapore was to demand for full independence of the country and for the country to be governed on the principles of democracy, justice and multi-culturalism. The members of the Socialist Club stood firm on their principles despite the repressive measures taken against them by the British colonial government in Singapore. Many of their leaders sacrificed their career advancement to carry out this noble struggle. These leaders subsequently suffered long years of political detention without trial under the PAP regime.
Dato Dr.Toh Kin Woon delivering his speech.
Mr. Tan Kim Hong related the struggle of the Socialist Club to the wider political and social struggle happening in the then Malaya. He recalled having read the Club’s newsletter “Fajar” which means Dawn in Malay. The newsletter had a great influence on the political thinking of the students during his time. Many students were able to relate their role with the greater political struggle by the trade unions, farmers and the different sectors of the society.
Mr. Tan urged the present generation of activists to learn from the experience of the Fajar generation. He quoted passages from Dr. Pooh Soo Kai’s writing that advise activists to at all times maintain their independent judgement on the authorities in power, and not to trust such authorities without questioning. Furthermore they must assess in an objective manner the political situation they find themselves in and make their decision in the best manner possible
to benefit the people.
to benefit the people.
Mr. Tan Kim Hong spoke in both Mandarin and English.
Dr. Poh Soo Kai was the third speaker. He told the audience that many of his friends have asked him to write his stories so that the experience of his generation can be recorded. In order to do this he did much research at the British Archive in London where official documents were declassified after 30 years. By doing so he was recording the British version of the history. His work confirms that the grand design of the formation of Malaysia was indeed planned many years in advance by the British colonial government to maintain their interest in the neo-colonial structure of Malaysia. He reaffirmed that the struggle for a democratic, just and multi-cultural society as demanded by the people at that time was a genuine and just anti-colonial struggle.
Dr. Poh Soo Kai speaking in Penang on Jan 9, 2010.
The question and answer session saw many interesting and burning questions being raised.
A member of the audience stated that of late the world has seen a resurgence of socialism in many South American countries. Europe has witnessed an increasing acceptance of social democratic governments. North American countries like Canada and the US have also put in place many policies aimed to provide a social safety net for their less fortunate citizens. He wanted to know if Dr. Poh think that socialism will make a comeback to Malaysia and Singapore. And if so, in what forms will such changes take shape?
Dr Poh answered that there is no alternative but to accept some forms of socialist systems of government. At the current rate events are taking place in the world, not only will there be no end to the crisis of capitalism, there will not be an ecology left to talk about! As regards to the forms of socialism , Dr Poh was of the opinion that socialism will take many forms. Each form will evolve to suit the special needs and circumstances of the society that adopts it.
Many young members of the audience were interested to know more about the experience of the Fajar generation. A few senior participants also shared their stories about other members of the Socialist Club whom they had known over the years.
A member of the audience showed a newly published book written by his father who was a member of the Socialist Club. This caused much surprise from the speakers too.
The meeting ended in a camaraderie atmosphere of book signing , renewing old ties and establishing new friendship.