Ex-editor and former political detainee Said Zahari dies at 88

Mr Said Zahari was a former political detainee in Singapore, arrested on Feb 2, 1963, in a security swoop.
Mr Said Zahari was a former political detainee in Singapore, arrested on Feb 2, 1963, in a security swoop.

PETALING JAYA • Mr Said Zahari, a one-time editor-in-chief of the Malay-language newspaper Utusan Melayu and former political detainee in Singapore, died yesterday. He was 88.

His eldest son Roesman Mohd Said told The Star Online that the former journalist died in his sleep at around noon.

Born in Singapore, Mr Said was arrested on Feb 2, 1963, in a security swoop codenamed Operation Coldstore and detained without trial under the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance.

He was among more than 100 leftist politicians and trade unionists detained for suspected pro-communist and subversive activities.

Others detained along with him included the late Dr Lim Hock Siew, a founding member of the People's Action Party (PAP) and the now defunct breakaway Barisan Sosialis, and Dr Poh Soo Kai, former assistant secretary-general of the Barisan.

In a documentary, Mr Said detailed his life in detention, during which he claimed to have been kept in solitary confinement for a long period in poor condition and threatened with death if he did not choose to confess and cooperate with the authorities.

After his release in 1979, he moved to Malaysia to join his adult children, but retained his Singapore citizenship, according to The Star Online.

Mr Said, who suffered several strokes in recent years which left him immobilised, wrote three memoirs - including The Long Nightmare: My 17 Years As A Political Prisoner - linked to his years in detention in Singapore.

Mr Fong Swee Suan, 85, another prominent leftist trade unionist of the 1950s in Singapore, recalled that he had met Mr Said several times in the 1990s.

"The last time I saw him was in Kuala Lumpur nearly 10 years ago, when he was still in good health," he said.

Mr Fong, another founding member of the PAP who joined Barisan Sosialis in 1961, said he was not surprised by Mr Said's passing.

He noted that many politicians from that era were now in their 80s or 90s.


  • Additional reporting by Leong Weng Kam
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 13, 2016, with the headline 'Ex-editor and former political detainee Said Zahari dies at 88'. Print Edition | Subscribe