British archives, personal accounts, confirm extent of Communist United Front activities here: PM Lee

Pages from a book of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's radio talks in 1961, explaining what the fight against the Communists was about, and why Singapore needed Merger with Malaya. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has weighed in on a recent debate over the legitimacy
Pages from a book of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's radio talks in 1961, explaining what the fight against the Communists was about, and why Singapore needed Merger with Malaya. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has weighed in on a recent debate over the legitimacy of a 1963 crackdown on Communists. -- PHOTO: LEE HSIEN LOONG/FACEBOOK 

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has weighed in on a recent debate over the legitimacy of a 1963 crackdown on Communists, saying that British documents and first person accounts by former Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) leaders confirm the extent of the Communist United Front in Singapore.

They also "leave no doubt" that the Barisan Sosialis was formed at the CPM's instigation, and that detained Barisan leader Lim Chin Siong was a Communist cadre, Mr Lee said on Saturday.

 

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His comments in a Facebook post came two days after the Government's detailed reply to a commentary by former Barisan assistant secretary-general Poh Soo Kai which questioned the legitimacy of the crackdown, codenamed Operation Coldstore.

Dr Poh's commentary and the government response were carried in the Australian National University's New Mandala website.

Mr Lim and Dr Poh were among 113 Communists and supporters arrested and detained without trial during Coldstore - carried out when Mr Lee Kuan Yew was prime minister.

Dr Poh said the arrests were directed at the senior Mr Lee's political opponents.

PM Lee's post, included a link to the Government's response. He said it was based on evidence from the British archives and CPM sources - all of which confirm that Mr Lee Kuan Yew told the truth.

PM Lee noted that many old Communist and pro-Communist activists have reconciled with their past, and become good citizens:

"But a few hard core ones still deny these historical facts. They don't want to admit that they had fought on the wrong side, and that luckily for Singapore they lost.

"Some 'revisionist' historians make this argument too.

"One motivation: cast doubt on the legitimacy of the PAP government, not just in the 1960s, but today."

PM Lee said he visited an exhibition at the National Library in October held in conjunction with the reprint of "Battle for Merger", a book of Mr Lee Kuan Yew's radio talks in 1961. These explained what the fight against the Communists was about, and why Singapore needed merger with Malaya.

Dr Poh criticised the reprint, describing it as a "Cold War diatribe" and aimed "implicitly to justify Coldstore".

But PM Lee said: "The CPM was a violent, illegal organisation. So it operated secretly, underground."

But the Communists infiltrated open, legal organisations like trade unions, student associations and political parties.

"These supported the Communist cause, but denied that they themselves were Communist. Mr Lee exposed this CUF tactic," PM Lee said.

His post included photos of two original handwritten documents that he said showed that Lim Chin Siong was a communist, and that the Barisan was Communist controlled.

One was of a trade union document, signed "Lim Chin Siong". The other was a Communist study cell document, signed "Wang Ming".

"The handwriting was identical. In fact Wang Ming was Lim Chin Siong's party name; Communist cadres took party names to conceal their real identities," he said.

He added that the British have been declassifying archived documents and making them publicly available.

Senior CPM leaders like Chin Peng, Eu Chooi Yip, Fong Chong Pik - also known as the Plen - and others have published memoirs.

"Their first person accounts, like the British documents, confirm the extent of the Communist united front in Singapore, and leave no doubt that the Barisan was formed at the instigation of the CPM, and that Lim Chin Siong was a Communist cadre," PM Lee said.

zakirh@sph.com.sg