PAP: Fascist Dictatorship (1963)

Excerpt from longer speech below:

“The PAP is endangering democracy. . .parliamentary democracy under the PAP has already become Fascist dictatorship.”
— Dr. Lee Siew Choh (1963)

A couple of quick definitions:

Democracy: The word democracy literally means “rule by the people.”
(Source: Britannica Kids)

Fascism: A political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.
(Source: Merriam-Webster)

And a comment on the treatment of intellectuals in fascist regimes:

That’s why the intellectuals are the first to go in fascist, right wing regimes — to do away with critical thinking and informed dissent.
(– Dwight Ballard, March 28, 10:01PM)

Barisan Sosialis chairman, Dr Lee Siew Choh speaking at Barisan’s first lunchtime rally at Fullerton Square. — PHOTO: New Nation / Straits Times


Dr Lee Siew Choh (Barisan Sosialis assembly member, who spoke amid the “interruptions, sniggers and laughter of the PAP ministers”):

What happened on [2nd February; when Operation Coldstore was carried out] – the black day of Singapore — is now history.

In the early hours of the morning of 2nd February, sudden repressive action was taken against leaders of political Parties, trade unions, rural organisations, hawkers’ associations, universities, old boys’ associations, intellectuals and other progressive individuals. All those arrested were, and still are, anti-colonial and anti-Malaysia stalwarts and bitter and strong opponents of the PAP.

The mass arrests were all carried out with an intimidatory array of armed might. Accompanying plainclothes officers were fully armed police with combat troops in battledress standing by and on the ready. It reminds us of the days of the Gestapo of dictator Hitler and of the Japanese Kempetai. The Japanese Kempetai did exactly what the P.A.P. Government has done today.

The Barisan Sosialis bore the brunt of the onslaught and has suffered the most casualties. From our Central Executive Committee alone, nine members have been arrested and detained. They are our Vice Chairman, S. Woodhull, the Secretary-General Lim Ching Siong the Assistant General, Mr Poh Soo Kai, Committee members, Chok Koh Thong, Fong Swee Suan, Dr Lim Hock Siew, Lim Shee Ping, Dominic Puthucheary and Tan Yam Seng. From our Central Cultural sub-committee, Central Organisation sub-committee, Publication sub-committee and Branch Committees, altogether more than 40 from the Barisan Sosialis have been detained.

I will table a list of names of Barisan members recently detained. The total number under detention, together with those from other organisations, we now learn, is 133. Nine have been released, leaving 124 still under detention. 124 innocent persons, deprived of their individual freedom and kept behind walls in solitary confinement, and given treatment worse than that of convicted criminals.

Why? All because they oppose imperialism and neo-colonialism. All because they oppose the British-sponsored Malaysia, and because they, oppose the P.A.P. The powers that be, in order to give an excuse for locking them up, made them out to be dangerous men. The Prime Minister says, “These are the people who will mount the barricades.” Yet, not so very long ago, he used to ridicule them as beer-hall revolutionaries. Now, because 4 suits the purpose of the P.A.P., they have suddenly become dangerous men. And, of course, it suits the Prime Minister. But let us ask: Did they steal or rob? No. Did they kill or murder? No. Did they take part in riots? No. Did they take up arms against the Government? Again, no! Yet, all these 124 persons have been arbitrarily arrested and detained without charge or trial, and treated worse than convicted criminals! Why? Why, Mr Prime Minister? Why, Mr Deputy Prime Minister?

Today, as a result of the arrests, threats and intimidations a change has come over Singapore. The people prefer not to talk so very loudly of politics these days. Many clam up on politics the moment they see strangers around. There is an atmosphere of suspicion, uncertainty and fear. There are so many spies and informers around that no one can be certain that what he says will not be carried back to the ears of the fearful P.A.P. Without doubt, Singapore has become a Police State. Those in authority can resort to arbitrary arrests at any time. The only law in the State seems to be the law of the Police, the Special Branch and the P.A.P.

What has taken place and is taking place today merely confirms what we have all along been saying, namely, that the P.A.P. is endangering democracy and that parliamentary democracy under the P.A.P. has already become Fascist dictatorship.

If such a Police State is going to be the blessing of Malaysia, then we must be prepared for worse things to come. We need only see from how the arrests were carried out the things to expect with the formation of Malaysia. Innocent people engaged in legitimate pursuits have been arrested and some very quickly whisked off to the Federation without the families even notified where they were sent. It is like being shanghaied, or kidnapped, and that, by the powers that be in the country. It is so unbelievable. The brutality and callousness of the people have to be seen to be believed.

Source: Singapore Legislative Assembly Debates, vol. 20, 5 April 1963, col. 68.

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A few more comments on Operation Coldstore:

(1) “It was a dark day in the history of Singapore in 1963. So many talented young people who had contributed greatly and would have continued their great works in society were hauled suddenly into prison because of the change of heart and loyalty of one man.”
( —ThatWeMayDreamAgain, 2013)

(2) “Who would have thought that brilliant lawyers like John Eber, Lim Kean Chye, T.T. Rajah and G. Raman, and doctors like Lim Hock Siew, Poh Soo Kai and Ang Swee Chai would be arrested under the law?. . .Singapore lost many talents and brilliant leaders.

Today, former political prisoners have begun to fight back, to regain their self-esteem, dignity and integrity. Young Singaporeans are no longer afraid of befriending them. Indeed, there is a curiosity and an eagerness to know them in order to know the past. This has defeated one important purpose for the use of the ISA — that of ostracising political prisoners from society.

It is time the PAP government observed article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: ‘No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile.’ It is time that Singaporeans were free.”
( — Teo Soh Lung, Chapter 13 of 1963 Operation Coldstore: Commemorating 50 Years)

Thanks to ThatWeMayDreamAgain for posting the speech by Dr. Lee Siew Choh on FB, which also features in Teo Soh Lung’s essay in 1963 Operation Coldstore.

Thanks to Wen Wah for collecting some of the links below.

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More Information:

1) Function 8 (Website and Facebook — NPO to facilitate the sharing of social, political and economic experiences to contribute to society through reflection and civic discussion)

2) Dr. Lee Siew Choh (Wikipedia)

3) Tribute to Dr. Lee Siew Choh by Francis Seow (Singapore Window)

4) Escape From The Lion’s Paw: Reflections Of Singapore’s Political Exiles (on the “ISA being a law that makes a mockery of democracy”) | Select Books | Book Launch

5) FEAR is DEAD, by Teo Soh Lung (Facebook)

6) LKY and The Law Society, by Tan Fong Har (TOC)

7) Interview with historian, Thum Ping Tjin, on LKY’s Singapore (TOC)

8) New PAP book neglects founding members detained for 19 years (Martyn See / Singapore Rebel)

9) Operation Coldstore (Wikipedia)

10) S’pore’s 50th anniversary – time to have open dialogue on Operation Coldstore (TOC)

3 thoughts on “PAP: Fascist Dictatorship (1963)

  1. We still have 133 political prisoners detained without trial as we speak since 1963?
    This unacceptable.

    You know, the other day I was just joking with my friend when I started my blog, If I disappeared off the face of the planet it means I’ve been black bagged and detained without trial and he needs to get in touch with Amnesty and other foreign media… I’m starting to think there might be truth to what I said.


    1. Oh, the number 133 refers to the number of people arrested/detained in 1963.

      In more recent times:

      Detention without trial

      An unknown number of suspected Islamic militants were held under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which provided for detention without trial. One further arrest was known to have been made. Seven who had been held for up to nine years were released.


      Yeah, better not crack too many jokes on that matter (!!).

      Liked by 1 person

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