The University Socialist Club and the Contest for Malaya: Tangled Strands of Modernity 9789048515899

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Table of contents :
Contents
Acknowledgments
List of Photographs
Abbreviations
1. The Socialist Club and the Modernity Project
2. Awake in the Bowl of Night
3. The Fajar Trial
4. Visionary of the Nation, Voice of Stifled Malayans
5. A Beacon of Light on the Campus and Beyond
6. Frankly Partisan in the Struggle for Student Leadership
7. The Shadow over the Club
8. Resisting Malaysia, Swansong for Malaya
9. Long Night after Coldstore
10. In Defence of University Autonomy and Student Rights
11. Entwined Memories and Myths
Conclusion: Modernity in Singapore and Malaya Reconsidered
The University Socialists: Biographical Sketches
Timeline of Events
Notes
Bibliography
Index
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The University Socialist Club and the Contest for Malaya

Publications Series

General Editor Paul van der Velde Publications Officer Martina van den Haak Editorial Board Prasenjit Duara (Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore) / Carol Gluck (Columbia University) / Christophe Jaffrelot (Centre d’Études et de Recherches Internationales-Sciences-po) / Victor T. King (University of Leeds) / Yuri Sadoi (Meijo University) / A.B. Shamsul (Institute of Occidental Studies / Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia) / Henk Schulte Nordholt (Royal Netherlands Institute of Southeast Asian and Caribbean Studies) / Wim Boot (Leiden University) The IIAS Publications Series consists of Monographs and Edited Volumes. The Series publishes results of research projects conducted at the International Institute for Asian Studies. Furthermore, the aim of the Series is to promote interdisciplinary studies on Asia and comparative research on Asia and Europe. The International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS) is a postdoctoral research centre based in Leiden and Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Its objective is to encourage the interdisciplinary and comparative study of Asia and to promote national and international cooperation. The institute focuses on the humanities and social sciences and, where relevant, on their interaction with other sciences. It stimulates scholarship on Asia and is instrumental in forging research networks among Asia scholars worldwide. IIAS acts as an international mediator, bringing various parties together, working as a clearinghouse of knowledge and information. This entails activities such as providing information services, hosting academic organisations dealing with Asia, constructing international networks, and setting up international cooperative projects and research programmes. In this way, IIAS functions as a window on Europe for non-European scholars and contributes to the cultural rapprochement between Asia and Europe. For further information, please visit www.iias.nl.

The University Socialist Club and the Contest for Malaya Tangled Strands of Modernity Kah Seng Loh Edgar Liao Cheng Tju Lim Guo-Quan Seng

Publications Series

Monographs 7

Cover illustration: Poh Soo Kai shakes hands with D.N. Pritt while P. Arudsothy (second from left), Lam Khuan Kit (centre) and Lee Kuan Yew look on, 1954. Cover design: Maedium, Utrecht Layout: The DocWorkers, Almere ISBN e-ISBN e-ISBN NUR

978 90 8964 409 1 978 90 4851 589 9 (pdf) 978 90 4851 590 5 (ePub) 754

© IIAS / Amsterdam University Press, Amsterdam 2012 All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in or introduced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise) without the written permission of both the copyright owners and the author of the book.

Awake! For morning in the bowl of night Hath flung the stones that put the stars to flight. Omar Khayyám (verse accompanying issues of Fajar and Siaran Kelab Sosialis)

Contents

1

Acknowledgments

11

List of Photographs

15

Abbreviations

17

The Socialist Club and the Modernity Project A Post-war Background The Tangled Strands of Modernity Identities of the Socialist Club Contestations over Socialism, Student Activism and Identity Curtailment, Coldstore and the Cold War Convergences of Mobilisation and the Tensions Within Overview of the Book

19 22 25 28 31 33 34 38

2 Awake in the Bowl of Night Between the Emergency and Orderly Decolonisation A Mixed Political Club Early Contemplation, Criticism and Misfires A New Tone

41 42 47 54 57

3 The Fajar Trial “Aggression in Asia” and the “513 Incident” The Fajar 8, Pritt and Fund Raising The First Shots First Day Second Day Third Day – Game, Set, Match A Breaking Moment for Malaya

61 61 64 68 72 73 74 77

4 Visionary of the Nation, Voice of Stifled Malayans “We speak for many stifled Malayans” Organise and Mobilise The Lim Yew Hock Purges The 1959 National Language Seminar

81 82 85 95 98

8

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

5 A Beacon of Light on the Campus and Beyond Convergences with the Students’ Union and International Student Fraternity The Rise and Fall of the Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation Joint Activities, Joint Action

105

6 Frankly Partisan in the Struggle for Student Leadership The Discursive Battle over “Student Apathy” Campus Opponents, Critics and Detractors Contesting Socialism, Critiquing Fajar Storms in the Union over Partisanship “Patrons, Opportunists, Clowns and Clots”: The Rise of Rivals

127 128 131 136 140 144

7 The Shadow over the Club The Nodes and Chains of the Communist Discourse The Abdullah Majid Node and Post-Fajar Trial Anxieties The Linda Chen Node and Spotlight on the PMSF The John Eber Node and the London Connection The Cold War Information Order

153 154 158 159 162 164

8 Resisting Malaysia, Swansong for Malaya Singapore Independence: A Bold Rationalist Thesis The 1961 “Basis for Merger” Forum and the Parting of Ways Theorising National Unity, Interrogating Communalism Mobilising Principles, Battling the Leviathan

167 170 175 181 184

9 Long Night after Coldstore The Geopolitics of Greater Malaysia and Operation Coldstore After the Purges: Siaran Kelab Sosialis The 1966 Seminar on Communalism and National Unity

191 193 200 204

10 In Defence of University Autonomy and Student Rights The Sanctity of the University and the Student “A Seething Cauldron”: The 1963-1966 Pro-University Autonomy Movement Raging against the Dying of the Light, 1967-1971

209 210

11 Entwined Memories and Myths Misspent Youth and the Fajar Boys Countermemories and Staking Claims The Ghosts and Myths of History

233 235 243 248

Conclusion: Modernity in Singapore and Malaya Reconsidered

106 112 123

216 226

255

CONTENTS

9

The University Socialists: Biographical Sketches

265

Timeline of Events

281

Notes

287

Bibliography

325

Index

337

Acknowledgments

This book emerged and crystallised somewhere at the intersection between history, education and society. History because naturally the book is an attempt, like other academic histories, to extend our understanding of the past through rigorous research; our account investigates the less trodden areas of the making of the Singapore nation-state. Education, since at various points of time, we have been (or still are) school and university teachers. As the teaching of Singapore history courses becomes more sophisticated, and historical sources play a more important role in education, educators bear greater responsibility to bring students beyond the textbook, to develop their thinking skills and help transform them into active citizens. The Fajar trial of 1954 is an event with which the University Socialist Club is tied to and which has attained a mythic status in the standard narrative of modern Singapore – yet, one of the authors was initially unable to even locate the offending issue of the publication which led to the arrest of the editorial board members. The journey from source to student represents a key challenge for history teachers in Singapore, and this book will hopefully play a role in educating, and exciting, history students. Society, because texts on Singapore history are now produced, read and critiqued very differently from a generation ago. The culture of writing and reading history is being redefined at the interface between two social processes. One is the growing polarisation of historical views and claims as society liberalises and matures. The state no longer has a monopoly on historical knowledge, and mirror images of its rather tired account of the linear history of modern Singapore have emerged in the form of contending discourses both from the margins of society and in cyberspace. We have, in our writings and public talks, cautioned about what one of us has called reading history for inspiration and vilification by some young Singaporeans – that is, reading the past selectively for heroes and acts of repression in order to address contemporary concerns. The second process is the increasing willingness of some former left-wing activists to speak publicly about their political participation and, as they insist, contributions to the complex struggles that built post-colonial Singapore. This process is double-edged – our book is one instance of how oral histories can combine with the imperial archive

12

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

and student writings to enrich academic scholarship. Yet, oral testimonies of the left, which oppose the state narrative on one level but converge with it as a group of modernist-nationalist discourses, also pose a major challenge to the historian and educator – how does one mediate between the demands of academe, prerogatives of education and growing social disenchantment with the Singapore Story? When The Fajar Generation, edited by three former Socialist Club members, appeared in 2009, we were suitably chastised by our relative lack of progress in our book. But the publication of the earlier book probably did some good by making us reconsider the project we had on our hands and what we wanted to say. Although we did not find an easy answer, our response is to tell an empathetic story of the Club, detached from the old clichés of communist manipulation, while not forgetting the ideological blinkers and failures in the Club’s history. We also decided that our account should avoid swapping heroes and villains, and yet still try to find a way to connect the various political players in a compelling narrative which makes history meaningful to academics, educators and students. Such a project has been made possible by a wide group of helpful historical participants, friends, institutions and colleagues. Former members of the Socialist Club have both shared their memories and their thoughts on its place in Singapore history. We wish to thank Michael Fernandez for kick-starting the project, providing important contacts and drafting the biographical sketches at the end of the book; Tan Jing Quee, Koh Kay Yew, Lim Hock Siew and Poh Soo Kai for the initial conversations; Wang Gungwu for his guidance and encouragement at an early stage; and the other former members with whom we spoke or corresponded – too many to name but whose stories and reflections provide an invaluable insight into the political milieu and mental world of the students of the old University of Malaya. A number of institutions assisted us in various ways. We owe a debt of gratitude to the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Singapore) and its director K. Kesavapany, who provided the financial support and moral impetus for exploring new ground in Singapore history. We also wish to thank Singapore Press Holdings for the use of their photographs, the Institute of Policy Studies and Tan Chin Tuan Foundation. We are indebted to our hardworking researchers and translators, including Yu-Mei Balasingamchow and her excellent research team, Wong Yee Tuan, Marlina Rosni and Kartini Sappuru. There were many academics and friends who helped us translate the project from idea to book, particularly Meredith Weiss who invited us to two enriching workshops on student activism in the Asia-Pacific; Cheah Boon Kheng; Terence Chong; participants at two work-in-progress seminars in

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

13

Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, who gave us helpful comments and personal insights; and the anonymous reviewers of the manuscript. We reserve a special mention for Chew Kheng Chuan, whom we regard as a friend of the project and who helped move it past obstacles along the way. We are most grateful to our families and dear ones, who helped make life normal for us while we worked on an extraordinary project in contemporary Singapore. Finally, we had the privilege of working, with great pleasure, with a dedicated and supportive team of editors at the International Institute of Asian Studies and Amsterdam University Press. The authors February 2012

List of Photographs

Plate 1.1 Plate 2.1 Plate Plate Plate Plate

3.1 3.2 4.1 4.2

Plate 8.1

Plate 8.2

Plate 9.1 Plate 10.1

Plate 11.1

At the launch of The Fajar Generation, 2009 Header of Fajar Vol. 1 No. 3 of October 1953, with the signature verse by Omar Khayyám “Aggression in Asia”, the article in Fajar No. 7 Meeting the Queen’s Counsel at the airport A bridge to the labour movement, 1960 Socialist Club alumni Linda Chen, well-versed in Malay, makes a point at the National Language Seminar, 1959 The “Basis for Merger” forum which publicly signified the parting of ways within the PAP, organised by the Socialist Club at the University of Malaya campus, 1961 Ballot counters and onlookers at the Gallup Poll organised by the Socialist Club and Nanyang University Political Science Society in 1962 in Tanjong Pagar Dr Lim Hock Siew Student societies of the University of Singapore, Nanyang University and Ngee Ann College, including the Socialist Club, protest against the Wang Gungwu Curriculum Review Committee Report outside the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, 1965 Opening the memory gates

20 57 62 71 87

100

177

187 199

220 238

Abbreviations

ABL COSEC CWC DSC ISC ISD IUS IUSY JAC MCP NATCSU NHO NUSS NUSU PAP PKPPTM PMSF SATU SCMSSU SNAF SPSU TCSU STUC UMNO UMSU USSU

Anti-British League Coordinating Secretariat Central Working Committee Democratic Socialist Club International Students Conference Internal Security Department International Union of Students International Union of Socialist Youths Joint Activities Committee, Joint Action Committee Malayan Communist Party Ngee Ann Technical College Students’ Union Non-Hostelites Organisation National Union of Singapore Students Nanyang University Students’ Union People’s Action Party Persatuan Kebangsaan Pelajar-Pelajar Persekutuan Tanah Melayu Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation Singapore Association of Trade Unions Singapore Chinese Middle Schools Students’ Union Student National Action Front Singapore Polytechnic Students’ Union Technical College Students’ Union Singapore Trade Union Congress United Malays National Organisation University of Malaya Students’ Union University of Singapore Students’ Union

1 The Socialist Club and the Modernity Project

The making of modern post-colonial Singapore, according to Men in White, a book on the history of the People’s Action Party (PAP) published in 2009, began at Cromwell Road in London in 1948, when a trio of students formed the Malayan Forum with the aim of creating an independent, socialist Malaya, including Singapore. They were Goh Keng Swee, Maurice Baker and Abdul Razak Hussein. Lee Kuan Yew, then at Cambridge University, kept in touch with them. These students, we are told, were exceptional among the English-educated students, who were concerned only with “girls, movies and sports”. Yet, in the next act of the narrative, the four were in Goh’s home in Singapore, speaking to Sydney Woodhull, a student at the University of Malaya in Singapore, about how they could “help Fajar”. Fajar, meaning “dawn” in Malay, was the organ of the University of Malaya Socialist Club, of which Woodhull was the Publications Secretary.1 The Club, like the Malayan Forum, pursued a socialist vision of Malaya, including Singapore. Lee subscribed to the journal and was the Club’s legal adviser. This “liaison”, the book tells us, invigorated the anti-colonial movement and more pertinently, Lee’s political career: when the British colonial government arrested eight editorial committee members of Fajar, including Woodhull, for publishing an allegedly seditious article in May 1954, it was Lee who recruited the Queen’s Counsel D.N. Pritt for their defence and became “a hero of high-minded English-educated intellectuals” when the students were acquitted. With his anti-colonial credentials strengthened, Lee subsequently made contact with the Chineseeducated political activists and founded the PAP in November that year.2 Standing in contrast to Men in White is The Fajar Generation, which appeared a few months later in both English and Mandarin. The editors Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew, all one-time members of the Socialist Club, had compiled a collection of narratives and essays written by former Club members. The University Socialists, as Club members sometimes called themselves, were English-educated intellectuals who chose to participate in the political struggle ahead of a privileged path to a successful career, as most of their peers allegedly did. According to the editors, it was fellow Club members, not Lee, who

20

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

brought in Pritt to defend the accused students, although the trial undoubtedly enhanced Lee’s growing socialist reputation. As the editors point out, however, the trial had wider political ramifications: many of the Club’s activists became founder members of the PAP and, upon graduating, key drivers in the broad-based socialist coalition in the 1950s, particularly in the trade unions, which spearheaded the struggle for a united Malaya. In the early 1960s, however, Fajar was banned, and many of the Club’s alumni, including Poh Soo Kai and Tan Jing Quee, were detained without trial. The entire socialist movement was proscribed, bringing to a close a period of open political contention.3 The Fajar Generation aimed to provide a new account of Singapore history from the perspectives of those who had been “forgotten, sidelined and marginalised”; one of the editors surmises, “the Tower wants calm but the Wind will not subside”.4 In Men in White and The Fajar Generation, the opposing views are discernible: the first foregrounds Lee Kuan Yew’s ascendancy to become prime minister and Singapore’s development under the PAP government, the other unearths the forgotten history of part of the Singapore left which was suppressed in the making of the Singapore nation-state. The first leads to a familiar present predicated on the accepted rule of the government, the second contrasts the present with a group of ideals which have been defeated and forgotten: left-wing socialism, student Plate 1.1

At the launch of The Fajar Generation, 2009

Panel from left: Koh Kay Yew, Tan Jing Quee, Dr Poh Soo Kai, Tan Kok Fang, R. Joethy, and Dr Lim Hock Siew (speaking) Photograph by Loh Kah Seng

THE SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE MODERNITY PROJECT

21

activism and the union of Singapore and Malaya. For Men in White, the purposeful focus on the trial underscores the PAP as the only viable option for Singapore, contrasted against the stark choices of British colonialism, China-inspired communism and communal politics in Malaya. The narrative of Men in White contains silences in the history of the Club and more generally the left. This highlights the role of power in the production of history, in this case, of the powerful state-sanctioned account known as the Singapore Story.5 But while Men in White and The Fajar Generation offer contested pasts and presents, a closer scrutiny also reveals convergence. Both accounts trace the origins of the PAP and indeed the revival of the entire anti-colonial movement in the 1950s to the sedition trial.6 This perspective renders the trial a baptism of fire for youthful nationalists. Lee Kuan Yew credits it as facilitating his crucial initiation into the politically vibrant “world of the Chinese-educated”, and the University Socialists similarly view the trial in a heroic frame.7 The two accounts also concur on the political apathy of English-educated students, underlining the role of social mobilisation in the contest for Malaya by both the left and its opponents. This book uses these complex narratives of the Club’s history as a point of departure for understanding the complex party and student politics involved in the making of Malaya. The Club’s relations with other political and student groups unveil a new perspective on politics in Singapore and Malaya after World War II. This book avoids the ideological approach undertaken in most studies, which marks down groups along the political spectrum as “moderate”, “pro-communist” etc. In such an approach, the historical narrative often emphasises contestations between the groups. Contention was certainly an important theme; the Fajar trial clearly defined a contest between the Club and the colonial regime. The Club, too, was frequently involved in a clash of views with student and political groups it deemed to be conservative, exploitative or collaborating with the colonial regime. However, this book views the post-war history more fundamentally in terms of an overarching struggle to establish modernity – in the form of the nation-state, of an independent Malaya including Singapore. This endeavour comprised a multitude of political and student groups along the political spectrum; it involved some groups in conflict at some point, but also collaboration among the same groups at other points, and vice versa. In the movement for university autonomy in the 1960s, in particular, the Club collaborated with student groups it once castigated as politically enfeebled. This change of roles also marked the Club’s relationship with the PAP, which it once supported as the vanguard of progressive politics in the 1950s; the support ended once the PAP was elected into office and began to substitute the pragmatic idea

22

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

of “the university for development” for the notion of “the university for independent thought”. Where they occurred, the contestations were not static or fixed as most studies have assumed, but located along a plane of modernist political change, where they were fluid and could slide towards or away from convergence as circumstances evolved and changed. This book investigates the contestations, convergences and shifts in the making of modern Singapore and Malaya.

A Post-war Background The story of the Socialist Club took place within the convergence and collision of three major developments in Malaya and Singapore. First, World War II irrevocably weakened the British ability to reconstitute the pre-war empire and nurtured a variety of local nationalist movements for self-rule. Initially, to the Chinese at least, the Japanese occupation also gave legal and moral authority to the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) as having been the defacto resistance during the Japanese occupation. The various ideas of self-determination were fundamentally transnational; they inspired nationalists throughout colonial and semicolonial Asia, Africa and Latin America, who adapted them locally and circulated them beyond political boundaries. These ideas often had a socialist component, which framed social and cultural life in the colonies to be in states of deterioration and crisis and necessitating state intervention, although the problems had long existed in the pre-war era. Both left-wing socialists and their opponents optimistically believed that these problems could be rectified and a new society built, using some rationalist principle and method, upon the ashes of the war. Second, decolonisation was carefully managed by the British, given Singapore’s importance as naval base and entrepot port, and the value of Malaya’s dollar-earning rubber and tin exports.8 The British returned to both territories with extensive plans to build a nation where none had existed, through colonial oversight, constitutional review, socioeconomic reform and a greater degree of tolerance for political pluralism. Decolonisation, too, had an important cultural arm: to forge a viable nation-state out of disparate racial communities, by transferring pre-war Malay and migrant loyalties, respectively, from Sultan and ancestral homeland to the nation-state. Language, education and culture became hotly-contested issues, inextricable from the political destinies of Singapore and Malaya. Third, both British plans and local nationalism were affected by the onset of the Cold War, expressed locally in the outbreak of a shooting war between the colonial regime and the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) in 1948. For the duration of the Malayan Emergency until 1960,

THE SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE MODERNITY PROJECT

23

with the MCP driven underground, the British possessed vast powers to indefinitely detain persons deemed to be security threats, while leftwing socialists operated under the constant risk of being labelled and proscribed as communists. This was despite the fact that, as T.N. Harper surmises, “[t]he very idea of a ‘Communist United Front’ is perhaps a misnomer: most of the groups caught up in leftist popular radicalism, the Jacobinism of the day, were neither communist, united, nor a front for anybody but themselves”.9 The combination of nationalism, managed decolonisation and anticommunism was manifest in Malaya. In 1946, the British introduced the Malayan Union scheme, a plan conceived in London which offered hope for equality for the peninsula’s three major races: the Malays, Chinese and Indians. However, the scheme provoked fierce protests from the Malays and was quickly abandoned in favour of a pro-Malay Federation in 1948. As the British increasingly accommodated Malay, rather than multiracial, demands, Federation nationalism became ethnicised. It culminated in the formation, in 1955, of the Alliance coalition comprising of the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO), representing the Malays and the Alliance’s main partner; the Malayan Chinese Association, representing the Chinese; and the Malayan Indian Congress, representing the Indians. The Alliance won the Federation elections in 1955 and formed the government of an independent Malaya two years later. This Anglo-Malay collaboration must also be seen in the context of an entente against the MCP: endorsing communal politics, the British accelerated the pace of constitutional progress to counter the communists’ charges of continuing colonialism, while the Alliance firmly supported the counter-insurgency programme. In this sense, the Emergency, as Frank Furedi notes, enabled the British to selectively promote or isolate nationalist groups through the exercise of total rule.10 Singapore was politically separated from the peninsula in 1946, mainly on account of its large Chinese majority which would have altered the racial balance in Malaya. In the city-state, decolonisation was also organised from above, although the British had greater difficulty finding a suitable partner which was the local equivalent of UMNO. Local fervour leaned towards left-wing socialist leaders, and political parties with perceived connections to the colonial regime were unable to secure the popular vote as the British continually enlarged the franchise. One party which seemed able to do so was the PAP, formed in 1954 with a combined Fabian and left-wing socialist leadership. The party was able to expand its mass support under the aegis of the 1954 Rendel Constitution, which liberalised the scope of political participation to some degree. The PAP became the focal point of the left-wing movement, which included the trade unions, Chinese middle school students and peasant organisations. At times, this socialist-inspired

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THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

nationalism collided with the British plan for orderly decolonisation, resulting in crackdowns against the left in 1955-1957. The PAP, however, remained intact under the leadership of the Fabianist group led by Lee Kuan Yew, which was acceptable to both the colonial regime and the population at large; in 1959, the party convincingly won the general elections and Lee became prime minister of a self-governing Singapore. By the end of the 1950s, collaborative politics was entrenched in both Singapore and Malaya. In the Federation, the Alliance-led communal system effectively defeated challenges from multiracial and socialist parties, and from the MCP. In Singapore, again, the situation was rather more complex and the early 1960s witnessed political manoeuvring to sort out the form of the post-colonial order. Return to the Malayan fold remained an article of faith for most Singapore politicians, although UMNO’s leaders were wary of the island’s left-leaning Chinese majority. With the UMNO and British leaders, the Lee government formulated a plan for a “super-merger” of British and ex-British territories in the region, including Sarawak, Sabah and Brunei. The political implications of this “Malaysia” plan, which entailed the proscription of the Singapore left prior to the merger as Kuala Lumpur demanded, led to a split within the PAP in 1961. The left-wing group was expelled from the party and forced to form a new group known as the Barisan Sosialis (Socialist Front). The Barisan opposed the Malaysia plan as a neocolonial plot, but was defeated in a national referendum on the merger in 1962. The following year, after secret negotiations between the British, PAP and Alliance leaders, the left’s top leaders and mass organisations were proscribed in a series of crackdowns on charges of involvement in violent communist activities. The merger was realised on 16 September 1963, but Malaysia was essentially a marriage of convenience for the PAP and UMNO and did not last long. After irreconcilable differences over political and economic issues soured relations between the PAP and Alliance governments and culminated in race riots in 1964, Singapore separated from Malaysia on 9 August 1965 to become a sovereign state. But already from the point of self-government in 1959, the PAP had instituted far-reaching internal reforms, and the social and cultural landscape was being transformed even before Singapore attained its independence; the university was increasingly coming under state control to serve robust programmes of nation-building, industrial development and social integration. The Socialist Club emerged at the nexus between nationalism, decolonisation and counter-insurgency. It was a political club at the University of Malaya which promoted political discussion, particularly of socialism, in the university. The Club was formed in 1953, with Singapore still in the firm grip of the Emergency Regulations and before the revival of left-wing politics which the Fajar trial would

THE SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE MODERNITY PROJECT

25

precipitate and which the Rendel Constitution would to some extent tolerate. The Club’s membership was fairly small and, except for two brief periods in its history, it subscribed to a Marxian form of socialism, although the Club was not a front for the MCP.11 The first period was in the initial year of the Club’s founding, when it had a mix of left-wing socialists and those of a more centrist leaning. The Fajar trial led to the departure of the latter from the Club. Under left-wing leadership for most of the 1950s, the Club expanded its activities beyond the campus to participate in party politics and the mobilisation of workers, students and peasants on both sides of the causeway, in tandem with the revival of anti-colonial politics in Singapore. The University Socialists were committed intellectuals who articulated the plight of workers, students and peasants and provided the political bridge between these groups and the PAP. The second exception to left-wing dominance was in 1959, when Tommy Koh’s stewardship introduced a more liberal phase. The Club, however, soon returned to its left-wing roots, and it emerged from the PAP split in 1961, which it tried in vain to prevent, on the side of the Barisan Sosialis. The University Socialists supported the Barisan’s critique of Malaysia as a neocolonialist plot; for this, they paid a heavy political price – the ban of Fajar in 1963 – as the Singapore left suffered a number of massive crackdowns. The Club survived the purges with its influence constrained to the campus, but was able to participate in the student movement for university autonomy in the mid-1960s. The decade, however, saw decreasing political space for independent activism within the PAP’s programme of national integration and development. The student movement was broken in 1966 and, increasingly unable to project an autonomous voice thereafter, the Club was deregistered in 1971.12

The Tangled Strands of Modernity The key political players of post-war Singapore and Malaya were, regardless of ideological leaning, fundamentally modernist. By modernist, we refer to their basic reflexivity towards social and political life which rejects the future as being pre-ordained.13 Despite their ideological differences, the various political groups shared a desire to establish a modern nation-state around which social and political life would be organised. Their endeavours are not best categorised ideologically, but are better understood as diverse forms of non-Western nationalism which are “derivative discourses” of Western modernity. As Partha Chatterjee noted, while nationalism rejects the colonial edifice, it nevertheless was a modernist discourse which shared with colonialism the fundamental

26

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

belief in Western concepts of reason and science. Chatterjee points out that nationalism is deeply contradictory: it rejects the expression of Westernism in colonialism, but retains a basic belief in postEnlightenment rationality; this ultimately marginalises indigenous ways to determine the shape of the nation.14 Optimism and idealism, which were central to the nationalist imagination in Singapore and Malaya, expressed the reflexivity of the different political and student groups. Both the Socialist Club and its opponents determined to replace the old colonial system with a new state, mobilise the people into a new vertical relationship with the state as citizens, and deliver the promises of unity and development for the state and a better future for the citizens. The political and student groups expanded these shared modernist objectives into various ideological forms. As will be explained in a later section, the ideologies were fluid, vague and contested. The book adopts these imperfect labels, partly because they were used by the political actors themselves and were an important mark of their selfidentity, and partly because the labels were used discursively by the groups against other groups and by the state to sanction political action. Ideologically, four broad positions are discernible. The liberaldemocratic option was preferred by the colonial regime, mirroring the British parliamentary system and envisaging a non-communist state formed along multiracial lines. The university, it envisaged, was the crucible for future political leaders of the country. In Malaya, however, it was quickly superseded by a communal arrangement which privileged the position of the Malays, as expressed in the form of the Alliance coalition. In Singapore and Malaya, there were two socialist alternatives. In the city-state, in particular, reformist-Fabian (later democratic) socialism was the ideology of the Lee Kuan Yew group in the PAP, while the left advocated the more radical Marxian form of socialism, although one based on constitutional politics rather than violent revolution.15 The ideologies diverged from one another in the methods used, the pace and scale of change, the form and content of the imagined nation, and the new relationship between state and citizens. The focus on modernity does not mean that ideological differences were inconsequential: they brokered or broke alliances of politicians and activists and mobilised blocs of workers, students and peasants in Singapore and Malaya. Which political group was deemed acceptable to the British as heirs of the colonial state was also determined by the Cold War, an ideological conflict, in Southeast Asia. But what the overwhelming focus on ideology in the literature has done is to mask the modernist convergences which lie beneath the ideological differences. The focus produces an overly static and simplistic view of the post-war politics, with different participants and events slotted into neat boxes. In fact, central to the history were contestations and convergences

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between the various sides to define the meanings of ideological and political concepts such as “socialism”, “independence”, “university”, “politics”, “student activist” and “student”. These terms were basic concepts used by various political and student groups, but they were also conceptually elastic and meant different things to different groups. They belonged to a group of rationalist terms which, as Dipesh Charkrabarty observes, “bear the burden of European thought and history”.16 In Asian contexts, they were not words of disinterested description but, like the labels “communism” or “right-wing”, often serve to accuse or justify reorganisation. Drawing further from Chatterjee, the debate over these terms was also about how to achieve another basic aim of the post-colonial state: development. This was an enterprise to which all the contending parties subscribed and which required the mobilisation of various social groups in the country. Socialists in the 20th century, Chatterjee notes, naively tried to marshal the power of reason to overcome the domination of capital without realising how these two universal forces were closely connected.17 In post-war Singapore and Malaya, while agreed on the necessity of development, competing political and student groups diverged on its forms and means. Some, typically but not only those linked to the colonial establishment, endorsed the role of capital; upon Singapore’s independence, the PAP pursued foreign capital investment in its industrialisation drive. The left held that subjugating capital was necessary to deliver social justice to the masses, but felt that this was to be achieved through state-driven policies of industrial and agricultural modernisation. The reformist socialists advocated a middle ground which justified state intervention in the economy and the creation of a welfare state. In their rationalism to create a new society and new citizens, both the colonial regime and nationalist groups were, to use James Scott’s term, high modernist. This refers to a mature form of modern social governance based on scientific-rational principles, which sought not only to transform nature, but also human nature. High modernism, Scott notes, cuts across the traditional political divide between the left and right and attracts those seeking to “bring about huge utopian changes in people’s work habits, living patterns, moral conduct, and worldview”.18 From a high modernist standpoint, the Socialist Club’s aim was to integrate workers, students and peasants into a new and much closer relationship with the nation-state, as the socialist state seeks an equitable distribution of wealth to improve their lives. The inner contradiction of the entire nationalist enterprise in Singapore and Malaya, which applied to all political and student groups, was to promise colonial subjects and Asian sojourners freedom while preparing for them to inherit new responsibilities as citizens, besides new rights.

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This is indicative of the basic inner tension in modernity between autonomy and discipline.19

Identities of the Socialist Club Among the multiple modernities, the Socialist Club possessed not a single identity but inhabited several overlapping roles which distinguished it from other nationalist groups. The question of roles which Meredith Weiss has asked about Malay(si)an student activists is useful: did they see themselves as proto-citizens, third-party observers or disempowered citizens, or did they mobilise as students, Muslims, youths, or Malaysians?20 An ongoing project on student activism in Pacific Asia, led by Weiss and Edward Aspinall, has sought to explain why student activists, in acting as students, sometimes chose to remain above politics and eschew links with other political and social actors. In cases like Thailand, Burma, Japan, Hong Kong and South Korea, student activists worked closely with other groups as part of a larger political movement.21 In other countries like Indonesia, students have sought to act independently as a moral force because joining a political movement incurs a greater risk of state suppression.22 The Socialist Club collaborated with other social and political groups, including other student groups, while remaining active in campus activism. The University Socialists functioned as an intelligentsia, as an articulate voice for modernist ideas for forging a new socialist nation which engaged its allies. The University Socialists were different from their left-wing allies in a fundamental way. While members of the Lee Kuan Yew and particularly Lim Chin Siong-led groups in the PAP were also young, the Club’s activists differed not so much in their absolute age, but in their roles as students aspiring to shape the country’s politics. Weiss, in exploring the category “student”, makes a useful distinction between activists who advocate the narrow interests of their own class or group (such as trade unionists) and students who seemingly operate on behalf of others.23 Admittedly, the “altruism” of student politics requires some qualification. While many trade unionists come from the rank and file, there are often exceptions; the Socialist Club’s history shows many instances of alumni joining the labour movement in Singapore and Malaya, whereupon they advocated the interests of workers and the imagined nation. Student activists, too, have also strongly defended their own rights; writing in its organ in 1953, the Club argued for the university as an autonomous space for the pursuit of “Truth” in an article aptly titled, “Students Speak Up”.24 Another example can be seen in the 1966 student protests in Singapore, which the Club supported, against the state’s increasing control over the university. Finally, the case of

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Chinese-educated middle school students reveals that their political activism was largely pragmatically inspired: they opposed a colonial system which privileged the English-educated and condemned Chinese schoolleavers to menial or blue-collar jobs or a livelihood outside the British civil service. According to the principle of “altruism”, Chinese-educated students were not truly student activists but political or labour activistsin-intent. This distinguishes Chinese middle school students from university student activists to some extent. The University Socialists, then, were student activists who advocated both the interests and rights of others as well as those of their own. The two forms of activism should not be seen as exclusive. The activism was marked by a youthful idealism and sense of moral mission. Again, this was not unique to the Club, for the entire socialist movement in post-war Singapore and Malaya could be regarded as an optimistic endeavour, not only in its determination to lead a mass movement against the powerful colonial edifice, but also in the belief that a just order could be forged anew on imperial ruins. But the Club’s idealism, circumscribed by their role as students, was relatively more consistent, critical and less tainted by politics or pragmatics. As the 1954 Fajar acquittal gave a major boost to the Club’s sense of mission, so its optimism later sustained its efforts to prevent the PAP split in 1960-1961 and maintain the unity of the socialist movement. This idealism mandated the Club, in its view, to play important roles as the voice and vanguard of Malayan socialism. It would be tempting, but inaccurate, to simply classify the University Socialists as an English-educated group. To some degree, they saw themselves in that light; in the 1960s, they described Fajar as “the only journal of the English-educated Leftwing”.25 The University Socialists were also acutely aware of their privileged status and their link through the English language to the instruments and culture of colonial power. Yet, while they keenly pursued the idea of a national language other than English, the English-educated identity itself did not determine the Club’s activism in other areas. In engaging the trade union movement, fellow students at the University of Malaya and international student leaders, the English-language identity was marginal; in these cases, the University Socialists acted primarily as socialist student activists. In the 1960s, with its role largely confined to the university, the Club cooperated with other student organisations, including Chinese-educated groups, to defend university autonomy and student rights; again, this should not be seen so much as bridging the Englishand Chinese-educated divide, but as demonstrating the unity of student activists against state infringements. As idealistic intellectuals, the Club advocated the interests of both students and non-students, sometimes defending its own group interests, at other times venturing into the

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realm of politics on behalf of others. Both these roles limited the English-educated identity of the University Socialists, who even rejected the primacy of English and were excessively self-conscious about what they viewed as its neocolonialist status. The post-war modernity project was driven by the agency of new elites, but it was also both enabled and constrained from above by the departing British colonial regime. Post-war Singapore and Malaya experienced a period of relative political openness and pluralism which Harper called the “Malayan Spring”.26 The Malayan Spring was in fact the twin of counter-insurgency; together they constituted Whitehall’s strategic plan for orderly decolonisation and the creation of viable postcolonial states which would protect Britain’s security and economic interests in the region.27 The Malayan Spring project was as deeply modernist as the visions of the political and student groups; British decolonisation was expressed as much in social policy such as education and housing as in constitutional and political reform.28 It was within the Rendel Constitution’s framework that left-wing activism in the university and later in national politics was permitted during the second phase of the Malayan Spring in the 1950s – up to a point. This “Second Malayan Spring” was a “tease”, meant to encourage the revival of a variety of political groups, from which suitable leaders would be found to inherit the colonial state. The Socialist Club was an early instance of the experiment. Its contribution towards the formation of the PAP and revival of progressive politics in the decade took place largely within the bounds of orderly decolonisation. Britain desired a form of modernity that was liberal-democratic in its politics, non-communal in its ordering of society and pro-capital in its approach to socio-economic organisation. But Whitehall did not have full control over the decolonisation process: it could only establish the general framework and rules and then manage local developments tactically. In Malaya, imperial plans were achieved in collaboration with the Alliance coalition by driving the MCP into the jungle and resettling large numbers of rural Chinese in planned New Villages. The opposite, however, occurred in Singapore, where politics remained distinctly noncommunal and gravitated towards a left-wing movement which stood across the ideological divide from the British liberal-democratic vision. The Socialist Club became the movement’s intellectual arm and voice. The political dichotomy between Singapore and Malaya sprang, then, from the nature of the Second Malayan Spring experiment.

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Contestations over Socialism, Student Activism and Identity It was at the multiple points of the modernist project that the Socialist Club would often contend but at times also converge with other political and student groups towards the creation of a modern nation. The engagement between the groups was frequently fluid and unstable. Politics in Singapore was marked by ideological diversity: the PAP itself comprised of Fabian and left-wing socialists, while at the University of Malaya, a similar tension existed initially within the Socialist Club, and between the Club and its campus critics. As Harper insightfully put it, it was also a “claustrophobic” world, where “one party could easily malign the intentions of another”.29 He credits left-wing leader Lim Chin Siong with successfully weaving together the different political forces in post-war Singapore into a potent socialist movement; nevertheless, such an achievement both encountered inner tensions and produced divisions with other groups.30 The most common of the interactions between the modernities was a clash of perspectives over the shared vocabulary of nationalism and development. Much of this intellectual contestation was waged in the meetings of student committees, the pages of their publications and in public forums. As a student intelligentsia imbued with a strong sense of idealism, the Socialist Club became involved in fierce debates to define the meaning of terms like “socialism”, “independence”, “university”, “politics” and “student activism”. A factitious struggle to define what being a “Malayan socialist” meant arose between the Club and other groups which also viewed themselves as socialist. The term broadly referred to a vague, widely accepted idea of the state managing the means of production to ensure a more equitable distribution of wealth and to raise the general standard of living. This ideal was a nationalist response to the effects of Western colonialism and capitalism, but it was also modernist in the optimism that a just future was attainable through the application of rational-scientific planning and organisation. The problem, however, was that different meanings could be ascribed to the pace, means and ends of state-led change. Within the Socialist Club initially, there were those who believed in the reformist-Fabian socialism and who rejected revolutionary Marxism. The PAP itself was also characterised by divisions between the reformist Lee Kuan Yew group and the left-wing Lim Chin Siong faction. When the party came to power in 1959, Lee’s government began to speak of “democratic socialism”, distancing itself from Marxian socialism. Among student leaders at the University of Malaya, the concepts of “student activist” and “student” were deeply contested. The University Socialists and their university critics diverged over the bounds of

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student activism, which led to a further disagreement over what “politics” entailed. The Socialist Club emphasised the direct role of students in the political life of the country, and its members participated actively in party politics and helped mobilise the masses. It expressed a strong disdain for the “academic politics of the drawing room” and argued for its right, and duty, to contribute to the political development of Singapore and Malaya.31 The Club’s political activism raised the ire of the Students’ Union which drew the limits of student activism at the boundary of the campus, a view also held by the university authorities. Conversely, the Club charged the mainstream student leaders of being an “ivory tower” group with an elitist sense of self-importance; nevertheless, the University Socialists, in speaking on behalf of workers, students and peasants within the socialist imagination, were also ideologically distant from the masses. The roles of students and student leaders were fought over in various confrontations between the Club and Union, and in leadership struggles within the Union involving University Socialists in executive positions. The conflict also led to the downfall of the Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation (PMSF) in 1956, an attempt by students to unify various student bodies on both sides of the causeway. These campus conflicts demonstrate that the English-educated university student group was not homogenous but fractured. An extension of the “student debate” was the issue of partisanship. Different students, or groups of students, castigated the Socialist Club for being intellectually inconsistent, in keenly exposing the failings of Western democracies and not doing the same when appraising Eastern bloc states. The Club in turn stated its intention to be partisan and to “speak for many stifled Malayans”.32 However, the socialist framework was ultimately rationalistic: to read politics as a socialist was to centre one’s analysis “scientifically” around an ideological framework in pursuit of modernist change. One recalls Marx’s famous dictum that “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it”.33 The debate over partisanship and impartiality was really between two rationalist-modernist visions – one, the academic detachment of students within a liberal-democratic system, the other, where students were committed socialists helping to build a new society. The formation of the Socialist Club was approved by the university authorities subscribing to the first vision, but the Club departed from it to embrace the second approach and engage in national politics after the Fajar trial. A final arena of contestation emerges not in the past but over the meaning of the past in the present, and specifically over the role of history and historians. This book concludes its discussion by exploring the memories of University Socialists and their opponents. Their memories of history are also closely entwined. On the one hand, Lee Kuan Yew

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and other establishment figures view the Fajar trial as a catalyst for the rise of the PAP, leading in a linear fashion to an improved present; on the other, many University Socialists reject this triumphal history and point to a tradition of student political activism which had been suppressed by the state. This contest over the meaning of history constitutes a struggle to define one’s identity. At the same time, there exists a shared rationalist basis for assessing historical accounts: both sides view history as a verifiable endeavour and an objective judge, whose lessons would educate apathetic younger Singaporeans who are ignorant about the past. The discourse of apathy, once directed at English-educated students but now targeted at younger Singaporeans, reveals how another round of modernist mobilisation and social engineering is taking place in contemporary Singapore.

Curtailment, Coldstore and the Cold War The search for modernity within the framework of British decolonisation often entailed official surveillance against the socialists. It also culminated in acts of state harassment and suppression, both of which were essential to the work of orderly decolonisation. The Fajar arrests and trial of 1954 were a reaction from the colonial establishment, provoked by the Socialist Club’s support for Chinese middle school students arrested in their protest against National Service weeks earlier. The trial’s verdict invigorated the left-wing group in the Club, but would also drag it into further conflict with the state, culminating in Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock’s restriction order on Fajar in 1957. Although the ban was lifted when the PAP came to power in 1959, curtailment efforts by the state further intensified. These developments signalled the closing of the openness offered by the Second Malayan Spring experiment and the beginning of a new phase of Singapore history: that of transforming the university into a driver of development, rather than as a school for future statesmen. The pursuit of a capitalist modernity henceforth by the PAP had massive implications for student political activism in Singapore. With university students viewed as the future managers, technocrats and planners of a developmental state, rather than independent critics, the scope for political activism rapidly diminished. In late 1963, the PAP government banned Fajar as an “agitprop” publication serving as the mouthpiece of the Barisan, which constrained the Club’s influence largely to within the campus. In attaining self-government, too, the attention of those in power turned from finding heirs to the colonial state to formulating a viable post-colonial system – more specifically, in establishing a framework for a merger. Half a year before the ban on Fajar, many Socialist Club alumni were

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arrested under Operation Coldstore for supporting the Barisan Sosialis’ opposition to the merger plans sponsored by the British, the PAP and the Alliance governments. The crackdowns were made possible by another facet of the modern centralised administration: the intelligence and security services. In its surveillance of the University Socialists in the 1950s, the Special Branch constructed out of their interpersonal relationships a discourse which allegedly established dangerous chains of communist conspiracy. These chains became the building blocks of a “Cold War information order” for both the colonial and post-colonial states, which were expedient for defining the Singapore left as security threats. Information so systematically gathered, although ideologically slanted, became an important way for one modernist group to remove a rival from the modernity project. Operation Coldstore and the ban on Fajar dealt serious blows to the Socialist Club and the left-wing movement.

Convergences of Mobilisation and the Tensions Within Contestation and curtailment were not the only relationships between the different political and student groups. The shared basis of modernity meant that ideological positions were fluid and could slide over to or converge with others. A more obvious form of convergence, which the colonial rulers feared most and which often led to state curtailment, was between different left-wing groups. The Socialist Club undertook to build bridges to the wider society, so transcending, or in the eyes of security officials transgressing, class, occupational and cultural divides. Members of the Club wrote numerous articles in Fajar highlighting the plight of labour and the peasantry in Singapore and Malaya, while many of its alumni joined left-wing trade unions in both countries after their graduation. Again, the Club’s advocacy here was modernist, for while they articulated the interests of the masses, the activism was not merely humanitarian. The Club’s aim was not merely to bring material relief to the “stifled Malayans”, but to help mobilise them as the mass base for the anti-colonial struggle and thereafter as citizens of the socialist state to support new projects of modernisation and rapid development. Important, too, was the ability of members of the Socialist Club, PMSF and Chinese-medium institutions to collaborate on common causes such as Chinese education, university autonomy, student rights and in joint-action ventures. This multi-group student activism could be viewed as both “expressions of and protests against the process of modernisation”.34 The convergence of different student groups, however, came into conflict with, and was ultimately overcome by, the more powerful PAP vision of high modernism.

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The Socialist Club also cooperated with Chinese- and Malay-educated groups. The divides and bridges of the language issue have provoked considerable debate in recent years. Huang Jianli, in reframing student activism in post-war Singapore, has done important work in problematising the binary distinction between English- and Chinese-educated students. Huang rightly unpacks the dualism as being politically motivated, serving to depict the Chinese-educated students as pro-communist. He maintains: “It is Lee Kuan Yew’s account on the history of Singapore student movements that has greatly accentuated the differences, ascribed extraneous values, and introduced rigidity to the point of making the division between these two groups of students almost ahistorical”.35 Huang suggests instead a porous political world where both groups inhabited and interacted with each other; this book indeed finds many instances of such collaboration between the Socialist Club and the Chinese- and Malay-educated groups. This book, however, goes beyond Huang’s analysis in two ways. First, it is instructive to recall Partha Chatterjee’s observation about how nationalists in non-Western societies seek to fashion a modern national culture which is at the same time distinctively non-Western.36 In their advocacy of Mandarin and Malay, the University Socialists were not attempting to save “traditional” Asian languages, but also to adapt the existing languages to the demands of building a socialist state. The Socialist Club and others on the left, in rejecting the cultural vestiges of colonial rule, denied the administrative and economic dominance of the English language. The Club accepted that the Chinese language should have its rightful place in the new society, but this was not any of the vernaculars (often erroneously called “dialects”) used by the Chinese of particular provinces and localities in China, but Mandarin, a northern vernacular which became the accepted national language of China after the May Fourth Movement of the 1920s. In 1959, the Socialist Club also published a romanised Malay version of Fajar and organised a seminar proposing to elevate Malay as the national language of Malaya. Again, this was not the bazaar-Malay vernacular used by many people of different ethnic groups at the market place, but a reformed and more sophisticated form which could meet the cultural and economic demands of building a new state. The Club’s argument was that only sufficient will was needed to overcome the existing deficiencies of Malay as a national language and to develop a Malayan consciousness. The approach was fundamentally rationalist; the socialist solution to the language problem in Singapore and Malaya had nothing in it that was “natural”. This rationalist attempt to build a national language and culture could not hide the communal tensions within the socialist project. The ethnic communities, while at times able to bridge cultural and political divides, proposed their own solutions to specific problems. Many

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Chinese-educated students and adults alike did not advocate Mandarin as the national language of Malaya and in fact accepted the choice of Malay, as did the PAP government. However, the Chinese-educated community’s aspirations for its own language and education existed in tension with the socialist endeavour to forge a national culture based on Malay. Huang has revealed, in his study of the Wang Gungwu Report on Nanyang University, how the Chinese-educated did not want a “melting-pot” approach to the creation of a national culture, but desired to retain a distinctive Chinese identity and a Chinese-medium university of equal status to the University of Singapore.37 A further complication was that class and culture were entwined in post-war Singapore and Malaya in such a way that could not be easily untied with the ending of colonialism. In Singapore, the Socialist Club empathised with the Chinese-educated group’s concern with language and culture, which was linked to issues of employment and culture. In the Federation, however, the situation was reversed, with the Malay peasantry severely indebted to the Chinese capitalist class. The thrust of the anti-colonial struggle brought a certain unity to the Chinese and Malay groups on removing English as the language of administration and business. But since anti-colonialism was only the first phase of nation-building, it remained questionable if a national culture could be forged by socialist means in a society marked by inequitable distribution among the ethnic groups. The choice of Malay as the national language would not remove Sino-Malay economic problems in the peninsula, a point that some University Socialists were acutely aware of. The Socialist Club believed that communal problems could be solved by the due application of will, reason and scientific planning. During the merger debate, when the Club proposed the idea of a Malay national language to the Alliance government to soothe its fears of Chinese dominance, Tunku was predictably unmoved. The Club continued to deplore communalism when race riots broke out in Singapore in 1964, and two years later convened the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, which held out for the possibility of a re-merger and the need to bridge the ethnic divide. But the University Socialists remained unable to fashion a compelling socialist solution to the issues of communalism and national culture in Singapore and Malaysia. Second, Huang’s analysis of the language divide also responds to Lee Kuan Yew’s essentialist representation of student activism.38 In fact, it was not merely Lee who conceived students as being distinctly Englishor Chinese-educated, but also many post-war politicians and student activists, including those from the left. University Socialist Lim Hock Siew, for instance, gave just as damning an assessment of his peers at the University of Malaya as “politically placid and apathetic”, in contrast to the Chinese students.39 While the Socialist Club and its campus

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rivals disagreed over the political involvement of students, they concurred that university students had some role to play in the anti-colonial movement and creation of a new nation. The British government, in sanctioning the formation of the Club, also shared a basic belief in the university as a “School of Statesmanship” which could steer the country’s political course away from both communism and communalism. The different sides deplored what they depicted to be widespread “apathy” among students, whom they depicted as individualistic and exhorted to support social and political causes ahead of personal and family interests. This accusation was held to be particularly true of English-educated university students, contrasted against what was represented as committed Chinese-educated students. The frame of student apathy was deeply discursive, for it elevated the student activist onto a moral platform from which to speak on behalf of and to mobilise the general student body for political ends. The language of mobilisation was characteristically modernist, entailing a belief that the identity and culture of students could be refashioned. While convergences between socialists, workers, peasants and students might seem natural, the more unlikely forms of concurrence took place between groups with quite different ideological orientations. The reunification of Singapore and Malaya was the common point of agreement held by many political and student groups in post-war Singapore, including the Socialist Club and the PAP government – differences arose over the form of the merger. This was a scenario customarily painted as “natural”, given, it is argued, the close historical, cultural and economic links between the two countries. In fact, the merger debate in the early 1960s represented the greatest test of whether the various political groups – British, PAP, UMNO and left-wing – could work out an effective resolution to the basic modernist question on which they basically agreed. The different sides took opposing yet similarly rationalist approaches to the question. At the height of the debate, Tommy Koh of the Socialist Club went against the grain to argue that Singapore’s economic and cultural links with Malaya did not mandate that a political union was necessary. This was a rationalist argument, based on what he saw to be the difficulties of reconciling political differences between the communal government of Malaya and the socialist leadership of Singapore. Post-war developments also suggested with increasing clarity that the merger was not going to be a straightforward marriage of the two territories, but that considerable rationalist planning – as it turned out, brokered by a third party: the British – was needed to tame the left and mitigate the political influence of the Singapore Chinese. The political engineering crystallised as the Grand Design for a “Greater Malaysia” in the early 1960s. Over this scheme, the shared political belief in the merger dissipated. The

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Socialist Club tried but ultimately failed to maintain the coalition between the Lee Kuan Yew and trade union groups within the PAP. The Grand Design itself soon unravelled as the PAP approach to modernity, expressed in its robust non-communal politics and its push for Singapore’s rapid industrialisation utilising Malaysia as a common market, clashed with UMNO’s system of a Malay-dominated polity and economy. The merger broke down quickly and completely, signalling the failure of the political engineering of the Grand Design. At times, what appeared to be contestation on the surface could also pan out as a deeper form of convergence. From the early 1950s into the 1960s, the Socialist Club faced challenges from two other political clubs. The Democratic Socialist Club (DSC), in particular, shared with the Socialist Club the aim of promoting political consciousness among students, but differed over the relationship between socialism and nationalism. While the DSC advocated individual liberty and democracy and viewed socialism as useful for advancing national interests, the Socialist Club held on to the idea that socialism must not be compromised by national goals. The Club also pointed out that the DSC’s democratic socialist orientation coincided with the government’s expressed ideology. On the surface, this struggle was a contestation between left-wing and reformist forms of socialism. However, the DSC’s rivalry with the Socialist Club also entailed a basic acceptance that students had a duty to participate in the political life of the nation. This endorsed the Socialist Club’s stance on the wider scope of student political activism, which other students and student bodies had earlier resisted. At the end of the 1960s, the British-sponsored modernity project was reaching its acceptable conclusion in Singapore and Malaysia. The British worried over the survival of Singapore upon its eviction from Malaysia and in anticipation of the withdrawal of its military bases from the island. Yet, the British rundown became a catalyst for Singapore’s further industrial development and the social engineering of former base workers.40 Singapore was able to move on to become a robust citystate in the 1970s, achieving the goals of modernist development within the new international division of labour circumscribed by foreign capital.41 The socialist endeavour, in which the Socialist Club had led intellectually and participated politically, had been a brief one.

Overview of the Book This book is based mostly on the foreign archives, published sources and oral history interviews. The manuscript sources of the Socialist Club – its minutes of meetings, correspondences and internal

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resolutions – still remain under lock and key with the Singapore government.42 Its members attempted to preserve the Club’s library and Fajar collections in the mid-1960s, but these were unfortunately lost.43 Official British documents have covered some of these gaps and also showed the nature of the colonial gaze on the Club. However, the British files record the past from the perspective of the coloniser and dwelt on events and issues (particularly internal security) which mattered to the regime. Conversely, the published writings and press statements of the Club and those of its critics and rivals have been useful in enabling us to chart the work of the University Socialists, while also providing much insight into the contentious political and mental worlds of student activism in post-war Singapore and Malaya. The published materials are important both for what they record and what they mean. They are used in conjunction with oral history interviews conducted by the authors and by the Oral History Centre of the National Archives of Singapore. The testimonies are often coloured by the experience of political defeat or the refusal to submit to it.44 Like the published materials, the interviews are useful both as a source of history and as a repository of memories, and care has been taken in deciding when the sources are useful for one purpose or the other. This book combines narrative and thematic approaches. The first half of the book tells of the Club’s activism within the political openness offered by the Second Malayan Spring experiment in the 1950s. The following chapter examines the formation of the Club as signifying both the re-emergence of left-wing socialism among students of the University of Malaya and the relaunch of the British liberal-democratic experiment in decolonisation. Chapter 3, on the 1954 Fajar arrests, examines the trial as a breaking moment in Singapore history, which while leading to the departure of reformists from the Club, also resulted in the convergence of Fabian and left-wing socialists in the formation of the PAP. The next three chapters trace the Club’s efforts after the Fajar trial to realise its vision of a modern, socialist Malaya both on campus and with social and political groups beyond. Chapter 4 examines the University Socialists’ participation in party, labour and rural politics in Singapore and Malaya in the 1950s and their advocacy of Malay as the national language. The Club also endeavoured to unify different student groups on the island and peninsula but this, as the fifth chapter demonstrates, was often in vain, as the opposition of more centrist student groups led to the collapse of the PMSF. The Club’s struggle to provide student leadership at the university in the 1950s and 1960s is told in Chapter 6, which narrates the Cold War-inspired contestation over the role of students and the meaning of socialism between the Club and Students’ Union. Chapter 7 extends this analysis of the bipolar conflict by examining the Special Branch’s surveillance of

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the Club within the work of orderly decolonisation. The implication of several key University Socialists as interlinking nodes of chains of communist conspiracy constructed by the Branch, revealed the existence of a powerful Cold War information order in Singapore, one used for future security action and political transformation. Chapter 8 marks the second half of the book and the changing character of the Second Malayan Spring when the PAP came to power and the merger became the leading item on the political agenda. The chapter charts the Club’s efforts to mediate between contending yet equally rationalist visions of the merger and in eventually opposing the “Greater Malaysia” plan. The political defeat of the left in the merger debate was a major turning point that heralded the ascendancy of conservative, anti-communist politics in Singapore. Chapter 9 tells of the moment when the Cold War information order, established through preceding regimes of surveillance and political speculation, was mobilised and implemented in 1963 in Operations Coldstore and Pecah. The effect of these crackdowns on the left was the ban of Fajar and the confining of the Club’s activism largely to the campus. The penultimate chapter maps the final protracted struggle which took place at the university in the 1960s. The Club collaborated with other student unions, including its former rivals, in a rearguard struggle for university autonomy and student rights. This turned out to be a losing battle, signalling the closure of the British-sponsored liberal-democratic experiment and the beginning of the PAP government’s robust pursuit of economic development and social engineering. The final chapter examines the memories of former Socialist Club members and their counterparts in the political establishment in the present day. It finds that, like the history of student activism, the memories, while often conflicting, are based on a modernist view of history.

2 Awake in the Bowl of Night

The University Socialist Club was formed on 21 February 1953 at an inaugural meeting held at the Physics Lecture Theatre on the Bukit Timah campus of the University of Malaya in Singapore. This was an important moment for the various nationalist groups that would emerge to contest for the shape of modernity in Singapore and Malaya in the 1950s and 1960s. For left-wing socialists, the Club represented a valuable opportunity to propagate socialist thought and carry out socialist activities on campus and beyond. However, the Club was confronted by two realities which were to constrain the reach of its radicalism. The first was that in the first year of its existence, the Club’s membership was mixed, comprising both reformist and left-wing socialists and giving rise to internal dissension. This inner conflict, while temporary, was an intended part of the second reality. At the state level, the Socialist Club really owed its creation to colonial endorsement. While the university students had strongly pushed for its formation, the university authorities envisaged the Club as a political club in the British liberal tradition, namely, as a society for political discussion and debate. The Club was intended as part of the relaunch of the Malayan Spring experiment of 1945-1948. The original British-sponsored, liberal-democratic endeavour to determine the future shape of post-colonial Singapore and Malaya had ended in insurgency and martial law on the peninsula, although the Emergency’s grip on Singapore was weaker. The birth of the Club was a prelude to constitutional reforms the British regime would carry out in Singapore from the mid-1950s, allowing for greater political openness, a degree of selfrule for the elected government, and most importantly, the political framework for different modernist-nationalist groups to emerge, combine, grow, or to be contained. Even as the Club developed and expanded its activism in subsequent years, it remained under the shadow of this framework, from which bounds it never really extricated itself.

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Between the Emergency and Orderly Decolonisation Change along modernist lines was basic to the tenor of Singapore and Malaysian politics after World War II. The first phase of the Malayan Spring between 1945 and 1948 was a period of relative political and cultural liberalism which permitted the emergence of a left-wing mass movement on both sides of the causeway.1 The experiment produced the first moment in which the politics of the post-war period converged: the mass movement was led by the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) through the trade unions and the relative political openness was endorsed, initially at least, by the British colonial regime. Labour was the first major area of political life to be rejuvenated, with a number of militant trade unions quickly established under the MCP’s leadership to assert the right of workers to collectively demand improved wages and working conditions and, most importantly, to organise.2 Although the Malayan Spring was soon curtailed by a hard-line British reaction in 1947 and ended with the passing of the Emergency Regulations the following June, something of its basic spirit and substance survived into the early 1950s. In part, this was because the activists’ basic desire to change the status quo was genuinely international in character. They drew their inspiration from an ongoing worldwide struggle for selfdetermination taking place in other parts of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Colonies or semi-colonies of the West were casting off the yoke of colonialism, and Mao Tse Tung, Sukarno, Gandhi and other political visionaries were constantly on the lips of both reformers and revolutionaries in Singapore and Malaya. Those who were keenly concerned about the political destiny of both countries were inspired by the dramatic moments unfolding in the battle against colonialism in other parts of the dwindling British, Dutch and French colonial empires. In particular, they were fired by the Chinese Communist Party’s victory in China in 1949.3 The state of emergency notwithstanding, Singapore itself was an important conduit for the circulation of such international ideas of political and social change. The island drew upon its historical role as a flourishing and urbanised entrepot port seated on East-West trade routes, where goods, people and ideas moved freely and broadly. Its interwar colonial society was already well-immersed in these globalist influences, particularly the social and religious ideas of reform and Marxist ideologies of revolution. To a lesser extent, the smaller urban centres on the Malay peninsula like Kuala Lumpur, Malacca and Penang had similar cosmopolitan cultures.4 From the 1920s, there was already an active public sphere in Singapore, where the English-educated members of different ethnic groups were developing a shared political identity, albeit within the constraints of an empire.5 After the first phase of the

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Malayan Spring, both the Emergency Regulations and its successor legislation, the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance, empowered the state to detain indefinitely without trial persons deemed to be threats to the security of the state. The draconian laws had a significant dampening effect on both liberal and left-wing movements in Singapore and Malaya. But even British repression could not completely close off an openness that was deeply embedded in the fabric of local society and economy. In Singapore, which was less touched by the violence of the Malayan Emergency than the Federation, restrictions on political activity eased in November 1953, when the British government accepted the Rendel Constitution and set about granting the island a limited degree of self-government. But as a signifier that the British government was about to revive the Malayan Spring project, the formation of the Socialist Club at the University of Malaya preceded the Rendel Constitution. The establishment of the University of Malaya earlier in October 1949 demonstrated that, notwithstanding the political restrictions, the British were continuing with their plans for decolonisation through other means. The university initially offered degrees in Medicine, Arts and Science and diplomas in Dentistry and Pharmacy. It was born out of a merger of two Singapore-based educational institutions: the King Edward VII College of Medicine at Tiong Bahru, established in 1905, and Raffles College at Bukit Timah, created in 1929.6 After the Pacific War ended, the King Edward VII College and Raffles College opened with enrolments of 200 and 211 students respectively in October 1946.7 The idea to merge the two colleges received the recommendation of the Carr-Saunders Commission, formed in 1947 to study the feasibility of university education in Malaya. The commission’s decision, Yeo Kim Wah noted, “boldly departed” from the received official wisdom.8 In fact, the decision was a thoroughly pragmatic one and inspired by a guiding desire for social and political change. As the commission stated, the university was “not merely for training students to fill the highest posts in the country but also to give them the qualities of leadership and disinterested public service which are necessary for the progress of her people”. The role of the university as an instrument of reform was clearly on the minds of the commission’s members; there was, it added, “a ‘divine discontent’ with things as they have been and a recognition of the contribution which a university could make towards a higher standard of living, a broader culture, a closer integration of the people and a greater measure of self-government”.9 The university was imagined, like the University of Rangoon in British Burma before it, to be a “fount of local nationalism and School of Statesmanship”.10 The colonial regime clearly viewed, as Meredith Weiss put it, “the campus as crucible”, where the future leaders, administrators and planners of a

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viable Malayan nation-state would be groomed, albeit those of British choosing.11 The British government held the conviction that English-medium public education and, specifically, university education, was key to orderly, responsible decolonisation and would help create a noncommunal, multiracial Malaya. The University of Malaya stood at the apex of an ambitious colonial campaign of political and social mobilisation through public education in the post-war years which extended downwards to young children of primary school-going age. In this attempt to forge a Malayan nation-state in the colonial image, Singapore was to be at the forefront. Its public school system was vigorously expanded and reformed after the war with the expressed aim of “fostering and extending the capacity for self-government, and the ideal of civic loyalty and responsibility”.12 One of the guiding principles of this policy was an attempt to finally depart from the ethnic plurality which had marked the vernacular-based school system in the pre-war colonial era. In 1947, the British government adopted a ten-year educational programme for Singapore. Its major feature was the creation of “regional”, rather than “racial”, schools within a system of universal, free, primary education. Although the vernacular language would still be taught as a separate subject, English would now be the medium of instruction, signalling a belated official effort at an integrated policy.13 The colonial government had finally realised that “communal schools were not likely to assist in producing that unity and corporate feeling that was essential if progress towards nationhood was to be made”.14 The University of Malaya had a cultural and ethnic cosmopolitanism which suited the British plans. In 1953, 63% of the institution’s 875 students were Chinese, 23% Indians and Ceylonese and 9% Malays.15 However, even at this early stage, a central problem in the making of a unified Malaya was apparent: the student make-up largely paralleled the ethnic composition of Singapore’s population (which was three-quarters Chinese), but not the peninsula’s, where the Malays, comprising 49% of the population in 1947, still held a numerical superiority over the Chinese (38%). The cultural and ideological role of English-medium education also belied a second political motive. The British viewed English education to be an important cultural bulwark against the appeal of communism, particularly among the Chinese community. In 1950, the Director of Education in Singapore declared that “a sound educational system is the spearhead of their country’s progress and their best protection against the subversive forces now at work in Southeast Asia”. As a result of the armed conflict with the communists in Malaya, the colonial establishment decided to supplement the ten-year education plan with a shorter five-year crash programme “of an emergency nature”,

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which would provide sufficient places for all children of primary-school age.16 Within the framework of the second phase of the Malayan Spring, Singapore was not incidental to the Malayan nation Britain envisaged, but integral to it. The city- state would provide the project with its pivotal political and intellectual driving force. From its very conception, the University of Malaya was a pan-Malayan institution. Out of the 643 students enrolled in its first year, only 237 hailed from Singapore, with the rest arriving from Malaya and Sarawak.17 This paralleled the composition of the two institutions which merged into the university; in 1947, the King Edward VII College of Medicine and the Raffles College, respectively, had only 109 and 81 Singapore students out of a total of 339 and 218 students.18 The university had successfully maintained a Malayan character despite the political separation of Singapore from the peninsula in 1946. This division was often seen, even among British officials and the English-educated public, to be a temporary one.19 At the university’s founding, it was duly noted, the “academic occasion brought more of the Malay Rulers to Singapore than had ever come for any occasion before”.20 The university was also jointly sponsored and financed by the governments of Singapore and Malaya. In establishing the university within the constraints of a political emergency, the British colonial administration believed that they could walk the proverbial tightrope of managing the orderly transition of a colony to a sovereign state while pining down the communists in a shooting war. In fact, as the Malayan Emergency wore on and the British regime adopted the posture of winning the “hearts and minds” of the people, the two policies were held to be compatible, rather than contradictory. The colonial state of post-war Singapore in fact increased its commitment to social projects, actively and ambitiously promoting both mass and university education. In 1949, the Singapore authorities declared that “the Emergency has delayed the development of Social Services no more than it has delayed the process of bringing an ever greater number of people into active association with their Government”.21 The British plan contained what they considered an acceptable element of risk, since greater political openness would make it more difficult to keep the communists and leftists out of the democratic mass or student politics by which Malaya would be guided to statehood. Recent scholarship based on communist sources has shown that MCP cadres in Singapore were operating independently of the central executive in the early 1950s. They attempted to take advantage of the more politically relaxed situation to establish a “united front” with other political groups on the island, which would allow the party to eventually obtain a constitutional foothold in the Federation.22 This was no more clearly

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illustrated at an early stage than in developments in student politics at the University of Malaya in 1949-1950. The University of Malaya Students’ Union (UMSU) was on the whole politically moderate. However, the English-medium university also provided the sociocultural space for nurturing individuals and collectivities which opposed the establishment. The students had the opportunity to read widely (including socialist literature), and reading was key to the formation of their political identity.23 In this context, the English-speaking arm of the Anti-British League (ABL), a subsidiary organisation of the MCP, managed to recruit a small number of university staff and students, including Lim Chan Yong, Ong Cheng Piaw, Low Wah Lian, and Yap Kon Puck from the Medical faculty, and brothers George and James Puthucheary, Sydney Woodhull, Jamit Singh and Beda Lim from the Arts faculty. The students circulated pro-communist literary material and organised political discussion on campus. They did this through Malayan Undergrad (the organ of UMSU), Malayan Cauldron (the organ of the Literary and Debating Society) and Malayan Orchid (a publication run by Medical students). As James Puthucheary explained later, the student radicals were also seeking political change in an atmosphere where “the English-educated, future civil servants and teachers, would never say boo to a goose”.24 Puthucheary, an overaged student whose education had been delayed by the outbreak of war in Asia, believed that “if the University is to play its important role in the development of the country it must become the advocate and guardian of the concept of the Malayan Nation and work for the achievement of this ideal”. It followed, then, that the university student had a crucial role to play in the development of a viable Malayan nation.25 This was in broad agreement with British thinking on decolonisation and university education. The students clashed with the university authorities over a number of campus and political issues, including the allegation that the English school system served to perpetuate colonial rule and the students’ proposal to form a Malayan Students’ Party, which the management rejected. Such conflict demonstrated the ambivalent political role of the university: while it could nurture future leaders acceptable to the British regime, it also groomed the colonial system’s harshest critics. By the beginning of 1951, the British government had sufficient cause to fear that the line between emergency governance and orderly decolonisation was being crossed. They realised that the student radicals were linked to the communist underground in Singapore, at the same time there appeared to be a rise in the violence carried out by the MCP on the island, exemplified in acts of arson against local factories and vehicles and a botched attempt on the life of Governor Franklin Gimson.26 In January, the Special Branch moved to arrest thirty-four members of an “intelligentsia” group of teachers, cooperative leaders and ten

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university students. The arrests decimated almost the entire Englishspeaking section of the Anti-British League on the island. The security establishment rationalised that the arrests did much to eliminate “the threat of Communism spreading to a new section of the community”.27 As the statement indicates, the political transgression of communist influence from among the Chinese-speaking population to the Englisheducated community greatly worried the colonial authorities. The crackdown brought to a premature end the first phase of the post-war student activism at the University of Malaya and showed the limits of the political openness. But it was only a temporary blow to those who viewed the university as a means of orderly decolonisation. Despite the outcome, the left-wing student activism of 1949-1950 had been important in temporarily filling the role of the country’s intelligentsia. They revived discussion of the key principles of nation-building upheld by the now-defunct Malayan Democratic Union.28 The most important and basic of these was the need to build the nation upon a Malayan, rather than ethnic, identity and culture.29 Neither did the crackdown completely frighten off the undergraduates from political activism. A lecturer at the university spoke of a “lessening of political activity” from the students after the crackdown, although not their suspicion and distrust of authority, including the faculty members who were seen to “discriminate against them if they take too open a part in their own student politics”.30 The University of Malaya Students’ Union questioned the detention of the students without trial, maintaining that “satisfactory proof of their guilt must be laid before those competent to judge”, and that infallibility was not a “special quality” of the police.31 The Union collected gifts and books for the detainees, whom it defended as “by no means the black sheep which people think they are, but rather a group very conscious of their responsibilities to the country of which they are proud to be future citizens”.32 “N.K.C.”, a student, wrote to Malayan Undergrad in November, asking about “our detained colleagues” and warning of the implications of the arrests for the freedom of speech in the university.33 The Socialist Club was to build upon the student activism of 1949-1950 and in doing so, extend the Second Malayan Spring project.

A Mixed Political Club In mid-1952, James Puthucheary, who was among the undergraduates arrested in the 1951 swoop, returned to the University of Malaya upon his release from detention. He suggested to Sydney Caine, the ViceChancellor, that a political club be formed on campus which would enable university students to participate in political discussion.

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Puthucheary had joined the Indian National Army during the war and fought the British army at the Battle of Imphal in India. In trying to convince the Vice-Chancellor, he remarked wryly, “Surely the British government is not going to fall because we have a political club?”34 The previous vice chancellor, Thomas Silcock, had rejected earlier proposals by Puthucheary and other students to form a political club in 1950. A major fear of Silcock was that such a sanction would “generate strong pressure in favour of the establishment of political clubs run on communal lines such as beset politics throughout Malaya today”.35 But somewhat surprisingly to the students, Sydney Caine agreed to Puthucheary’s proposal. The context is instructive: the British government was considering granting limited constitutional concessions to Singapore, which would coalesce in the form of the Rendel Constitution. The authorities realised that a university without a political club at a time when political activities were to be encouraged at the national level was, simply speaking, a harmful anomaly. Caine’s approval reflected the official belief that “political discussion among students is regarded as both a normal part of University life and a specific contribution to the development of the Malayan nation on a basis of political freedom”.36 There was, however, a crucial caveat on permissiveness: although the university’s Board of Student Welfare agreed in early 1953 to “encourage serious discussion of public questions by students”, it only endorsed “the formation of political societies on conditions designed to limit their activities to those in fact customary in United Kingdom Universities”.37 Such a student political club for academic discussion, operating within the framework of a “School of Statesmanship”, was also deemed useful as a safety valve for preventing a repeat of the events of 1949-1950 when the student activists were converted into MCP cadres. While James Puthucheary had pressed Caine on the formation of a political club, the organisational work was carried out mainly by other student activists.38 As early as October 1952, Puthucheary had been in touch with a group of medical and arts undergraduates, including Wang Gungwu, Sydney Woodhull, Philemon Oorjitham, M.K. Rajakumar, Poh Soon Kai, Lim Hock Siew, Jamit Singh, Jerry Goh and Francis Yeo.39 The students looked up to the older Puthucheary as a leader but were just as keen to set up a political club. Lim, a medical student, was deeply unhappy with the fact that Malaya was still a colonial state while many of the colonised peoples of the world had already achieved their independence or were actively clamouring for it.40 The younger students held discussions with Puthucheary in his room at the Dunearn Road Hostel, but Woodhull, Rajakumar and Lim were also meeting among themselves at the Paterson Road Hostel for medical students “almost every day or every other day”.41 The university hostel

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performed a natural and important role in the germination and fermentation of student activism; consequently, it was the hostels’ occupants from Malaya, rather than their Singapore counterparts, who played a more prominent role in the activism. Wang Gungwu, who was born in Ipoh, observed the pan-Malayan nature of student activism at the university: At least three-fifths, if not three-quarters, of the students at the University of Malaya were from Malaya. Singaporeans were a very small minority … It [The Students’ Union] was very much dominated by people who came from Malaya, because we lived in the dormitories. We were there all the time … whereas the Singapore students came in and went home. So they were, on the whole, on the periphery. Most of the decisions made by the Students’ Union were done by Malayan students. So the idea of pan-Malayan was already in-built into the Students’ Union itself.42 The advocates of the political club agreed on some basic principles but differed on others. There was no consensus at first on the club’s very socialist identity. When interviewed by the Straits Times, Sydney Woodhull, an arts student, explained: “Socialism is so much in the air”.43 But he was to reveal later that the students had initially wanted to “muscle into and activate the Students’ Union” and to contest the student union elections at the university, until “some smart aleck” proposed the idea of forming a socialist political club.44 As Poh Soo Kai, a medical student, recalled, the initial aim was simply to form a debating society for “consolidating views to activate the students’ union”. This then broadened into the idea of a “general political society” to encourage political discussion and activity among the undergraduates. Despite Woodhull’s vague statement that “socialism was in the air”, the question of ideology came much later. The proposal for a socialist role during the inaugural meeting of the Club, Poh noted, stimulated “some heated discussion”, and although it was adopted by a clear majority, “a good number of students at the lecture theatre left upon the adoption of this proposal”.45 Those who remained to convene the Club agreed that, in contrast to the earlier left-wing student activism, the identity of the political club was not to be based on communism. M.K. Rajakumar, another medical student, was emphatic in stating that the Socialist Club was a “spontaneous” creation, unlike the student activism organised by the Anti-British League in 1949-1950, while Sydney Woodhull insisted, “I was never involved with the ABL group ... That’s for a completely different crowd. That preceded my time in the university. That whole crowd of course left off [after the 1951 arrests]”.46 Similarly,

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Puthucheary, who himself had been expelled from the Anti-British League, concurred that, unlike in the Chinese middle schools, “the Socialist Club was not run as a revolutionary party” with “secret study groups reading Marxist literature”.47 The Club acquired, then, a broadly socialist identity. Its terms of reference were initially limited; it sought to “stimulate political discussion and activity and propagate Socialist thought within the University; support the University of Malaya Students’ Union in demands for students’ rights; and study the means for unity in Malaya”.48 As Lim Hock Siew explained, the Club’s work was based at the campus and aimed at “enlightening the student body and helping to raise the political consciousness of our students”. The larger political objective, Lim added, was to strive for a “united, independent and socialist Malaya including Singapore”.49 There was, in the University Socialists’ view, much to be done on campus before this could be achieved. They typically stereotyped the university student population, and the country’s Englisheducated elite more generally, as politically apathetic. This view was not limited to the Socialist Club but commonly held; Lockman Musa, President of the University of Malaya Students’ Union in 1954, also criticised student apathy at the university.50 In fact, many ordinary university students were anti-colonial in outlook and desired the British departure, although unwilling to participate in political activities which would jeopardise their future careers.51 To some extent, student politics involved those who “could afford it”, and so were shunned by undergraduates who were more career-driven or economically insecure.52 In 1954, the Special Branch in Singapore reported that older students in a top local English school were “talking, facetiously, but nevertheless [still] talking” about being subject to colonial propaganda in class.53 Both in the schools and university, the talk usually remained simply that. Their critiques of “student apathy” revealed the modernist nature of the University Socialists’ endeavour. The discourse of apathy sprang from a deep lying desire to mobilise and reform. In forming the Socialist Club, Sydney Woodhull spoke of “our own consciousness of a need to do things”, “when the political life of the country was at an alltime low”.54 Similarly, Lim Hock Siew viewed the general university student population as “very poorly disciplined”, “extremely individualistic” and “extremely difficult to organise, even for non-political activities”. This he attributed to their personal backgrounds as “a privileged lot”, who had their careers laid out for them and consequently nothing more to struggle for. The apathy, Lim added, was also rooted in the ideologically insidious nature of English-medium education, which glorified British colonialism. Personally, the 1951 arrests had been a “big jolt” to him, for Tan Seng Lock, one of the detainees, was the elder brother of Seng Huat, Lim’s classmate. Lim was “very angry at the ease with

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which the government could invade the premises of our university especially on the eve of the examination, and just haul students into prison without trial”. He had felt “an acute sense of obligation and responsibility to be involved in our people’s struggle for national independence”.55 As M.K. Rajakumar also wrote later in 1955 of the arrests, the English-educated elite was “shaken and frightened at the prospect of being at the mercy of the rest of the population”, who regarded them as “collaborators” and “running dogs”.56 While agreeing on “student apathy”, the founders of the Socialist Club were initially unable to establish an ideological consensus for their enterprise. The Club’s first Central Working Committee (CWC) comprised a mixture of left-wing socialists and other socialists who were not so inclined. The elected President was Wang Gungwu, a Master’s student in History who was chosen because he had been involved in the University of Malaya Students’ Union and did not belong to the leftwing group. The Secretary-General was Philomen Oorjitham, the Financial Secretary, Yeoh Kean Hong, while Sydney Woodhull held the important post of Publication Secretary and was instrumental in producing the early Fajar issues. The other members of the CWC were Poh Soo Kai (elected the Organising Secretary in charge of student discussions), James Puthucheary, Gurmukh Singh, Hashim Sultan, Jamit Singh, Abdullah Majid, M.K. Rajakumar and James Loh Ching Yew. The Straits Times, which covered the formation of the Club, indicated that its first task was to undertake a “preliminary study” of Singapore’s social services.57 Rather innocuous academic work it seemed, but the Club’s founders were in fact already involved in contested debate over its political identity. In drafting the Club’s Manifesto, Wang Gungwu emphasised the problem of communalism in the making of a Malayan nation. Wang’s position was largely based on his personal experience. While Englisheducated, he had been brought up in the traditional Chinese way, but had become sensitive after the war to the overwhelming economic advantage the non-Malays in the Federation had over the Malays. This fact was brought home most clearly to Wang in the way the Malays had vigorously opposed the citizenship terms of the Malayan Union scheme, leading the British to acquiesce in favour of a pro-Malay policy.58 Communalism in Malaya had also been exacerbated by Japanese rule earlier, as Wang explained: Having grown up in Perak and having lived through the Japanese occupation, I had no illusions about how the Malay poor saw the ubiquitous Chinese shopkeepers and what the Japanese did to win Malay confidence in their claim to save the Malays from exploitation.

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Wang was not convinced that the working class solidarity of a socialist project could transcend the communalist forces prevailing in Malaya, which was deeply rooted in its history and in colonial policy during the Emergency.59 Unlike Wang, Sydney Woodhull put forward a more class-based, Marxist interpretation of the basic problem facing Malaya. James Puthucheary eventually broke the stalemate by supporting Wang’s view as “more relevant at the time”.60 Puthucheary and Wang had held numerous discussions on the threat of communalism in Malaya in their Dunearn Road hostels in 1952-1953.61 But Woodhull had argued his point robustly and had initially been unwilling to give way; his Marxist perspective was reinforced by a personal conviction that “a degree of violence was necessary in any national liberation movement”. Eventually, Woodhull acquiesced “in the interest of the broadest possible unity”.62 To emphasise the division between Wang and Woodhull is not to criticise the CWC for identifying, rightly, the two central issues of nation-building in Singapore and Malaya in the 1950s, and the issues the Club continued to confront in the course of its history. But it also reflects the uncertainty of a student political organisation at the point of its birth in a brave new world. The Club’s Manifesto eschewed the more obvious link between the Club’s socialist identity and Woodhull’s Marxist approach in favour of a view centring on communalism. The document’s first lines: “Today a new danger threatens Malaya. Communalism”, vividly recalls the style of Marx’s famous opening statement in his own manifesto. But the Manifesto went on instead to emphasise the problem of communalism in Malaya: We accept the Socialism of economic equality and the social ownership of wealth as the fundamental need of a sovereign Malaya, as a prerequisite for future growth. And we form this Club to study the ways to make Socialism real for our people, and thereby conclusively show up communalism for what it is.63 This statement showed the fundamentally rationalist endeavour of the Socialist Club to forge a Malayan nation: what had to change was not only the political system but the basic relationship between the ethnic communities. The economic development of pre-war Malaya had entrenched a plural society in which the substantial Chinese minority had accumulated much wealth, while the Malay majority had fallen economically behind. The post-war politics on the peninsula had in fact deepened this ethnic divide, with the formation of political parties along ethnic lines and, in particular, the British government recognising the dominant Malay party, the United Malays National Organisation, as its

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main political partner. The issue of communalism was widely recognised and debated among students and student organisations at the university.64 The challenge for the Socialist Club was to demonstrate that socialism provided the solution to the problem. In addition, the Club’s founding documents surprisingly failed to take a strong stand on the root cause of both communalism and the unequal distribution of wealth in the Federation: colonialism. While they broached on issues of sovereignty and freedom, the Club’s Manifesto and Constitution did not fully interrogate the issue of colonialism or attempt to envisage its removal.65 Whether the Club’s omission was due in part to the long shadow of the January-1951 arrests or to the fact that it was established with the consent of the university authorities is not clear. However, as Wang Gungwu explained, the Socialist Club was accepted by at least some of its founders as a political club in the British liberal tradition.66 Of course, this was expedient for the students to accept in return for the university’s approval of the club; it was also a way to attract student interest. The founders were well aware that they had to put up an initial appearance of acceptability to the university management. For this reason, too, James Puthucheary and Abdullah Majid, who were detained in the 1951 arrests, did not sit in the first CWC but were ordinary members. It was only in the University Socialists’ subsequent writings, press statements and political activism that a forceful critique of colonialism was to appear. Something of this inner tussle over the Club’s basic identity could be seen in the first issue of Fajar, published in March 1953.67 Sydney Woodhull “almost single-handedly” edited the early issues, while Lee Kuan Yew, Goh Keng Swee and Kenny Byrne made their first contact with the Club by helping to raise funds for its publication.68 The lead article in the inaugural issue, “Study in Politics”, began with an underwhelming resolution passed by the CWC: “The University Socialist Club disassociates itself from all political organisations in this country”. What this meant, the editors went on to explain, was a rejection of the form of elite politics in Singapore which served class interests (referring to the Progressive Party and Democratic Party). The Club’s role, then, was that of an independent political study club: it would be necessary for us “to study the means for unity in this country”. This could only be done if we remain independent without committing ourselves to any of the political parties, many of whose leaders, we feel, seek only to sit on the steps of Valhalla, remaining blissfully ignorant of the mortals below … And before we could assume any sort of political complexion we should bring into perspective the conditions of economic security, political liberty and social justice. Only then could we

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translate our beliefs into action, into whatever form of action, we recognise as necessary.69

Early Contemplation, Criticism and Misfires As another dimension of the Club’s ambivalent early identity, the meaning of socialism was contested among its own members. At the inaugural meeting of the Club, Chua Sian Chin, an arts student who joined when it was first formed,70 had questioned if its socialist doctrine was based on the ideology practised in the Soviet Union.71 The first issue of Fajar also distinguished between “scientific socialism” and “utopian socialism”, while doubting if British Fabianism would work in Malaya.72 His own commitment notwithstanding, as Lim Hock Siew pointed out, nearly half of the seventy-odd students who had attended the Club’s inaugural meeting did not subscribe to left-wing beliefs. At some point later, they dropped out from the Club, “principally out of fear of possible repercussions from the colonial authorities”. In Lim’s view, these members were the “fireside socialists”.73 Between Wang Gungwu and Sydney Woodhull, there was already a clear ideological and political divide. Wang stated that most of the early University Socialists were politically “left of centre”, Labour Party-type Fabian socialists who advocated for a welfare state. He did not consider himself particularly political or left-wing, terms he reserved for the communists.74 In this sense, Wang was not too different from many of the Club’s early members or the general student population in the university. At this time, as Sydney Woodhull stated, there was also no link yet between the Club and the Chinese middle school student unions.75 In the second issue of Fajar, “Anxious”, an observer and non-member, fired a broadside at the University Socialists’ allegedly vague understanding of socialism: “I have a feeling that some of your Socialists do not read very much about socialism”. “Anxious” went on to urge the Club’s members to inquire more extensively and deeply into conditions in the country in order to refine and clarify the concept of Malayan socialism.76 The Club did not deny the charge but chose to appeal to its youth – having been in existence for only three months – and pointed to its ongoing research into Malayan realities. It was only natural in the meantime, the Club stated, that there would be “Gandhian Socialists” at the one end and anarchists at the other among the members.77 Some of the early Fajar statements on colonialism were also considered overly assertive and invited critique from the Club’s own members. The inaugural issue declared that “Our fight is … against colonialism and communalism”.78 It also contained a critique of what the

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Straits Times termed “the brassiere boys”. The latter were a trio of visiting students from British universities who claimed that Malaya was not ready for self-government. The Club accused the visitors of spending most of their time in “cafes, restaurants and bars” and drawing their conclusions whilst in an alcohol-shrouded haze.79 The next issue of Fajar in a similar vein decried the idea of “political nannies” (the British) for Singapore and Malaya.80 If some University Socialists felt their own members lacked an adequate level of political commitment, many in the general student body perceived the Club to be the reverse: excessively brash, aggressive and doctrinaire in its ideas and approach. The Club’s early efforts to galvanise the student body were imbued with a self-righteous moral insularity. Such vehemently anti-colonial statements and rejoinders were not well-received by University Socialists who were more centrist in their political position. Finding that most students displayed a “great reluctance to associate themselves with the Socialist Club”, Chua Sian Chin stated in the third October issue of Fajar that “we of the Socialist Club did not join in with rigid preconceived ideas of socialism”. He assured the reader that “besides our general belief in the public ownership of means of production and our working class sympathy, we have no rigid beliefs in any one particular Socialist doctrine” and relied only on “the democratic practice of persuasion”.81 In his reflections on the Club’s shortcomings in the same issue, Lee Ah Chai alias Lee Ting Hui, an arts student who was its editor and also the Club’s Publications Secretary, pointed out that its militant tone and demeanour were alienating the very students they hoped to mobilise and warned that “the club will continue to be unpopular”. Some CWC members, he claimed, had been excessively “militant”, “outspoken” and “unsympathetic” in trying to win over the students. They had been unsuccessful because the ordinary members remained mostly passive and unmoved by the Committee, which had operated as an “aristocratic organisation” and was already “off in the air”.82 Lee stated later that his own writings in Fajar were moderate.83 Reflecting in 1959 on the Club’s early work, Sydney Woodhull was also inclined to agree on the militancy of its leaders, saying: “The early numbers of Fajar provide ample evidence of the sort of intellectual cockiness Club officials were inclined to exhibit. Undergrads’ natural arrogance, you might say”.84 Sydney Caine was even more dismissive; the Vice-Chancellor lamented that no other political club had been established to challenge the Socialist Club, which was simply propagating “stereotyped and old-fashioned views through its periodical Fajar rather than on active discussion”.85 The Club’s mixed membership also affected its research work. In the third issue of Fajar, Lee Ah Chai also pointed out that no editorial board

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had yet been appointed to run the organ.86 But his more serious critique was levelled at the Club’s organisation and research. The Club had systematically formed four study groups on economic, political, social and cultural issues, on which draft reports were to be circulated to Club members by the end of March for further discussion and revision. The “Economic” group, chaired by Hashim Sultan, was to examine the development of the trade union movement in Malaya, with the “Political” group under Wang Gungwu investigating the role of organised labour in the Federation. Yeoh Kean Hong, heading the “Social” study group, would lead an inquiry into Malayan education, while the “Cultural” group was to undertake a study on the Bangsawan.87 The work of the study groups was an attempt “to study the means for unity in this country”. The final reports were to be published in “Rayaat”, a new journal of the Club scheduled to be out in November.88 After the original deadline passed, however, the CWC was forced in April to reorganise the study groups so that they could make use of the long vacation after March to complete their work. The “Economic”, “Social” and “Cultural” groups were to continue their research in Singapore, but the “Political” group was to work in Malacca.89 However, writing in Fajar in October, Lee Ah Chai, a member of the “Cultural” group, revealed that the study groups had not produced reports of their discussions on time, while the new journal never appeared.90 Consequently, the Club in its first year faced inner conflict between its reformist and left-wing socialist members. Both sides hurled charges at the other party for ideological timidity or an overly rigid Marxist posture. Perhaps due to this and despite the anti-colonial content in the periodical’s early numbers, the authorities were not overly concerned about the Club’s possible political impact. The British colonial regime commented in mid-1954 that “nothing of an adverse nature concerning Fajar came to light in 1953 when only four issues were published”.91 But this was also a self-justifying statement made in the context of the state’s heightened anxiety on security issues, following the arrests of members of the Fajar editorial board for sedition in May. The early contributors to the organ did make some progress in critically exploring the issue of communalism in Malaya. In the third issue of Fajar, the lead article stressed the importance of freedom of academic expression in the university, since “if we are to arrive at any form of truth we must be in a position to yell out our feelings to any degree of fervour”. In the same issue, H. Sani wrote a critique of communal politics in the Federation, accusing the United Malays National Organisation and the Malayan Chinese Association of “vague aspirations” in building a Malayan nation. The article took both parties to task for the basic failing of trying to graft a middle-class democracy onto a quasi-feudal Malay political and social structure.92 Sani’s article is

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Header of Fajar Vol. 1 No. 3 of October 1953, with the signature verse by Omar Khayyám

significant in that it explored the possibility of a socialist way for building a multi-ethnic Malaya. In dismissing the “quasi-feudal” as dated, Sani’s socialist inspiration was chiefly rationalist. Communalism remained a major theme in subsequent Fajar issues. In the following issue, the lead article supported the idea of such a genuinely multi-ethnic “Malayan society”. However, it optimistically maintained that, at an advanced stage of individual development, the different ethnic groups would eventually integrate into “one single union”. In the same issue, P. Arumainathan criticised the Rendel Constitution as an elitist enterprise, doomed to fail in Singapore because the man on the street, being non-English educated, would not understand the subtleties of constitutional politics; this view, one notes, was just as elitist. Arumainathan also blamed the Emergency Regulations for creating a culture of fear and suspicion, inhibiting the ordinary people from expressing their own political views.93

A New Tone At the beginning of 1954, however, there was a major shake-up in the Socialist Club. Both the CWC and the Fajar editorial board were radically reorganised, with the latter now comprising of the very eight students whom the British would arrest in May.94 Wang Gungwu, the first President, departed to work on his doctoral dissertation in history in London on a British Council scholarship; even before he left, he had already devoted most of his time to research.95 Other CWC members from his group also left the committee, including arts students S.R.

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Nathan, the Secretary-General, and Lee Ah Chai, who had voiced his unhappiness with the Club’s first year in Fajar. According to Lee, Nathan had told him that “we both had aged parents to look after and were not in a position to ‘play politics’”.96 The Club’s leadership now passed to Poh Soo Kai, the former Organising Secretary who became the President, and M.K. Rajakumar, the new Secretary-General, both of whom were more left-wing and ideologically assertive in orientation; interestingly, both and other more left-inclined University Socialists had been in the “Social” study group working on educational issues. Kwa Boo Sun was the Publications Secretary while Ong Pang Boon was the Treasurer. As Poh explained later, the aim of the new leaders was to “organise the club in a more systematic manner” in order to invigorate the Club and give it clear direction.97 The reorganisation gave the Club, Lim Hock Siew emphasised, more dynamism and drive, and Fajar became the only university student journal which published monthly.98 This was achieved because, whereas Woodhull had run the organ by himself, Poh and Rajakumar established an editorial board. The Fajar issues became more substantial and critical than the preceding ones. A new damning assessment of the Emergency Regulations, sardonically titled “‘Democracy’ Comes to Malaya”, was published in the fifth issue. It boldly stated: “The two qualifications that are vital for anyone to represent his people have now become the ability to speak English and the capacity to hold political opinions acceptable to the Police”. Chua Sian Chin, writing in the same issue, expanded on H. Sani’s ideas on the dangers of communal politics in the Federation. If the British government continued to grant power to the middle class and not the masses, Chua warned, class conflict could inevitably break out, with the likelihood that a Marxist dictatorship would be installed in Malaya. Chua’s paper shows clearly that, despite his critique of the British-sponsored political developments in the Federation, he conceived, as most of his peers did, Malayan socialism to take a constitutional, not totalitarian, form.99 The British perceived what they called the “new tone” of Fajar’s political reorientation by April 1954. They noted the publication of an article by Samad Ismail, a journalist at the Utusan Melayu who had been detained together with James Puthucheary and Abdullah Majid on St John’s Island in 1951. Samad wrote about his recent visit to Indonesia and expressed his sympathy with the Partai Kommunis Indonesia for its role in the Indonesian government.100 In the sixth issue, too, the Club continued its criticism of the Emergency Regulations, stating that “the latest power granted to the police cannot be justified by any national emergency” and was patently anti-democratic. In the same vein, Sydney Woodhull, who had joined the Naval Base Labour Union upon graduating from university, saw the British government’s

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appointment of “advisers” to the trade unions in Singapore as a step backward in the practice of democracy. What Malaya needed, he argued, was an autonomous labour movement which had a genuine influence on the political life of the country. “As long as the Malayan people allow themselves to be treated as dullards”, Woodhull pointed out, “so long will the democratic carrot be dangled before them”.101 By the end of April, the Singapore Special Branch was watching the periodical closely, and had come to the conclusion, noted by a Singapore Police Intelligence Journal report, that Fajar was becoming “an excellent vehicle for fellow travellers”.102 Fajar’s distribution also reflected the uneven early development of the Club. The British discovered that “quite a number of copies” of the early issues of the journal were on sale in book stalls outside the university or had “been sent to outside bodies”; indeed, a thousand copies each of the fifth and sixth issues were printed.103 By May 1954, the periodical was “freely on sale”, and a Special Branch officer was able to pick up twenty-nine copies from a number of book stalls outside the university.104 The journal was also being distributed to Chinese middle schools such as the Chinese High School, a convergence of two leftwing groups which began to gravely worry the British government.105 In August, following the completion of the Fajar trial, the editorial board was still making “strenuous efforts” to “persuade school boys to hawk copies round the schools”. When the management of a school discovered this and tried to stop it, the Club simply sent the copies directly to the staff and students.106 Fajar, too, was being purchased by readers in the United Kingdom and Australia, as the advertisements in the periodical clearly reveal. This also worried the Singapore authorities, although the exact number of copies sold overseas was not known. The British intelligence records of May 1954 onwards were of course characterised by a heightened fear of the communist threat in Singapore due to the “May 13” Chinese student protests and the Fajar arrests. But, according to Lim Hock Siew, Fajar was also read more widely outside the university than within it, while the campus readers were mainly the Club members or arts students. Its circulation, he added, was about “a few hundred”, a figure which compared favourably to the distribution of Malayan Undergrad.107 What was clear was that, by 1954, the Club and its editorial board were gaining a more coherent socialist identity and direction. The genesis of the Socialist Club lay within the framework of the Second Malayan Spring in the early 1950s. Its early history was complicated by the official sanction that it had to operate as a political club in the liberal British tradition and within the constraints of the campus. At this point, the University Socialists generally abided by this limit, although the more left-wing activists had no doubt in their own minds

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about directly participating in the political development of Singapore and Malaya in the near future. The Club also had to function within the limits of a planned colonial programme of educational reform, in which the university was to help groom a group of political leaders acceptable to the colonial regime. The Club’s founders were generally driven by an acute dissatisfaction with both colonial rule and the perceived political apathy of the student population. They were also by and large non-communist and, broadly speaking, socialist in outlook. But beyond these shared views, the University Socialists were considerably divided over the basic means of creating an independent, socialist Malayan nation. In the Club’s first year, there was a range of views over what socialism meant and which form of it would be best suited to tackle the problems of communalism and colonialism in Singapore and Malaya. Not surprisingly, as the Club sought to find a clarity of identity and direction, the writers of Fajar were more successful in critiquing the present state of affairs than in offering clear new visions of the future.

3

The Fajar Trial

The Special Branch had no sense of irony when arresting the eight student members of the editorial committee of Fajar (“dawn” in Malay) in the wee hours of the morning of 28 May 1954. The arrests and the trial which ensued were to mark a major turning point in the history of Singapore and Malaya. They invigorated the left-wing movement in Singapore, gave the Club a greater ideological unity and led to the formation of the People’s Action Party. At the same time, the collaboration of the Fabian and left-wing socialist groups within the PAP was also a positive step forward for the Malayan Spring experiment, although the trial had resulted in a tactical defeat for the British regime.

“Aggression in Asia” and the “513 Incident” Earlier in the month, the editorial “Aggression in Asia” had appeared on the front page of the seventh issue of Fajar, dated 10 May 1954. It was co-written by M.K. Rajakumar, Poh Soo Kai and James Puthucheary. The editorial took a critical view of the ongoing AngloAmerican military initiative to form the Southeast Asia Treaty Organisation, deploring it as evidence of continuing Western imperialism in the region.1 It rejected the association of Malaya with the Western states and demanded that the country traverse instead a third, non-aligned path. In conclusion, the authors were adamant that “the people of this country do not identity themselves with the actions of the Colonial government”.2 The political significance of the editorial ought to be seen in context. Just three days later, another landmark event in Singapore happened: the “513 Incident”, where 900 Chinese middle school students had clashed with the police over the Registration of National Service Bill. In contravention of the Emergency Regulations, the students had gathered to protest against a colonial legislation designed, they believed, to support an imperialist war against China, their cultural motherland.3 A member of the Fajar editorial board, but not one of those arrested on 28 May, first-year arts student, Jeyaraj Rajarao, then 21, was among the protesters.4 On 18 May, the University of Malaya Students’ Union came

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“Aggression in Asia”, the article in Fajar No. 7 which set off a chain of events leading to the emergence and entanglement of progressive politics in postwar Singapore

Photograph by Edgar Liao

out in support of the 48 Chinese school students arrested during the protest. Sydney Woodhull, who had graduated from the university at the end of 1953, later insisted that “there was absolutely no link between the anti-National Service campaign and (the Socialist Club)”.5 However, that

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the “513 Incident” in May 1954 had a direct impact on the Fajar arrests was confirmed in a meeting later in June between Secretary of State for the Colonies John Martin and University of Malaya Vice-Chancellor Sydney Caine. Whatever would be said publicly, the real British concern was not “Aggression in Asia” itself: The article was not inflammatory, but some copies of it had been found in the Chinese high school in which the recent anti-registration demonstrations had been held. The authorities had therefore concluded that the Socialist Club had had a hand in organising that demonstration, though in fact no connection, other than the discovery of Fajar, had been proved between the University students and the high school demonstrators.6 In the same issue of Fajar in which “Aggression in Asia” had appeared, the Socialist Club had also commented critically on the National Service Bill, arguing that pressing students into military service could in no way be considered “national”, for it entailed “a colonial people to be trained to fight wars in the making of which they have no part – no choice of their foes or allies”. “Though we are not fit to rule ourselves,” the editorial observed, “we are not unfit to die for other people’s interests”.7 This, in the British view, transgressed one of the unwritten rules of the Malayan Spring project – that English-and Chinese-educated student activism should be kept apart. The colonial machinery moved into action. On 23 May, Attorney-General Davis saw the seventh issue of Fajar and instructed the Special Branch to make enquiries into whom was responsible for its publication. Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Ahmad Khan was put in charge. Three days later, the Director of the Special Branch, A.E.G. Blades, informed the Attorney-General’s office that Sydney Caine had been consulted and had agreed to a proposal to confront the Fajar editorial board on campus at 2.30 pm on 27 May. This was not what materialised, however. Governor John Nicoll had probably rejected the plan when the Attorney-General met him subsequently, for Nicoll was much concerned about the Fajar issue, and not just over “Aggression in Asia” and the oblique support for the Chinese middle school students. Nicoll was also worried about an article on “The Indo China Story”, reprinted from the New Statesman and Nation, which commented on the recently concluded peace settlement in Vietnam.8 The final lines of this article were clearly alarming to the British colonial authorities: What is certain is that, whenever Asian people are free to express themselves, they believe that it is not the Chinese who are the

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aggressors, but the French and the Americans. They are on the side of Ho Chi Minh not because he is a Communist, but because he stands for national freedom against French colonialism and American domination.9 The British found it worrying that some University Socialists were of the view, expressed in “Aggression in Asia”, that “Asian nations must take a firm stand now before it is too late. We must warn the West to ‘Hands off Asia’”.10 The next day, the Attorney-General gave written sanction for the government to arrest and prosecute those responsible for writing, editing and publishing Fajar No. 7. Seven members of the Fajar editorial board were arrested at the university hostels at Dunearn Road and Paterson Road. The President of the Socialist Club, Poh Soo Kai, was picked up from his Katong home at Karikal Lane. After their rooms were searched and all materials relating to the Club, including copies of Fajar, confiscated, the students were hauled to the police station for questioning. Seven of them were charged in court in the afternoon of the same day, while Edwin Thumboo was charged the following day.11 All eight defendants pleaded not guilty to the charges. As the authorities deemed “Aggression in Asia” to be anti-Western rather than pro-communist, the students were not charged under the Emergency Regulations which would have meant their detention without trial. Even though the editorial was critical, the students were not held to be a direct security threat. Two charges were pressed against the students under the Sedition Ordinance (Act 4 of 1938). The first charge alleged that they were responsible for the publication of the seventh issue of Fajar that contained content deemed seditious, aiming to “libel the Queen or libel the government or to incite the people of Singapore or to promote ill-will”.12 The second charge was for the possession of a copy of this offensive journal. In putting the students on trial for sedition, the colonial state demonstrated incredible pettiness. Further pettiness was in no short supply in the decisions the British would soon make on the case.13

The Fajar 8, Pritt and Fund Raising The eight editorial board members arrested and charged were: – Poh Soo Kai, 22, a 3rd year medical student and President of the Socialist Club, – M.K. Rajakumar, 22, a 4th year medical student and the SecretaryGeneral of the Club,

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– James Puthucheary, 32, a 4th year arts student and the Chairman of the editorial board, – Kwa Boo Sun, 21, a 2nd year arts student and the Publications Secretary of the Central Working Committee, in charge of all club publications, – Lam Khuan Kit, 23, a 4th year arts student and the circulation manager of Fajar, – Thomas Varkey, 20, a 1st year arts student, – P. Arudsothy, 19, a 1st year arts student, and – Edwin Thumboo, 20, a 1st year arts student. S.R. Nathan, a former member of the Central Working Committee in 1953-1954, provided an alternate view of how history might have turned out differently. The Fajar 8, he stated, became heroes by accident. In January that year, he said, a new editorial board had been elected by the Socialist Club but some of the articles led to the arrests were possibly ghost written, although this claim is contradicted by the accounts of the other Club members. Nathan said that he and the rest of the CWC should have been the ones arrested. But because they were third-year students preparing for the examinations, they had let the second-year students set up the editorial board and publish Fajar, and the rest was history.14 In fact, however, among the Fajar 8, there were three fourthyear, one third-year, one second-year, and three first-year students. The police action on university grounds shocked the faculty and student body. Lecturer Ann Wee recalled that the arrests particularly outraged the teaching staff because they took place during the examinations period.15 University Socialists like Lim Hock Siew were adamant that the arrests were intentionally carried out in the wee hours of 28 May to “terrorise the whole Socialist Club membership”.16 Other Club members had their rooms ransacked during the 28 May arrests. For Club Treasurer Osman Cassim, the incident bore a long-lasting personal impact. He had been so traumatised by the search of his room and possessions that he could not complete his examinations and had to spend another year to resit for his honours degree.17 To merely question the editorial board members on the afternoon of 27 May as originally planned would not have had the maximum impact of intimidating the student body. It was, to use a Chinese saying, a case of killing the chicken to warn the monkeys.18 Even among these times of terror, confusion and anger, there were unintentional comic moments. Arthur Lim, who was Rajakumar’s hostel mate at the Faculty of Medicine hostel at Paterson Road, recalled that on the morning of the arrests, a short, bald British police officer gathered a group of one Eurasian and five Chinese hostelites together and proceeded to demand which of them was Rajakumar. After, naturally, a

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span of awkward silence and as the police officer continued to insist that one of them was Rajakumar, Lim raised his hand and said, “I am Rajakumar”.19 Rajakumar was eventually found by ASP Ahmad Khan and brought to the Criminal Investigations Department headquarters at Pearl’s Hill. There, Rajakumar was left alone without much interrogation.20 The police already had orders to charge the Fajar 8. It was quite a different story, however, for Jeyaraj Rajarao, the last and ninth member of the editorial board. He was only picked up for questioning and not formally charged. Along with Arudsothy, Thumboo and Varkey, he was a first-year student freshly recruited into the board. They had assisted with the research for Fajar and with copy-editing the articles.21 Among the “seniors”, Puthucheary, who had initially kept a low profile in the Club, had joined the board on the persuasion of Poh and Rajakumar.22 The British targeted Rajarao as the prosecution’s Crown witness. He was picked up in a Black Maria and then severely interrogated and threatened. He was even told that his elderly parents in Penang would be arrested. As he said later: “It was not police questioning, but intimidation. I was young then and was unused to these people”. After revealing some information about the Club and his involvement in it, he was released on the condition that he was to become a witness for the prosecution.23 Eventually, the eight defendants were released on bail when Sydney Caine came to bail them out. He provided the bail of $1,000 each as he felt it was his duty to do so. During his initial discussions with the Colonial Secretary and later, the Director of the Special Branch, he had been under the impression that the students would only be brought in for questioning and not be arrested.24 The students had refused bail until Caine came and bailed them out, although they had originally wanted the Chancellor of the university, Malcolm MacDonald, to be their bailer.25 With the Fajar 8 out on bail, the Socialist Club, far from being psychologically hamstrung, quickly swung into action to put together their defence. The first order of business was to engage a lawyer to fight the charges. Past and present Club members such as Puthucheary, Woodhull, Rajakumar, Poh and Rajarao got together to approach the well-known criminal lawyer David Marshall. But he turned them down because he was “very strongly against the utilisation of (the) courts for political tub-thumping”.26 Rajarao recalled that Marshall told them in no uncertain terms, “I won’t defend communists!”27 Eventually, the Socialist Club decided to engage Lee Kuan Yew as part of the defence team as he was its honorary legal adviser and had also represented the Fajar 8 in court immediately after the arrests.28 Rajakumar recounted that Lee was then very anxious about whether the Club would engage him for the trial, as taking on such a case would

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significantly enhance Lee’s anti-colonial credentials. In an incident witnessed by Woodhull, Lee was pacing up and down his law office waiting for the Club to call to confirm his engagement for the case.29 The choice of the lead member of the defence team was more uncertain. Some accounts have claimed that Lee had suggested and secured the engagement of D.N. Pritt as the senior counsel for the case.30 This is disputed by Poh Soo Kai, Lim Hock Siew and also by the researcher Koh Tat Boon. In their view, the Club had sought advice from John Eber, the founding member of the Malayan Democratic Union, with whom the Club had maintained contact in London. Eber sent a telegram to Toh Chin Chye, offering a choice between two well-known leftwing Queen’s Counsels: Dingle-Foot or Denis Nowell Pritt.31 Poh Soo Kai told Toh to cable back the Club’s preference for Pritt.32 Once Pritt’s services were secured, with Lee as junior counsel, the University Socialists set up the Fajar Defence Fund to canvass for donations and moral support, even though both Pritt and Lee offered their services free of charge. Lim Hock Siew was appointed the Chairman of the Fund and Tan Seng Huat, Lim’s fellow medical student and classmate at Raffles Institution earlier, was the Treasurer. The fundraisers approached and appealed to many individuals in Singapore and Malaya. They put up posters on campus and distributed circulars outside it, all carefully phrased, in consultation with Lee Kuan Yew, to avoid “committing the contempt of court”.33 The response was reportedly “very good”, with contributions from Tan Cheng Lock, the President of the Malayan Chinese Association, who donated $2,000, and from Chinese community leaders in Singapore, including Lee Kong Chian.34 The UMNOMCA Alliance pledged its financial and moral support for the students, while youth organisations also sent donations and letters of encouragement to the Fajar Defence Fund. There were also contributions from many members of the university staff and other prominent public figures, including politicians from across the causeway.35 Tunku Abdul Rahman, whom Osman Cassim had written to as part of the fund-raising campaign, sent “a check for $100 which at that time was quite a hefty sum”.36 A total of $11,683.91 was collected to defray the cost of Pritt’s air passage, accommodation at the Adelphi Hotel and the small gift of a red ruby ring.37 The vernacular presses threw in their support for the Englisheducated Socialist Club members. The Utusan Melayu ran regular updates in the lead up to the trial. When the case was thrown out, both the Nanyang Siang Pau and Nanfang Evening Post ran congratulatory articles on the verdict on 25-26 August.38 The fund-raising campaign was also well-publicised in the local press. For example, the Utusan Melayu reported in its 29 June 1954 edition that the Socialist Club was seeking funds to fly D.N. Pritt in for the defence of the Fajar 8. Rajarao

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recalled that the newspapers like the Tiger Standard, especially through the articles written by S. Rajaratnam, a future PAP founder-member, expressed sympathy for the Club and its cause.39 The British worry about the Club crossing the bridge to the Chinese-educated world had in fact been realised by their own blunder in mounting a public trial of the eight students.

The First Shots The Fajar case came up for mention in court on 1 July. Mr Tan Ah Tah, the first judge for District Court in Singapore, gave orders to the Deputy Public Prosecutor, A.P. Winslow, to prepare details of the two charges of sedition laid on the eight students. Winslow informed the court that the government did not think that it was necessary to furnish the details. The government, evidently, did not want to be associated with the contents of Fajar. Lee Kuan Yew, however, asserted that the government was bound by the laws of the country to provide the details of such a serious accusation. He referred to Section 124 of the Penal Code Act. He said that there was a commentary in Fajar on Indochina which had been taken from a publication called University in the Nation. If any part of the article was considered seditious, Lee added, he would be in touch with University in the Nation to assist with the defence. Winslow countered Lee’s argument. He drew a parallel of a murder allegation where the murder process did not have to be spelled out clearly in court. In a similar fashion, he argued, the sedition charges need not be fleshed out in detail. Lee protested that there were many items in Fajar besides the editorials, including book reviews. He asked: “You don’t mean to say that advertisements are seditious too?” To this, Winslow replied: “As to the particulars, the whole publication is seditious. I am of course not referring to the advertisements”. Judge Tan subsequently ruled that the “particulars of the matters alleged to be seditious should be supplied (on 2 July) by 12 noon”. The next day, Winslow conceded that only the articles contained in the first two pages of Fajar No. 7 were relevant to the sedition charges.40 However, the press was instructed not to reprint these two articles.41 The hearing was to continue five weeks later on 10 and 11 August.42 The Fajar case came up for mention again on 21 July. The prosecution asked for the hearing to be held in September, instead of the original dates of 23-25 and if required, 26 August, in order to have more time to prepare the details of the allegations. In rebutting this request, Lee Kuan Yew said that the hearing could not be held then because Pritt would have to return to England immediately on 28 August to attend to other matters. Furthermore, three of the students would need

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to sit for their re-examination in September, having failed their papers in May by default due to the arrests.43 The real reason why the British authorities wanted to push back the hearing dates was because the World Assembly of Youth was meeting in Singapore in August at the same time as the trial. As the overseas press would be present, the case could engender bad publicity for the empire. The timing, John Nicoll noted, “is most unfortunate. The Attorney-General did his best to have the (case) put off until September but without success because the Court was not co-operative”.44 With this setback for the prosecution, the dates for the trial were finally confirmed on 30 July on 23-25 August. The students appeared before a new judge, Freddy A. Chua. He asked that the accused be charged again as this was the first time they were appearing before him.45 The prosecution tried one last time to delay the hearings till September, stating that three of their witnesses, who were students, were presently away on tour and would return only on 25 August. The prosecution had also, it claimed, sent some papers to a chemist as evidence for checking and due to bank holidays, the chemist could only submit his report by 10 August. Chua rejected this final attempt to further adjourn the trial.46 Even as the University Socialists rallied to the cause of the eight accused, things were not going well for the “hollow men”. The Colonial Office papers revealed that, between the arrests and the trial, the colonial government faced a major dilemma in deciding how to proceed with the case, or whether to even proceed at all. The key disagreement was between Governor Nicoll and Malcolm MacDonald, the university Chancellor and the Commissioner-General for the United Kingdom in Southeast Asia. MacDonald felt that the British simply had no case against the students and that the continuation of the case would do the British empire more harm than good. MacDonald wanted the case dropped immediately.47 Nicoll disagreed, arguing that, while the case might have been a mistake, its abandonment would only exacerbate matters and adversely affect British prestige. It was perhaps MacDonald’s own loss of face at not being initially consulted on the decision to arrest the students despite being the university Chancellor that led him to disagree with Nicoll. Although MacDonald was known for his more enlightened views on the colonial question, the disagreement over the trial was more a case of turf war.48 The differences between the two men were presented to John Martin of the Colonial Office in London. In a correspondence dated 30 July, Nicoll complained to Martin about MacDonald in the handling of the trial. This backfired, for London came to perceive Nicoll as desperately seeking moral support from his superiors, to the point that he was described as “sensitive” and “lonely”. His colleagues in London advised

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Martin to send a note to encourage Nicoll, which he did on 16 August, just a week before the trial was due to start. Unknown to the general public and the students, the sedition case became untenable almost immediately after the students were charged in court in May. Nicoll had made a serious tactical error in arresting and charging the students. Subsequently, he was too concerned with his own pride to rescind the charges, despite the reservations of other officials in the British administration in Singapore. Disagreements did not only erupt in the upper echelons of power. Recalling years later in an oral history interview, the Special Branch officer in charge of “Operation Fajar”, ASP Ahmad Khan, had apparently made his dissenting views known to his superiors, the AttorneyGeneral and the senior Deputy Public Prosecutor, E.P. Shanks. Khan felt that the arrests would only make martyrs out of the students. The writing of the so-called “seditious” articles, he suggested, was merely “normal political activity” in a colony which was experiencing its political awakening. Having worked as a police officer in Punjab, India, in the 1930s and seen for himself the anti-colonial movement in South Asia, Khan hardly considered the Fajar articles to be seditious. In his opinion, the Fajar case would not amount to a conviction in court, and the blunders of the “foolish action on the part of government or security organisation (could) worsen the security situation”. In his view, the colonial government’s actions were responsible for “making, driving many people into the Communist force”.49 Finally, D.N. Pritt arrived in Singapore on 11 August 1954.50 He was received at the airport by the accused students and Lee Kuan Yew.51 Described as “big, heavy-set and bald”, Pritt was a figure to be reckoned with.52 He was familiar with sedition trials throughout the British Empire, having just successfully defended two such cases in British Guiana before coming to Singapore.53 In his own words, “sedition is a vaguely defined offense”. Personally, as he wrote in his autobiography later, he was much offended by the actions of the colonial government in Singapore: The authorities did not content themselves with the course – reasonable if there was any case for the prosecution – of not arresting the students but summoning them to appear in Court on the charge; they seized from the bookstalls and stationers’ shops all copies of the issue of Fajar in which the article appeared – probably illegally, but then, as one of the police officers told me in conversation, “On this island the law is what the police say”.54 Pritt recalled too that the British government made one last futile attempt to prevent him from being called to the Singapore Bar as

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Meeting the Queen’s Counsel at the airport

Poh Soo Kai shakes hands with D.N. Pritt while P. Arudsothy (second from left), Lam Khuan Kit (centre) and Lee Kuan Yew look on, 1954. Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction

required. The government was, however, unable to prevent his application for exemption from the requirement from being approved, as he was able to “show plenty of special grounds”.55 This amusing incident was even described by Lee Kuan Yew in his own memoirs: Pritt then had to appear before three examiners who had to satisfy themselves that he had “an adequate knowledge of the practice and etiquette of the profession and of the English language and is a suitable person for admission”. The three were the most eminent members of the Singapore Bar, the solicitor-general and two senior British lawyers. One of them asked him, “Mr Pritt, how would you draw up a conveyance of land?” Pritt replied, “Queen’s Counsel, sir, do not draw up conveyances of land”.56

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First Day As Lim Hock Siew recalled, on 23 August, the First Criminal District Court was packed with students, members of the university staff, members of the public and many members of the bar.57 Among the audience were the Chinese middle school students who would later engage Pritt for the “513” appeals. They were there to assess Pritt’s performance. With Pritt on their side, the University Socialists were in high spirits, so much so that at the trial itself, they had reprinted the supposedly seditious seventh issue of Fajar and were selling it in the courtroom under the very noses of the policemen.58 Pritt and the defence team might not have been aware of it, as it would be against the law, for the publication was still alleged to be seditious.59 The Socialist Club had not ceased publication of Fajar either.60 The trial started at 10 a.m. every morning.61 On the first day, Pritt took issue with the charges of sedition, reasoning that it was difficult to ascertain one’s “intent” to libel the government or promote ill-will against it among the people.62 He asked Judge Freddy Chua to strike them out and have the prosecution “make valid charges against us if they can”. However, Chua ruled against Pritt’s preliminary objection.63 Nonetheless, Pritt scored points, at least with the gallery, later in the day in his questioning of the witnesses. When ASP Ahmad Khan took the stand, Pritt wondered why a number of books by prominent authors which had been critical about the colonial Malayan state had not been deemed seditious. He cited from a book, Malaya, Communist or Free?, by the well-known historian and former civil servant, Victor Purcell, which argued that “if Malaya continues under the present military regime, with its present police state, the inevitable reaction can only result in Communism”. Khan said he had not read the book and did not know whether it was freely on sale in Singapore. Pritt then further quoted from a journal article by Purcell which also disparaged the Special Branch.64 To further expose the government’s inconsistency, Pitt quoted two extracts from a speech by Tan Cheng Lock to the Malayan Chinese Association the previous December that also went unchallenged or unpunished by the government. Tan had described Malaya as remaining “in a state of subservience under an autocratic Government, despite the promises of the British Government”, and as having “in many respects, become a police state, in which the power of the Executive has been tremendously increased at the expense of the individual”.65 Lee Kuan Yew then questioned Assistant Police Superintendent Thomas William Lilley about the list of names of people to whom copies of Fajar were to be sent. Lee pointedly emphasised that the

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people on the subscription lists of Fajar were of “eminent respectability”, including David Marshall and Malcolm MacDonald himself.66 The prosecution next called upon three Socialist Club members as witnesses. Together with Rajarao, Chua Sian Chin, a founding member of the Club, a member of the Central Working Committee and the Club’s Publication Secretary, was called up on the first day of the trial, while Ong Pang Boon, another member of the CWC, was called up on the second day. The trio had, however, decided that they would not cooperate with the state and betray their friends. Believing that the case would stand or fall on the question of whether the Fajar article was seditious, they were certain that it was not.67 All three hedged or fudged their answers at the stand; Rajarao revealed later that he was “pretending to think for a while” before replying.68 They claimed not to know or remember who published or prepared Fajar No. 7; if the Socialist Club had anything to do with the editorial board; or even if there was an editorial board! They also claimed not to remember which issues of Fajar James Puthucheary, as chairman of editorial board, was responsible for publishing; the names of the editorial board members; or how long the editorial board had existed. Rajarao stated that he had lost the book containing the minutes of editorial board meetings, and in any case he was only the secretary of the board from January to April 1954.69 As Ong Pang Boon later recounted, ASP Ahmad Khan threatened to charge the trio for perjury. However, Shanks, the Deputy Public Prosecutor, prevailed upon Khan to let the matter go.70 Rajarao received a markedly different treatment from the Special Branch after becoming a hostile witness. While he had been given a First Class train ticket to return to Singapore from Penang for trial as a Crown witness, he was only given a Third Class train ticket for the passage home after the trial.71

Second Day On the second day, Pritt questioned William Craig, the Registrar of the University, who revealed that although he knew that the police were coming to the campus on 28 May, he did not realise they were going to arrest the students. Craig also told the court that the dawn arrests had not been made to intimidate the students, but to allow them to take the examinations later in the day if the police had made their search of the premises and found nothing. When asked if he attempted to protect the eight students, Craig replied that “the Vice Chancellor and myself tried to make arrangements so there would be as little inconvenience as possible to the students sitting the examinations”.72 After Craig left the stand, Pritt surmised that the prosecution had failed completely to show even prima facie that the Fajar issue was

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seditious. He stated that “This is a very terrible attack on freedom of speech and indeed nothing could do the Government of Singapore more harm in the long run than if they were to succeed in this prosecution”. He further argued that the prosecution had not proven its case against any of the eight accused. It was unclear, he added, whether Poh Soo Kai had written the offending article in Fajar, or if Puthucheary had taken part in publishing the issue. Pritt also contested the allegation that by being found in possession of copies of the issue, the other students were responsible for its publication. At the conclusion of the proceedings, Pritt asked that since there was no viable case against them, the accused students should all be acquitted. Shanks remained defiant, insisting that the Crown had proven its charges against all of the eight. He argued that the minutes of a CWC meeting that had been seized by the police revealed that names of the editorial board members responsible for the publication of Fajar. He also stated there was collaborating evidence that the accused students were either involved in publishing the seventh issue or had copies of it in their possession. He urged the court to consider the articles in the first two pages of Fajar as seditious based on the language used in them.73

Third Day – Game, Set, Match Remarkably, on the third day of the trial, the prosecution finally stated which parts of the offending articles it considered seditious. Responding to Pritt’s argument the previous day that the prosecution had no case, Shanks quoted from the offending articles, beginning with “Aggression in Asia”: Asia has suffered bitterly from Western barbarity. The bitterness of these memories is not easily removed. They will greatly influence Asian thinking for a long time, until the West proves itself worthy of trust and friendship. This day is yet to come and vigilance is needed to prevent any form of Western imperialism getting a foothold in Asia again. Recent events in Asia give great cause for alarm. Shanks argued that these statements clearly intended to “bring into hatred or contempt or incite disaffection against the Imperial Government and the Governments of Malaya”, and that they would also “raise disaffection among her Majesty’s subjects and other inhabitants of the Colony” and “promote ill-will and hostility between different races or classes of the Colony”.74 He then read out another extract:

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Republican China is being denied her rightful place in the United Nations, whilst an émigré government is being maintained in Taiwan under the protection of the US navy. Republican India is being dragged into the theatre of war by the purchase of American military bases in Pakistan. Now we are told that Asia is to be defended, whether she likes it or not. A military pact is being formed against Asian objections and without Asian participation. We view this as being, in Mr. A. Bevan’s words, “for the purpose of imposing European colonial rule”. Shanks said such an accusation was manifestly seditious at a time when European governments, Britain included, were genuinely preparing to grant self-government to the colonial peoples.75 He went on to refer to three other extracts which were similarly ill-intentioned. The first was the “Hands off Asia” statement that called on Asian nations to “take a firm stand now before it’s too late.” The second extract was, “we need peace and freedom. The solidarity of Asia is the solidarity of the suppressed. This alone is our fight and we will fight our fight and we will be dragged into no other”. The third quote, Shanks stated, was also “designed to promote feelings of hostility”: Malaya is one more pimple on the face of Asia where a Colonial Power rules with the help of quislings. As such our interests will always be sacrificed to imperial expediency. Thus we see our country being committed into a military alliance, the SEATO, without the sanction of its people; our land is being turned into a military base. Our country is to fight in wars over whose making it will not have any say ... It is difficult for us not to believe that a nation like Great Britain is not above political hypocrisy or resorting to oppressive emergency measures.76 Moving beyond “Aggression in Asia” to the “National Service” commentary in the issue, Shanks referred specifically to these statements: How does it become “National Service” for a colonial people to be trained to fight in wars in the making of which they have no part – no choice of their foes or allies. We wonder whether conscription is one of the steps in the promised progress to self-government. Through we are not fit to rule ourselves we are not unfit to die for other people’s interests. Shanks argued that it was Britain’s responsibility to prepare a colony for self-government by training its people to defend themselves from

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threats; consequently, the “National Service” remarks were calculated to retard the constitutional progress of Singapore.77 Shanks also quoted from “Pensions Amendment Bill” section, claiming it would arouse discontent among the civil servants and general public, and “Discussion in the University”, which, he argued, maliciously distorted the due processes of law in the country by representing Malaya under the Emergency Regulations as being akin to a “police state”. In summing up, Shanks stated that all these comments were malicious and sought to undermine public order in Singapore and Malaya, where the government was earnestly battling the threat of “communist terrorism” and preparing the two countries for selfgovernment.78 Pritt countered by describing Shanks’ case as amounting to “the most appalling attack on the ordinary, public rights of controversy, certainly since the days of the Chartists, as far as England is concerned”, as well as an “appalling departure from every principle and tradition the British people have ever preached”. He pointed out that “not only did my friend, Mr Shanks, get his law wrong, but also that he mis-stated grotesquely the effect of the evidence given by some of the prosecution witnesses”. Fajar, he argued, was a serious paper read by informed people who were discerning enough to appraise its contents. He also took issue with the police’s illegal seizure of copies of Fajar from bookstalls in Singapore, and added that “practically an expedition of police was sent to capture the students at 5 a.m.”79 Pritt had skilfully based his defence on the fundamental principles of British law and capably highlighted the holes in the prosecution’s case. Judge Chua was sufficiently convinced. Without leaving the bench, Chua directed all eight students to be acquitted. He also ruled that there was no evidence that Poh, Puthucheary, Varkey, Kwa and Thumboo had been in possession of the seventh issue of Fajar. The seized documents produced as exhibits in court were to be returned to the owners after allowing for a period of time for the prosecution to lodge an appeal against the decision.80 The students were immediately released from the dock, whereupon they crowded around Pritt, shook his hand and duly received the congratulations of other students attending the trial. The University Socialists went straight from the courtroom to the Adelphi Hotel, where Pritt was put up, to drink a toast to the “freedom of speech”. There was a sufficient sense of relief for someone to suggest, light-heartedly, printing a second edition of No. 7 “in view of the large demand likely to have arisen out of the case”.81

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A Breaking Moment for Malaya The commotion at the abrupt conclusion of the trial belies the fact that everyone at the hearing was taken by surprise by the judge’s verdict. None of the Fajar 8 had yet taken the stand and now they were freed. The defence had prepared pages upon pages of detailed notes on “Aggression in Asia”. Rajakumar himself had, upon Lee Kuan Yew’s request, written a fourteen-page defence brief.82 Pritt, too, was startled by the decision and indeed “showed disappointment (when the defence was not called) and asked the Magistrate to repeat that he had indeed acquitted the accused”.83 Lim Hock Siew recounted: We had made very detailed preparations for the trial and our main concern was more the political impact of the trial rather than the legal aspects of the trial. Of course the legal aspects were important and we had every confidence in winning the trial, of winning the case because of the presence of an eminent lawyer like Mr Pritt. But the political implications were of course more important to us all.84 We had made intensive research on the subject and Mr Pritt read out many quotations from prominent political figures, both in Malaya and outside our country on the subject of sedition. I remember we also used what Mr Nehru said in his trial for sedition. I think he said something to the effect that it was an honour in a colony for a colonial subject to be seditious and unless every Indian citizen was prepared to be seditious then India would not be ready for freedom. Well, it was things like that which I think created quite a sensation in the trial.85 It was precisely such “political tub-thumping”, to use Marshall’s phrase, that the authorities had wanted to avoid whilst in the public eye. In July, John Nicoll had tried to steel his administration for the trial, exhorting that “if Pritt comes, he will undoubtedly do as much damage as he possibly can in every direction but all we can do is to take what comes”.86 In fact, Judge Chua had wait out the proceedings as long as he could before deciding to terminate the trial and avert total humiliation for the state. After the trial, Nicoll wrote to John Martin in a classic example of revisionism in history: In the event there were no political speeches in the Court nor attacks on the Government from neighbouring territories. There would have been attempts at political speeches if the accused had been called on to produce their defence. I have good reason to believe that Pritt had a long political speech all ready and the

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accused also intended to try to make similar political speeches. But the Magistrate stopped the case, wisely in my view, as soon as he had made up his mind that he could not convict.87 From their point of view, the British felt that the acquittal ended on a positive note as it showed the independent nature of the judiciary and British democracy at work, especially to the delegates of the World Assembly of Youth who met in Singapore at the time.88 They also believed that the verdict acted as a deterrent, reminding the students and people of Singapore that the Sedition Law existed.89 The British felt that they had put the editorial board in their place and that the Socialist Club now would be more cautious in their future writings and activities.90 They were also subsequently relieved that, in tracking coverage of the trial in the Southeast Asian press, they “ha[d] not been able to find any trace of reactions”.91 In November, Nicoll went to even greater lengths to inform the Colonial Office in London that “the prosecution has had a sobering effect on the Editorial Board”.92 Nicoll’s self-gratifying statements turned out to be a total misreading of the political situation in 1954. The event was a major victory for the accused students and the Socialist Club. It was a defining moment for the emerging left-wing movement in Singapore. What the trial did was to boost the morale of the Socialist Club and sharpen its sense of purpose and political mission. When freed, Poh Soo Kai declared that “our stand for a sovereign and socialist Malaya has been vindicated”. He added: “We were never ashamed of being on the editorial board of Fajar. We never denied it either to the police or to anyone else”.93 The trial also led those who believed in a more reformist kind of socialism, the so-called “fireside socialists”, to leave the Club soon after; this at least fulfilled British rationalisations that the arrests and trial did deter radicalism among the university student population, although not within the Club. In this sense, certain British objectives were met. Both Wang Gungwu and Rajarao were of the opinion that the arrests and trial were meant to “put fear of the Lord into the hearts of intellectuals who were attracted to socialism and Marxism, to warn the other youngsters off”.94 But as the “fireside socialists” made their quick exit, those who stayed behind were more committed to the cause. The Socialist Club was able to emerge a more serious left-wing political club and become a major player in Singapore and Malayan politics.95 The Fajar arrests, trial and acquittal irreversibly undermined the colonial edifice in the political imagination of a generation of political and student activists. Pritt called it “a tremendous victory against those who want to suppress freedom of speech”.96 Lim Hock Siew recalled the political significance of the trial not only for Fajar but also for the revival of left-wing politics in Singapore in the mid-1950s in total:

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the outcome of the trial was that the views of the Socialist Club was ventilated very widely in the papers. The whole Fajar editorial which was alleged to be seditious was read out in court and that was largely re-quoted in various daily newspapers, both the English and the Chinese newspapers. And Fajar as a result gained wide publicity in our county … it raised the prestige of Fajar amongst members of the public and consequently the Fajar circulation shot up to about 5,000 copies per issue.97 The trial of the Fajar students together with the trial of the Chinese school students involved in the May 13th demonstration created an upsurge of public activity and public interest in the political struggle of our people. And it was in the wake of this upsurge of political activity that the PAP was formed in November 1954 … These two trials on the part of Lee Kuan Yew greatly boosted his personal image amongst the left-wing circles in Singapore. And it facilitated his becoming the leader of the People’s Action Party when it was formed. For M.K. Rajakumar, the trial was simply a personal triumph for the brave, the bold and the young, an invigorating baptism by fire: There was a lot of fear in those days just before our time, a whole lot of university students were arrested. The result of the trial made people less fearful. The left wing became validated and legitimised. “We’ve won!” If we had lost and [been] jailed, that would have wrecked our careers and future and would have intimidated the entire student body. That’s the amazing thing about being young. You’re not aware of the risks you’re taking.98 The news of the Fajar verdict spread across the peninsula and inspired the next generation of Socialist Club leaders. Ahmad Mustapha was a secondary school student in Alor Star who read about the trial in the local newspapers. He wrote about the incident in his student journal and made up his mind to join the Club if he should make the journey to Singapore and matriculate at the University of Malaya.99 The same could be said of V. Selvaratnam.100 Even before he entered the University, Agoes Salim had made a contribution of $5 to the Fajar Defence Fund. Hence, when he got to the university, it was “quite natural” for him to “gravitate towards the Socialist Club.”101 This was the stuff of the legend of the Fajar trial. Yet, despite inflicting a tactical defeat on the ruling government, the Fajar trial did serve British goals at the strategic level. Pritt went to defend, unsuccessfully this time, the Chinese students charged in the

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“513 Incident”. Lee Kuan Yew’s active role in both trials allowed him to make contact with the Chinese-educated activists Lim Chin Siong and Fong Swee Suan, among others. The resulting contact and engagement between the two groups of socialists, one mostly reformist and English educated, the other, largely left-wing and Chinese educated, led to the formation of the PAP in October 1954. Ideologically, this was the opposite of what had happened within the Club after the trial. As the PAP proved its ability to mobilise a mass movement to achieve its goal of an independent, socialist Malaya in the late 1950s, the British plan to take a degree of risk with political openness began to bear fruit. The Socialist Club, too, was an integral partner in this movement and experiment.

4

Visionary of the Nation, Voice of Stifled Malayans

The political history of 1950s Singapore is often held to begin after the trial of the Fajar 8. In the usual narrative, political developments now moved swiftly beyond the Socialist Club. The historical spotlight falls on the Labour Front government under Chief Minister David Marshall, whose party had won the 1955 general elections and who would seek full self-government for Singapore. Outside of the Labour Front, attention is often focused on the uncomfortable alliance within the People’s Action Party between the Fabian socialist group led by Lee Kuan Yew and the left wing headed by Lim Chin Siong, who with other socialist activists headed a rejuvenated mass movement comprising of workers, Chinese students and rural dwellers. The Socialist Club, as it is usually portrayed, had fulfilled its role in building the requisite political and cultural bridges between the two wings of the PAP in 1953-1954 and now faded into the background. After the Fajar trial, the university authorities reported with some relief that the Club’s political activities were carried out on “a rather quieter note than previously”.1 The Fajar trial did serve as a catalyst in reviving progressive politics in Singapore. But this was not the Socialist Club’s only contribution for the remainder of the 1950s, for it also interacted and converged with the other modernist groups, particularly the progressive political parties in Singapore like the PAP but also those in the Federation. With their confidence enhanced after the trial and with a greater sense of purpose, the University Socialists played significant roles in national and campus politics as socialists and student activists respectively. They also continued to maintain contact and work with alumni who had left the Club to participate in party politics and mass mobilisation in Singapore and Malaya. In these ways, the Club became a part of a socialist movement larger than its small number of active members. This chapter examines the Club’s contribution as a committed intelligentsia, serving as the visionary of Malayan nationalism and the voice of the marginalised masses. The Club was active in its advocacy on issues concerning labour organisation, rural poverty, communal divisions and the national language. Its endeavour was deeply rationalist, in seeking to help mobilise workers and peasants and integrate them into the fabric of the Malayan nation. Its articles in Fajar after the 1954 trial

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underlined the need for a mass movement comprising workers, students and peasants in Singapore and Malaya. Similarly, the Club attempted to mobilise the Malay language as the modern, non-Western language of the nation. This recognition of the importance of the cultural side of nation-building culminated in the Seminar on the National Language in 1959, the year Singapore became a self-governing state under the PAP. Nevertheless, even as the Club pursued its socialist vision of Malaya, British decolonisation was moving away in a different direction, based on contrary principles. The Club’s efforts took place amid a growing political divide between Singapore and Malaya. In Singapore, the actions of both the Labour Front governments and the competing groups within the PAP demonstrated how the very meaning of socialism was contested. Left-wing socialism became deeply distrusted by the colonial rulers and their collaborators. The University Socialists, alongside the left in Singapore and Malaya in general, also came under such official scrutiny and repression. On the peninsula, communal politics became ever more entrenched, especially after the British regime transferred in August 1957 full sovereign power to the Alliance, a coalition of communal parties which represented the three major ethnic groups in the Federation. The Alliance had worked closely with the British colonial government to suppress the Malayan Communist Party and obtain speedy independence for Malaya, without Singapore.2

“We speak for many stifled Malayans” In the mid-1950s, the Socialist Club consolidated its identity as a crucial voice, initially in English and later in Malay, for a socialist vision of Malaya. In this, it converged with other groups which expressed the same ideal. Other student bodies in the university, such as the University of Malaya Students’ Union, and in Nanyang University and the Chinese middle schools subscribed, too, to similar versions of the same ideal. The political parties, including the PAP and the Labour Front in Singapore and the Alliance Party in the Federation, and even colonial officials spoke frequently about forging “the Malayan nation”. The Club appeared to be caught in the tension between judging issues independently and its advocacy of socialism. The University Socialists firmly declared in Fajar in 1955 that they would not align themselves with any particular party but “shall judge all issues independently”.3 In practice, the dichotomy between being autonomous and being committed was not that great. In colonial Singapore and Malaya, both positions were in fact closely linked, as the mainstream presses like the Straits Times served as the mouthpiece of British power and

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supported the capitalist system. As Poh Soo Kai succinctly explained later, the Club was concerned with issues, not political parties or personalities.4 In December 1954, Fajar published a letter from a university staff member complaining that the Club was partial and was transmitting anti-Western propaganda, to which the Club emphatically replied: We admit we are partial – we have our own viewpoint and we feel that we speak for many stifled Malayans. We attract attention because we are alone, out of tune with the conducted orchestra ... We are partial to freedom and to what we consider just; and we strive to be honest. We will not repent.5 The University Socialists viewed themselves as “the vanguard of progressive youth”, undertaking, as youths in neighbouring countries were also doing, the “study of the origins and causes of the decadence and injustice of our present society and of how to eliminate them”. Consequently, their intellectual role was to assist the people’s “struggle to bring about the social and economic changes for a new society”.6 As a student body, the Socialist Club was unafraid to stand up for its views against the political establishment. It was actively involved in debates over the basic meaning and means of socialism in Singapore and Malaya. In late 1954, David Marshall, then still a prominent lawyer who had just joined the Labour Front to contest the 1955 general elections in Singapore, accused the Fajar editorial board of “merely masquerading as Socialists whilst sprouting venomous Communist propaganda”. Marshall had been asked to take up the Fajar case but had bluntly declined. He also demanded to be removed from the Club’s “list of sympathisers”. The editorial board duly published his letter in Fajar, noting, wryly, that they did not know “the exact brand” of Marshall’s socialism. “We suspect that he is politically illiterate”, the editorial board continued, “and that his Socialism is only a pre-election masquerade”.7 The question of what socialism really meant – a term which was widely used but which had diverse meanings – continued to bedevil both the Club and its critics. After the Labour Front won the 1955 elections to form a minority government in the Legislative Assembly, the University Socialists continued to adopt a critical, but generally consistent, stance towards the new regime’s practice of socialism. In particular, the Club criticised the Labour Front for failing to implement genuinely socialist policies and to repeal the Emergency Regulations, which were replaced by the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance.8 When interviewed years later about the Club, Marshall still “viewed it askance with caution, bordering on suspicion”. He remained firm in his conviction that communism was “anathema” and a major obstacle in the way of

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Singapore’s development.9 In fact, Marshall had been overly eager to tar the Singapore left with a broad communist brush; to local communist cadres, the Socialist Club was ideologically “immature and unreliable by the standards of the ABL [Anti-British League] and the [Malayan Communist] Party”.10 Marshall’s simple identification of left-wing socialism with communism reflected a bipolar world view coloured by the binary lenses of the Cold War. The Club also subjected the PAP to the same scrutiny over its practice of socialism. This was all the more significant because many of the early University Socialists were also founder members of the party. When the PAP was inaugurated in November 1954, the Club expressed optimism at the party’s intention to seek immediate independence for Singapore and Malaya. However, it also pointed out a degree of ambivalence in the PAP’s position, since the party had invited communal and anti-communist Federation leaders Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tan Cheng Lock to attend the inauguration ceremony. Stating that the “right wing has no place at the inaugural meeting of a professed left-wing party”, the Club urged the PAP to build up a mass base before it could forge an alliance with other parties from a position of strength.11 The Club’s position was idealistic but consistent on its view on socialism. It was less concerned about political realities – that Tunku had probably been invited to confer political acceptability onto a party comprising a powerful left wing and a number of former political detainees. In 1959, when Tommy Koh was its Secretary and Ahmad Mustapha its President, the Club also endeavoured to maintain the balance between autonomy and advocacy. Koh attempted to allow different perspectives to circulate both within the Central Working Committee and in the Club’s public statements and publications. “If sometimes, I criticised the PAP,” Koh explained in a later interview, “I also don’t hesitate to criticise the Barisan or UMNO”. He made it clear to his left-wing colleagues and associates that he “wanted the Socialist Club to be open to all socialist views and that the club must not become an appendage of a political party, whether PAP or Barisan”. Under Koh’s stewardship, “there was always a spectrum of views within the club”. To a large extent, the University Socialists’ views of local politics sprang from their identity as idealistic students and socialists. Their idealism was also deeply rationalist. Koh explained that “being a law student, you tend to think logically and analytically” about politics and policy matters; as a result, the Club often criticised the Alliance and PAP governments for having “veered from the path of righteousness”.12 Tan Guan Heng, an arts student who was Koh’s contemporary, joined the Club in 1958 and eventually became its Secretary-General. He was inspired by nationalists such as Ho Chi Minh, Gandhi and Sukarno and viewed the majority of the university student population as

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“frivolous, noisy, free-loving”. Joining the Club, Tan explained, allowed him to explore socialist ideals, while Fajar provided a vehicle for him to express his “sympathy for the downtrodden”. He was particularly concerned about the official persecution of unlicensed hawkers in Singapore and viewed it as a deeply rooted political problem: I saw with my own eyes how the police were beating up the hawkers. The hawkers had no proper pitches, no license, illegal hawking. So when the police came, they all ran for cover, and the police just came and beat up the whole gang, [confiscated] their wares. To me it was very shocking, they were treated like animals. That led to my socialist awakening. And again, when you think of the colonial system, you ask yourself, why should someone of a different colour, the white men, why should they be our masters? Our own people should the masters of our destiny.13 The statements of Tan and other University Socialists indicated their youthful idealism at the English-language university campus in the 1950s.

Organise and Mobilise The years 1954-1956 were a high point for the Socialist Club, when they were actively involved in politics and political issues beyond the university in Singapore and Malaya.14 This was particularly possible for the medical students, who read six-year courses at the university, longer than the arts and science students. In the run-up to the Singapore Legislative Assembly elections in April 1955, Lim Hock Siew and fellow Club members A. Mahadeva, M.K. Rajakumar and Poh Soo Kai campaigned for C.V. Devan Nair, the PAP candidate for Farrer Park, in their personal capacity during their two-week long vacation in March.15 Nair’s opponents were A.R. Lazarous of the Labour Front and Eric Wee of the Progressive Party. Lim had chosen the constituency because he lived nearby and was familiar with the area. He also believed that he could communicate with the numerous English-educated families living in the constituency. This turned out to be difficult, as many of the residents were civil servants, conservative in their political outlook. Others had accepted bribes in return for voting for particular candidates enbloc, a common practice in Singapore elections in the 1950s.16 Lim also encountered a problem of a more personal kind in the election campaign. With his friends, he decided to heckle C.C. Tan, the leader of the Progressive Party, who had come to a mass rally at Farrer Park to support Eric Wee:

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At that time the Progressive Party had voted to present the British Government with one million pounds sterling, from the Singapore savings … as an expression of our “gratitude” … for what the British colonial government had done for our people, which to me was utterly absurd – I mean that is an incredible example of their subservience to control rule. And I was determined to ridicule the Progressive Party in any way I could.17 As C.C. Tan was saying: “If we are elected…” during the rally, Lim interjected: “You will give another million pounds sterling to Britain!”18 But as he did so, a man belonging to an Indian splinter gang of the “24” secret society, hired by the party, aimed a kick at him. The alert A. Mahadeva deflected the blow. The University Socialists were outnumbered by the gangsters and decided to retreat quietly. The use of secret society gangsters to determine electoral outcomes was another common practice, illustrating the connection between politics, criminality and wealth.19 In their subsequent campaigning, the students made sure to get “one or two hefty fellows to come along with us, in case we got assaulted by gangsters”.20 On polling day, 2 April, University Socialists helped in all the four constituencies the PAP contested – Farrer Park, Tanjong Pagar (where Lee Kuan Yew stood), Bukit Timah (Lim Chin Siong) and PunggolTampines (Goh Chew Chua).21 The party was critical of the Rendel Constitution and had decided to contest a token number of seats in order to form an opposition to the elected government in the Legislative Assembly. The PAP move was successful, although Devan Nair lost narrowly at Farrer Park to Lazarous. Even though the Club was not affiliated to the PAP, and Lim Hock Siew and others had campaigned for the party in their individual capacity, not as Club members, there was naturally a close relationship between party and club. University Socialists Lim, Poh Soo Kai, James Puthucheary, Sydney Woodhull, Jamit Singh and M.K. Rajakumar were founder-members of the PAP. Lim and Poh also found time from their studies to campaign for Lee Kuan Yew in the Tanjong Pagar by-election in 1957, and again for the PAP in various constituencies in the May 1959 general elections.22 Ahmad Mustapha, although not a formal PAP member yet, also assisted the party in 1959, speaking in PAP rallies in Tanjong Pagar, Geylang Serai and the town area.23 Puthucheary, Lim and Poh also persuaded Ong Pang Boon, another Club member and an arts student, to join the PAP following his graduation. Ong, a close friend of Puthucheary, agreed, giving up a well-paying job in a financial firm to become the party’s organising secretary.24 Another of the Socialist Club’s endeavours was to help invigorate the left-wing trade union movement in Singapore, which had been severely

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weakened by the Emergency Regulations in the early 1950s. It did so in two ways: through its columns in Fajar and more concretely in direct participation in the unions. In December 1955, the Club passed a resolution urging its members to participate actively in the political life of Singapore and Malaya and advance the cause of socialism, particularly through the labour and peasant movements.25 Such activism was unique on the Bukit Timah campus in the 1950s, where, as one of the lecturers intimated, a supreme elitism separated the students from the professors, who managed university affairs like princely autocrats.26 Plate 4.1

A bridge to the labour movement, 1960

Members of the Fajar editorial board speak to workers of the General Electric Company, who are on strike and belong to the Singapore Business Houses Employees’ Union. Present are University Socialists Gopinath Pillai, Albert Lim Shee Ping, Tan Jing Quee, as well as Dominic Puthucheary and Kam Siew Yee of the SBHEU. Lim and Tan joined the union upon graduation. Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction

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Since the local English-language press like the Straits Times typically carried the views of the employers, the Socialist Club was committed to the cause of the trade unions. As an article in Fajar stated in July 1955, the trade union movement had an important role to play in the political development of Singapore and Malaya. The colonial government, the editorial argued, used various means to undermine the unions, such as detaining their leaders without trial, using smear tactics to label the unions as communist-led and employing undue force against picketers. “Genuine trade unionism,” the article concluded, “will only develop freely and to a full extent when Malaya is a completely independent nation”.27 The Club’s view coincided with the left-wing unions’ conviction that, because of the political forces arrayed against labour in Singapore and Malaya, “trade unionism and politics are one and the same”.28 In July 1954, in the midst of the Fajar trial, the organ expressed its support for City Council workers who had gone on strike over the issue of backdated pay.29 As Devan Nair was a prime organiser among the City Council workers, the Socialist Club’s position indicated its close links with the PAP and the trade union movement. In October, a month after workers at Malayan Textiles went on strike in protest over the unfair dismissal of two workers by the company, the Club also sympathetically represented their struggle in Fajar. A writer using the pen name “Pompey” painted the tragic picture of the striking textile workers: half of whom were women, whose ages ranged from 14 to 25 and who suffered from inadequate food and sleep in their long hours of continuous work. The article reiterated the workers’ demands for improved wages and working conditions and their protection from arbitrary dismissal.30 As trade union activism revived in Singapore from 1954, the University Socialists repeatedly emphasised the point that the basic driving force behind the movement was industrial, not political, in nature. In May 1955, a massive strike broke out at the Hock Lee Bus Company, involving bus workers belonging to the Singapore Bus Workers’ Union. The union was led by Fong Swee Suan, a Chinese-educated PAP leader. The industrial action culminated in riots between the police and the strikers and Chinese middle school students who supported them. The authorities blamed the violence on the communists for provoking the dispute. But, as a Fajar editorial observed, “the political conspiracy [that the strike was communist-organised] seems to have been the figment of the imagination of irresponsible pressmen”.31 Another editorial pointed out that the main issue in the strike was the Hock Lee Bus Company’s refusal to recognise the workers’ union and its attempt to divide them by forming a “yellow union”, an employer’s union, a common practice of employers in the 1950s.32 On the involvement of the Chinese students

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in the Hock Lee dispute, Fajar underlined the economic factor which the English-speaking community had failed to appreciate: Chinese students, unlike those in English School, become workers on leaving school. They become shop assistants, conductors, artisans and the like, in most cases. Industrial problems are their problems of the future. The present members of unions in many cases were the school mates of these students only recently. There is no need for political machinations by the MCP to make them vitally interested in labour politics.33 Many former University Socialists joined the trade union movement upon graduating from university, descending from an elite institution to mobilise the toiling masses. Here, their rationalist intent became clear: the activism was an effort to organise and mobilise workers as the mass base of the socialist project, over and above the attempt to obtain improved wages and working conditions for them. University Socialists like Lim Hock Siew often spoke about their involvement in terms of service to, and sacrifice for, the people and the nation: every member of the Socialist Club who graduated thought it was his or her responsibility to fit himself or herself in some kind of role in the political movement. And we gave no second thought to sacrificing our personal interests for what we felt was more important for our people.34 While their concern for labour was genuine, the University Socialists’ underlying aim was its mobilisation and integration into a political movement. They aimed to transform workers much the same way as they sought to organise university students: from being individuals concerned mainly with matters in their family and social circles to active participants in a much wider national project. Mobilisation naturally entailed labour activism. As Lim explained, “we knew that if we were to play an active part in politics, we had to organise the masses ... And what better way than to go into the union movement?”35 James Puthucheary joined the leading left-wing union of Chinese industrial workers, the Singapore Factory and Shop Workers’ Union, situated at Middle Road and headed by Lim Chin Siong. Sydney Woodhull and Jamit Singh went into two major public sector unions with Indian workers, respectively, the Naval Base Labour Union and the Singapore Harbour Board Staff Association. Upon his graduation, Sydney Woodhull had initially planned to continue his studies in England, but Lee Kuan Yew had urged him to join the labour movement, saying: “We need 200 key men and 200 key positions, and we

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will have the British government to ransom”. Woodhull agreed. He held a state scholarship from Johor but found the prospect of working in the civil service “dreadful”. The secretary of the Johor civil service, who perhaps felt that Woodhull would be “a bigger nuisance” in the service, allowed the bond to lapse. Woodhull joined the Naval Base Labour Union as a paid secretary, where Lee was the legal advisor.36 Likewise A. Mahadeva joined the National Union of Journalists, while Lim Shee Ping went into the Singapore Business Houses Employees’ Union of white-collar workers in the private sector. Tommy Koh was the legal adviser to three militant unions, including the Naval Base Labour Union. In the early 1960s, as Koh related: “The admiral in the Navy just could not believe this kid could come in here, walking into the line and then trying to prevent the pro-PAP and pro-Barisan [ factions of the union] from splitting”.37 The Socialist Club did not have formal links to the left-wing unions but maintained close contact with them through its former members. Puthucheary, Woodhull and Jamit Singh, among others, contributed articles in Fajar on the challenges facing the labour movement, its achievements and its broader role in the political development of Singapore and Malaya.38 The Singapore Special Branch noted in 1956 with apprehension how certain issues of the periodical discussing the island’s political developments were penned “almost entirely by outsiders”.39 Such a view was characteristic of the official discourse of communist manipulation. In fact, the Club was an autonomous player helping to build bridges between the university, the politicians and the masses through its organ, which was read both within and outside the campus. Just as Fajar’s opinion editorials introduced the views of a university elite to the wider society, the articles by former Club members in the trade unions brought the cause of labour activism to the sheltered world of the university undergraduate. In 1955, the Club supported a protest strike at the Singapore Harbour Board by highlighting a problem commonly faced by the left-wing unions – the refusal of employers to recognise them. With Jamit Singh providing inside knowledge of the dispute, the Club revealed how the Harbour Board had attempted to undermine the union’s right to negotiate on behalf of the workers, by seeking external arbitration and bypassing the union.40 In the early 1960s, the formerly moderate Singapore Business Houses Employees’ Union of English-educated workers was also becoming more assertive towards their European employers, due mainly to the influence of former University Socialists like Albert Lim Shee Ping and Tan Jing Quee who had joined the union.41 The union helped to sell Fajar to its workers, who could read English, and held discussions on political and economic issues with the Club.42 To support the union’s industrial action, as Gopinath Pillai recalled, the Club

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would donate proceeds from the sale of Fajar to the union, or would simply have the union sell copies of the journal and keep the proceeds.43 Such contact was reduced, but not removed, following the arrests of Puthucheary and Woodhull in October 1956 by the Lim Yew Hock government.44 Ahmad Mustapha remained in contact with Lim Hock Siew and Poh Soo Kai after they left the university.45 Similarly, V. Selvaratnam and Tommy Koh frequently attended the meetings of the Middle Road unions and the PAP’s mass rallies. They wanted to obtain material for Fajar and also keep a close ear to developments on the political ground. Selvaratnam became close to former University Socialists who had joined the PAP and other left-wing leaders in the party like Lim Chin Siong and Fong Swee Suan, while Koh was also close to Lim and Poh.46 Tan Guan Heng admitted that, when he and his fellow executive committee members went to consult the former University Socialists for their input on articles for Fajar, “as undergraduates, we were idealists. People like Hock Siew and Soo Kai, they already had a stature”. But Tan emphasised, “it’s not to have them dictate to you what to say, but they can frame the article better to pack a stronger punch”.47 As Gopinath Pillai explained, the Special Branch’s view that the Club was being managed from the outside was a grave distortion of the symbiotic nature of the exchanges and contact between the Club and its former members: Well, we had very close links with past members and always talked to them. But finally, we always took our own decisions. If you said that the old members were outsiders and that they were dictating, then you could make out the case. But I would not agree that they were dictating. There were always discussions and finally the [Central Working] Committee decided, even on the Hong Lim election. That was the way it was done. But we did discuss.48 Although not a member, university student G. Raman was sympathetic to many of the Club’s leaders in the early 1960s. He agreed that the concurrence of the views of the Club and the left wing was to be expected, since “if the policies of the Club and the other progressive forces were identical, it’s a question of following the trend of history as well as political forces at play at that time”. Tan Jing Quee and R. Joethy, he added, were certainly no “political pushovers”: “they have a mind of their own and they could decide issues”.49 Besides the labour movement, the Socialist Club also assisted in the mobilisation of kampong dwellers in Singapore. This was another lowincome community which, living in unauthorised housing under

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constant threat of eviction from private developers or the state, had been severely marginalised by the colonial system. In the mid-1950s, the kampong dwellers were being organised by left-wing rural associations such as the Singapore Farmers’ Association and Singapore Wooden House Dwellers’ Association, and were emerging as a powerful political force.50 At the end of 1954, the residents of a state resettlement area in Bedok lost their homes, crops and livestock in a major flood. They had recently been resettled there, largely involuntarily, from a kampong in Paya Lebar. Speaking to the flood victims for an article for Fajar, the Club found that the severity of the disaster sprang from the negligence of the colonial government. The authorities had pledged to compensate the residents for the relocation and to properly prepare the resettlement area for occupation, but, apparently, neither had been done. Without adequate drainage, the residents were rendered vulnerable to floods caused by heavy rains.51 Such floods of low-lying kampongs were common in Singapore in the mid-1950s. Together with the Singapore Chinese Middle School Students’ Union, the University Socialists launched donation drives for the flood victims in October 1955 and January 1956. The Socialist Club made similar efforts to mobilise a mass movement north of the causeway. Abdullah Majid joined the Malayan National Seamen’s Union, where he later became its President, while Ho Piao, another Club member, became the union’s paid secretary. As Tan Jing Quee observed later, Ho recalled his union days as being the happiest and most meaningful part of his life, where he made close contact with the working class and where the seamen “in turn took to him with warmth and affection”.52 Prior to this, Ho also worked for the Motor Workshop Employees’ Union and Singapore Machine and Engineering Workers’ Union.53 Jeyaraj Rajarao, the Club’s Secretary in 1958, graduated from university the following year. When asked to join the Singapore civil service, he replied, “I would not work for a fascist government”. He left for the United Kingdom to pursue further studies on a Federation scholarship. Upon returning to Malaya, he was released from his bond to the government and turned down a teaching post at the Department of History at the University of Singapore. Rajarao was unemployed for three years before joining the Rubber Research Institute in Malaya.54 M.K. Rajakumar, who held a government scholarship from Malacca, returned to the state upon graduation to serve his bond in the general hospital. Subsequently, he worked in the general hospital in Kuala Lumpur and then commenced a medical practice in Klang before joining the Labour Party and the Socialist Front in an attempt to break the stranglehold of communal politics on the peninsula.55

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In 1956, Fajar published a long statement by the Malayan Mining Employees’ Union in the Federation, explaining why it was on the verge of a strike against mine owners in Perak, although industrial action was eventually averted.56 Kwa Boo Sun, one of the Fajar 8, had joined the largely-Malay union upon his graduation from the University of Malaya. The British security establishment believed that Kwa was the “real” leader of the union and was being instructed by his Singapore “contact”, James Puthucheary, at the Singapore Factory and Shop Workers’ Union. The Special Branch viewed the presence of former University Socialists like Kwa in unions in the Federation as part of the PAP’s attempt to introduce left-wing university graduates into top positions in the labour movement on the peninsula. Puthucheary, the British believed, was also pressing for the creation of a full-time paid secretary position in the Malayan Trade Union Congress. The rendering of such “political conspiracies”, based on the social circles and political networks of individuals, was characteristic of the Special Branch’s thinking. It probably overstated the organisational reach of the PAP and over-simplified the relationship between the Socialist Club and the party. Nonetheless, the Club was quite clearly attempting to project its ideas of socialism and mass politics into the Federation.57 In 1961, the staff of the progressive Utusan Melayu newspaper went on strike when the Alliance government attempted to interfere with its editorial policy. The paper had given prominent coverage to the economic problems faced by the Malay peasantry, much to the government’s displeasure. The Socialist Club supported the strike by collecting money from university students and lecturers for the strikers.58 It was in the Federation, with its communally structured politics, that the Socialist Club encountered one of its main challenges to the socialist project. In March 1955, Fajar drew attention to the widespread indebtedness of the Malay padi-planting peasant to the Chinese moneylender, demonstrating the deep roots of communal politics in Malaya. In the same issue, a long article titled “Exploitation in the Padi Economy – A Protest” by Peter Wee Kim Eng, who had conducted considerable research in Malay kampongs in the Federation, underlined the severity of the Malay rural problem and the need for land reform.59 For Ahmad Mustapha, who left for the Federation upon his graduation, the Club’s basic aim was to highlight the exploitation of Malay peasants in the colonial economy and the need for substantial political and economic reform.60 In the Club’s view, the solution to the impoverishment of the Malay peasantry did not lie in a communal policy favouring one ethnic group over another, but in the unity of the Malayan labouring classes. An article in Fajar in 1956, titled “Workers of all Races, Unite!”, highlighted the dangers of communalism in Malaya. It emphasised that the making

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of a fair and just Malaya would be impossible without raising class consciousness among the Malays: Today, the highly class-conscious workers of Singapore, largely Chinese, are the advance guard of the Socialist revolution. They pose a formidable threat to capitalism and feudalism. But only when the Malay rakyat attain a similar degree of class consciousness will socialist transformation be possible. To this end, all our energies must be dedicated.61 The Club’s deliberations on the Malay peasantry revealed both the strengths and weaknesses of its rationalist endeavours. The Club emphasised political unity and proposed socialist solutions for the marginalised groups. Unfortunately, it did not fully recognise that these groups, while generally sharing the Malayan outlook, faced deeply rooted socio-economic problems which had ethnic dimensions. Ethnicity placed a major strain on socialist unity and appeared to demand specifically ethnic or cultural accommodations. Raising class consciousness or unifying the classes could not be easily done when the Chinese-educated group attempted to preserve its own language and culture, while the Malay peasantry was heavily indebted to capitalists and moneylenders, many of whom were ethnic Chinese. In both issues, race, culture and language remained divisive factors; the “stifled Malayans” were not a culturally homogeneous class. The Club’s approach to building a broad political coalition was more successful with the labour movement in Singapore, which was largely Chinese, than in the campaign against Malay rural poverty in the Federation. In the Fajar articles, the vision of a united socialist Malaya remained firmly on the Socialist Club’s horizon. In February 1956, the Club organised a forum on political developments in Singapore and Malaya on the university campus. Lee Kuan Yew, Lim Yew Hock and representatives from the Alliance Party and the Liberal Socialist Party spoke at the event. Despite their differences on various issues, the four speakers unanimously supported the reunification of Singapore and Malaya.62 Later in the month, the Club continued to raise awareness on campus of the issues pertaining to Malaya’s progress towards nationhood by organising a “free for all chit chat”. The attendance was small – only about twenty – but the discussants covered important issues on the making of a genuinely independent Malaya. They discussed the drafting of the Malayan constitution, the control of internal security, the creation of a single nationality, and the need for not just political but also economic independence.63 Nevertheless, events on the peninsula were moving inexorably beyond the idea of a quick union between Singapore and Malaya. The

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University Socialists’ views were increasingly out of tune with political developments in Malaya. Already in August 1955, the communally structured Alliance Party had decisively won all the seats save one in the federal elections in Malaya. The coalition proceeded to seek immediate independence for Malaya without Singapore. The Club expressed its deep disappointment that, in undertaking such a unilateral decision, Tunku Abdul Rahman had taken “the line of least resistance”. It acknowledged Tunku’s concern that the British were unwilling to relinquish their control over Singapore, a strategic territory in their struggle against communism in Southeast Asia. But what truly mattered, the Club insisted, was whether the people were prepared to fight for their political rights, for “it is our strength that shall decide the outcome of our struggle – not British generosity”.64 The Club also sought a constitutional end to the shooting war with the Malayan Communist Party and for the communists to be given their rightful place in the Federation government; this led the Club’s views to be interpreted as pro-communist.65 The British government continued with preparations to hand over power to a friendly political leadership which was anticommunist and pro-Malay. Peace talks between the Alliance government and the Malayan Communist Party in 1955 came to naught, while in early 1956, Tunku led a successful mission to London for independence talks. In June, the Socialist Club admitted that “prospects for union between Singapore and the Federation of Malaya are becoming dimmer and dimmer”.66 In late 1959, Lim Kean Siew, the ViceChairman of the Socialist Front in Malaya and a member of the Malayan legislature, addressed 50 University Socialists on the role of socialism in Singapore and Malaya.67 By then, Malaya had become an independent state firmly under a communal leadership, yet its reunification with Singapore appeared further away than ever.

The Lim Yew Hock Purges While politics on the peninsula drifted further from the socialist ideal of a Malayan nation in the mid-1950s, events in Singapore from 1956 directly curtailed the left-wing movement. The Club was the voice of progressive politics as the Singapore left was increasingly targeted by the colonial and Labour Front governments in 1956-1957. In September 1956, Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock began a massive crackdown on the left in a bid to impress upon Whitehall his ability to deal with the communists ahead of new constitutional talks for Singapore. Lim first arrested six left-wing leaders, including Linda Chen, a former University Socialist and the President of the Singapore Women’s Federation. He also banned the Singapore Women’s Federation and the

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Chinese Brass Gong Musical Society. Lim had readily accepted a Singapore Special Branch report that “a large number of Chinese workers, peasants and students in Singapore support [the] PAP, and this group, infiltrated by Communist elements, is likely to be the spearhead of disturbances”.68 In response, the September issue of Fajar opened with the striking headline, “A Stooge is Born”. The periodical surmised that Lim Yew Hock’s purge was politically motivated – that in suppressing the left, he was simply trying to convince London that he could reliably protect British interests in the region. “Let us remind him,” the editorial warned – correctly as it turned out – “of the fate of Mr C.C. Tan” in aligning himself closely with the imperial power and losing the 1955 elections as a result.69 The Singapore Chinese Middle School Students’ Union was next to be deregistered by the Lim Yew Hock government for its alleged involvement in subversive activities. The purge grew as a large number of student leaders from the Chinese middle schools were also detained or expelled from school. In six Chinese schools, students organised massive sit-ins in protest. Lim Hock Siew and other University Socialists went to visit the students protesting at the Chinese High School. Lim, who was on the editorial board of Fajar, wanted to obtain material for an article on the Chinese students’ response to the official crackdown. Again, Fajar was to serve as an important bridge between university students and the society outside. At the Chinese High, Lim Hock Siew found the students well-organised and in high spirits: the leaders had organised concerts to maintain the students’ morale, arranged for them to meet their parents, kept the school clean and ran classes in the day. Subsequently, the Socialist Club lodged a formal protest against Lim Yew Hock’s purges against a legitimate student union and its activists.70 The December issue of Fajar decried the crackdown as constituting “Operation Suppression”, whose central objective was not, as avowed, to remove dangerous subversives but was “directed at the growing organisational strength of the People’s Action Party”.71 But the Club paid dearly for speaking out on behalf of the left. In 1957, the Lim Yew Hock government required the Fajar editorial board to submit its articles for approval before they could be published. The board refused and the next issue of Fajar would not emerge until July 1959, over two years later.72 This was after V. Selvaratnam, the Club’s Publications Secretary, was able to secure a license permit for the organ in May.73 In the interim, the Club produced a cyclostyled bulletin for its members, while its activities were confined to the campus and it continued to organise talks.74 The socialism practiced by the Labour Front governments was not the Club’s only object of critique. It was also prepared to take a firm stand on the actions of the left if they did not, in its view, serve the

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overall interests of forging a socialist Malaya. As Lim Hock Siew explained later, the Club opposed the attempt in 1957 by left-wing trade unionists in the PAP to manoeuvre into the party’s Central Executive Committee. In August, the unionists managed to win six out of the twelve seats in the committee by packing the party conference with their own supporters. The event is often depicted as an attempt by communist “extremists” to seize power in the PAP. In fact, the move was made independently of the Malayan Communist Party but appeared to be partly motivated by the trade unionists’ unhappiness with Lee Kuan Yew. In the Lim Yew Hock-led constitutional talks in London in March that year, Lee had endorsed Whitehall’s proposal for a British-controlled Internal Security Council along with the rest of the delegation.75 In addition, the trade unionists wanted to oust from the Central Executive Committee Ong Eng Guan, the party treasurer and a trusted lieutenant of Lee, who frequently criticised the unionists in party meetings.76 The Socialist Club, however, felt that the unionists’ move was most inopportune coming so soon after Lim Yew Hock’s crackdown on the left the previous year; it would present a perfect opportunity for the government to further suppress the left. Many University Socialists understood the achievements, and the limitations, of the Lim Yew Hock deputation to London. Lim Hock Siew saw the talks as “a step forward, albeit a small step, in our struggle for independence from colonial rule”. Although the delegation had conceded to the British government control over internal security and the right to detain suspected subversives without trial, Lim pointed out that “at least we would be able to have a fully elected government, Legislative Assembly, answerable to the people, of course with the reservation of the lack of jurisdiction over our internal security”. It was, he surmised, all that could be possibly expected under the circumstances, with the Labour Front government determined to broker a friendly agreement with the British. Lim and Poh Soo Kai met the trade unionists involved to warn them about the consequences of their plan to seize control of the Central Executive Committee, but were unable to persuade them. Following the coup, Lee Kuan Yew’s group in the committee refused to take office. Lim, Poh and Rajakumar went to see Lee, concerned about the in-fighting within the party in the face of a determined anti-communist government, but they also failed to convince Lee to close the rift with the left. Lee even accused the University Socialists of planning the coup. The Club’s fears were swiftly realised. Lim Yew Hock, reinforcing his anti-communist credentials to the British once again, arrested five of the six newlyelected members of the committee. What was revealing was that, as Lim Hock Siew observed, Lee Kuan Yew’s refusal to take office mirrored Lim Yew Hock’s purge of the left in 1956; Lee was seeking to

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convince the British that, like the Chief Minister, he could be relied upon to oppose the “communists” in Singapore.77 In 1959, as general elections for a self-governing legislature approached, Lim Hock Siew, Poh Soo Kai and Philemon Oorjitham went again to see Lee Kuan Yew, offering themselves as possible candidates for the PAP. Lee rejected their offers, claiming that they had not been involved in party activities the previous year. Lim and Poh had been housemen in the university and had little time to participate. More crucially, following the Central Executive Committee affair of August 1957, Lee had come to view the Socialist Club with deep distrust. This was because, as Lim explained, of the Club’s independent outlook – that it was “nobody’s yes men”. Lim and other University Socialists had also confronted Lee over a Straits Times report that the PAP was seeking an alliance with the Labour Front to contest the 1959 elections. Lee did not reject the story outright but highlighted, rather, the advantages of such an alliance. Lim and the others argued that it was better for the PAP to singularly contest the elections, which would give it a powerful mandate as a genuine anti-colonial party. Lee, however, had disagreed.78

The 1959 National Language Seminar Besides the work of political organisation, the Socialist Club also recognised the salience of the cultural side of nation-building. It was aware of the important role of modern education and language, and in particular Malay education, in building a socialist, non-communal nation. Compared to its attempts to grapple with the problems of Chinese education and the poverty of the Malay rakyat, the Club explored the issue of the national language more seriously and deeply. In early 1956, the Singapore government had passed the White Paper on Education, which maintained the previous emphasis on English-stream education. The University Socialists criticised the policy and highlighted the need to build more Malay schools.79 A subsequent issue of Fajar urged that the 1954 memorandum of the Malay Education Council be adopted as the basis for educational reform in Singapore and Malaya. The Council had proposed a return to Malay as the medium of instruction in Malay schools as a way to preserve the Malay language and culture.80 In 1955, Tan Seng Huat, the Club’s Publications Secretary, had also written to the Public Relations Office, the colonial information service, for its daily translations of articles in the vernacular newspapers and press releases in Singapore. This was an attempt by the University Socialists to further understand the world view of the non-English speaking population. But the request was turned down, with the reasoning that the translations

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were only for use by government departments.81 In mid-1956, indicating its view of the importance of Malay, the Club began to publish a romanised Malay version of Fajar.82 By May 1959, the Club was planning to publish a Malay version of the journal, not a translation of the English original, it emphasised, but “a new publication” called Fajar Baru (“New Fajar”).83 In July, the Federation Education Minister Khir Johari attempted to stop the use of Malay in lectures at the Language Institute in Kuala Lumpur. He threatened to close down the institute after the students had organised a demonstration in protest. Ahmad Mustapha strongly deplored the threat as “a step backward” in building a Malayan nation, a position which also resonated with the views of the Malay Language Society and Muslim Society at the University of Malaya.84 Johari responded bluntly, “I do not take orders from Singapore”. The three student societies insisted on their right to comment on the issue, since the majority of their members were from Malaya and held Federation citizenship.85 In August, the Socialist Club took a major step forward on the issue of the Malay language by organising a two-day seminar on the national language. It was significant that it was the Club, rather than the Malay Language Society, which was more interested in strictly cultural affairs, which had organised the seminar.86 The event was organised by a research committee headed by Abdullah Majid and Linda Chen.87 It was in parallel with the nationalist policies of the Alliance government and the newly elected PAP government, both of which promoted the use of Malay, rather than English, as the national language; for the PAP, the choice of Malay also coincided with its pursuit of Singapore’s merger with the peninsula. Correspondingly, the Socialist Club organisers expressed their desire to examine the advantages and disadvantages of using Malay “against the background of a multiracial society, now in its process of transformation into a united Malayan nation”. The seminar was conducted in English and targeted the English-educated community, who had the greatest misgivings about the feasibility of Malay in official, professional and technical circles. The Club wanted to “take note of the unfounded prejudices confronting its widespread use in the various fields”. Toh Chin Chye, the Deputy Prime Minister, formally opened the event on 22 August at the Oei Tiong Ham Hall on the University of Malaya campus, duly delivering his speech in Malay.88 Mustapha, arguing that the seminar raised an issue of national concern, was able to obtain financial support from the Straits Times for the event.89 A diverse group of interested parties spoke at the seminar, including academics from the University of Malaya, the Nanyang University, the Teachers’ Training College of Singapore, the Language Institute and the Medical Research Institute in Kuala Lumpur, the Johor Civil Service, the Berita Harian newspaper and the Singapore Ministry

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Socialist Club alumni Linda Chen, well-versed in Malay, makes a point at the National Language Seminar, 1959

In attendance is A. Mahadeva (extreme left, front row). Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction.

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of Culture. For the University Socialists, it was an exhilarating introduction to the massive cultural challenge of realising its vision of a new Malaya. Writing later, Ahmad Mustapha viewed the seminar as a major success in dispelling doubts over the utility and role of Malay as a national language.90 The seminar was not without its fair share of critics. The announcement of the event, according to the organisers, was greeted with “cynical smiles” and allegations that it was merely “a cheap publicity stunt” from the students. During the seminar, the organisers found out, “whenever the national language was mentioned many people made fun of it and some regarded that it was ridiculous to make the Malay language the National Language in a multiracial society”. The sceptics argued that India did not adopt Hindi as the country’s national language when it became independent. The Club replied that India was not a suitable case for comparison because the country had numerous ethnic groups opposed to the adoption of Hindi. This was, the organisers maintained, not the case in Singapore and Malaya, where people from such diverse walks of life as “doctors, lawyers, teachers, administrators, trade unionists, university lecturers, planters, clerks, businessmen, school boys and girls” had developed a Malayan consciousness which would make the use of Malay feasible.91 Besides enabling an exchange of views on the acceptability of Malay, the seminar was useful in providing an insight into the cultural world view of the critics. In discussing the possibility of Malay as a medium of instruction for higher learning, the University Socialists encountered numerous reservations that medical and technical education would be adversely affected, since Malay did not possess the requisite vocabulary for these subjects. The Club responded in Fajar and Fajar Baru that this was also true of other Asian languages. It became clear that, in advocating Malay, the Club was guided by a modernist approach to engineering a new nation-state’s unifying language. To the University Socialists, present-day technical difficulties were surmountable and should in no way deter the implementation of ambitious projects of societal change. Both the presenters at the seminar and some members of the audience concurred that “the WILL to use Malay was the most important in implementing its use as the medium of higher learning”. In Indonesia, the advocates pointed out, Bahasa Indonesia was already being used in the universities, while the language had also long served as the lingua franca of the people in the pre-colonial Nusantara, the imagined Malay world. Some critics had also argued that in Singapore, where the majority of the people were Chinese, adopting Malay would be tantamount to imposing an official language from above. In reply, the organisers stated that Malay was a de facto lingua franca in Singapore and Malaya, accepted and understood

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by 80% of the people. It should be noted, however, that this claim referred to the colloquial bazaar Malay spoken in the market place, not the formal and written form which would be used in administration, business and the professions. In fact, the Club stated that bazaar Malay would “die a natural death” if formal Malay was taught systematically. It concluded that government and non-governmental institutions should take immediate steps to popularise the use of Malay, particularly in official and business circles, the mass and popular media and by literary and cultural societies. The success of the Malay language project, it was rationally held, was a matter of will and confidence. The proposal was a clear case of social engineering on a vast scale.92 The socialist thinking behind the 1959 seminar indicated a basic difficulty in the role and identity of the Socialist Club in both Singapore and Malayan contexts. Essentially, as a socialist elite, the Club had organised a discussion, in the English medium, on the use of Malay as the national language, targeted at the general English-educated community in Singapore. Certainly, the Socialist Club deserves credit for its attempt to bridge the gap between the English- and non-English educated sections of the population, and between the PAP government and its English-educated critics. The seminar also indicated a minority’s “sacrifice”: the University Socialists were willing to forgo their singular elite status for a national identity. From the wider standpoint of establishing a united Malaya, too, the University Socialists’ choice of Malay entailed a reckoning and identification with the deeper emotional forces of Malay nationalism across the peninsula. As T.N. Harper points out, the post-war Malay literary revolution was a key driving force behind UMNO’s political success. The 1956 Razak Committee on National Education adopted the proposal by the Malay literary group, ASAS-50, for the compulsory teaching of Malay and to make Malay a fully functional national language within ten years of independence.93 However, in their advocacy of Malay, the University Socialists were less concerned about the great complexity of the entire national language enterprise, or the expressed wishes and habits of different communities, than the imagined political and cultural rewards of building a new society. Much of the Club’s resolve was driven by the simple nationalist belief that English was a “colonial” language which had been imposed on the people by the British colonial regime and which had left the Malay language marginalised. This political reasoning clouded the Club’s view on the obvious economic shortcomings of using Malay, or how it would alienate the English-educated community, whose position in society depended on their mastery of the language and who still had a vital role in building a viable nation. As members of the audience pointed out, quite sensibly, there was no need to totally discriminate against English, which was useful in government, business and society.94

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The Socialist Club’s cultural blind spot was that if English was truly a “coloniser’s language”, it had not prevented a number of Malayans – the University Socialists themselves and the English-educated leaders of the PAP who had studied overseas – from attaining political consciousness and opposing colonial rule. The Club assumed that its historical role was exceptional and not applicable to the rest of the population. Here, as elsewhere, the Club’s advocacy of the national language was elitist and unnecessarily rigid. In a nutshell, the National Language seminar highlighted the basic problem of implementing socialism in a plural society like Malaya. Whether Malay, English or any other language was chosen as the national language, the choice would not be natural but would be superimposed on a significant part of the citizenry from above. The whole discourse of what constituted as “natural” masked the shared modernist project of remaking post-war Singapore and Malaya. The question of the national language, like those of the Chinese language and Malay rural poverty, went to the very heart of the task of building a Malayan nation. Compared to its uncertain identity during its early history, the Socialist Club played a much more consistent role in the late 1950s as the intellectual advocate of the Malayan ideal. This highlighted both the Club’s weaknesses and strengths. Taking an independent stand on political developments in Singapore and Malaya further entrenched the Club on the periphery of power. The true power brokers were the Alliance Party in Malaya and the Labour Front in Singapore, with the British colonial regime still in overall control of the direction and pace of decolonisation. But while the Socialist Club had little direct impact on constitutional politics, its writings and forums were a useful gauge of the pulse of Malayan politics in the late 1950s. It unrelentingly explored the ideas and practices of socialism and advocated major social and political change. Its work offered a different perspective on contemporary world affairs at a time when the mainstream English media in Singapore and Malaya was largely dominated by pro-Western perspectives. It was at once both inside and outside politics. The difficulty of striking the right balance between the two roles would become more acute after the PAP came to power. The one major weakness in the Club’s activism, growing out of its modernist approach, was in addressing specifically ethnic issues. Deploring communalism was the first step. But imagining an alternative society and the means to build it were much more difficult to accomplish. The Club made an important contribution in organising different groups of “stifled Malayans”, particularly in Singapore, into a strong coalition against colonialism. How far this movement was genuinely socialist was, however, another matter. Although the other members of the coalition shared with the Club a basic belief in the Malayan

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ideal, they pressed for specifically ethnic accommodations to their own problems. The Chinese-educated students challenged colonial rule in an endeavour to salvage their language and culture. This was a pressing economic problem since the question of vernacular education was closely tied to the employment of the Chinese-speaking population, particularly in the English-dominated civil service. On another economic issue, however, the ethnic relationship was reversed: in the Federation, the Malay peasantry was seriously indebted to the Chinese capitalist class. The Socialist Club rather naively privileged class consciousness over ethnic problems and demands, although the issues were at once rooted in culture and class. They were also historical issues which had emerged during the pre-war colonial period but would endure, and fester, into the post-colonial era. Also excessively doctrinaire was the Club’s choice of Malay as the national language, making it difficult to reconcile with Chinese demands for their own language and education to receive fair and equal treatment. Of course, other political and student groups also advocated the use of Malay as the national language and the need for a bilingual, even trilingual, system of education. This was part of the shared project of forging modernity out of the plural societies of Singapore and Malaya. Along with the inner tensions within the socialist project, the prospects for a non-communal union of Singapore and Malaya remained bleak at the end of the 1950s. Due to its criticisms of Alliance policy and the general state of communal politics on the peninsula, the Socialist Club’s license to circulate Fajar in Malaya was not renewed in 1960. The Federation’s Minister of the Interior had made the decision but gave no reason for it. The Club protested in vain that it had always been pan-Malayan in outlook and its members comprised citizens from both Singapore and Malaya.95 The PAP government in Singapore, on the other hand, remained keen on a swift merger with Malaya. Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, in an address to the University Socialist Club on 2 July 1959, stated that the university had a vital role to play in bringing about the reunification of the two territories. It was, Lee explained, the university graduate, whose experiences cut across racial and cultural divides, who was “most likely to be the average ultimate Malayan”.96 However, as the next two chapters will demonstrate, conflict rather than consensus was the actual feature of student activism at the university.

5

A Beacon of Light on the Campus and Beyond

The University of Malaya campus in the 1950s and early 1960s was a miniature world where opposing visions of a new Malaya were articulated and contested. In attempting to mobilise the students, the Socialist Club encountered much conflict but also achieved some degree of success. This chapter focuses on its attempts at collaboration with other student leaders. The University Socialists were not the only leaders and activists within the student community, but they were often the most vocal and passionate. They won for themselves, their club and their causes due attention, if not always respect and support. As student activists, some endeavoured to galvanise and unite the various student groups in Malaya and Singapore behind their cause. The results were mixed, succeeding momentously but momentarily with the formation of the Pan-Malayan Student Federation (PMSF) in the 1950s, but the Federation and the Club’s other efforts soon ran into many obstacles. The Club’s campus activism was a logical extension of its aims to “stimulate political discussion and activity” and “propagate socialist thinking” within the University, in pursuit of an independent socialist Malaya inclusive of Singapore.1 One way was to organise discussion groups, forums and talks on the campus. The Club was not the only student society to hold talks and debates on political issues. In 1955, for example, the Historical Society organised a forum on “The Political Future of Malaya”. Among the invited speakers was Mrs Elizabeth Comber, better known as Han Suyin, the internationally known leftist intellectual and writer who was also a frequent guest speaker at the Club’s talks. The Socialist Club’s events, however, were usually the most prominent and the best attended, as they enjoyed the patronage of prominent politicians, intellectuals and personalities at the time, especially up to 1961. These platforms helped bridge the students and other intellectuals and political figures outside the campus, in particular the members of the newly-formed People’s Action Party. For instance, its programme for June 1960, at a critical juncture in Singapore’s history, featured talks by Club alumni James Puthucheary on “Socialism Yesterday and Today”; Sydney Woodhull on “Whither the Trade Union”; Alex Josey on “The Democratic Experiment in Asia”; and Gerald de Cruz on “The Philosophy of Socialism, Democratic Socialism and Communism”.

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At the same forum, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew also spoke on the changing role of the University of Malaya in the historic task of nationbuilding in the self-governing state of Singapore. Through these forums and seminars, the Club was able to reach out to the students in attendance, even if they were already politically conscious to some extent. There were other ways in which the Club attempted to mobilise the university student body. University Socialists of different generations also served as editors and correspondents of the various student publications in the university, especially the Union’s official organ, Malayan Undergrad (after 1967, Singapore Undergrad). They used the pages of these journals to communicate the Club’s ideas and stances to their fellow students. This was in addition to the Club’s own organ, Fajar, and from early 1963, Siaran Kelab Sosialis. Essays, commentaries and literary writings penned by Socialist Club members also appeared frequently in the University of Malaya Students’ Union (UMSU)’s periodicals and annuals, and occasionally the publications of other societies on campus, such as the Raffles Society’s New Cauldron. Yeo Kim Wah has written about how James Puthucheary and his colleagues consistently “made a major effort and took over almost all the societies except the Christian Student’s Movement in the early 1950s.2 Lim Hock Siew had an illustrious career as student leader, councillor and activist, serving as the chairman of the 7th Students Council, the annually elected legislative and executive body of the University of Malaya Students’ Union, between February and October 1955. He also had stints as the editor of the Non-Hostelites Organisation (NHO)’s Pelandok, before he resigned to join the Malayan Undergrad’s editorial board. A later-day University Socialist, Subhas Anandan, recounted in his memoirs that he was not only once the Secretary-General of the Socialist Club, but also the NHO’s President, and an executive member of the Law Society during his university days in the late 1960s and early 1970s.3

Convergences with the Students’ Union and International Student Fraternity As the largest university student organisation that reached out to the entire student body, the Students’ Union was a natural channel for student mobilisation. Among all the organisations on campus, the Socialist Club interacted most with the Students’ Union. The two organisations converged partially on some matters, but collided and clashed on others.4 The most active University Socialists participated in campus politics and became student leaders as members of the Students’ Council, the executive body of the Students’ Union.5 The founders of the Club, such as James Puthucheary, M.K. Rajakumar, Abdullah Majid,

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Wang Gungwu, Poh Soo Kai and Jamit Singh had all served for at least one term in the first few Students’ Councils. Shortly after, P.S.G. Oorjitham and Rajakumar were also active student councillors at a time when Club members and supporters dominated the UMSU delegation to the Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation. Lim Hock Siew and Law students Tan Jing Quee, R. Joethy, Tommy Koh and Francis Chen were also student councillors during the contentious years preceding Singapore’s merger with Malaya. After them, the mid-1960s generation of student councillors, who were preoccupied with the critical issues of university autonomy and student rights, included prominent University Socialists like James E. Wee, Koh Kay Yew, Lim Teck Hui, R. Joethy, Ong Ban Chai, Peter Yip and Chan Kian Hin, among others. After the failed pro-university autonomy student movement in 1966, the final generation of University Socialists was restricted to advocating their political ideals in the Students’ Council. Members of this cohort included Sim Yong Chan and Sunny Chew, who were, respectively, the Administrative Secretary and Financial Secretary of the 21st Students Council from 1967 to 1968. As student councillors were elected in constituency elections by the student body before the Executive Committee members were elected from among the successful candidates, the significant number of Socialist Club members elected to the Students’ Council demonstrated the considerable support they enjoyed, as individuals and student representatives, among the student voters. Those Club members who were also student councillors were as interested in matters of student welfare as in national politics. The line between the two sets of issues was not clearly drawn, as university and educational affairs in a colonial state were also politicised and contested issues. James Puthucheary, Wang Gungwu, M.K. Rajakumar and Lim Hock Siew, for example, all had stints as the Students’ Union representatives on the Board of Student Welfare. Nevertheless, as a collective, the University Socialists usually remained a minority voice in the Students’ Council. The exception was in the first few years of the Socialist Club’s history where individuals like Puthucheary, Wang Gungwu and Rajakumar carried considerable weight among student leaders of all persuasions. In most times, the Councils consisted largely of moderate or conservative student leaders who either disagreed with the Club’s members on intellectual issues, or disapproved of the Union’s involvement in student or national politics. None of the University Socialists, while they might hold important posts in the Executive Committee, were ever elected to the highest executive post of Union President. This evinced a general reservation held towards the University Socialists. Wang Gungwu had been President of the 4th UMSU Students’ Council, but this was over a year

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before the Club’s formation. Francis C.K. Chen was the only Club member to become the President of the University of Singapore Students’ Union (USSU) in July 1962. He assumed the position automatically as he was Vice-President when the incumbent President, Gilbert Chai, resigned to focus on his studies. Otherwise, Agoes Salim narrowly lost out on the Presidency in 1957, becoming instead the VicePresident. Similarly, James Wee and Lim Teck Hui were narrowly beaten to the Presidency and Vice-Presidency of the 17th Student Council respectively in 1964. By the mid-1950s, the University Socialists’ influence on the Students’ Council had already diminished as Council leadership passed to student leaders who opposed, or were disaffected with, the Socialist Club, such as Ernest V. Devadason and Musa bin Hitam. Still, Socialist Club members continued to serve in the Students’ Council right to the end of the Club’s history in 1971. As outspoken activists, they succeeded in drawing considerable attention to their concerns and causes by raising them in the Council. As mentioned in Chapter 3 on the Fajar Trial, the example set by the University Socialists also had the positive effect of pulling other students, such as Tommy Koh, to join the Socialist Club.6 Others among the later generations of members who joined the Club were aware of its Club’s impressive history and endeavours, in particular the Fajar trial episode, even before they had entered the university. The relationship between the Socialist Club and the Students’ Union was ambivalent and vacillating, a point further elaborated in the following chapter. At times, particularly on international issues, both sides held similar positions. An international event which gripped the attention of the two organisations was the execution of the Congolese anticolonial leader and former Prime Minister, Patrice Lumumba, by Belgian troops in 1961. His assassination dominated the headlines of both Malayan Undergrad and Fajar; both publications expressed chagrin at what was another clear instance of colonial brutality.7 As illustrated in this case, colonialism was not only a concern confined to Singapore, but also an international problem warranting the students’ intellectual consideration and political action. Even if the majority of the UMSU leaders were comfortable with the pace at which Singapore was progressing towards decolonisation, they were quite ready to join the more critical University Socialists in denunciating colonialism elsewhere. In March 1961, for example, the Students’ Union, the Singapore Polytechnic Students’ Union, the Nanyang University Students’ Union and the Socialist Club, collectively signed themselves off as “Students of Singapore” in a message for Dr Ferhat Abbas, the visiting Prime Minister of the Provisional Government of Algeria. The message

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expressed the students’ “fraternal greetings” for the Algerian students and people in their fight for freedom: We reiterate our stand against all forms of oppression and condemn colonialism wherever it may exist, and denounce French colonialism in Algeria which denies the Algerian people their right to self-determination. We students of Singapore who have been under a colonial power and who are still trying to rid ourselves of the evils of colonialism, extend to the students and people of Algeria our solidarity with them in their heroic struggle against the oppression of the French.8 A year later, the continued Dutch occupation of Irian Barat in Indonesia also drew unanimous condemnation from the Students’ Unions and political societies of the three aforementioned tertiary institutions.9 Nevertheless, taking the same stand towards imperial aggression overseas did not necessarily entail holding similar approaches to the basic question of colonial rule in Singapore and Malaya. The shared position belied divergent intellectual premises. The majority of student leaders viewed the international problem of colonialism essentially in terms of the denial of democratic rights to the countries still locked in its grip. The University Socialists’ stance was usually much more vitriolic, underpinned by a categorical opposition to the way colonialism not only encroached on human rights but was also responsible for capitalist exploitation, class division and communal strife. For example, while Malayan Undergrad’s writers saw Lumumba’s murder as an issue of the “denial of fundamental human rights”, humanitarian justice and the inefficacy of the United Nations, the Socialist Club understood it in the more familiar trope of Western colonialism and imperialism, where even the bona fide of the United Nations itself was in doubt.10 To the Club, the developments in Congo “mark[ed] the Desperate Efforts of Colonialism to hold on to a no longer tenable situation.”11 This was one key intellectual divide between most University Socialists and other university students. The Socialist Club did not reach out only to their peers in the university but also student leaders from other countries, likewise involved in their own struggles for national self-determination. In the 1950s and 1960s, the world of the student activist was not limited to their immediate locality or national politics, but was powerfully shaped by developments within the international fraternity of students. From beyond Singapore came important opportunities to interact with overseas students, in the form of meetings, exchanges and visits and through access to their writings. Such formal and informal means of communication plugged student activists in Singapore into a wider and vibrant

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transnational milieu of student activism. With their facility in English, the student leaders in the University of Malaya gained entry to this international student culture. They became aware of its intellectual and ideological currents, its methods and tactics, as well as the issues and problems other national student movements faced. The Singapore students’ interaction with the foreign students allowed them to acquire support, recognition and ideas that buttressed their own political consciousness and identity as both students and imagined citizens.12 A number of Socialist Club members represented the Club or the Students’ Union in international or regional student conferences. As students, the Club and the international student activists shared similar challenges, desires and concerns. The fact that established, influential student movements elsewhere had played significant roles in advancing political and societal development in their own countries were clearly an inspiration. In an early issue of Fajar, Sydney Woodhull wrote about how, during a Historical Society trip to India, he and his colleagues were impressed by the student movement in Ceylon, most of all, by the “highly organised and disciplined student organisation of India in the form of the 110,000-strong All-India Students Federation”.13 The Socialist Club saw the student bodies in the region as vital allies, who shared a similar identity and faced similar problems. A Fajar editorial in June 1956 fiercely defended the Afro-Asian Students’ Conference held in Bandung that year, after it was disrupted by accusations from the colonial-owned presses in Singapore that the event was manipulated by communists working behind the scenes. The Socialist Club condemned the presses for attempting to hinder the Malayan students from meeting “their brethren of Asia and Africa” in a joint effort to interrogate the common problem of colonialism.14 Those Socialist Club members who were also student councillors represented the Students’ Union in the two most prominent student organisations formed after World War II: the leftist International Union of Students (IUS), which held its 1st Congress in Prague in August 1946, and the pro-West International Students Conference (ISC), based in Leiden in the Netherlands.15 The two organisations sought to coordinate student activities on a global level to discuss student issues but were deeply divided along ideological lines. According to Poh Soo Kai’s recollections, the Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation (discussed below) had originally wanted to remain unaffiliated to both organisations until COSEC, the Coordinating Secretariat of the ISC, began to show its support for anti-colonial struggles in the early 1950s.16 In 1953, P.S.G. Oorjitham became the first official UMSU delegate to the ISC meeting in Copenhagen. Two years later, Agoes Salim attended its conference in Ceylon. Thereafter, the representatives who attended ISC events were all non-Socialist Club members. This was in part due to increasing

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opposition to the Club throughout consecutive Students’ Councils from the mid-1950s onwards, but it was also partly due to the growing inclination of the University Socialists towards the leftist IUS.17 In May 1962, however, Francis Chen was part of a three-member USSU delegation that attended an IUS Exco meeting in Jakarta. Such international engagements paved the way for further regional student conferences and seminars. At the first Asian Regional Cooperation Seminar, co-organised with the ISC in Kuala Lumpur in 1959, student leaders from the University of Malaya in Singapore, including Tommy Koh, joined participants from Ceylon, India, Pakistan, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Israel, Australia, New Zealand, Guatemala and other countries, in discussing regional and national student issues. To illustrate how ideas were formally or informally transmitted at these meetings, Koh recommended afterwards that the Union look into, first, the possibility of forming a national union of students and second, the feasibility of getting student representatives to sit on the University Council. He had been impressed by the positive outcomes of these efforts elsewhere. In an article articulating his thoughts on “the Student’s Role in the Asian Social Revolution” in Fajar in 1960, Koh argued that Asian students “should be inspired by the examples of sacrifice of the Latin American students whose efforts are, at least, partially responsible for the overthrow of some seventeen dictatorships and the achievement of very substantial social reforms in their countries”. He also cited the sacrifices of Indian and Filipino students who spent their holidays on work projects in the rural areas as examples the Singapore students ought to emulate.18 The Socialist Club also projected itself onto the international stage for a brief period in the early 1960s through its involvement with the International Union of Socialist Youths (IUSY). The IUSY was a collective of socialist and social democrat youth and student organisations around the world, founded in Paris in September 1946. In December 1961, three Club members – Financial Secretary Tan Peng Boo, Member for External Relations Michael Fernandez and Ng Leok Yew – participated in the Asian Seminar organised by the IUSY in Mysore, India.19 Both Fajar and Malayan Undergrad featured the delegates’ reports and reflections on the seminar, which aimed to bring together Asian democratic socialist groups to address youth problems in their home countries.20 Fernandez, the leader of the delegation, was appointed to head a commission tasked with drawing up a students’ charter. He pointedly highlighted a common frustration felt by student leaders in many Asian countries, that their statesmen had unduly distanced themselves from politically conscious students after the struggle for independence had been won. Fernandez maintained that such students should instead be “entrusted with more responsibility” in

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building the new nation, an issue that affected them directly.21 Clearly, the seminar was a platform for Fernandez to seek a broader role and legitimacy for student political activism in Singapore. Soon after, in 1962 and at a critical time when the fates of Singapore and Malaya were bound up with colonial manoeuvres, Tan Jing Quee attended the International Work Camp of the IUSY at Copenhagen. He similarly garnered support and sympathy for the Socialist Club’s activism from the participants. The international students passed a resolution, later publicised in Fajar, expressing “grave concern” at “the haste and lack of democratic consultation with which the British and Malayan Governments are trying to unite the five territories of Malaya, Singapore, Sarawak, North Borneo and Brunei, into a Malaysian Federation”.22 In all, its members’ involvement with international student organisations obtained for the Socialist Club some degree of recognition and support from socialist groups beyond Malaya and Singapore. But these efforts were closely watched and sometimes interrupted by the Special Branch, which monitored the international activities and intercepted communist material and literature addressed to the Club.23 The Branch also kept a close eye on the University Socialists’ connections and interactions with international student bodies, in particular the communist-dominated International Union of Students.

The Rise and Fall of the Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation One of the main aims of the Socialist Club’s student activism was to organise the disparate student groups in Malaya and Singapore into a united movement. This would be an important step towards realising the Club’s pan-Malayan vision. There was a universal belief in the potency of national student unions, and students around the world were striving to establish them. The idea was in vogue following the end of World War II, and some proved to be particularly inspiring successes, such as those in Latin America, India and Japan. The genesis of panMalayan student activism, as Yeo Kim Wah has pointed out, could be traced to the attempt in May 1949 of a few prominent student leaders, including James Puthucheary, to form a Malayan Students Party that would, “like similar organisations in certain other countries, serve as the vanguard of progressive forces advancing the ideal of an independent nation”. This party would “foster the development of a Malayan consciousness, a Malayan culture and a Malayan nation” and eventually comprise the students in all the educational institutions of Singapore and Malaya as its members.24 The following April, however, the Board of Student Welfare rejected the proposal.

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The establishment of a national union of students for Malaya soon became a preoccupation for successive generations of student leaders in the university, some of whom were Socialist Club members. In their individual capacities as student councillors, they made repeated efforts to establish a pan-Malayan union of students. In October 1952, the decision to form a pan-Malayan federation of students was undertaken during a conference of student organisations in Singapore and Malaya. Held at the Bukit Timah campus, the conference was called precisely to consider the feasibility of such an organisation. The event’s Organising Secretary was Oorjitham, appointed in place of R.S. McCoy, a nonUniversity Socialist student leader, who was ill. The role of the Federation, as P.S.G. Oorjitham and Wang Gungwu, the head of the UMSU delegation to the conference, explained, was to represent the students of Malaya both nationally and internationally; to facilitate and promote friendship and cooperation between all students and student organisations in Malaya; to promote and secure all aspects of student interest and welfare without discrimination; and, most significantly, to “work for the progress and the building of a Malayan Nation”.25 Such a national union would also increase the students’ effectiveness in defending their own interests and participating in “the political evolution of its country”. Oorjitham also envisioned the PMSF emulating other national unions of students in serving “as candid student mirrors reflecting society and its needs”.26 The university student leaders not only embraced for themselves a role as handmaidens of national development, but also as leaders of the students of Malaya.27 Hence, the PMSF was inaugurated in March 1953 in Singapore with an initial membership comprising of the UMSU and two student organisations in Malaya: the College of Agriculture Students’ Union and the Technical College Students’ Union (TCSU). The Teachers’ Training College in Malaya was originally a member but abruptly withdrew upon realising that their dual identity as government employees and students (or rather, trainees) could compromise their role in an organisation involved in national issues. The Council and the Executive Committee of the PMSF were elected from the delegations from the three member students’ unions, with UMSU traditionally having more representatives on the two bodies than the College of Agriculture Students’ Union and the Technical College Students’ Union (TCSU). Commensurate with the importance attached to a national student movement, UMSU’s delegations to the PMSF always comprised the leading student councillors, including both University Socialists and their opponents. Some leading Socialist Club members then, especially the Club’s Secretary-General P.S.G. Oorjitham, were especially active and influential in the Federation. Oorjitham was the PMSF’s President from its founding in early 1953 till

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early 1956. Several other Socialist Club members, including Tan Seng Huat, Linda Chen, Agoes Salim and Wan Abdul Hamid, and supporters like S.S. Gill and Lee Hoe Guan, also occupied important positions in the organisation. However, the PMSF was also more concerned with uniting students in Malaya, with propagating socialist thought taking a decided backseat. Immediately, the member unions embarked on a multi-pronged programme of activities in pursuit of the PMSF’s multifarious objectives. To contribute to national development, for example, the Federation organised adult education classes for the teaching of English and Malay. One key activity was its annual conferences where students discussed national problems and programmes for cultural and social advancement. A salient issue explored at both its inaugural and second conferences in January 1954 and January 1955 respectively, hosted by the Technical College Students Union in Kuala Lumpur, was the issue of the national language for Malaya. To reflect the inclusive nature of the PMSF, the proceedings of the 2nd Conference were printed in three languages – Malay, Chinese and English – so that “the many students who have only been educated in one of the above languages may be able to read it”.28 But despite its slate of social and cultural activities, the PMSF promptly got entangled with the colonial authorities, who were continually anxious about the threat of communist infiltration into student groups. Wan Abdul Hamid, a graduate of the University of Malaya, had his Johor State scholarship for postgraduate studies at the London School of Economics withdrawn in January 1955 because he had visited the Soviet Union and China. The PMSF, concerned, sent a letter to ascertain the government’s position towards politically active students, in particular those holding the same scholarship.29 Its troubles with the colonial regime arose precisely out of its support for left-wing student activism in the Chinese middle schools. It was initially through the PMSF that the Socialist Club increased its contact with the Chinese middle school student movement. Back in early 1953, after the founding of the PMSF, its headquarters at Sepoy Lines “became the meeting place between Socialist Club members and Chinese school students”. The growing engagement was to crystallise in the “513 Incident” the following year, the publication of “Aggression in Asia” in the seventh issue of Fajar and, of course, the infamous arrests on the morning of 28 May.30 Later that year, the Fajar 8 and the Chinese students were both defended by D.N. Pritt. According to V. Selvaratnam later, it was precisely the presence of Socialist Club members in the UMSU delegation that convinced other student organisations in Malaya and Singapore to agree to be part of the PMSF. This was because of the Socialist Club’s anti-colonial credentials, established

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through its activities beyond the University of Malaya campus, and also because the Club was similarly persecuted by the British authorities during the sedition trial in August. A third reason why the Chinese school student activists and the activists from the English-medium University of Malaya were willing to join hands with one another was that the Socialist Club had consistently campaigned for equal treatment regardless of education, employment and culture.31 Here, the Englisheducated members of the Club succeeded as student activists in cutting across communal barriers to establish a union of the various student groups. A Fajar editorial urged its readers to look beyond the dismissive label of the Chinese students as “communist-led”, given by the English press, and to understand the legitimate grievances of the students, who were being treated as “outcasts” by the colonial government.32 For the Club, its interest in lending support to the Chinese students was also buoyed by the experience of the Fajar trial, where a glaring example of the colonial government’s attempt to silence student dissent ended in triumph for the students. The fates of the secondary schools in Singapore and Malaya became an intricate concern, plausibly because of the connections between the Chinese school students and the Socialist Club, whose members dominated the PMSF leadership. Even though they were not yet PMSF members, the Federation nonetheless embraced these schools within its ambit. While the PMSF’s membership had began with the students’ unions belonging to tertiary institutions only, it subsequently reached out to the Chinese middle schools and invited their unions to be observers at Federation conferences. After the PMSF’s 2nd Annual Conference, the Chinese middle school students became more involved in PMSF activities; they were reported to have sent an “observer corps” of seventy students to the PMSF Cultural Festival in Kuala Lumpur in December 1955.33 In the decade after the end of the World War II, Chinese students became expressly anti-colonial in a climate of British colonial suppression and neglect of their socio-economic grievances.34 These saw them starting and being involved in numerous strikes and demonstrations, which heightened the British’s security concerns and fears of Communist infiltration and subversion and provoked their retaliation against the Chinese school student movements. The PMSF rallied to the Chinese students’ cause, though in a restrained way, whenever the suspicious colonial government interfered in the latter’s activities. In January 1954, the Commissioner of Police denied the Chinese students permission to hold a large-scale concert to collect funds for the relief of flood victims. A few months later, the police retaliated violently against the “May 13” demonstrations by the Chinese students to protest the National Service Bill, which mandated that students performed part-

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time military service. The Chinese students took these issues up with the PMSF, sending 36 delegates to the PMSF’s 2nd Annual Congress in Kuala Lumpur. The Federation approached the authorities for an explanation for the police brutality and then strongly condemned it. It further resolved to press the authorities to explain its refusal to permit the registration of the left-wing Singapore Chinese Middle School Students’ Union (SCMSSU). The Federation decided that the Chinese students were to be accepted into its fold, even if the SCMSSU was not registered.35 Soon after in early 1955, the PMSF criticised the government ban on assemblies of more than five Chinese students. By then, the relationship between the Socialist Club and the Chinese middle school students had grown closer. This was partly through the intermediary contact and interaction of the PMSF, and partly because the Club added the defence of the Chinese students’ rights to its concerns. The cooperation with the Chinese-educated activists also helped build a crucial political and cultural bridge between the two groups of socialists divided by language. The issue of Chinese education clearly intersected with the Club’s anti-colonial politics and interest in uniting the student movement in Singapore and Malaya.36 The Club was soon to take up the Chinese middle school students’ cause again in its organ. A 28 January 1955 editorial in Fajar criticised the colonial government’s high-handed policy towards the Chinese students, in refusing them permission to hold a Flag Day donation drive (through the sale of “flags”) and an eleven-day variety concert (a concert with a variety of different performances) to raise funds for flood victims. When the colonial authorities initially decided not to register the SCMSSU, the Club also denounced the act as a blatant denial of the democratic “right of students to form student unions irrespective of their political views”.37 A month later, another Fajar editorial condemned the ban on the gathering of Chinese students as demonstrating the state’s intolerance towards a socially responsible and independent student movement. The editorial also dismissed the official charge of communist manipulation as “a great and handy formula” to justify the suppression of a legitimate student movement.38 Through Fajar, the Socialist Club also gave the Chinese middle school students a platform to publicise their grievances. The issue of 27 February 1955 carried a letter from the Chinese students explaining that they had to resort to writing in Fajar because of the strong bias in the mainstream English-language press. The student authors proceeded to complain about being bitterly aggrieved that our legitimate activities have been banned and the whole of the Chinese student community treated as third class citizens of the student population of Malaya … although we

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do not intend to sacrifice our Chinese language and culture for the English language and culture, we are nevertheless Malayans.39 The next issue of Fajar also gave coverage to the Chinese students’ strike in protest at not being allowed to form a student union or even to gather in small groups exceeding five persons. Another letter by the Chinese students, elucidating the systemic repression of the Chinese schools and appealing for “Human Rights, Justice and Democracy”, was also published in the same issue. As the Chinese students reiterated, the Socialist Club’s organ had become “the only means now left for them to demonstrate their frustration”.40 By July, the Chinese students were lauding the publication “for its progressive stand and its sympathetic attitude towards healthy cultural activities”.41 Standing up for the Chinese students had clearly won the Socialist Club friends from other student groups in Singapore. It paved the way for future cooperation between the Club and the other Chinese-medium tertiary institutions in Singapore. The initial bridge formed by the PMSF allowed the Socialist Club to continue to champion the cause of the Chinese-medium educational institutions, including Nanyang University, as the issue of vernacular education took on greater political significance in Singapore in later years. For all of its early promise, the PMSF was short-lived. In an essay written for the Students’ Union Magazine, Oorjitham bemoaned the lack of voluntary manpower and of practical support from the government, public and university graduates.42 The attempt to run adult education classes faltered because of the lack of volunteers. Instead of offering support, the colonial government was anxious not to let the movement grow into a security threat and persecuted it. In 1955, the Minister for Education in the Federation of Malaya, L.D. Whitfield, attempted to scuttle the 2nd Annual Conference of the PMSF. After the conference committee refused his last-minute demand to turn away the representatives from the English and vernacular secondary schools attending as observers, the authorities withdrew their permission for the Federation to use the Technical College premises for the event.43 The conference had to be shifted to another location. That Whitfield was specifically concerned with the presence of the secondary schools students showed that the colonial government was principally concerned about keeping the other student movements insulated from the purportedly communist-infiltrated Chinese school students’ movement. The combination of colonial harassment and contestation between rival student groups was responsible for the PMSF’s collapse. The story of its rise and fall had been told by two student leaders, Mahmood Merican and Tejen Karmakar. The duo supported the idea of a national

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student organisation but was critical of the leadership of the UMSU councillors who made up the majority of the PMSF’s Executive Committees and Central Councils and were from the Socialist Club.44 Their accounts coincided on one important count: that the PMSF was bedevilled by divisions within the student leadership of the Students’ Union itself, chiefly between those who sought for the Federation a role in national politics and the majority who opposed such an approach. In short, the PMSF was a victim of the intellectual and ideological divisions between the student activists of the University of Malaya. Two separate crises brought these tensions to the fore, demonstrating that the PMSF’s leaders, mostly medical students from the Socialist Club, “were never accepted by university students as the leaders of the country’s student population”. Instead, the verdict of Tejen Karmakar’s “more vehement associates”, as he wrote in his account, was that “the PMSF failed because a small group of misguided and devoted students tried desperately hard to use the PMSF for purposes other than for the best interests of the students they represented”.45 The first crisis erupted in June-July 1955 during the university vacation when UMSU President, W.R. Rasanayagam, disaffiliated the union from the PSMF on his own accord. This provoked a storm of controversy during a Council meeting on 16 October where he was reproved for acting without first acquiring approval from the Students’ Council. Rasanayagam had been provoked by “apparent irregularities”, revealed to him by the PMSF’s Assistant (Administrative) Secretary, Hussein bin Abdul Ghani, in the PMSF’s selection of delegates for the ISC Conference in Birmingham.46 P.S.G. Oorjitham, having lost an initial vote for a place as a delegate to attend the ISC Conference in Birmingham, had engineered a re-vote during which he used his own casting vote as President to break a tie in the second vote in his own favour. Although the disaffiliation was then revoked by the Students’ Council as Rasanayagam had not first acquired its approval, the University of Malaya student community could only have perceived Oorjitham’s as a circumvention of the PMSF’s democratic procedures for self-interest – to obtain the opportunity for sponsored overseas student travel. Although the PMSF survived this uproar, the other student leaders began to perceive “that the PMSF was being run for the benefit of its leaders”.47 The episode also suggested that there were anti-Communist sentiments among the general university student population that may have eventually coloured the other students’ perceptions of the PMSF. For his part in passing the unapproved minutes of previous PMSF Executive Committee meetings to Rasanayagam, Abdul Ghani was suspended from his PMSF appointment. In retaliation, he wrote a hostile letter to Malayan Undergrad accusing the PMSF as “being exploited for

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political purposes”. He cited as evidence the PMSF’s generous overtures to the Chinese middle school students; the trips undertaken by former PMSF Secretary-General, Wan Abdul Hamid, to China and Russia; personal contact between Oorjitham and the Secretary-General of the left-wing IUS; and other irregularities in the PMSF’s operations.48 Whether well-founded or otherwise, Abdul Ghani’s allegations were elaborately refuted by the UMSU delegation to the PMSF. Abdul Ghani was in fact retaliating against the Federation for the manner in which he himself had been deprived of an overseas trip. His choice to focus his attack on highlighting the PMSF’s alleged communist links underlined the strong anti-communist sentiments he must have known the student body held and was attempting to trigger. The PMSF’s association with the Chinese students lent ease to Abdul Ghani’s smear campaign, because, as the UMSU delegates to the PMSF themselves revealed, “for some strange and perhaps unjustified reasons university students tended to associate subversion with the Chinese school children”.49 The PMSF’s legitimacy as a national union of students that could represent UMSU, as one of its member unions, was badly tarnished. Both Rasanayagam’s motivations for disaffiliating the Union and the Students’ Council decision to overrule his decision showed their emphases on the upholding of democratic procedures and the responsibilities of student leaders. By subverting the democratic process for personal gain, as Rasanayagam alleged, the PMSF leadership’s ability to “represent responsible student opinion in this country” was compromised.50 Rasanayagam’s intervention was then duly revoked by the Council because it was unconstitutional. However, the Council still acknowledged that he had acted in good faith, even though he had also acted unilaterally in punitively disaffiliating the Union, an act which penalised the entire Federation for the actions of its leader. Much more than the previous altercation, the British anthem incident of 1955 underscored the contestation between the majority of the student body and the small group of UMSU student leaders who dominated the PMSF leadership. At the first ever PMSF Cultural Festival organised in Kuala Lumpur in December that year, the PMSF refused to play the British national anthem, as it was customary to, for Sir Donald MacGillivray, the British High Commissioner, was invited to grace the event. Subsequently, the PMSF leaders proposed a resolution at its 3rd Annual Conference in early January 1956 that it would refrain from placing itself in situations where it would be “obliged” to play the British anthem. This move hardly masked the PSMF’s anti-colonial stance since the only way it would not be obligated to play the British anthem was to not invite British representatives to its events – an overt anti-colonial gesture. The refusal and stance however provoked

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acrimony from the other students in the University; at an UMSU Extraordinary General Meeting on 19 January 1956, the UMSU delegation to the PMSF was “censured and condemned for their stand” by the rest of the Union leadership.51 The PMSF leaders defended their position as legitimate since the British anthem had never been played in any of its events. The majority of the student body were not appeased and voted to reprimand the delegation for “an act of grave discourtesy”, avowing that playing the British anthem at the Cultural Festival “would in no way have detracted from [their] aim for, and belief in, an independent Malaya”.52 The PMSF leaders rejected the reprimand and resigned enbloc with their supporters and sympathisers in the Council, in spite of a vote of confidence being made to the delegation after the reprimand. The proponents of the reprimand hailed the new delegation nominated to replace the old one as “the most representative ever”. Another unnamed student councillor scoffed at the original delegation for thinking that “they’re indispensable”.53 The new delegation was devoid of a single University Socialist, including instead the Club’s opponents like Musa Hitam and Ramon Navaratnam. An editorial in Malayan Undergrad, probably written by its incumbent editor Agoes Salim, took an even-toned but critical view on the matter. It lamented the damage the student body’s reaction, which the fiercely anti-colonial Chinese and Malay press ridiculed, had done to “the good name of the UMSU”. The editorial further argued that the fiasco only highlighted how the student body was completely unprepared to fulfil its role as the country’s leaders and citizens. The Socialist Club’s commentary on the matter was more resolute. In the column Chilly Padi, Causerie backed the PMSF’s stand on the issue, denunciating the students’ outrage as “a lot of nonsense … [Until] the representative of our government begins to receive the same courtesy in Britain … it would be happier for everyone concerned if the British kept their anthem to themselves”.54 In a subsequent issue of Fajar, the Students’ Council’s censure of the PMSF was irefully depicted as a “betrayal in Malaya”. Recognising the PMSF’s decision not to play the British anthem as “a token contribution to the nationalist movement for Malayan independence”, the editorial indicted the University of Malaya undergraduates for their decision to “stand up and assiduously argue for the playing of the British Anthem on such grounds as courtesy, respect for the Constitution, and student abstinence from politics”. Clearly piqued by the unusual earnestness of a seemingly placid student body in favouring etiquette over anti-colonial idealism, the editorial rebuked “this subservient class whose docility matches their common ideology of personal aggrandisement”.55 The contrasting positions highlighted the gulf between the categorical commitment of the more radical student leaders and the majority of

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the student body who prized the public image of the University of Malaya. Ironically, the British anthem debacle had been foreshadowed two years earlier, when a student writing in Malayan Undergrad in April 1953 disapproved of a Fajar commentary branding visiting members of the British Universities Debating Team as “alcoholics”: This is the sort of accusation, one expects from snivelling cads. It is not the sort of stuff which ought to be published by our only political club ... the debaters were guests of UMSU. Is it proper for the host to attack his guests, especially when they are in no position to reply?56 Ultimately, the episode led to the collapse of the PMSF. At the Federation’s Central Council meeting on 24 March 1956, its leadership was surrendered to the Technical College Students’ Union, owing to the doubts expressed by the various delegations about the UMSU delegation’s experience and readiness. It was likely that the incident over the British national anthem had shaken the other delegations’ confidence in UMSU. The UMSU delegation was elected to head instead the PMSF’s Regional Committee. Unwilling to countenance the ignominy of their Students’ Union playing “second fiddle” to TCSU, the 8th UMSU Students’ Council disaffiliated UMSU from the PMSF on 18 October 1956, terminating the first contentious phase of the university students’ experiment with a national student organisation.57 Soon after, the PMSF fell apart, underlining how vital individuals like Oorjitham had been in holding the movement together and providing it direction, even though he was ironically partly responsible for its downfall. The student leaders of the University of Malaya did not give up on the idea of a national union of students. They continued to attempt to realise the aspiration. As Tommy Koh put it after attending the Asian Regional Cooperation Seminar in Kuala Lumpur in 1960, “many activities can only be effectively implemented if a national union exists”.58 Immediately after UMSU’s withdrawal from the PMSF, it formed a National Preparatory Committee to work towards a new National Union of Students (NUS) Malaya. Agoes Salim and Lee Hoe Guan were actively involved in these efforts, alongside other student leaders like Frederick Samuel and Lim Teong Qwee. In particular, when the other student councillors advocated that NUS Malaya be strictly non-political, Salim sought to achieve a compromise on the framework for the proposed organisation. He managed to convince the others to accept the condition that the organisation would “reserve the right to express its views on national political matters when they affect the interests of the Malayan student community, but refrain from adopting partisan political stands”.59

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This endeavour to form a successor to the PMSF was, however, defeated by political developments. With its independence granted in 1957, Malaya had become a sovereign nation-state, without Singapore. Coupled with its concern about security threats posed by the majority Chinese population in Singapore, the Federation government not only opposed a union of Federation and Singapore students, but advocated instead a national union consisting only of students’ unions in the peninsula. Furthermore, it urged Federation students in the University of Malaya (in Singapore) to form a separate union to be affiliated to the new national union. The student leaders in Singapore were naturally dismayed. Lim Hock Siew moved a resolution at the Annual General Meeting of the Non-Hostelites Organisation in 1957, condemning the Federation government for attempting to undermine the “spirit of brotherhood and solidarity in our student body” and breed “enmity and mistrust” between the Federation and Singapore students.60 Eventually, the National Union of Federation Students was formed in 1958 at the university, with its name changed to Persatuan Kebangsaan PelajarPelajar Persekutuan Tanah Melayu (PKPPTM) two years later. In spite of this, both the Socialist Club and the Students’ Union continued to ensure that their connections with student bodies in the Federation were not completely severed. The University Socialists continued to maintain and foster relations between student bodies on both sides of the causeway. There were also frequent meetings and exchanges between UMSU (later USSU) and the Malayan student unions, in particular the Students’ Union of the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur. The period of Singapore’s inclusion in Malaysia temporarily created new opportunities for contact. Ong Bock Chuan, Chan Kian Hin, Abdul Razak and James E. Wee formed the delegation to the Technical College Students’ Union when USSU established the USSUTCSU Student Exchange Scheme at the beginning of 1965. Ong Ban Chai and Chan further represented USSU in various student seminars organised in Malaysia in the same year. Together with other student councillors who shared the ideal of student unity, some University Socialists, including James E. Wee, Chan Kian Hin, Sunny Chew and Sim Yong Chan, were involved in subsequent attempts to form a National Union of Singapore Student (NUSS) later. These attempts were futile and eventually, a national union of students became a longcherished dream which was never realised, save for the brief stutter of the PMSF on the stage of pan-Malayan student politics. While the PMSF paved the way for a period of cooperation and interaction among student bodies on both sides of the Causeway, cutting across language, spatial and ethnic barriers, the optimism with which Wang Gungwu had heralded the formation of the PMSF in late December 1952 was rarely requited. Wang’s vision of “a new future, a future of close

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friendship, of a common goal and of co-ordinated effort” remained unrealised ideals.61

Joint Activities, Joint Action Conversely, it was easier for the Socialist Club to find allies and partners outside the University of Malaya – from among the students’ unions and student political societies from other tertiary institutions in Singapore between 1960 and 1966. This was in part a response to the reality of Malayan independence and in part due to the PAP government’s refusal to endorse the formation of a national union of students. In September 1966, a statement made during the Club’s Seminar on Communalism and National Unity held in Singapore exhorted its cooperation with the other student organisations in the city-state: In our activities we do not work in isolation. We have close relationships with other student bodies in the Singapore Polytechnic, Nanyang University and Ngee Ann College. On several occasions we have come out with joint statements on important issues. The Club by working closely with other student bodies can proudly claim to be representative of the general student population in the whole of Singapore. Their trust and support give us added inspiration to work towards our goal.62 The statement referred to the work of the Joint Activities Committee (JAC), sometimes also called the Joint Action Committee. This was a loose coalition of the Socialist Club, the Singapore Polytechnic Political Society and the Nanyang University Political Science Society, formed in October 1960. According to Tan Guan Heng, who was involved in “the first joint student action group”, the JAC was the result of the Socialist Club’s efforts to reach out to and make contact with Nanyang University and Singapore Polytechnic.63 Gopinath Pillai was the first Chairman of the Committee, which comprised three representatives from each student organisation. In the USSU Handbook in the mid1960s, the Club applauded itself for having “been extremely effective and efficient in co-ordinating the policies and activities of these three student political organisations in Singapore” and “most vigilant and vocative in upholding student rights and democratic ideals”.64 The alliance of the three student political societies in Singapore marked a new milestone in the student political movement, as it boldly broached several important political issues. Where it was impossible to form a national union of students, the JAC not only allowed the three clubs to band together to present a united front on specific issues, such as in

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protesting US involvement in the Vietnam War, but also permitted them to claim greater legitimacy through their concerted activism. As a platform for the three student societies, the JAC focused on the anti-colonial struggle and local political developments. On 24 February, the three societies organised a political forum on “the Need for Leftwing Unity”, which an audience of 1,500 students and members of the public attended. They heard speeches by political leaders such as David Marshall, Lim Chin Siong and Jek Yuen Thong.65 Subsequently, a statement by the JAC on Nomination Day for the Hong Lim by-election in March 1961 sought to remind the public that the “legitimate aspirations of our people for freedom and democracy and the limitations imposed by a constitution which is basically colonial in character” were at stake. Although the students might “disagree with the PAP over the tactical approach to Freedom and Socialism”, the JAC urged the people to support the PAP, since it was “still a progressive force”, as long as it did not “deviate from the main trend of the people’s political movement”.66 By October, following the schism between the left-wing and reformist groups in the PAP, the Committee made an about-turn and began to voice the student societies’ criticism of the PAP’s terms for the proposed merger with Malaya. The terms, they argued, effectively conceded internal autonomy to the Federation government, undercut the rights of Singapore citizens and permitted the colonial government’s economic and political influence to remain.67 The merger of Singapore and the Federation in 1963 did not lead to the diminution of the Committee’s anti-colonial impulse. It took a strong stand on the escalation of the American military involvement in the Vietnam War. In April 1965, the JAC issued a statement expressing “full solidarity with the Vietnamese people in their National Liberation struggle against US aggression” and calling for “all progressive organisations” and the national governments to intervene in the “further deterioration of the situation perpetrated by the US aggression which seriously threatens peace in South-East Asia and the world at large”.68 The statement was issued in tandem with a seventeen-page memorandum, researched and written by Koh Kay Yew, and presented to the US Consul-General by a JAC delegation led by James E. Wee. The paper elaborately traced the historical background of the war and the atrocities committed or perpetrated by US military forces in Vietnam, before outlining their proposals for the solution to the Vietnamese crisis.69 The students’ joint agitation over the Vietnam issue would continue, even though its momentum was severely jolted by the harsh official repression in November 1966 of the pro-university autonomy student movement in Singapore.70 The sustained American bombing of northern Vietnam from March 1968, known as Operation Rolling Thunder, provoked the Socialist Club and Singapore Polytechnic Political Society to

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present a petition to the US ambassador in Singapore at a forum on Vietnam, restating their opposition to the American actions.71 In all, the Joint Activities Committee represented the Socialist Club’s continued interest in gathering allies for its causes and gave the Club a platform to agitate from. More significantly, it clearly demonstrated that, just like its close relationship with the Chinese middle school students in the mid-1950s, the Club was not a lone voice in the outpouring of student political activism in post-war Singapore. In Singapore’s public memory, there is a long-standing misconception that the political landscape of student activism in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s was dominated by pro-communist and chauvinist politics of the Chinese-medium middle and tertiary institutions. The English-educated students of the University of Malaya on the other hand were considered naïve, placid and unconcerned, content to bury themselves in their books in pursuit of highly valuable degrees and lucrative futures, or else to dedicate themselves to their family and social lives. A poignant scene depicted in Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs, based on the template for Singapore’s national narrative of success, encapsulates and perpetuates this dichotomised representation of student politics in Singapore. Driving past both the Chinese High School and the University of Malaya’s student hostels along Bukit Timah one day in October 1956, Lee wrote that he was struck by the sheer passion and tenacity of the Chinese students who were protesting the government’s repression of the Chinese student movement. The contrasting sight of the University of Malaya students frolicking on their fields, however, made him bemoan their “idiocy, ignorance and naivety”.72 This depiction is ironic, given Lee’s own close connection with and knowledge of the Socialist Club throughout the 1950s, a student organisation of committed and active student intellectuals and activists within the University of Malaya. While the Club won admirers and supporters like Lee Hoe Guan, S.S. Gill and Arthur Lim, there were many others who remained deeply suspicious and opposed. Although members of the Club helped to unite other student groups in Malaya and Singapore under the banner of the ill-fated Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation, the Federation was short-lived due to the irreconcilable clash between different groups of student activists. For much of the first decade of its eventful existence, the Club attempted to shine hard, shine far and shine bright into the disappearing darkness of the colonial night.

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On one occasion, students of the affected Chinese High Schools linked arms and marched down Bukit Timah past our dining halls, prompting a freshie to exclaim, “Damn these commies. We should just mow them down!” On hearing this, an irate socialist senior grabbed a steel chair and threatened to bash his head. Haniff Omar1

Haniff Omar’s recollection of campus politics in the post-war period highlights the contestation between socialists and their opponents at the University of Malaya. While the Socialist Club was able to leave its mark on national politics, its relationship with other student leaders was frequently fraught with ambivalence, rivalry and conflict. While there was convergence and cooperation between the Club and other student groups in the University, and between individual Club members and other student leaders and activists on campus on some issues and matters (as covered in Chapters 5 and 10), there were collisions and contestation over others. Notwithstanding the personality clashes and individual rivalry that naturally ensued between individual student activists and leaders, the intellectual and ideological contestations between University Socialists and others arose over two main issues: the meaning of socialism and the limits of student activism. The Club received much criticism for its left-wing socialist stance and participation in national politics beyond the campus. Not only did it struggle to bring its brand of student activism to the mainstream student organisations, it also faced the challenge of rival political clubs expressly formed to undermine it. On one level, the conflicts were plainly ideological, split along the lines of the bipolar Cold War. The opposing intellectual worlds of the Club and its opponents led to conflicting views of international, national and student events. At a deeper level, however, both sides were disagreeing over the ideological tools for the making of a new type of student, a new university and a new nation. The conflict was deeply discursive.

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The Discursive Battle over “Student Apathy” The campus battles were fought over the identity of students and their relationship to the state. Although the Socialist Club aimed to promote political consciousness among the students of the University of Malaya, the majority remained indifferent to its overtures. This was a wider problem that also hampered other activist groups in post-war Singapore politics and society, including the more mainstream University of Malaya Students’ Union. Even historian Yeo Kim Wah, one-time Club member and an authority on the political history of the period, accepted the view that the university’s general cohort was “politically placid and apathetic”.2 The fact that the apathy thesis appealed to a range of disparate individuals and institutions, across a wide ideological spectrum, underlines its being used as a governing discourse of mobilisation and transformation in the post-war years. The commonly held conviction that English-educated students were apathetic was based on a number of rationalisations. The privileged socio-economic position that awaited the students upon their graduation was, it was argued, a compelling incentive for them to devote themselves whole-heartedly to their academic studies. They could expect to graduate into lucrative careers and secure futures, unlike the uncertain fates of their counterparts in the Chinese-medium schools, who faced political persecution and economic discrimination in the colonial civil service. This argument reveals a discursive move to distinguish Self from Other in terms of which group of students would help realise the Malayan vision. In reality, many University Socialists and other student leaders alike went on to become successful politicians, doctors, lawyers, businessmen and academics. Another common explanation for the alleged apathy was the students’ fear of reprisals from the university administration or the state. This was a threat which did become increasingly real as government interventions into student affairs escalated from the late 1950s onwards. The Socialist Club was particularly prone to making this reasoning because its members had frequently encountered official interference, both in its overt and subtle forms. Most fundamentally, however, the language of student apathy was part of an ideological campaign to pejoratively represent other social and political groups and enable the advocates to speak, and act, on their behalf. The discourse was instrumental to the making of a modern Malaya; whatever the contours of this new state and society would be, they would be markedly different from what existed prior. The discourse also provided the activists with a defining self-identity and moral authority as the leaders, planners and mobilisers of the modernist project. To accuse the English-educated students of political apathy because of their, alleged, economic security and moral weakness were deeply

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personal critiques. It was to ignore how normal and rational it was for the average student to find his own ways to reconcile priorities and commitment, even in the post-war context. It was possible for a student activist, for instance J.C. Rajarao, to later accept a British scholarship to further his studies at the London School of Oriental and African Studies, despite being at one time Chairman of the fiercely anti-colonial Socialist Club.3 Beneath the political flux of the times, life went on as usual for most, whether English- or Chinese-educated. As a recent ethnographic study has shown, even the Chinese middle school students who were expressly militant and anti-colonial in the 1950s were only a minority, albeit a powerful one, within their own cohort, the majority of whom remained pragmatic and non-political.4 It was primarily the activists, including both University Socialists and their critics, who framed the non-political attitudes to life as deficient and dangerous for the making of the imagined nation. Lim Hock Siew viewed the general university student population as “very poorly disciplined”, “extremely individualistic” and “extremely difficult to organise, even for non-political activities”. This he attributed to their personal backgrounds as “a privileged lot”, who had their careers laid out for them and consequently nothing more to struggle for.5 The Socialist Club was keenly involved in this discursive campaign to reshape the hearts and minds of the student population. University Socialists severely castigated their fellow students for alleged political indifference and a clear preference for frivolities. In 1960, Gopinath Pillai, writing under the pseudonym of Budah Nakal in Fajar, satirised this state of affairs in a tone dripping with heavy sarcasm: [The University of Malaya] is like a sort of health resort. It is usually quiet except when there are a few freshies around. (I really like to give it to those bum freshies.) Nobody argues about politics and so there is no tension. The students do their work. They are quite unexcitable and composed. It is not likely that they will lose that composure even if there is a revolution raging in Bukit Timah Road. But don’t think we are not active. We have a lot of functions. We have candlelight balls, get-together dances, end and beginning of term parties, Athletic union dance, Law Society dance, Economics Society ball, Dramatic Society Social, and many more. The students, most of them at least, look fresh and innocent ... They believe that politics should be left to the politicians. They realise that they are not very good at it. They are better in their studies so that they spend all their time on it. You must poke your nose only in those things you are good at. That reminds me of the Tengku.6

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The more mainstream student leaders likewise abhorred ragging because reports of student indiscipline also adversely impacted public perceptions of the student body, especially when they were sensationalised by the press. The practice of ragging had been an issue since the establishment of the University of Malaya through the merger of Raffles College and the King Edward VII Medical College. It became a metaphor for the students’ indulgence in wanton indiscipline and immature interests. Instead of pursuing their identity as active citizens, it was argued, the students were expending their energies to degrade fellow students, and demonstrating their political naiveté and nonchalance. In 1962, it was deemed a weighty enough matter for the Socialist Club to organise a forum on “University Orientation and Ragging” as part of its Orientation programme, alongside topics like “The Role of Intellectuals in Malaya”.7 Different generations of student activists criticised the persistent practice of ragging. In 1955, M.K. Rajakumar wrote a letter of protest to the Ragging Inquiry Committee appointed by the Students’ Council to study the problem after another high-profile incident of ragging. The Committee had conducted a survey of students’ opinions towards ragging. Rajakumar objected to the way the Union was trying to extricate “undesirable characteristics” from the “concept of ragging”. He was convinced that ragging was “merely the symptom of a lack of more mature interests” among the students. The Students’ Council, he charged, ought not to be preoccupied by deliberations over the issue and instead “lead the Union into more mature types of activities”.8 Tommy Koh, who also keenly believed in the active role of university students in national development, was another vocal opponent of ragging.9 In discursively rendering students as “politically placid”, the Socialist Club did not spare its own members. In 1953, Lee Ah Chai had lamented that the Club’s “sleeping members” were a serious problem for the newly formed organisation, with only very few of the near seventy members taking “any real interest in the affairs of the club”. Ironically, he would later leave the Club due to pragmatic personal and family concerns.10 The real issue, however, was not the supposed apathy of the members as Lee maintained, or that it represented only a few leading students’ agenda, but that there were only a few leaders willing and able to find the time to be actively involved and lead the Club. Even Lim Hock Siew, who had been decidedly critical of the indifference of English-educated students, admitted that he himself was inactive for long spans of time when academic study caught up with him.11 In 1955, Malayan Undergrad reported that the Socialist Club’s Annual General Meeting on 29 October had to be postponed because the quorum of twenty-five members could not be reached. Evidently, the active membership of the Club was limited to a small handful of committed

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individuals, although the registered membership was larger. This contributed to the image of the Club as an exclusive organisation dominated by a few prominent members.

Campus Opponents, Critics and Detractors In seeking to mobilise the student population, the Socialist Club had to reckon with opponents, critics and rivals on campus throughout its history. The opposing sides were reluctant to compromise on their basic principles, with the Club being criticised for its unyielding positions on issues, or its approaches and methods. While University Socialists aimed for the immediate and complete eradication of colonial rule, other students were willing to accept a more gradual pace of decolonisation or to condone the retention of some vestiges of colonial influence in Singapore and Malaya after independence. This did not discount the popularity of individual Socialist Club members as student leaders, as attested to by their election to office in the Students’ Union Students Council, the seat of student government. The university was an important space at the forefront of a major ideological and political battle for the remaking of Singapore and Malaya, where the meaning of commonly used terms such as “colonialism”, “independence”, “politics”, and in particular “socialism”, was deeply contested. The Socialist Club’s very own definition of the role of a university political club was frequently challenged by the mainstream student activists. Some of the latter who had led the clamour for such a club in the early 1950s believed that it should only serve as “training grounds and forums for political discussion” in preparation for their future involvement in national politics. The Club embraced a more direct role of the campus as “launching pads for actual political action”.12 Following the Fajar trial, it adamantly resisted the idea of a political club confined within the physical limits of the campus. Refuting the caution sounded by the Vice-Chancellor in 1956 that “students should not indulge in politics”, a University Socialist argued that “since students are necessarily the interwoven threads of the whole fabric of society, they have a right and a duty to participate in their society’s activities”.13 To the Club, the expanded role of a political club constituted the true definition of student activism and the real meaning of socialism. In November 1955, the Club formally declared its intention to broaden its identity and participate in national politics. The Central Working Committee made an amendment to Article II, subsections 1 and 2 of the Club’s constitution, removing the

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clause which delimited the university as the scope of its ambit. Although the CWC maintained that the Club would continue to “promote and encourage progressive tendencies in the student body”, it subsequently made important strides in collaborating with left-wing movements outside of the university.14 This did not endear the Club to student observers who argued for a more constrained role. On its part, the Club had consistently emphasised its commitment to political participation and had been critical of the way other students professed non-partisanship and shunned political involvement. Fajar candidly articulated the Club’s committed stance to each incoming batch of freshmen: Do not come to the Socialist Club for the “academic” politics of the drawing room. We are frankly partisan to the cause of the people of this country.15 A closely related point of divergence between the University Socialists and other student leaders centred on what socialism meant in ideology and practice. Both the Socialist Club and many of its opponents professed to be “socialists”, but differed in the one fundamental regard. While the latter were more interested in the promises of social justice and democratic freedom above all, many University Socialists subscribed to an interpretation which was decidedly critical of Western liberal or social democracy. This ideological divide over the meaning of socialism was reproduced in the two wings of the PAP itself and in much of Singapore politics as a whole. The Club’s definition was closer to a purist Marxian formulation, holding the equal distribution of wealth and resources through the elimination of class to be the central premise. This view became a dominant layer of the ontological and analytical framework within which University Socialists understood and approached national and international politics. As the Club’s recruitment efforts constantly exclaimed, students “will become a Socialist because [they] are dedicated to democracy and to the cause of human freedom and because you understand that human beings cannot be free in a class society, where man is pitted against man”.16 Admittedly, there were Club members who held different views of socialism. Tommy Koh, for instance, was less fixated on the economic aspects of the ideology and placed democratic freedom and anti-colonialism over class issues, while he and other contributors also wrote less left-wing editorials and commentaries. However, the majority of the analyses and commentaries in Fajar were hermeneutically and heuristically Marxian, based on a materialist approach to the problems in Malaya. Although these perspectives were in part exercises in intellectual exploration, they caused other university students to arrive at an essentialised view of the Club, already coloured by the bipolar politics of the Malayan Emergency. The

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result was to taint the University Socialists with the stigma, as Haniff Omar recalled, of being “commies”, which they had great difficulty shaking off. The Socialist Club also faced attacks from critics for its engagements with left-wing individuals and groups officially deemed to be communist or pro-communist. These included the Chinese middle school students and Club alumni such as James Puthucheary, Sydney Woodhull and Linda Chen. Even before its formation, the Club’s critics had frowned upon what they viewed as the pro-communist leanings of its founders. In 1951, a student commenting on the Students’ Council’s efforts to collect funds for the students incarcerated on St John’s Island for their involvement with the Anti-British League stressed that the undergraduates’ purpose must “not [be] to sympathise with outside political groups”. He questioned whether it was still the student body’s duty to support the detained students “when they decide to fight other people’s battles”.17 This statement explained why many students felt cold towards the Socialist Club and wanted student activism circumscribed within the bounds of the university. Some embraced the ideal of nonpartisanship, enshrined in the constitution of the Students’ Union, in order to preserve the identity of students as an autonomous moral force. For others, it was not the general principle that concerned them, but the fear and disavowal of communism in Singapore and Malaya. In the context of the Cold War struggle, the claims of the critics to be nonpolitical and non-partisan were partly politically motivated. The 1951 arrests also raised the doubts of prominent student leader K. Kanaganaratnam, who avidly supported the formation of political clubs but frowned upon student involvement in political activities outside campus. In his outgoing address as UMSU president, he insisted that “the Union will not support those proved to have complicity with illegal outside bodies”. He further accused the left-wing students involved with Malayan Undergrad, including Abdullah Majid, of using the paper to “further certain ‘ideologies of Malayan Nationalism’” and ideas about students being “the vanguard of progress”.18 A later Union President, Ernest V. Devadason, who served with distinction as a student leader, also opposed the University Socialists, viewing them as “the fellow travellers of the Communists at that time”.19 In retrospect, Tommy Koh, too, felt that the Club’s close association with the Barisan Sosialis in the early 1960s had been a mistake in exacerbating the suspicion that it was pro-communist.20 Accusations like these, which drew upon the belief in a pervasive Malayan Communist Party, turned the majority of university students against the Club’s politics. In reality, many University Socialists had consistently disapproved of the application of violence by the MCP.

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The Socialist Club was not unduly concerned with addressing these allegations during its first decade. It chose instead to simply refer to its basic approach to student political activism and socialism, which it held to be beyond question. Even Chua Sian Chin’s early critical article utilised the same discursive and morally elevated language that characterised the Club’s replies to the student population. He exhorted the students, allegedly frightened by official retribution, to “at least have the courage to stand fearlessly by their honest and sincere convictions”. Chua dismissed their suspicions that the Club members were “influenced into adopting a particular brand of Socialism” as foolishness that “simply shows narrow and prejudiced thinking”.21 Later, in 1960, commenting on a rumour that a rival political club was being formed on campus, Fajar columnist Budah Nakal acknowledged that student attitudes towards the Club “frequently [took] one of two forms: from the crude sceptics who belittle our efforts and intentions to the more popular, though no less unacceptable, charge of dogmatism”. The latter allegation, he argued, was “unnecessary” and “unwarranted” and “based on a gross misconception of our intentions”. Instead, it was for the sceptics who shared the vision of a “new order” to cast their support for the Club.22 In both instances, the authors discursively represented their audiences and made little effort to engage their detractors. This attitude illustrated a strong sense of moral authority, derived from their assumed roles as nascent intellectuals and change-makers. The Socialist Club’s self-proclaimed moral authority was further sharpened by the historical opposition it encountered from fellow students and, more importantly, the states of Singapore and Malaya. By the mid1960s, a recurrent trope in Siaran Kelab Socialis, the Socialist Club’s incampus bulletin after Fajar was banned in the Federation and Singapore in 1963, was how the Club had continued to champion progressive student activism despite the great obstacles strewn onto its path. Koh Kay Yew exalted the Club’s history and survival: the University Socialist Club has functioned for almost 12 years, the only student political organisation with such a long proud history. This being so despite the fact that the lions have always been few in numbers. This is something which all other political organisations that aspire to operate in the campus fail to grasp, because of the limitations of their mentality. In fact the usual raison d’être for their coming into existence have been on an antiSocialist Club basis. Ironically they themselves are the very product of the dialectics of nature, the existence of the University Socialist Club producing the reaction that inevitably comes forth from those opposed to us.23

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But if the University Socialists were charged with moral exceptionalism, so too did they levy powerful critiques of their opponents’ elitism. This was what, it was argued, led to the students’ general political apathy. In replying to a student’s accusation of apathy in the university, published in Malayan Undergrad in October 1957, Lim Hock Siew lambasted the student body for being “drowsy” undergraduates still unable to wake fully from a “peaceful political slumber”. He challenged his colleagues to emerge from being “a courageless misguided and convictionless generation” looking out only for their self-interests and deluded into a sense of detached superiority by their perceptions of themselves as elites.24 Some University Socialists were also extremely critical of the sentiment held by many student leaders that the people looked to the university students for leadership. These student leaders avowed that their social activism was warranted “out of gratitude” to the society that had sponsored their education and privileged status. By contrast, the Club’s leaders viewed themselves as part of the masses. This disagreement over the role of the student activist eventually materialised into debates surrounding one facet of the Students’ Union’s activities – the community welfare projects. These activities had become a cornerstone of its annual programme since they began in 1957 and were celebrated as a vindication of the students’ “being with the people”. However, Tan Jing Quee dismissed such activities as mere “social welfare” projects in his Presidential Address at the Club’s 10th Annual General Meeting in June 1962: We are not social welfare workers, who undertake to do charitable work to salvage some lost conscience, and to equate this with bringing socialism into the country. Our attitude towards the people is more fundamental than this. We should not adopt a condescending posture to “those less fortunate among us”. It is with us an article of faith, brought about by a belief of a sane and rational social order … All this pious talk of “be with the people” will come to naught if we refuse to commit ourselves to the basic issues which concern the livelihood and the democratic rights of our people.25 To many University Socialists, the other students’ concept and practice of philanthropy were plainly elitist and reflected the university’s identity as “a middle-class university with a predominantly foreign staff”; similarly, that its English-educated students were a bourgeois group “who live in an ivory-tower, cut off from the common people”.26 Even as the Socialist Club expanded its activism beyond the campus in 1955, they remained deeply concerned with a university which:

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is colonial in character and largely serves an English-educated elite. There is a danger of anti-democratic fascist type of thought gaining strength. Are ordinary “uneducated” people fit to decide what is good for them, the question is asked. Socialists in the University must fight these tendencies and foster a sense of dedication to the people.27 Correspondingly, the Socialist Club urged incoming batches of freshmen to reject their seniors’ endeavours to convince them they were part of a privileged elite. It instead appealed to the freshmen’s sense of “a social obligation, of a duty and debt to your country and to your people”.28 The enmity between the Club and its opponents over the identity and role of a student activist was embittered and protracted. It was only in 1962 that Tan Jing Quee noted, somewhat optimistically, that “internally in the University the open hostility towards the Club has to a great extent disappeared”. In a less strident tenor, he recognised the fear among students that “commitment may take the form of identification with a particular party” and acknowledged that “this is a danger and a point of view we should indeed take heed of”. He reiterated nonetheless that “the whole tradition of the Club has been one of open and active commitment,” positioning the Club once again against those who were seen to “hide behind a veil of non-commitment”.29

Contesting Socialism, Critiquing Fajar Between 1954 and 1963, the Socialist Club encountered numerous accusations and complaints directed at the editorial policies of Fajar. The publication was assailed for perceived double standards and intellectual bias in its inconsistent treatment of the Western and communist states. The detractors claimed that the organ published only views acceptable to the Club’s strident anti-colonial and socialist stances. In the tense atmosphere of the Malayan Emergency and the broader Cold War, this charge undoubtedly magnified the Club’s image as a “pro-communist” and “undemocratic” student group. The publication’s editors repeatedly denied these charges, although the direction and tone of their refutations clearly did not convince their critics. But the attacks on Fajar also showed that, while restricting the scope of student activism to the campus, the Club’s opponents were not averse to dealing with political and intellectual issues outside Singapore and Malaya.30 In 1954, a member of the university staff, Dr Kalk-schmidt, indicted the Club for decrying Western aggression in Asia without similarly berating the Soviet Union’s belligerence in the post-war period. The editors defended the Club by arguing that Asians were naturally more

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concerned with Western instances of aggression because “historically the West has been the aggressor in Asia”. If they had not highlighted acts of Soviet imperialism, it was because they believed that “the USSR is associated with events like the Chinese Revolution, an experiment which all Asia watches sympathetically, and with the freedom struggle of Vietnam”.31 It would be instructive to examine one such case of contestation in detail. In December 1960, university student Daljit Singh complained that while Fajar had “attacked dictatorial tendencies … in non-communist countries with laudable vigour it has connived at dictatorial tendencies in communist countries in strange silence”.32 Singh was dissatisfied with the editors’ replies to a similar complaint from E.S. Moorthy a few months earlier. Moorthy had suggested that Fajar would exhibit more “sincerity and objectivity” if it did not seem “to be completely oblivious to the much more serious situation with regard to human rights in communist countries”. The editors replied, rather unconvincingly, that Fajar could not do so because they had “very little evidence to prove” that the abuse of human rights in communist countries was serious. Moorthy had also suggested that the Club consider the maintenance of social justice and civil liberties as a yardstick for evaluating socialist societies; this was also summarily dismissed because “reorganising society for more effective production of goods, is one of the necessary prerequisites of establishing a just social system”.33 As a prelude to Singh’s criticism, Fajar had been critiqued two years earlier by one of its former Presidents Tommy Koh, who had graduated and became a member of the Law faculty. He argued that the Fajar articles and op-eds, in being solicited and selected, were still reflective of the views of many of the University Socialists, even if not necessarily representative. He sought to “call attention to the intellectual dishonesty, and to detect the self-induced blind spots in the thought processes, of some of these University socialists”.34 Citing a few articles, Koh demonstrated how “the University socialists will vehemently denounce the capitalist countries for actions in breach of social democratic norms but will maintain complete silence towards the same actions perpetrated by communist regimes”. He proffered two explanations for Fajar’s alleged “lack of devotion to truth”. First, he argued that many University Socialists saw the international geopolitical order naïvely in rigid dichotomised terms – the wicked capitalist West, and the progressive countries which practiced socialism. He then accused them of a second tendency to read only books and reading material consonant with their points of view.35 Some credence to this criticism could be gleaned from the books that the University Socialists ostensibly read or recommended to others: predominantly books on socialism and Marxist theory, or analyses that either castigated the West or non-socialist states

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or supported the Club’s stance on political issues. A bibliography of books and pamphlets on Socialist thought that members could borrow from the Club Library included unabashedly critical titles like “Socialism is the Only Answer”, “US Conspiracy in South east Asia” and “What is Neo-Colonialism?”.36 One ought to note though that earlier, when he was in the Club, Koh had not prevented partisan articles from being published in Fajar either, such as Han Suyin’s positive description of the communes in China in 1960.37 Following Koh, Daljit Singh extended the partisanship debate by systematically refuting the Club’s arguments in a scathing article published in the Kritik, the organ of the university’s Philosophical Society. The title of his article, “An Ideological Bewitchment”, indicted Fajar again for exhibiting the same “pathetic enslavement” to Socialist theory that underpinned many university students’ objections with the Club.38 Singh reiterated previous accusations that the Fajar editors were depicting national and international politics in “very white or very black depending on whether they belong to the Communist countries or the Barisan Socialis on the one hand and the West or the PAP on the other”. While articles in Fajar jumped on the West as undemocratic, tyrannical and evil, the Communist countries’ undemocratic practices “must be either ignored, or, if connivance is impossible and a stand has to be taken, must be explained away by some additional criteria or principles as being not really undemocratic or evil”.39 Singh agreed with the argument that the presence of civil liberties was not a sufficient guarantee of genuine independence, but contended that they were still vital safeguards to prevent a socialist state from “abusing the economic and political power concentrated in their hands”.40 The editors of Fajar had earlier made two arguments to rebut Tommy Koh’s criticisms. Daljit Singh proceeded to demonstrate that they were irreconcilable. The first argument was that the communist countries’ undemocratic practices could be condoned “simply because the communists have never hidden the fact that they are ‘dictatorships of the proletariat’”. The West, the second argument went, had to be denounced for “the apparent inconsistency between the principles and the practice” of democracy, and not for being undemocratic per se. Daljit exposed this position as untenable by pointing out that many communists also termed themselves “democrats”; this meant the editors were tenuously arguing that communist states could not be criticised for violating civil liberties because “they do not believe in civil liberties in the first place”.41 To complete his reductio ad absurdum, Singh challenged the editors to declare whether they embraced democratic principles, for if they did, they were logically committed to condemning the violation of these principles regardless of where it took place. It is not known whether any member responded to Singh’s commentary.

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The flurry of exchanges between the Socialist Club and its opponents highlights the irreconcilable intellectual divide between the two sides. They simply spoke past one another (and the general student population) and straight to the converted. The logic of Daljit Singh’s critique was near impeccable but inconsequential other than to widen the gulf and reinforce observers’ scepticism of the Club. The editors’ positions were driven by their theoretical understanding of socialist principles and commitment to student activism beyond the university. They held as an article of faith that the establishment of a socialist state would naturally foster the emergence of a socially just democratic system which their critics accused them of neglecting. The critics chose to focus on the huge gap between theory and practice that frequently ensued when socialist states were established. The Club, on the other hand, often neglected to acknowledge the failings of the communist states they regarded as inspiring models of national and class emancipation. Conversely, its critics believed that student activists should not extend their activities beyond the campus and should remain “academic”, although this approach had the concealed effect of supporting the colonial status quo and the Western liberal-democratic system. It was only after the ban on Fajar in 1963, when the Socialist Club’s work was politically constrained to the campus, that the Club seemed willing to positively engage the other students and student activists in the university. There was an admission in Siaran Kelab Sosialis in 1964 that the “much undue publicity and advertisement” the Club constantly reaped “might of course understandably leave wrong impressions” among the student body. This appeared to indicate a fundamental change of tone and attitude: We firmly believe in the existence of the rational faculties of our Undergrads, and that given time, they would be willing to listen and understand all that we have been standing and fighting for all along; provided that a proper approach is made to reach out to the minds of the Campus people, essentially of a liberal and tolerant mentality, intelligent and sophisticated, and capable of distinguishing between fact and fiction. To generate less of heat, and more of light, and then perhaps, slowly, Dawn can at least descend on the University of Singapore students.42 While there was no fundamental change in the ways it approached campus issues in the mid-1960s, some of its leaders, in making more concerted attempts to reach out to the campus community, did attempt to recalibrate its image among the larger student community. In a letter signed by Club Secretary-General, Chan Fee Hon, to freshly-matriculated students entering the university in 1966, Chan took care to

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emphasise that the Club was “a progressive student body” with the duty to “be fully alive to our environment and to seek rational and practical solutions to the many varied problems that besiege our country.” He expressly sought to convince readers that the Club was balanced in its approach: “it is by listening to all points of view and through exhaustive discussions that many important ideas can emerge which will help us to formulate a clear and unbaised [sic] opinion on any issue.” Nonetheless however, Chan reiterated the Club’s position that it was “definitely partisan to the cause of our people, for we share their aims and aspirations in fighting for a just and equal society.”43

Storms in the Union over Partisanship The most public altercations between University Socialists and other student leaders in the university occurred within the Students’ Council. The Club’s relationship with the Students’ Union was complicated by the “two central pillars” which defined the Union’s role. The Union was, from the onset till 1975, “a self-governing democratic institution free from the control of the university authorities and … ‘entirely nonpolitical’ in the partisan sense”.44 These principles were enshrined in the constitution of the Students’ Union which the students of the then Raffles College and King Edward VII Medical College had drawn up in preparing for the creation of the university. The first principle saw different Council leaderships join hands with the Socialist Club to defend student rights, university autonomy and academic freedom. The second principle of non-partisanship, however, led successive Students’ Councils to distance themselves from the Socialist Club organisationally and to reject any partisan stance supporting a particular ideology or political party. The Students’ Union was required by its mandate to be representative of the entire student community “equally without discriminating between race, politics and religion”.45 Some of the Socialist Club’s original founders, as student councillors, had a hand in formulating and edifying this position. When he was the Honorary GeneralSecretary of the Council, James Puthucheary “strove to avoid compromising its apolitical standing”.46 It was precisely because student leaders like him embraced the principle of non-partisanship that they deemed it necessary to found a separate political club in order to pursue political goals. Such a formulation of the Union’s identity had two important ramifications for the Club. As no political student society could thus become an affiliated body of the Students’ Union, the Club was not entitled to use Union facilities or receive funding from the Union like the other affiliated academic, cultural, general and special interest societies.

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Conversely, the Club did not have to be financially accountable to the Council nor have its constitution and subsequent amendments approved by the latter. The Club enjoyed a great measure of autonomy in its work without having to be concerned about the Council’s intervention. But this also pushed the Club to the margins of student activism on campus and “insulated” the Union from its activities. Conflict between the Club and the Union nevertheless ensued because some University Socialists sought to challenge the established boundaries of student activism. One of the contestations over the non-partisan policy occurred in the Malayan Undergrad. It was again over the basic issue of whether student activists were foremost “students” or “political activists”. As the Undergrad was the Students’ Union’s most important channel of communication with the student body, the University Socialists sought to use the Undergrad to lead and shape students’ political perspectives. They contributed to the Malayan Undergrad (later Singapore Undergrad) as editors and correspondents, including James Puthucheary, Wang Gungwu and Abdullah Majid of the first generation to Sim Yong Chan in the late 1960s. In between, M.K. Rajakumar, Tan Jing Quee, Lim Hock Siew, R. Joethy, Koh Kay Yew, James E. Wee, Ong Ban Chai and Chan Kian Hin also had stints in editing and producing the Union’s various publications, in particular Undergrad. A few were especially prolific, such as Chan, who not only edited the NHO’s Pelandok from 1964 to 1966 and its Annual Magazine, but was also associate editor of Undergrad and editor of USSU Annual and USSU Handbook in 19641965. It is difficult to precisely evaluate the influence of the Socialists on Undergrad’s editorial policies beyond the articles they wrote, although the unsigned editorials in the publication were clearly more politicised when the Socialists were in the editorial team. During the editorship of James E. Wee, Koh Kay Yew and Chan Kian Hin during the mid-1960s, USSU Annual expanded beyond being an annual report of the Union’s activities, as preceding issues had been, and included commentaries on cultural, political and campus issues. Given the Union’s non-partisan stand, the Council leadership naturally imposed restrictions on the publication of political material. In the early 1950s, the Council became concerned about the seeming autonomy of Malayan Undergrad’s editorial staff. An amendment to the Union’s Publications Policy was subsequently passed in June 1955 so that the Union’s publications “shall not contain in their editorials any matter of a political or religious nature”.47 This followed an earlier resolution to disassociate the Council from a Malayan Undergrad editorial on April 1955 when Lim Hock Siew was associate editor, which exalted the efforts of University of Malaya students in the 1955 Legislative

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Assembly elections, because it was felt to express partisan political opinion. As the Socialist Club gained prominence as a student political organisation, it found Union leaders more anxious to accentuate the distinction between themselves and the Club. In April 1964, the Club signed a Joint Activities Committee statement to protest against the Federal government’s suppression of political opposition in the Borneo territories. This provoked a furore on campus when a disapproving Straits Times editorial erroneously suggested that the Club was speaking on behalf of the student body in making the statement. Dissenting students and Students’ Union representatives wrote to the Straits Times in protest, stressing that the Club possessed an official membership of only about two hundred in a student population of over 2,700.48 This minor incident illustrates the acute sensitivity of the Union towards being seen to uphold the Club’s perspectives, even when the original source was plainly mistaken. Subsequently, the Chairman of the Freshmen Orientation Ceremony invited Club President Lim Teck Hui to pen a message for the freshmen souvenir magazine. As the Club surmised, however, the incumbent USSU President Sonny Ling “refused to publish our message in the magazine, on the rather lame excuse that it would be contrary to the Union’s declared non-partisan stand in politics, for as his reasons runs, by including our message would be tantamount to advocating our Club’s views”.49 Furthermore, conflicts occasionally erupted between Club members in the Students’ Council and other student councillors who opposed what they saw as the former’s attempts to politicise the Union. This was exacerbated from the early 1960s onwards, when government restrictions on their political activities outside campus turned the University Socialists’ attention inward to the student body. As they sought to advance their political causes through the Union, student leaders supporting the non-partisan policy soon became disturbed by the Club’s increasing influence in the Council. Ernest Devadason, a former Union President, was driven to express his anxiety in Undergrad a month before the 1963 Council elections. Re-affirming again the precept that Union leaders did not allow “their political views to interfere with the administering of the Union”, he reminded the electorate that “students who are too deeply implicated with their own political views and prejudices cannot give effective meaning to our non-partisan policy”.50 In 1963, Socialist Club member Francis Chen, as Vice-President of the 15th Students’ Council, challenged the non-partisan policy and provoked a series of altercations in the Council, after Gilbert Chai had resigned as President on 14 July. Chen’s tenure marked a re-ascendant period of Socialist Club influence in the Council, with a number of

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members like R. Joethy and James E. Wee also elected to important executive posts. This explained the support Chen received in the Council, but it only served to heighten the acrimony during Council meetings. In 1962, the rivalry surfaced over the question of the Union’s involvement with the two international student organisations. Traditionally, the Union sent student representatives to the International Students’ Conference as full delegates, but only observers to the openly communist-aligned International Union of Students. During a Council policy meeting in December, Chen asked for equal Union representation to the two international student bodies. The councillors debated on the issue but were unable to reach a resolution. The discussion was then suspended by Council Chairman Eugune Phoa. Phoa’s perception of the Socialist Club and International Union of Students was clearly grounded in his own political anxieties. He implied that Chen was really after the affiliation of the Union with the IUS, and warned that this bore “grave consequences in view of the fact that the IUS was communist-controlled”. Hence, the issue could only be decided after careful consideration by a full Students’ Council. Chen’s fellow student councillor and University Socialist Tan Jing Quee attempted unsuccessfully to overturn the suspension. Tan argued that the Chairman was abusing his powers in suspending the debate when there was already a quorum of councillors at the meeting. Finally, he reiterated Chen’s stand that the issue was not the affiliation of the Union to the international student body, but the “principle of equal status granted to the two bodies”.51 Chen brought up his motion again at the next meeting, but walked out after another lengthy and inconclusive debate. In his absence, his proposal was defeated by twenty-three to ten. This incident represented another instance where University Socialists sought to contest the basic role of the Students’ Council, for Chen and Tan, in attempting to reduce the Union’s involvement with the ISC, plausibly believing that the latter was aligned with the Western imperialist powers. It also demonstrated the zeal of non-Socialist Club student councillors in inhibiting the politicisation of the Students’ Union. On the eve of the 1963 Council general elections, Francis Chen distributed to the King Edward VII Hall residents handbills that criticised student councillors who were standing for re-election and numbered among his principal opponents in the Council, including S. Santhiran and Eugene Phoa. The Council Disciplinary Commission reacted strongly to this transgression of the role of a councillor, deeming this “irresponsible action” by Chen “unethical especially in his capacity as a student leader”. It instructed him to “tender a written apology to the Students’ Union”.52 Ernest Devadason then crossed swords with Chen over the issue of the Union’s identity. He recounted an incident when Lee Kuan Yew came to the university for an impromptu meeting. Chen

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had chaired the meeting as Union President and openly pressured Lee on political issues. As Devadason recalled of Chen, he was saying things that we did not agree with, partly, and also, he was taking a very partisan stand; he was taking the Barisan stand. So I got angry … And I got up and said, “Mr Chairman, are you now talking as the president of the Socialist Club, or are you advocating the views of the Socialist Club, or are you just talking as the president of the Students’ Union? Because if you are, you have taken a very partisan stand, and we do not agree with that”. The entire student body booed him, booed Francis.53 The hostility Chen’s actions inspired did not end there. There was a subsequent attempt by the Club’s dissenters to hold an Emergency General Meeting to condemn Chen when he decided to contest the Singapore general elections, but the motion lapsed since he had resigned as Union President. Chen’s tumultuous career as Union leader demonstrated the continued opposition to the University Socialists’ attempts to politicise the student body. The political contestation between the Socialist Club members and other student leaders persisted through successive Students’ Councils. During his Presidency in 1965, Herbert Morais complained of “bad blood in the Council” engendered by a few University Socialists who allegedly sought to undermine his leadership, especially fellow law students and councillors Ong Ban Chai and Chan Kian Hin. Chan, as editor of Pelandok, had launched what Morais depicted as “an emotional and parochial outburst” in the magazine against his leadership. Morais accused the Club of attempting to stage a constitutional takeover of Union leadership by seeking to move a motion of no-confidence against him.54 Koh Tai Ann, also an executive member of the then newlyformed Democratic Socialist Club, described another incident illustrating what seemed to be a personal enmity between Morais and Ong Ban Chai, the Union’s Honorary Secretary-General. During Morais’s speech in the elections as outgoing President, he singled out “the former Hon. Gen. Secretary for obloquy”, and the latter in return protested “vociferously”.55 Whether the disagreement was personal rather than political is difficult to establish, for the Club made no report of the incident in its own organ or other university publications.

“Patrons, Opportunists, Clowns and Clots”: The Rise of Rivals Despite the great deal of acrimony the Socialist Club aroused among other student leaders, only two significant rival political clubs in the

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history of student politics at the University of Malaya emerged expressly to oppose it. This was notwithstanding the hostility of student organizations like the Student Christian Movement and the Catholic Students’ Society towards the Club.56 The formation of the rival political clubs, however, represented the culmination of the political and intellectual frustrations of other politicised students. They, like the first generations of University of Malaya student activists, desired to participate in political study and contribute to the development of the nation. The clubs’ pointed emphasis on democratic ideals, indicated in the choice of their names, the Democratic Club and the Democratic Socialist Club, revealed the view that the Socialist Club had not upheld these ideals. The rivals accused the Socialist Club of being pro-communist, dogmatic, doctrinaire and dominated by an exclusive group of students. The first rival group swiftly materialised after the Socialist Club’s appearance, as a sign of disagreement with the way the Club had been conceived. In December 1954, Malayan Undergrad announced the impending establishment of a Social Democratic Club. This eventually became the Democratic Club which came into existence in early 1955 after its constitution was approved. It was made up of a number of student councillors such as George Seow, Jack de Silva and later Musa bin Hitam. Its first President P.D. Mayo was also a member of the UMSU delegation to the Pan-Malayan Students Federation. Mayo claimed that a second political club was needed because the Socialist Club was “falling short of what should be its primary aim … to educate its members so that they will achieve some degree of political maturity … so that the nursery of Malayan leaders will fulfil its purpose”.57 According to Ernest Devadason, the new club’s founders were angry with the Socialist Club for projecting “the image that the whole Students Union were with them despite representing only a minority”.58 In creating the Democratic Club, these individual student councillors were taking the struggle for campus leadership to the domain of the Socialist Club. This revealed how they were willing to wear two hats and broach explicitly political issues as leaders of a political club, as the University Socialists did. Avowing only “to increase political consciousness and stimulate constructive thought on matters of current interest among members of the University”, the Democratic Club pursued a similar slate of campus activities as the Socialist Club.59 One of its members, Eugene Wijeysingha, recounted that they “used to have the Democratic Club today, the Socialists’ Club the next day, organising forums at which [David] Marshall [and] the Senior Minister [Lee Kuan Yew] would attend”. However, by Wijeysingha’s own admission, the newer club was low-key compared to the “handful of people, mainly belonging to the Socialists’ Club, who were very, very intense and very active [and] vocal”.

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While the two Clubs were “at loggerheads then”, he claimed that the members of both clubs were on good terms, which allowed them to amicably resolve issues at times.60 A comparison of the two clubs’ politics is difficult as no copy of the Democratic Club’s newsletter, Democrat, is known to be available. Nonetheless, Wijeysingha revealed that they “threw in [their] lot with the Labour Party” (Labour Front) during the 1955 Legislative Assembly Elections, while the Socialist Club supported the People’s Action Party. A more visible difference in the political concerns of the two clubs could be seen from their responses to Tunku Abdul Rahman’s Merdeka Mission to London, where he acquired the Federation’s independence in August 1957. While the Democratic Club’s President, T. Selvarajah, was mostly felicitous of the news, participants in a Socialist Club discussion on 23 February were much more cautious. The Merdeka Mission’s achievement was seen in many quarters as a considerable accomplishment in winning control of the country’s internal security affairs. However, for the Socialist Club, the vital questions of a single Malayan nationality and the country’s economic independence from the British remained unresolved.61 At the birth of the rival club, the Socialist Club’s initial reaction had underlined its primary concern with the issue of economic independence, consistent with its socialist beliefs: we too are dedicated to democracy. But we also understand that the existing economic relationships of our society make a mockery of purely political democracy. Democracy is a cruel joke when economic power is in the hands of a minority. Socialism is the creed of those who understand this truth, an understanding which we hope the members of the Democratic Club will come to share.62 The Democratic Club was short-lived and never attained the prominence of the Socialist Club. It fell dormant after a brief period and a later attempt by Musa Hitam and Ramon Navaratnam to revive it was unsuccessful. In 1960, British intelligence reported the formation of “a new political club” by students holding “moderate” political views and who were supporters of COSEC, the Coordinating Secretariat of the ISC. The founders, one of whom was law student S. Jayakumar, were also active in UMSU and in editing Malayan Undergrad. The new club published a monthly magazine called Politik and, the report noted, had been formed as “a challenge to the Socialist Club”.63 By 1961, however, the University of Malaya Students’ Union’s Handbook was introducing the Socialist Club as the only extant political club on campus, whereas “the democratic club, formed a few years ago, has become defunct”.64

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The next attempt to establish a rival club had to wait until 1964, when Singapore had become part of Malaysia and the Socialist Club was perceived to be closely linked to the Barisan Sosialis. In a highly unusual move, some 120 students led by Goh Kian Chee, son of the Minister for Defence Goh Keng Swee, applied for membership to the Socialist Club that year. The leadership could not admit the students enbloc, which was extra-constitutional. The rejected students formed the Democratic Socialist Club (DSC) in May. Though the same Malayan Undergrad article announcing the establishment of the DSC claimed that “the Socialist Club has welcomed the formation of this group and hoped that the two organisations would co-exist peacefully,” both clubs soon began trading barbs.65 As Koh Kay Yew maintained years later, “up to the end of 1966 there was little love lost between USC and DSC even at a personal level”.66 The DSC’s interest in challenging the Socialist Club was starkly clear. Both clubs shared the same stated objectives in seeking to promote undergraduate interest in politics, foster national loyalty and advance national interests. The fundamental difference centred on their understanding of socialism, particularly in the relationship between socialism and nationalism. While the DSC’s Bala S. Maniam insisted that “our socialist patterns must be evolved within our national framework to suit local conditions and interests”,67 Koh Kay Yew declared in 1965 that the Socialist Club’s ideal and goal had always been “to apply the theories of socialism to our national context”. DSC members also made allegations against the role and activism of the Socialist Club. Their organ, Demos, was introduced as “a democratic paper published by a democratic organisation dedicated to the ideals of individual liberty and freedom of expression”; this resonated with Tommy Koh’s plea the previous year for Fajar to be “an open forum on which all shades of opinions of social democrats may contend”.68 In 1965, DSC leaders Gem Tan and Koh Tai Ann pointedly highlighted the open admission policy of the club in comparison to what they depicted to be “the exclusiveness of the other political club on the campus whose membership is narrowly restricted to a privileged few and whose activities are dominated by a select hierarchy”.69 Within two months of the first issue of Demos, two University Socialists writing under the pseudonyms of “Kritik” and “Chin Piu” responded to these criticisms in the August 1965 edition of Siaran Kelab Sosialis. Their counter-attacks reflected the chasm between the two clubs on their understanding of socialism. The DSC’s vision of the new post-colonial order was “a more just and equitable society, under a liberal and democratic government”, materialised in the shape of a welfare state that intervenes to reduce “the disparity between the rich and the poor”. The focus was on social justice and “the dignity of the

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individual man” within the context of a capitalist system and a liberal democracy. Their contempt for the communist states that many University Socialists admired was clear when Tan and Koh wrote that states are not ends in themselves, as many totalitarian governments think … We regard it as degrading that man should be reduced to a mere cog in the huge impersonal, unfeeling machine of the totalitarian state, prevented from using his rational faculties to make his own decisions and decide his own views.70 “Kritik”, however, disagreed with the idea of an interventionist welfare state, contending that the DSC was simply advocating “enlightened Capitalism in practice”. Dismissing concepts like democratic socialism as merely “good rallying words” and “convenient labels”, he further questioned why a genuinely “socialist” club declared itself to be interested in producing “nationalistic liberals” instead of socialists.71 “Kritik”, in surmising the new upstarts, stated that “the shroud under which these political bankrupts show themselves when unravelled, does not even show a ghost resembling ‘Democratic Socialism’”. This reflected the characteristic fixation with the formulaic application of ideology among the University Socialists. “Chin Piu” was similarly critical, declaring that the DSC was “masquerading under the banner of socialism and putting up false slogans of ‘equality’ and ‘democracy’ to conceal their reactionary and racialist ideology”. In his estimation, the upstarts were not genuine socialists in the Marxian sense of the term. Likewise, he contended, because the DSC accepted the private ownership of the means of production, “the democratic socialism they preach, cannot be true democratic socialism but a revision of [it]”.72 The rivalry between the two clubs extended to the issue of the Vietnam War in the mid-1960s, with the DSC firing the first salvo. The Socialist Club’s position was consistent with its fervently anti-imperialist and anti-West stance, that “the war in South Vietnam is a war of National Liberation against absolutism, and against the U.S. supported reactionary regime”.73 The Club expressed its support for the communist-backed National Liberation Front’s struggle against the American forces in South Vietnam through individual statements of protest in Siaran or through official protests lodged in tandem with the other members of the Joint Action Committee. However, Woo Tchi Chu condemned the Socialist Club’s stance in his report of the DSC’s activities at the IUSY Conference in Berlin. Considering both sides in the Vietnam War the aggressors, the DSC preferred for the conflict to be resolved peacefully through negotiation among the warring parties. Woo accused the University Socialists of supporting the application of “organised terror” by the National Liberation Front:

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Our Club was greatly horrified, though nor [sic] surprised [emphasis mine], to see certain political organisations in our institutions of higher learning, come out in full support for the attempts by the communist National Liberation Front to engulf the South Vietnamese people by the use of organised terror and armed pressure. Woo went on to deny that the DSC was consequently endorsing American intervention in the war: The Democratic Socialist Club is just as anti-imperialist, anticolonialist, and anti-aggression as the other political organisations but WE RECOGNISE THE RIGHT OF THE SOUTH VIETNAMESE TO DECIDE THEIR OWN FUTURE in an atmosphere free from foreign intervention – be it from the imperialists or the communists though they be nobly disguised as “Liberators”. It is this RIGHT OF SELF-DETERMINATION that is so dearly cherished by AFRO-ASIANS.74 “Chin Piu” in his above-mentioned commentary saw this statement as emblematic of the “flexible stand the democrtic [sic] socialists adopt on all fundamental issues”. He decried the DSC position as one of noncommitment, not “non-alignment as practiced by most African and Asian nations”. He asserted, rather tenuously, that the stand of the Afro-Asians was not the acceptance of the right of self determination, but “disgust with the American imperialists”. Therefore, the DSC could only choose between supporting “the fight of the courageous Vietnamese people to unify their country and for self-determination on one side, and the stupid resistance of the American imperialist warmongers on the other – there is no third side”.75 Just as the Socialist Club had been accused of being pro-communist because of its connections with the left-wing movement in Singapore and Malaya, the Club was quick to depict their rivals as the “vehicle through which PAP ministers came to the campus with predictable regularity to address the undergraduates”.76 The Socialist Club pointed out how the DSC seemed to receive the government’s patronage and favour readily, with government leaders accepting invitations to the DSC’s talks and seminars. Another sticking point was the consequent loss of opportunities for the Socialist Club to be represented internationally through the International Union of Socialist Youths, based in Vienna and officially recognised by the United Nations. In 1963, when the Club nominated one of its members, a Federal citizen, as a delegate on an IUSY UNESCO grant to tour Europe the following year, the government rejected it on the basis that the grant was meant for a Singapore citizen.77

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Goh Keng Swee, the Minister of Finance who headed the Singapore committee of the UNESCO, had made no response to the application until November. This prompted a Club spokesperson to maintain that the PAP had been silent because the party’s own application for the scholarship had not been successful.78 In reply, the PAP government claimed that it had not been silent on the issue but had been actively seeking, in vain, the consent of the Federation government. Lim Swee Cheong, the Club’s Secretary-General, countered that the question of citizenship was not an important one and the Club would have accordingly appointed a Singaporean nominee had the Finance Ministry raised the issue during their discussion. Lim accused the government of adopting “dilatory and obstructionist tactics” to prevent the Club’s representative from taking up the scholarship. This fact was made clear, Lim claimed, by Lee Kuan Yew’s preoccupation with security concerns in the Prime Minister’s discussion with the University of Singapore Students’ Union in November.79 In 1964, the grant to attend the next IUSY Conference in Berlin was awarded to Democratic Socialist Club President Woo Tchi Chu, and DSC members dominated the attendance of subsequent IUSY events. The University Socialist “Kritik”, emphasising the way DSC members “unashamedly claimed and admitted PAP patronage”, also pointed to their shared belief in democratic socialism. He claimed that at the 1964 Berlin Conference, the DSC delegate Woo had been recorded in the official IUSY minutes as having “represented not the DSC but the Peoples’ Association”, a statutory board established by the PAP.80 “Kritik” challenged the DSC to “exercise some influence on the PAP” to revoke the ban on Fajar, so that future interchanges between the two clubs could be “carried out on a more equal footing”.81 Correspondingly, the PAP’s apparent endorsement of the DSC became a useful foil to demonstrate its discrimination against the Socialist Club. When the police banned the Socialist Club’s float during Rag and Flag Day on 28 May 1966, Chan Kian Hin “drew the attention of the Police to the inconsistency of their actions” in proscribing only the Club’s float without barring the DSC’s. The latter’s float was then banned as well. The ban provoked the DSC to castigate “a government which gives only lip service to democracy” and “seems to be eager to discourage student political consciousness”.82 This underlines the need to approach the positions and motivations of student activists and political clubs with greater nuance. Although it aligned itself with many of the Singapore government’s policies, the DSC also resisted the PAP’s attempts to curtail university autonomy and student rights in the mid-1960s.83 This suggested that it was independent of the state on this issue at least.

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In November 1964, when the Prime Minister participated in a DSC talk on the problems facing democratic socialists in Singapore and Malaysia, the Socialist Club again played up the “good fortune” of its rival in receiving Lee’s patronage, while the Socialist Club and Students’ Union’s previous invitations to him had summarily been rejected.84 Another editorial in Siaran attempted to further establish the association between the DSC and the PAP. The author suggested that “sometimes the ‘democratic socialist’ groups are so closely in league with conservative forces in power in squelching the opposition that the adjective devours the norm”, a critique of both the rival club and governing party at the same time. The differences between the two clubs, the editor asserted, “are similar to the fundamentalistrevisionist group of say, the British Labour Party”. But there was “little room for such revisionism” in Malaysia and Singapore where economic deprivation still existed, and hence: We do not want patrons, opportunists, Clowns and clots. They can go elsewhere.85 Just as Daljit Singh had earlier challenged the University Socialists to affirm where they stood on democratic values, in 1964, “Kritik” challenged the DSC to live up to the same ideals by protesting the arrest of Socialist Club alumnus and then Chairman of the Labour Party of Malaya (Selangor Division) Dr M.K. Rajakumar by the Special Branch in Kuala Lumpur. “Kritik” accused the DSC of practising double standards, as it “would be working overtime distributing pamphlets, preparing banners and the like” had PAP leaders been arrested. The DSC did not refute this allegation, nor did they have the opportunity to vindicate it. When DSC leader Gem Tan contended that Nanyang University was “gaining ‘respectability’ as a result of government intervention” in 1965, “Kritik” pointed out that the crackdown violated “the principle of freedom of association without any kind of interference in the University”.86 “Kritik” was right only to an extent. To some DSC members, state intervention against subversion was justified only when there was sufficient evidence or cause.87 Even if the PAP had a hand to play in inspiring the formation of the DSC, the DSC was in no way a mere mouthpiece of the state.88 The Socialist Club’s participation in student politics at the University of Malaya in the 1950s and 1960s belied a deeper struggle between different groups of student activists. While the Club played a major role in the left-wing movement and collaborated with the other student societies in Malaya and Singapore, it constantly encountered, for the same reasons, the opposition, obstruction and disaffection of its closest audience – the students of the University of Malaya. Yet, the rise of both

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spontaneous and organised opposition to the Socialist Club also ultimately vindicated its role as a political club and attested to its indirect success in stirring up political debate among students and student leaders. The Socialist Club’s articulations and activities compelled interested and concerned students to define and decide where they stood with regards to the Club’s politics, whether to oppose the Club individually or through the gathering of alternative voices on campus. The debate showed that commonly bandied terms such as “socialism”, “university” and “student” warranted greater intellectual scrutiny. In the first place, the Socialist Club was not a monolithic organisation with uniform views among its members. Nonetheless, the establishment of rival political clubs, in particular, justified the need for a student organisation committed to the politics of national development. In particular, the formation of the Democratic Socialist Club underscored how the Socialist Club consistently pushed the boundaries of what was considered proper student activism and forced its rivals to challenge it on its own terms. These outcomes were the Socialist Club’s true achievements in campus politics at the University of Malaya.

7 The Shadow over the Club

The contestation on campus between the Socialist Club and its critics was not the only arena in which the Cold War had a defining effect. Surveillance, harassment and curtailment of the left, driven by fears of communist manipulation and empowered by the Emergency and successor legislation, were not incidental to the Second Malayan Spring experiment, but integral to it. The surveillance of the University Socialists by the Special Branch (after independence, the Internal Security Department, ISD) throughout the 1950s and 1960s was just as pervasive, and ultimately more harmful to the Club’s activism. The early shadowing of the Club from its formation which eventually led the colonial government to make the Fajar arrests in 1954 was merely the first instance of this systematic yet highly speculative regime of surveillance. However ill-conceived in hindsight, the British had made the dawn arrests in May because they had perceived a political bridge formed between the English- and Chinese-educated students in the immediate aftermath of the “513 Incident”. This convergence was, to the state, unacceptable. The trial only served to reinforce the connections between the two groups. Similarly, as the Special Branch continued to monitor the Club at the University of Malaya for the remainder of the decade, its concern about this political transgression resulting from the alliance of the English- and Chinese-educated groups remained unabated. The state’s surveillance generally focused on what was perceived, erroneously or otherwise, to be the more overtly communist, Chinesecontrolled or mass-based political groups, including the Malayan Communist Party, Barisan Sosialis, the Middle Road trade unions, old boys’ associations and Chinese middle school and Nanyang University student activism. Former Club member Lee Ting Hui, who did a cautious study of the communist united front in post-war Singapore based on classified Special Branch files, identified Albert Lim Shee Ping and Linda Chen Mong Hock as the only Malayan Communist Party members in the Socialist Club. The Branch concluded, Lee noted, that the Club was not a mass organisation of the party.1 Nevertheless, the Club, as an articulate and critical voice of the university student community, occupied a key node in the mental map of local politics which oriented the thinking of the intelligence services and their political masters; it is

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striking that English-educated university students, often deemed to be politically apathetic, were closely watched at times. Intelligence was an integral part of the Malayan Spring experiment. It constituted the “hidden hand” which assisted British aims in the retreat to informal empire, by helping to secure the positions of suitable local leaders groomed to inherit the colonial state.2 Nurturing acceptable English-educated leaders while containing and transforming the “Chinese left” were foremost in the minds of the colonial officials. Such a policy would work towards achieving the Colonial Office’s philosophy of orderly decolonisation.3 The Special Branch’s concern with Malayan communism and radicalism dated back to the 1930s, when it had been tremendously successful in proscribing what was then a young and inexperienced movement.4 In the early 1950s, in the aftermath of the 1950 Maria Hertogh riots and just before the “513 Incident” and Fajar arrests, the Branch also placed many Muslim leaders, organisations and students under surveillance for any resurgence of violence and conspiracy. The Hertogh riots further prepared the authorities for training the official gaze on the problems of socialist and student activism.5 As an open and legal organisation, the Club could also be infiltrated and surveyed by police informers with little difficulty. By 1954, the Branch had become “a highly efficient body” capable of dealing with the Singapore City Committee of the Malayan Communist Party. Fourteen of the committee’s sixteen leaders, including its chairman, were arrested in this time, while a total of 1,209 persons were detained between the outbreak of the Emergency in June 1948 and March 1953.6 As surveillance and repression frequently became the means for containing socialist or anti-establishment politics, the Socialist Club began to raise its voice against the work of the Special Branch.

The Nodes and Chains of the Communist Discourse The reports of the Special Branch in the post-war years were not disinterested accounts but contained what Ranajit Guha calls the “prose of counter-insurgency” and beheld “the voice of committed colonialism”, speaking with a firm intent to define the non-communist shape of postcolonial Singapore and Malaya.7 They revealed a deep suspicion against particular University Socialists, and occasionally against the Club itself, because of their close links with former members or other “outsiders” (including family members and close friends) deemed to be communists. What the surveillance reveals was a systematic attempt by security officials to map out a broad web of communist conspiracy based on personal links between different individuals as the governing nodes of the network.

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This counter-insurgency discourse must be read carefully, for they tended to underline, even exaggerate, the threat of communism in Singapore and Malaya. By 1960, British and American intelligence services generally tended to ignore local roots and contexts to subsume nationalist problems under a broad Cold War paradigm.8 The intelligence record frequently conflated political discussion and the convergence of ideas and activity with political direction and manipulation. There was undeniably close collaboration between present and former University Socialists and between the members and the leading participants of the left-wing movement. But this was not, as imagined by the Special Branch, the demonstration of a communist-controlled web directed by the MCP or its alleged superiors in Beijing or Moscow, particularly when urban communists had largely been routed by the Branch by the early 1950s.9 The collaboration, rather, derived naturally from the basic interpersonal nature and dynamics of left-wing politics in post-war Singapore and Malaya. Unfortunately, the Special Branch produced its data within a Cold War-inspired trope and was unable (or unwilling) to acknowledge these subtleties. At the same time, the fruits of surveillance were to become a powerful weapon for the political masters of Singapore, Malaya and Britain in the early 1960s. A central theme in this history, then, is the historical role and impact of intelligence in the making of new states in the bipolar world. At the campus level, one of the effects of surveillance was to operate both as regime and rumour. The actual surveillance of a small group of student dissidents was sufficient as a deterrent and panopticon, fanning the fears of its prevalence and invasiveness among the entire student population. This, as we have seen in other chapters, siphoned off much support for the University Socialists and relegated them to operating at the margins of campus politics at the University of Malaya. At the state level, more crucially, the late-colonial and early post-colonial states of Singapore and Malaya during the Emergency were governed by the systematic collection, interpretation and use of specific forms of information, or indeed even misinformation. As Chris Bayly has observed of early colonial India, British authority in the subcontinent was based on a certain “information order” or “a heuristic device, or a field of investigation” which both revealed and shaped the organisation and values of the state.10 From the early issues of Fajar, the Socialist Club recognised this powerful role of intelligence and interrogated the question of how the security architecture could constrain political life. A caveat on the sources and difficulty of writing authoritatively on the subject of surveillance – the analysis here is derived largely from reading against the grain the periodic security assessments of the Special Branch and the Internal Security Council in the 1950s. These were reports considered important enough by the Singapore and

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Malayan administrations to be forwarded to the Foreign and Colonial Offices in London. There are, however, major gaps in the files, particularly for the Lim Yew Hock years between 1957-1959 and the PAP government after mid-1961. The detailed archives on the day-to-day working of the security services remain classified with the Internal Security Department of the Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs in the present day.11 Without the benefit of a complete set of sources, it is difficult to identify the contradictions and uncertainties in the work of security officials – what Chris Bayly has observed in colonial India of the intelligence “gaps, distortions and ‘panics’ ”.12 Also problematic is establishing the important link between what was reported and how the information was interpreted and translated into policy (or not) by the political establishment. In addressing these issues, we have complemented the intelligence series with other political documents and the oral history interviews of key security officials such as Richard Corridon and Ahmad Khan of the Special Branch, and of the University Socialists. Oral history possesses its own set of methodological and interpretive issues, for the informants might not have been candid in the interview or their testimonies might have been distorted by the passage of time, subsequent experiences and reflection. These are questions which are particularly salient in the Singapore context, where the gatekeeping of individual memories remains a major problem for oral history.13 On the other hand, Leon Comber, a former intelligence officer in Malaya, has recently published a history of the Special Branch during the Malayan Emergency. Comber was able to reconstruct a fairly insightful narrative by using a combination of archival records, his personal diaries and notebooks, and interviews with relevant individuals in conjunction with each other.14 Many University Socialists had a sense of the surveillance shadow – an imprecise yet personal certainty that their activities were being closely monitored by security officials. From the earliest days, there was already evidence of such official surveillance or penetration. Lee Ting Hui found that a certain student befriended him soon after he joined the Club, constantly asking him questions about the society; much later, when he began reading Special Branch files in his research on the communist united front in Singapore, he suspected that the student was a Special Branch agent. Lee also found that, when he wanted to pursue his doctoral studies in the United States, his application for a student visa was rejected, because, he believed, of his Socialist Club involvement.15 Throughout Lim Hock Siew’s student days and up to the time he became a founder-member of the Barisan Sosialis in 1961, he had quickly become aware of the Special Branch’s surveillance tactics, both by car and on foot, no matter how subtle they were.16

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The Branch kept tabs on ordinary members of the Club as circumstances mandated. The surveillance was not always intended to be clandestine. For instance, Chu Tee Seng found himself tracked by security officials upon his graduation from university around 1960. He first joined the Public Service Commission before moving on to the Department of Civil Aviation and then the University of Malaya. All this while, as he soon found out, security officials were watching him in the civil service jobs through to the mid-1960s. Nor did they take pains to hide the fact from him, but let it be clearly known, through Chu’s superiors, that he was under surveillance and that “you better do your work properly”.17 Ahmad Mustapha, a government scholar who also worked in the Malaysian public service following his graduation, was “under surveillance all the time” as well, because of his Socialist Club background.18 Similarly, Agoes Salim, the Club’s President in 1957 who held a Federation scholarship, had his stint with the Malayan Civil Service delayed until the authorities decided that his student activities “shouldn’t cause any harm”.19 Such overt forms of surveillance were an explicit reminder for perceived troublemakers to “toe the line”. Perhaps it was indicative of the youthfulness and idealism of the University Socialists that many of them did not appear overly concerned about being shadowed by the authorities. At least this was what they said about the surveillance decades later, with their memory containing an element of cynicism or humour. In a recent interview, Tan Guan Heng said, with a laugh, that “I thought we were very honoured to be under surveillance”.20 There was, however, surveillance of a more subtle and insidious sort. In its intelligence work, the Singapore Special Branch also relied on its “top secret and very delicate source(s)”.21 Some of these informers were planted in prison among the political detainees. As Ahmad Khan, the Deputy Head of the Indian Section of the Singapore Special Branch in the 1950s and 1960s, revealed in an interview in 1984: We, by design … put various types of detainees together sometimes. Sometimes, segregate them in our intelligence game to fish out information. And we also had our secret agents, unknown to the detainees of course … By various means, we were gathering intelligence about their intentions and strategies while they were detained. On what contact they had with the outside world, people of their own kind still at large, or any instructions they were giving and so on.22 The most striking instance of official surveillance of the Socialist Club in the early 1950s, followed by dramatic police action, was the Fajar arrests and trial.23 But for the local intelligence committee, the splinters

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which it tracked after the trial were just as crucial and closely watched in the years to come. To the Special Branch, the Fajar arrests justified its earlier warnings that the Socialist Club was becoming more radical under a new militant leadership at the beginning of 1954. What it failed to realise was that the hand of colonialism – John Nicoll’s disastrous decision to arrest the eight students and try them in open court – had contributed significantly to the Club’s growing ideological cohesion after the trial. The Branch was also operating with heightened fears of a revived communist threat in Singapore, exemplified, in its mind, by the organisation of Chinese middle school students against the National Service call-up in May of the same year.

The Abdullah Majid Node and Post-Fajar Trial Anxieties It was under these circumstances in August 1954 that the Singapore intelligence committee noted that Socialist Club member Abdullah Majid had attended a meeting organised by the International Union of Students in Moscow. D.N. Pritt, too, was observed to be taking advantage of his Singapore sojourn to spread pro-Russian propaganda in a lecture organised by the Club. The Special Branch was considerably relieved that the Singapore representatives at the World Assembly of Youth had “frustrated” attempts by the Fajar 8 and Chinese middle school representatives to air their “grievances” against the colonial establishment in Singapore. The last point was of particular concern to the British: the fear that the “Reds” in the Chinese middle schools would form a potentially explosive alliance with the English-educated intelligentsia and bridge the two cultural worlds which it wanted to keep divided. The same intelligence report had observed that Pritt’s lecture was received enthusiastically by an audience numbering 350 persons, consisting of both university and Chinese middle school students; it was also noted, subsequently, that the British lawyer gave another talk on youth movements at a “big tea party” to the Chinese students. This report ought to be seen in the context of Pritt’s representing the seven Chinese students charged with rioting in the anti-National Service protests.24 The formation of the PAP in October that year further exacerbated British fears about what was viewed to be the growing penetration of communist influence into local and campus politics. The Singapore intelligence committee pointed out that two of the party’s conveners, James Puthucheary and Abdullah Majid, had been arrested in the 1951 university crackdown.25 This fact dampened security officials’ earlier conclusion that the Fajar trial had not attracted the amount of additional sympathy from university students as the Club had expected.26 A

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growing concern for the Special Branch was also the seemingly developing tripartite relationship between University of Malaya leftists, Chinese middle school students and the “communist-controlled” International Union of Students.27 As mass politics, industrial action and political violence appeared on the streets of Singapore throughout 1955, there was serious official worry that the Chinese middle school students were planning to send a 36-strong delegation to the Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation’s annual congress in Kuala Lumpur.28 There was the same concern in November that year when the IUS declared its universal support for students fighting for national independence in the colonies; the intelligence report stated that the Union had been in close contact with the PMSF, Singapore Chinese Middle School Students’ Union and University of Malaya Students’ Union.29 By this time, the intelligence committee had also come to view the Socialist Club as the nexus of communist-inspired politics in Singapore, for it was, allegedly, under the control of an “extremist PAP-dominated clique”.30

The Linda Chen Node and Spotlight on the PMSF The security services’ fear of communist penetration into new political territory was enhanced in July 1956, when the first romanised Malay edition of Fajar appeared. Intelligence officials reported that it comprised “mainly of extreme left-wing articles”.31 This anxiety took form in the context of a perceived expansion of “communist united front activities” in mid-1956, spearheaded, allegedly, by members of the Socialist Club or the PMSF who were seen to be able to transcend the language divide. This important role was placed specifically upon the person of Linda Chen, a member of both the Club and the PMSF, when she was elected as the first President of the Women’s Federation. The intelligence assessment added that Chen had been a prominent editor of the Chinese edition of the PMSF organ, The Malayan Student, had alleged family connections to the Malayan Communist Party, and had apparently become a Malayan Communist Party member as early as 1950.32 When Chen passed away in 2002, her husband and former Socialist Club member, Tan Seng Huat, vehemently denied the last point: “When you are fighting for independence, you mix with all kinds of people. But she did not belong to any communist party. The British insisted she did”.33 With her fluency in Mandarin, as Tan Jing Quee also stated later, Chen was able to establish links between the Englishand Chinese-educated student bodies, with the Singapore Chinese Middle School Students’ Union becoming an associate member of the PMSF in the process.34 This was a point the Special Branch was deeply anxious about. In August 1956, it reported that Chen was “becoming a

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key figure in various forms of open activity for a united front”, with the Women’s Federation and the SCMSSU cooperating in the left-wing campaign against “yellow culture” and Western cultural influence in Singapore.35 Like the Socialist Club, the Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation, in which several University Socialists played a driving role, also drew the official gaze for its ability to transgress the official boundary between English- and Chinese-educated students. In December 1955, the Singapore authorities noted with concern that the PMSF, “hitherto beyond reproach, is being increasingly penetrated by undesirable elements”.36 Security officials expressed their anxiety over an exhibition and a number of concerts organised by the Chinese school students during the PMSF cultural festival held in Kuala Lumpur between 14-21 December. There, the students had allegedly, under the guise of promoting a Malayan culture, propagated “pro-communist and antigovernment” ideas to Chinese students from other parts of Malaya.37 The following month, the PMSF’s dissent against the official prohibition of the SCMSSU’s involvement in politics led the Special Branch to conclude beyond any doubt that the Federation was afflicted with the same “virus” of communism as were the Chinese Middle School students.38 The context for the subsequent official surveillance between 1956 and 1959 of the Socialist Club was the resignation in June 1956 of the more liberal lawyer David Marshall as the Chief Minister of Singapore and his replacement by his hard-line deputy, Lim Yew Hock. The security records on this period became part of the Colonial Office files, highlighting how they were deemed important enough for Governor Robert Black to despatch to his superiors in Britain. On his part, Lim found the records expedient, as he wanted to enhance his anti-communist credentials and broker an agreement with London to obtain full selfgovernment for Singapore. In September, Lim initiated Operation Photo and detained seven alleged communists, one of whom was Linda Chen. Security officials had claimed that month that Chen had been studying the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and was in possession of documents showing her to be “very active” in PMSF activities.39 The arrests precipitated strong protests from the leftwing labour, student and peasant associations and culminated in the island-wide riots of October, and even more arrests and detentions without trial. Intelligence officials continued to focus on the links between the English- and Chinese-educated students thereafter. They noted that PMSF representatives were seeking to interview the political detainees, while its organ also contained “much undesirable material” taken from the IUS.40 Subsequently, the PMSF was also alleged to have provided much “financial and moral support” to Chinese students who had

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staged a sit-in protest in two Chinese middle school premises prior to the riots.41 Although the far greater emphasis of the security assessments fell on the Chinese-educated labour, student and peasant movements, both the British and Lim himself were increasingly concerned with the collaboration between these groups and the University of Malaya left-wing students through Linda Chen. The Linda Chen network also provided the basis upon which further networks of “communist infiltration” were constructed for pragmatic political purposes. The Special Branch’s anxiety over the local and international manifestations of communism continued in mid-1959 following the Singapore general elections. In June, intelligence officials learnt that the Socialist Club’s Research Committee was planning to organise the Malay National Language seminar within two months. They underlined the fact that the committee was headed by Abdullah Majid, “a known Communist”, and Chen, “a Communist sympathiser, who has rejoined the University as a student since her release from an order of banishment made in September 1956”.42 The continued contact between former and present University Socialists was being seen as an irrefutable case of communist infiltration, with Majid and Chen held as the central nodes of a wide web of conspiracy. The following month, Majid appeared again in another intelligence entry with a new associate: Ahmad Mustapha, President of the Socialist Club, who was thought to be interested in representing the Club at the World Youth Festival in Vienna, an event jointly organised by the IUS and World Federation of Democratic Youth, both, allegedly, communist-controlled. Of Mustapha, the report emphasised that “[a]lthough not a communist himself, he is under the influence of Abdullah Majid, a communist”.43 The Abdullah Majid and Linda Chen trails continued to be pursued in subsequent reports, indicating the importance of both individuals to the Special Branch’s frame of surveillance. In late 1959, the Branch observed that Jenny Tan Poh Hwa, the sister of Tan Seng Huat, who was, it was underlined, the husband of Linda Chen, was returning to Singapore after completing her studies in Britain. There, the report cautioned, Jenny Tan had been in close contact with John Eber and was now trying to apply for a job in the Singapore Education Department.44 To security officials, the Majid-Chen webs were bridged in February 1960, when Majid was ostensibly attempting to apply for a lecturer post at Nanyang University, and Chen, it was reported, was helping him.45 In April, Chen and Tan Seng Huat were banned from entering Sarawak, while Chen had also been declared a prohibited immigrant by the Federation government.46 She was further shadowed in September 1960 when she attended a tea party organised by the Socialist Club as an “associate member”, and also in the following April at a forum

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organised by the Club on “The Current Political Situation in Singapore”.47 By this time, yet another Socialist Club alumnus was mapped onto this imagined Marxist net: A. Mahadeva, who had become Secretary-General of the Executive Committee of the National Union of Journalists. The Special Branch promptly connected the dots of Mahadeva’s personal background and its surveillance of other University Socialists. It noted that Mahadeva “tended to be a hanger-on of communists like Abdullah Majid, Dr M.K. Rajakumar, Dr Poh Soo Kai, Linda Chen Mong Hock and her husband Dr Tan Seng Huat”.48 At the same time, Chen’s younger sister, Mong Sin, was reported to be active in the Nan Chiau High School Alumni Association and the Nanyang University Guild of Graduates. Mong Sin, the Special Branch observed, had been connected with Anti-British League and had been a member of Singapore Women’s Federation in 1956.49 By mid-1961, the PAP was in grave danger of disintegration from within. Ong Eng Guan had tabled his sixteen resolutions against the Lee Kuan Yew leadership and had been expelled from the party, while the PAP government’s relationship with its left-wing faction was also coming under severe and unsalvageable strain. The Special Branch’s dogged pursuit of Linda Chen’s family, social and political connections took place in this context of a growing British fear about the impending challenge from the left to the PAP government, a political group they had groomed for power in Singapore. In this context, too, the Special Branch warned in January 1961 that R. Joethy, the Club’s Assistant Secretary and a second year arts student, had written an article in Fajar which, in their view, supported the MCP’s “policy of terrorism” as accelerating the attainment of Merdeka in Malaya.50

The John Eber Node and the London Connection The name of John Eber, a senior MCP member, founder of the Malayan Democratic Union and an active member of the Malayan Forum in London in the 1950s, had been mentioned in late 1959 in connection with Jenny Tan and Linda Chen. This was an individual, the Special Branch knew, the University Socialists and other leftists in Singapore held in high esteem. The John Eber node was another significant thread in the communist discourse and signified a political link between individuals in Singapore and Britain. To the authorities, here was the truly internationalist character of the Marxist threat established without doubt. Just as Linda Chen was believed to have been the focal point of the communist axis in Singapore, the international node was Eber. The Singapore Special Branch was deeply concerned about the association between Eber and the English-educated intelligentsia,

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specifically, Socialist Club leaders in Singapore. Linda Chen’s sister-inlaw, Jenny Tan, had come to the Branch’s notice because of Tan’s contact with Eber in Britain, as already noted. In November 1956, the Branch had warned that Chua Sian Chin, the new Secretary of the Malayan Forum in London who was assumed to have been active in supporting the Club’s efforts for the Fajar trial, had become “an admirer” of Eber and was trying to organise support for him.51 This caution persisted and was vindicated in the minds of the Branch’s officials in mid-1960 – albeit three and a half years later – when the May issue of Fajar carried a cartoon critical of detention without trial, drawn allegedly by Eber. The cartoon, titled “End of the Emergency”, depicted Abdul Razak, the Federation’s Deputy Prime Minister, as a ringmaster driving people from a cage marked “Under the Emergency” to a circus tent named “Preventive Detention”.52 To the Special Branch, the Abdullah Majid-John Eber webs connected in a September report, which noted that A. Mahadeva, who had been “established” to be closely linked to Majid, had been introduced to Eber in the United Kingdom while on a journalists’ tour.53 In November, the Branch’s counterparts in London pointed out that Eber, in turn, had been reportedly “greatly impressed” by the editorial, “Independence before a Merger”, in the October issue of Fajar.54 Such heightened fears about the communist connection between London and Singapore were based on the fragmentary evidence and interpretation laid out in the periodic security assessments. Ultimately, the full evidence was lacking, but the reports were typical of the nature of official surveillance in Singapore and Malaya during the Cold War. What the University Socialists read was also of deep interest to security officials. In October 1960, the Branch intercepted three communist books in Bahasa Indonesia and a copy of the English weekly, New Age, published by the Communist Party of India, addressed to the President The Majid-Chen-Eber Nodes and Chains, 1954-1960

John Eber

Abdullah Majid

Ahmad Mustapha

A. Mahadeva

Linda Chen

Tan Seng Huat

Jenny Tan

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and Secretary-General of the Club.55 Two months later, the Branch seized copies of the Malay version of the Malayan Communist Party’s 10th anniversary greetings, which had been posted in Penang to an unnamed editor of Fajar.56 Such surveillance of the distribution of “undesirable” and “dangerous” literature reflected the fear security officials, and by extension, the colonial state, had of communist infiltration in Singapore. It also provides an insight into the ideas the University Socialists were exploring and contemplating as both committed students and public intellectuals. It is not a full insight because only the most questionable literature was seized and reported.

The Cold War Information Order The Majid-Chen-Eber web of communist conspiracy conceived by the Singapore Special Branch underlines the vicious cycle of growing British fears of a “red star over Malaya”.57 Here was a clear case of a powerful Cold War information order at work in defining the new states of Singapore and the Federation. Rather than unearthing evidence to affirm or reject the hypothesis, security officials were actively and increasingly framing what they were observing to reinforce the notion of an international communist menace. Even when the Special Branch acknowledged in specific cases that there was no basis for worry, the fear of communism remained as the overarching frame of description and analysis of anti-colonial and socialist politics in Singapore and Malaya. Nor should the fear of communism be viewed simply as an inevitable product of the historical conditions. On the contrary, the Branch robustly constructed and refined the webs of conspiracy in the clear knowledge that the accusations which they could offer would assist Britain in nurturing friendly and stable anti-communist states in post-colonial Southeast Asia. The work of the Singapore Special Branch constituted an important front of the Anglo-American side of the Cold War in the 1960s. As Ahmad Khan explained, local intelligence officials in that period had to be acutely mindful of not just what they observed and reported, but also the larger political impact their work would inevitably have.58 Khan’s one-time immediate superior, Richard Corridon, was the head of the Indian and subsequently Political (non-Chinese) sections of the Singapore Special Branch in the 1950s and 1960s. In an interview by the Oral History Unit of the National Archives of Singapore in 1982, Corridon candidly admitted that had the Branch possessed more evidence, it would have no qualms about detaining even more leftists in 1963. The Branch, by then, was deeply committed to the success of the Lee Kuan Yew government.59 An interview with a former leading

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intelligence official, conducted in Singapore by a statutory board, should rightly be treated with utmost caution for its silences, noises and distortions.60 As Corridon himself, then seventy-two, reminded the interviewer repeatedly, the long intervening years had affected his memory. More importantly, when he depicted the image of befuddled security services, Corridon might have been motivated by a desire to distance himself, and the Branch, from the political implications of the security actions which so dramatically defined the history of Singapore in the early 1960s and consequently produced a one-party state. His recollections on the scope and efficacy of the Branch’s surveillance also differ markedly from those of his subordinate, Ahmad Khan. Despite these reservations, Corridon’s admissions about the limited reliable intelligence the Special Branch had on the Singapore left in the 1950s and 1960s are surprising. Corridon conceded the ideological rigidity of the colonial mind. In his own words, much of what the Branch knew about the left was either “trends that were apparent” and “played up, perhaps, in the Chinese press”, or “fringe information”. This was because, as Corridon explained, “I don’t think we got anywhere very deep” with the left. This contradicts the statement in the earlier-mentioned security report about the Branch’s “top secret and very delicate source(s)”. Lee Kuan Yew himself, Corridon ventured, had more accurate and reliable information on the leftists – from Lee’s own contacts and those of other PAP leaders who had worked with the left. In explaining this admission, Corridon surmised: “You got much more from people who are in one room than from people looking through a window, outside, and wondering what is going on in that room”. This was true in at least one way: both Corridon and Khan were officials who had cut their cloth working in the intelligence services in India, against which the largely-Chinese socialist movements in Singapore would have appeared considerably different and alien. Corridon also gave an example of the anti-Marxist slant of the colonial mind: intelligence officials initially believed Goh Keng Swee to have been a communist simply because he had studied in the socialist-leaning London School of Economics and had taken part in a May Day rally in Yugoslavia.61 This tentativeness and gross simplicity of the Branch’s assessments can be seen in another odd remark in an 1956 intelligence report: that the new paid secretary of the PAP, Ong Pang Boon, a former Club member, had been a close associate of James Puthucheary at the University of Malaya and was now on “friendly terms with Lee Kuan Yew, who, it is believed, does not know Ong is an MCP sympathiser”.62 Despite the occasional misfire, there is little doubt about the potential power vested in the Cold War information order in Singapore. By the time the People’s Action Party came to power in 1959, communism had become the foremost frame of description and analysis of the

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intelligence services in Singapore. Political leaders who had access to the files of the Special Branch could utilise the intelligence assessments to define the character of political life in the new self-governing state. The timing was apt: with the PAP’s electoral victory, the British would use the hidden hand of intelligence to close the experiment they had started in 1953-1954 and exclude left-wing socialism from the new PAP state which they endorsed and which stood for democratic socialism. The events of the early 1960s, driven by the issue of the merger with Malaya and culminating in the left’s political defeat, were to prove this singular fact in a devastating way.

8

Resisting Malaysia, Swansong for Malaya

The University Socialists’ campaign to resist the formation of “Malaysia” between 1961 and 1963 was at once the culmination and final act of the Socialist Club’s political activism on the national stage. From its inception, the vision of a socialist Malaya that included Singapore had provided the Club its chief existential identity, and guided the Club’s activism on campus and beyond. However, the drastic turn of events in 1961 posed such a threat to the Club’s fundamental values that it propelled the University Socialists to intervene more directly and robustly in the political process than in previous years. The sudden and almost reckless raising of stakes by the proponents and advocates of the “Malaysia” scheme both determined the Club’s radical turn and necessitated its political neutering once the bets were down. On the surface, “Malaysia” provided the sort of political structure for the merger of Singapore and Malaya that the Club had fought for. But the Club, along with the entire left-wing movement in Singapore, was to oppose the plan as the antithesis of its Malayan vision. At the national level, the tussle over the shared future of Singapore and Malaya constituted one half of a new political engineering phase of the Malayan Spring experiment, the other half being the changing role of the university and students, discussed in Chapter 10. With the PAP in power in 1959, the coalition of the Lee Kuan Yew group with the leftwing trade unions formed earlier in the decade began to unravel, precipitating a period of political crisis as new relationships began to crystallise. The British colonial regime now undertook to ensure the new government’s position against its socialist critics by brokering an agreement on the merger between the PAP and the Alliance party. The British-Tunku-Lee tripartite and its opponents – the left-wing forces that later coalesced around the Barisan Sosialis – evoked their own rationalist visions of the merger, revealing a confidence that the combination of two very different states was possible whatever their prevailing political, socio-economic and cultural circumstances might be. In May 1961, the Federation Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman spoke of closer cooperation between former and current British colonies in Southeast Asia, namely, the Federation, Singapore, Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo.1 This was the genesis of subsequent political

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moves to amalgamate these five territories into a super-state named “Malaysia”. Singapore’s political leaders had always viewed Singapore’s reunification with Malaya (or to use the contemporary term, “merger”) as a matter of course. However, the Federation’s United Malays National Organisation leadership remained far less than willing to include Singapore’s predominantly Chinese population and its brand of non-communal, left-inclined politics into a singularly Malay-dominated system. As Mohamed Sopiee shows, Tunku and other UMNO leaders had harboured dreams of unifying the Borneo territories less Singapore since the mid-1950s. Only the prospect of a left-wing government supplanting Lee Kuan Yew’s PAP in 1961, which appeared to leave the peninsula open to “communist subversion” from the island-state, changed Tunku’s mind about Singapore.2 After the PAP assumed office, a triangular tussle emerged between the underground Malayan Communist Party, the Lee Kuan Yew leadership and the left-wing movement for the right to direct the course of Singapore’s constitutional development. After three years of repression under Lim Yew Hock’s government, the trade union movement in particular, again under the leadership of the recently released Lim Chin Siong, revived and expanded rapidly. The Singapore General Employees’ Union, to whom Lim was adviser, grew from 3,000 members in May 1959 to 18,000 in May 1960 before swelling to 30,000 in July 1961. The proportion of unionised workers in Singapore rose from 24.5 to 33.7 per cent of the total workforce in the same period.3 In addition, the Singapore Business Houses Employees’ Union, which the left had not been able to penetrate earlier, also came under its influence, with the English-educated workers of European companies now mobilising collectively to demand better wages and working conditions. At the same time, the leadership of these unions was further centralised under the Singapore Trade Union Congress (STUC), the fourteenmember Executive Council of which consisted of the president, three vice-presidents and ten secretaries. The renowned “Ten Tall Men” of Singapore’s labour movement referred to the secretaries, among whom were counted leftists Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan, S.T. Bani, Dominic Puthucheary (James’ brother), C.V. Devan Nair and Socialist Club alumni Sydney Woodhull and Jamit Singh.4 On the rural-urban front, the left was also actively mobilising kampong dwellers through the Singapore Rural Residents’ Association, Singapore Country People’s Association and old boys’ associations.5 On the other hand, the Lee Kuan Yew group exploited the government’s control of the state security apparatus to enhance its influence. Key to its power was the creation of a seven-member Internal Security Council under the 1959 constitution. In the Council, holding three seats each, the Singapore government shared equal representation with

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the British, with the Federation’s representative holding the decisive casting vote.6 This was to prevent a communist government in Singapore from obtaining control of the Council. Lee also closely monitored the work of the local intelligence organ, the Special Branch, and personally attended its weekly meetings. The intelligence from the Cold War information order gave Lee a crucial insight into the work of the left-wing trade unions and other mass organisations in Singapore. In one of these meetings, Lee came across a file on Fong Chong Pik, the MCP’s highest ranking leader in Singapore, whom he had been meeting clandestinely since 1958.7 It was in the spaces between state surveillance on the one hand and left-wing political and labour activism on the other that the MCP attempted to adapt its revolutionary goals to the cadence of Singapore’s constitutional progress. Sometime in 1958, Fong Chong Pik had returned to Singapore to implement the resolution of an emergency meeting of communist cadres in Jakarta. The goal of the MCP at that stage, according to Fong, was to “liaise with Lee Kuan Yew, in order to coordinate the struggles of the PAP and the left-wing movement”.8 While there is no doubt that Lim Chin Siong, being an ex-AntiBritish League member, was ideologically close to the MCP, there has been to date no conclusive proof to indicate that four years after ceasing contact with his direct superior in the ABL, Lim had not evolved into a national socialist leader in his own right. It was in this new, semiautonomous political role that Lim, as recently revealed in the history of the PAP, Men in White (2009), met Fong three times between the late 1950s and early 1961.9 It remains difficult to assess the full impact of the MCP on left-wing politics in Singapore until the full content of these meetings is made known. For the most part, the Socialist Club stood at the sidelines of the high politics that ultimately decided the outcome of the contestations over the form, terms and timing of the merger between Singapore and Malaya. Yet, the “Malaysia” debate was also a mass exercise in democratic politics, a battle for the “hearts and minds” of the citizenry as Lee Kuan Yew called it. It was here, as students and as political activists, that the University Socialists were able to play a role in the merger debates. The campus debates and public campaigns the Club organised during this period, most of which have since been forgotten in Singapore historiography, contributed significantly if ultimately unsuccessfully to the merger campaign. The Club’s fierce critique of the politics of engineering “Malaysia” was, as in the 1950s, conceived from its vantage point as society’s intelligentsia. Initially, it endeavoured to function as an independent jury amongst the contending political parties, although in the end it decided to support the left. How did the Club carve out such a political niche for itself? Between October 1960 and May 1961, before the “Malaysia” scheme was

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promulgated, the Club had become increasingly critical of the PAP’s “independence through a merger” approach. This, as the merger debate intensified, was exemplified in two critical events it organised in the course of the merger debate in Singapore. On 11 July 1961, it held a first ever public forum to consider Singapore’s response to the announcement of Tunku’s “Malaysia” plan. Notably, this format of public debate was subsequently taken up by Radio Singapore and became a major channel through which the political parties’ positions on “Malaysia” were articulated and disseminated. A year later in July, the Club, in collaboration with the fellow student political clubs of Nanyang University and Singapore Polytechnic, held a Gallup Poll in Tanjong Pagar, not only to assess the people’s views on “Malaysia” but also to present an alternative format to the PAP’s referendum on the merger.

Singapore Independence: A Bold Rationalist Thesis To the Socialist Club, the early political developments following Singapore’s achievement of self-governance were ominous. The PAP, under Lee Kuan Yew’s leadership, had won the elections of 1959 handsomely, gaining 43 out of the 51 seats. Lee sought to present a solid political front to the British and Federation governments to realise the “independence through a merger” policy, but opposition to both his strategy and leadership soon emerged. At the annual party conference of June 1960, Ong Eng Guan, the Minister for National Development and previously Lee’s right-hand man, made a strong bid for party leadership. Ong tabled sixteen resolutions which apparently expressed grievances emerging from party branches and the trade unions. They included Lee Kuan Yew’s unfulfilled promise to release all political detainees within six months of June 1959; the absence of intra-party democracy; the deregistration of left-wing unions; and Ong’s demand for fresh constitutional talks with London, instead of simply adopting the “merger through independence” strategy.10 Despite raising what were decidedly left-wing concerns, Ong was denounced by Lim Chin Siong and other left-wing leaders as a political opportunist and expelled from the party.11 The denouncement of Ong represented the left-wing group’s compromise, which might or might not have been directed by the MCP, with the Lee Kuan Yew government. The Socialist Club did not entirely agree with this politically expedient compromise mandated by the desire to present a united front. The sticking point for the Club was the manner of Singapore’s proposed merger with Malaya. Following the Ong Eng Guan affair, the Club in the October 1960 issue of Fajar called for a “sober re-analysis” of the government’s “independence through a merger”

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policy. It charged that this approach “hardly provides the amount of manoeuvrability one expects or desires” and called for a “re-evaluation of the whole issue”. At the same time, the Club began to propose the novel idea that, given the Federation’s intransigence over Singapore’s quest for merging, the island should simply seek its own independence: Will independence NOW in fact delay and diminish the chance of the ULTIMATE merger? Will independence serve better to enhance the cause of Socialism to which the PAP is dedicated? Is it an economically feasible proposition? Will political freedom mean that Singapore will be better able to solve her economic problems?12 An open debate ensued between the Club and the Lee Kuan Yew group. In October, an editorial in the PAP organ Petir rehashed the oft-cited arguments for the merger: that the two territories were a natural unit and that a “small island like Singapore cannot be independent”.13 In a rejoinder to the PAP arguments, Tommy Koh dismissed as a “totally unwarranted assumption” that as a result of “Singapore [being] economically, ethnologically, culturally and in many other ways a natural component of the Federation”, the island state “should merge with the Federation and not seek independence without such a merger”. Two states, he contended, could remain economically interdependent and culturally contiguous without a political union. The reason for doggedly holding on to such a delimiting “independence through a merger” line, Koh proposed, was that “the PAP hopes and believes that it will be able to persuade the Alliance Government to change its mind and accept Singapore ... in the foreseeable future”. But he postulated that it was unrealistic to expect the Federation to accept a form of merger based on a socialist and non-communal vision: I suggest the real reason why the (UMNO-led) Alliance Government rejects a merger with Singapore is because the Alliance party is led and supported by the owning class, i.e. the landlords, the owners of the rubber estates, the tin mines, the factories in Petaling Jaya, and it seeks to maintain a capitalist society in Malaya. The Alliance perceives that to accept the merger with Singapore is to afford the Socialists the right to undertake political activities which will amount to signing its own death warrant. If this analysis is correct, then no amount of wooing by the PAP Government will persuade the Alliance Government to admit Singapore into the Federation.14

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Koh’s speculation over the “real reasons” for the merger drew a particularly harsh response from the PAP in the following month. In the party’s 6th Anniversary Souvenir, Minister for Health Ahmad Ibrahim warned that “the conduct of left-wing groups should not be such as to have repercussions among the Malay people that would cause them to move further to the right”.15 More to the point, the PAP Central Executive Committee issued a statement, bearing the mark of Lee Kuan Yew’s prose, warning the “Left-wing Adventurers” that the idea of an independent Singapore was “NOT REALISTIC”. The statement argued that an independent Singapore would fall to the “chauvinist sentiments of the Chinese”, making it impossible for a Chinese-dominated city to voluntarily merge with the Federation: The consequences of an independent Singapore, 75% of whose population are Chinese would not be dissimilar from the consequences following from the creation of independent Israel. Once Palestine became independent Israel, the Arabs either fled or were driven from Palestine and the Jews from neighbouring states either fled or were driven into Israel ... Everyone knows what the 40 million Arabs in the Middle East want to do to the 2 millions Jews in Israel.16 In December, Fajar published a letter from Harban Singh, a reader, who saw the merits of the Club’s advocacy for Singapore’s independence. Criticising the PAP’s economic argument for the merger, Singh pointed out that the city-state could industrialise on its own once it was independent by relying on capital loans from the developed countries. Instead of having to “crawl and beg on our knees” to the Federation for a merger, Singh demanded “immediate independence” for Singapore, although this would not preclude reunification with the Federation at a later date.17 At this point, the public debate on Singapore’s constitutional future between the University Socialists and PAP leadership came to a premature halt: focus had turned to the worsening intra-party feud caused by Ong Eng Guan’s bid for leadership. The Club’s brief but intense exchange of opinions with the PAP leadership between October and December 1960 demonstrated once again the University Socialists’ role as independent public intellectuals in an emerging civil society, willing to critique its erstwhile ally and patron, the PAP. Just as stunning was the fact that Koh’s call for Singapore’s independence was clearly at odds with the Malayan vision pursued by earlier cohorts of Socialist Club activists. As the occasion for the merger drew closer, so the difficulty of making it work became clearer to university students like him. The Club’s “independence” line was shortlived, although Koh continued to advocate it for a time. Successive

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cohorts of University Socialists, the Lee Kuan Yew government and the left-wing movement all advocated the merger and failed to see the difficulty of achieving it. It involved successfully reunifying a Malaycontrolled, politically conservative Malaya and a Chinese-dominated, socialist Singapore: a dead knot in Singapore and Malayan politics. The Club’s stance on Singapore’s constitutional future was not altogether a neutral one. Lee stated later in his memoirs that Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan and Woodhull had been “stirring up demands for an independent Singapore without a merger” from the time of their release from detention in June 1959.18 To what extent was the Club’s advocacy directed by the Lim Chin Siong group in order to put pressure on Lee Kuan Yew? The influence of seniors like Lim Hock Siew, S. Woodhull and Poh Soo Kai was no doubt present. Following the brief squabble over the Singapore independence thesis, the left appeared to have mended its rifts. On 24 February, the Socialist Club, together with the Nanyang University Political Science Society and the Singapore Polytechnic Political Society, organised a forum on “The Need for Leftwing Unity”, in which Lim Chin Siong, David Marshall, Jek Yuen Thong, and Yahaya Mohamed Noor spoke to an audience of 1,500 students and members of the public. Lim condemned Ong Eng Guan’s political opportunism while emphasising the need for “seeking common ground while containing differences”.19 In March, the three aforementioned political clubs issued a joint statement stressing the need for unity in the anti-colonial struggle and indicating support for the PAP. The statement was made at a representatives’ meeting of the Singapore General Employees’ Union and thirty-two other left-wing unions.20 The Club also eventually supported the PAP candidate Jek Yeun Thong against Ong Eng Guan in the Hong Lim by-election in April, as the trade union leaders had done. Two weeks before the contest, the Club held a discussion on campus on “The Current Political Situation in Singapore”. Among its participants were former and current University Socialists such as Abdullah Majid, A. Mahadeva, Tan Seng Huat and his wife Linda Chen, Poh Soo Kai, Lim Hock Siew, Lim Shee Ping, Gopal Baratham and Francis Chen. Tan Jing Quee, then the Club’s Research Secretary, affirmed its support for the PAP in the by-election. At the forum, Lim Hock Siew, Poh Soo Kai and Linda Chen urged the need for the left to remain united in the anti-colonial struggle. Interestingly, though, Mahadeva and Francis Chen appeared to strike dissenting notes by maintaining that since the trade union movement was now controlled by the PAP, its apparent support for the latter was in fact only support for particular PAP leaders.21 Tan Guan Heng, the Club’s Secretary-General in 1960-1961, explained that the Club “took the anti-Ong line” largely due to the

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encouragement of Lim Hock Siew and Poh Soo Kai.22 Gopinath Pillai, the Club’s President in the same period, remembered that “supporting PAP” was a decision the Central Working Committee made after “a lot of discussion with ex-members”. He denied that the Club was simply taking orders from its alumni, insisting that the members “always took our own decisions” even though they “had very close links with past members and always talked to them.”23 A better way to assess the Club’s position on independence is to examine the argument itself. What was the basis of the Club’s call for Singapore’s independence? This position was in fact largely Tommy Koh’s, who although no longer holding the leading post was still an active executive member in the Club. His argumentation reveals a highly rationalist mind and a legalistic way of thinking, although it fell short of the received economic and political wisdom at the time. It was a radical move on Koh’s part to suggest the economic viability of Singapore’s independence. Even within the socialist camp, the notion that Singapore’s industrial development could succeed on an islandstate scale was considered heresy. Gopinath Pillai recalled how Koh’s independence thesis had been ridiculed by James Puthucheary: Tommy was one person who thought Singapore would be independent. I still remember this conversation at the Union House between James (Puthucheary), Tommy and myself. Tommy asked why Singapore could not be independent. He felt it was economically feasible. Tommy was trying to make out the case and James shut him up and said: “Are you trying to teach me economics?” Tommy just raked off. I remember this so clearly. [Laughter] But Tommy was proven right.24 The Socialist Club’s independence thesis remained a renegade, minority position held by Koh. Even within the Club, it remained a minority position for the thesis was never put forward on the front-page editorial of Fajar, except as a counter-factual challenge to the PAP’s intransigent stand in the October 1960 issue. That this thesis was given much editorial space and later on, air time, on the national stage, despite its apparent contradiction with conventional Malayan socialist thinking, bears testimony to the Club’s independent approach to issues. The independence thesis was a path not taken at the time, neither by the socialists nor the PAP government; that Koh’s path was eventually taken following Singapore’s ejection from Malaysia in 1965 remains unacknowledged.

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The 1961 “Basis for Merger” Forum and the Parting of Ways The rapprochement within the PAP was short-lived, with the rifts breaking apart again as the stakes for the merger were further raised in the second half of 1961. “Malaysia” was brought into existence within a twenty-seven month period of international, intercolonial and local negotiation and engineering. To the British, the urgency of Singapore’s internal security situation and the increasingly fragile position of the Lee Kuan Yew leadership in the summer of 1961 were aptly demonstrated by the outcome of the Hong Lim by-election in April, when Ong Eng Guan trounced Jek Yeun Thong to regain his seat. This fear expedited British moves to implement the “Greater Malaysia” plan.25 The UMNO-led national government of the Federation of Malaya basically supported this initiative as an opportunity to expand its borders across the South China Seas into the less developed British colonies of northern Borneo: Sarawak, Brunei and North Borneo (later renamed Sabah). The haste which led the British to scuttle from Borneo upset their original decolonisation plans. It triggered nationalist armed revolts in Brunei in 1962 and Sarawak the following year. Since 1953, decolonisation in Singapore had also produced three successively more left-wing nationalist regimes. To the British, history seemed ready to repeat itself in the region in May 1961. Tunku’s sudden suggestion on 27 May of the possibility of a merger between the five territories was part of the British-sponsored “Grand Design”. It kicked off the merger debate in earnest in Singapore and hastened the collapse of the PAP coalition. Only three days before, Sydney Woodhull had spoken at a Socialist Club forum reiterating the PAP’s “independence through a merger” line.26 On 2 June, however, the “Big Six” of the Singapore Trade Union Congress’ ten-man secretariat, comprising Lim Chin Siong, Fong Swee Suan, Dominic Puthucheary, S.T. Bani, Jamit Singh and Woodhull, declared their advocacy for “genuinely full internal self-government” for Singapore over “independence for a merger”. The battle line was clearly drawn between the trade union-led left-wing faction and the Lee Kuan Yew group in the party over the question of whether to accept the reunification offered by Tunku, or to first attain “genuine” self-government and full control over Singapore’s internal security before doing so.27 Both the Lee and Lim factions in the PAP remained committed to the idea of a merger, differing mainly in the timing, framework and terms for the reunification. Tommy Koh’s independence thesis was momentarily pushed to the margins. The Socialist Club’s first response, in its historical role as a bridge between different groups, was to prevent the imminent split between the Lee group and the trade union leaders, as it had previously done in

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April. On 14 June, Tan Jing Quee, the newly elected Club President, spoke at a joint forum organised by the political societies of Nanyang University, Singapore Polytechnic and University of Malaya. He duly chastised the PAP for being “so obsessed with the idea of a merger as the only feasible way out of the dilemma [the commitment to a merger] of their own creation”.28 But he insisted the issue was not a clear-cut choice between “‘independence through a merger’ or ‘independence without a merger’”, as the PAP had framed it. Neither did Tan embrace the position Tommy Koh had advocated the previous year. Tan instead warned that merging with a right-wing government in Malaya “might have grave consequences on the left-wing movement the advancement of which the PAP and the mass of our people are dedicated”. The PAP, he suggested, could remain within the left-wing fold if it turned down Tunku’s merger proposal. At this stage, the Club would still rather attempt to dissuade the Lee leadership from taking up the “supermerger” carrot than have it clash with the alternative posture of the “Big Six”. As the gulf continued to widen between the two sides, the Club attempted to clarify differences by organising the first public forum on the issue of “Malaysia”. On 11 July, four days before another important by-election in Anson, Tan Jing Quee chaired the forum on “The Basis for a Merger”. The major political parties in Singapore were invited to present their views on the issue. Devan Nair, also a member of the STUC secretariat but by then standing alongside the Lee group, represented the PAP government, while Woodhull spoke for the STUC’s “Big Six”. The other two speakers were David Marshall from the Workers’ Party, and A.P. Rajah representing the coalition of the Singapore People’s Alliance and the Alliance government in Malaya. Tommy Koh spoke on behalf of the Socialist Club. According to the Straits Times, “more than 1,000 students, tutors and members of the public thronged the university quadrangle to hear the debate”.29 A United States Consul-General report from the scene held that the crowd was “definitely pro-Marshall and anti-PAP”.30 While Marshall was then prominent as a major contender in the Anson by-election (which he narrowly won with left-wing support against the PAP candidate), the real tension was between the rival groups in the PAP. It was at this forum that the PAP government first declared, through Devan Nair, that “the party was prepared to part company with trade union leaders”. He singled out Lim, Fong and Woodhull for having “shifted their position from the basic standpoint they took in 1959 on the question of a merger”.31 On the PAP’s programme for a merger, Nair advocated the inclusion of Singapore as “one of the equal constituent units of the Federation”, and for the island to maintain control over education and labour affairs.

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Plate 8.1

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The “Basis for Merger” forum which publicly signified the parting of ways within the PAP, organised by the Socialist Club at the University of Malaya campus, 1961

From left: David Marshall (representing the Workers’ Party), Sydney Woodhull (the PAP left), Tan Jing Quee (chair and President of the Club), A.P. Rajah (Singapore People’s Alliance-Alliance coalition), Devan Nair (mainstream faction in the PAP), and Tommy Koh (Socialist Club, not in picture) Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction

Woodhull returned the charge, accusing the PAP of itself deviating from the 1959 promise to release all political detainees and of hindering the centralisation of the trade unions. He memorably described Nair as “a world traveller – the more he moved to the left the closer he got to the right”.32 Training the main force of his critique on the PAP’s “independence through a merger” line, Woodhull dismissed its arguments

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for a merger to be of a “completely intimidatory nature”. Instead of formulating an alternative basis for a merger to the British-brokered Grand Design, Woodhull demanded additional information from the government on “what sort of independence was this supposed to be” and “how the merger was to be achieved”. Then, in a subtle declaration of his endorsement of David Marshall rather than the PAP candidate in the Anson by-election, Woodhull made this dig at the government to “roars of laughter” from the crowd: The PAP had grown into a Goliath on the strength of its anticolonial record. But Goliath was seriously maimed at Hong Lim, where Ong Eng Guan proved much closer to the popular field. So a great Goliath now limps into Anson to meet David.33 Tommy Koh then further elaborated on his Singapore independence thesis. While accepting the economic necessity of a large enough market to absorb the products of Singapore’s planned industrialisation programme, Koh challenged the PAP premise that a political union with “Malaysia” was the only guarantee for this. He argued that good trading relations could be cultivated short of a political union, or even a looser “confederation” would be more desirable given the differences which existed between the two territories on matters of race, religion and social-economic justice.34 The “Basis for a Merger” forum represented a turning point in the history of the University Socialists in Singapore and Malayan politics not simply because it witnessed a very public “parting of ways” between the two factions of the PAP. The Club had a rich tradition of hosting introductory lectures by political and intellectual leaders but none of the previous or subsequent lectures, forums or seminars could be said to have impinged so directly on the history of the Singapore and Malaya. That the political parties entrusted the Club to chair the forum indicates the stature it enjoyed in the eyes of the progressive-minded public, though the political club’s role should not be exaggerated. The Club enjoyed such prestige in part because of its consistent association with progressive local leaders. More importantly, it played the contingent role of a go-between for the now-diverging powerhouses in Singapore politics: the PAP and the trade unions. It was after the split became final and irreconcilable that the Club, in choosing to stick to its socialist roots, would henceforth operate from the margins of Singapore’s increasingly one party-dominant political scene. The “parting of ways” with the party which the Club had helped form in 1954, was an admission of defeat to realist party politics and Cold War geopolitics. After the forum, as the split between the party and trade unions broke wide open in the remainder of July and August, the Club and its

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alumni still continued to attempt to prevent the impossible. Tommy Koh later related his efforts to prevent the break-up of the PAP: In our youthful arrogance, we thought that we could actually influence events. We actually tried unsuccessfully to prevent the PAP from breaking up into two groups. In our youthful folly, I thought it would be a setback for the socialist movement in Singapore if the movement split into two enemy camps. And I actually tried to talk to both sides, to [Lim] Chin Siong and his colleagues and I spoke to [Chua] Sian Chin, [Ong] Pang Boon and their colleagues. But we didn’t realise that the cleavage was beyond repair. But being kids, we were idealistic and didn’t quite understand some of the deeper undercurrents.35 Koh’s senior, James Puthucheary, who had been appointed Chairman of the Industrial Promotion Board upon his release from detention in 1959, also went back and forth between both sides in an attempt to stem the dividing tide. In an open letter to the Straits Times in August, Finance Minister Goh Keng Swee revealed his discussions with Puthucheary on their different readings of PAP’s recent history prior to the split: In the course of the Anson by-election Mr Puthucheary on several occasions warned me of the dangers to the PAP as a result of the conflict between the Trade Union Six and the Party. He said the Party’s future lay in maintaining the united front. I said that the challenge came from them. We were the injured party. The Union Six had sought to coerce the Party away from its basic objective of a merger with the Federation. I made it clear that the timing of such demands showed that the loyalty of the persons to the PAP was suspect and that we were not going to yield to such coercion. After Anson, Mr Puthucheary became progressively more and more agitated … He appealed to me, in the name of sanity, to reverse our policy and to accommodate Lim Chin Siong and his faction. The alternative must have been the destruction of the PAP as a political force.36 The mediating endeavours of Koh and Puthucheary in the months of July and August exemplified the deep-cutting dilemma that University Socialists and their seniors faced during the PAP split. The Fajar trial seven years ago had brought together the Chinese-educated trade union and student leaders and the English-educated Lee Kuan Yew group. That the University Socialists had traditionally served as the conduit

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and cement between the two groups made the breaking of the alliance doubly difficult to accept. Yet once the break became irreversible, the Socialist Club’s historical rapport with the interests of workers, students and kampong dwellers and the cause of socialism ensured its identification with the trade union group. The majority of mass organisations formerly associated with the PAP – the labour unions, rural associations and student bodies – likewise switched their allegiances. Thirty-three party branches and between sixty to seventy per cent of party members switched over to the left.37 In August, the leftists, deciding to remain true to the cause of a genuinely socialist Malaya including Singapore, formed a new party, the Barisan Sosialis, or Socialist Front. Its leadership was a coalition of Lim Chin Siong’s trade union leadership and Dr Lee Siew Choh’s group of thirteen dissident PAP Assemblymen who had been expelled from the party. Its founding twelve-member executive committee also counted four Socialist Club alumni among its top positions: Sydney Woodhull (Vice-Chairman), Dr Poh Soo Kai (Assistant Secretary-General), Dr Lim Hock Siew (Ordinary Member) and James Puthucheary (Adviser).38 Other Club members who joined the Barisan included Philomen Oorjitham, Tan Jing Quee, Albert Lim Shee Ping and Dr Sheng Nam Chin.39 These developments heralded a more ideological phase in the Socialist Club’s history. A new Central Working Committee was elected in June 1961 under the leadership of Tan Jing Quee (President), R. Joethy (Secretary-General), Wong Kum Poh (Publications Secretary), Tan Peng Boo (Treasurer) and members Francis Chen, Michael Fernandez, Janet Tai, Peter Eng and Chu Chee Peng. But the Club did not simply surrender its role as an independent jury of politics at this point. In Fajar’s August-September editorial, it welcomed the “Birth of a New Party” with the note of caution that “the new travellers should avoid these same pit holes” which the PAP had fallen into. The Club spelt out the socialist principles by which it would now hold the Barisan responsible: Any Socialist party that seeks to govern the state to the best interests of its people, must obtain the support of the industrial working class without which industrial peace is impossible… It must also seek the co-operation of the commercial class whose initiative and buoyancy of our entrepot economy is partly attributable … It must also win the confidence of the English educated and the middle class who are responsible for the comparatively efficient functioning of our administrative machinery.40

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Theorising National Unity, Interrogating Communalism From late 1961 until the merger referendum the following September, high politics in Singapore was preoccupied with the so-termed “battle for the merger” on the manner of the island’s entry into the “Greater Malaysia” scheme. The dominant political debate revolved mostly around the twin issues of citizenship and the size of Singapore’s representation in the federal parliament. Yet, a more fundamental challenge to the long-term stability of “Malaysia” lurked underneath the PAP and UMNO discourses on the merger and state-building. This was the spectre of communalism, which the University Socialists had long warned against since the Club’s founding in 1953. The Club now returned to this issue in its critique of “Malaysia” and theorising on national unity. An important contribution here was James Puthucheary’s intellectual work in the late 1950s. Some time after he was released from political detention in 1959, he confided to University Socialists in a talk that his previous reading of communalism in Malaya – that it was a product of British colonial exploitation – had underestimated the powerful hold of “group loyalties”.41 He had concluded from his study of the Malayan economy in 1953 that despite its overwhelming domination, “foreign capital is really a rallying point for Indians and Chinese only”: For a long time, we Socialists have assumed that the major obstruction to unity in Malaya comes from the British and rightwing chauvinists. We assumed that if we would somehow explain to the people that we must all unite to fight the British for independence, everything would be all right. The more sophisticated of us assumed that exploitation is the basis of disunity, and once the British exploitation is ended, there would be unity. All this is too simple a view of the complex pressures that make group loyalties. [Whereas] about 70 per cent of the Malays are engaged in subsistence activities and are brought into the ambit of the market economy by the activities … of the Chinese trader. To the two or three million (Malay) people involved, British capital does not constitute the exploiting group. To them, the Chinese are the exploiters.42 In other words, according to Puthucheary, Malayan socialists had been wrong to frame their political struggle as merely one against European capital; indeed, the real and more difficult battle for national unity was an economic one, a “struggle against Chinese capitalists, and particularly the capital that exploits Malays directly”.43 Significantly, Puthucheary’s thesis on the need to eradicate the dominance of

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Chinese capital in Malaya was neither stated in his major oeuvre, Ownership and Control of the Malayan Economy (published in 1960), or in Fajar. The idea was perhaps too radical for public reception in a Chinese-dominated city like Singapore. The Socialist Club was sensitive to the efforts of both the PAP and UMNO to play up the respective group anxieties of the Chinese in Singapore and the Malays in the Federation in order to make the merger agreeable to both communities. In particular, the Club directed its critique at the PAP’s self-professed non-communal philosophy of nation-building. The PAP stance, the Club maintained, belied a hidden discourse of communalism and posed a more immediate danger to national unity than the UMNO’s overt and long-established communal stance. It was in this vein that the Club’s Central Working Committee issued an “Open Letter to Our Prime Minister, Tengku Abdul Rahman” in August 1961 to clarify its interpretation of the problem of the great communal divide: Who told you that the Chinese in Singapore want a “Little China”? Has not Mr Lee Kuan Yew told you that it is the vast Chinese working-class movement under progressive leadership that is the mainstay of the PAP’s programme of non-communal Malayan-consciousness? If he has not, ask him the next time you see him. Did not those who told you of the communal statements in certain speeches from the Socialist Front also tell you that the MCA and its gangsters and also the UMNO were setting the pace with inflammatory communal propaganda?44 How did the Club propose to bridge the communal divide without giving up on the opportunity presented by Federation’s openness to a political union? The Club’s answer, if somewhat naïve and idealistic, indicated the influence of James Puthucheary’s 1959 thesis on Malaya’s communal divide. In Fajar, the Club pointed out that, beyond the exploitation by foreign capital, there was a greater and more urgent communal contradiction in Malayan society for the socialist movement to resolve: We shall not talk to you of our hopes of ending foreign exploitation, of a planned economy and of an independent foreign policy. On these matters we may not see eye to eye. But on the question of national unity we are one with you. We ask you to end repression and throw open the windows of our country. Then let us have a great programme of literary, dramatic and other cultural activities throughout the country, directed towards uniting our peoples. Let us stimulate widespread fraternisation between the

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communities, in the schools, in the kampongs, in the villages and in the towns. Let rural development become a mass movement. Let Malays teach the National Language to the Chinese, and let Chinese workers help Malay villagers to break the hold of the middlemen.45 These themes were again carried in the “Special Merdeka Supplement” of Fajar’s August-September issue. The issue was significant for the added emphasis it gave to the plight of the Malay peasantry and the theoretical basis for achieving national unity between the Chinese and Malay communities. Mah Lien Hwah, in an article in the issue translated and adapted from the Nanyang University Political Science Society magazine, argued that “Chinese and Malay workers and peasants [would] inevitably find themselves rallying together” on the “basis of the interests of classes and not nationalities”. “The Rural Problem in Malaya”, published in the same issue and penned by Peter Eng, emphasised the serious extent of Malay rural poverty, citing Professor Ungku Abdul Aziz’s research. Eng, however, disputed the University of Malaya economist’s conclusion that the Chinese middlemen were the true oppressors of the Malay peasant. Instead, Eng pointed to the absentee landlords, extravagant land rents, concentration of reserved lands in state ownership, and the failure of the Federation government to effectively implement agricultural reforms devised in the Second Five-Year Plan as the real obstacles to the rejuvenation of the Malayan countryside. Besides land reforms, Eng argued for the promotion of peasant organisation … and the training of leaders from amongst the villagers and kampongs. This programme must be allowed to take place under an atmosphere of understanding and humanitarianism and not under the present environment of fear of arbitrary arrests, where attempts by Socialist cadres to inform the kampong folks and villagers that their economically depressed state is not due to the Chinese middlemen, but to the very nature of the capitalist society under which we live in, has resulted in their being thrown in jail under the nebulous charge of being a Communist.46 While colonialism had bequeathed a legacy of class differentiation between the communities in Malaya, it became clear to observers in the Club that the “Malaysia” scheme was specifically designed to mobilise the races against social revolution. This became manifest by April 1962, when Tunku asserted that “there will be no merger without Malaysia, but that Malaysia may take place without Singapore”.47 In other words, in accepting the island’s Chinese majority, a scenario Tunku long

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feared, Singapore was in fact a quid pro quo for the Borneo territories. As Tan Jing Quee pointed out in Fajar, “the whole approach [to Malaysia] is decidedly communal” [original emphasis].48

Mobilising Principles, Battling the Leviathan While the communalism critique was undertaken at the level of the abstract, the Socialist Club also played a more direct role in collaborating with the Barisan to contest the “Malaysia” plan. The Club’s efforts provide a telling sense of what “Malaysia” meant – and did not mean – to the various protagonists involved in that critical moment in time. Most basically, the story of the merger is not a straightforward or linear one where good triumphed over evil (read: democrats over communists). It has often been presumed that the Singapore left was tactically outmanoeuvred by an astute Lee Kuan Yew in the battle for a merger, yet, Lee is also said to have won fairly and decisively what has been depicted to be a contest for the hearts and minds of Singapore’s voters in the merger referendum of September 1962.49 In this victors’ history, the left’s campaign for a “complete and unconditional merger”, unfettered by expedient and communal compromises between the different parties, is commonly read at best as an expedient-spoiling move sponsored by the “communist united front” to derail the entire reunification process. At worst, it was a naïve proposal to surrender the rights of Singapore and Singaporeans to Kuala Lumpur and the Malaysians. The full range and import of the critiques the Club, and the left generally, levelled against the PAP’s merger plan have not been accorded a balanced treatment in most standard histories of Singapore and Malaysia. They never received fair consideration during the battle for the merger by a national media that was increasingly coming under party-state control in this period. An important component of the Club’s critique of “Malaysia” was directed not so much against the terms of a merger per se, but the means by which they were negotiated with the British and Federation governments and also, more crucially, the Singapore electorate. In fact, the fifteen months during which the merger proposals were debated in Singapore’s public sphere coincided with the introduction of various illiberal practices by the PAP government meant to mute dissenting voices which have endured to the present day, including increasing state control of all forms of media, the practice of making sensationalised and discursive diatribes against political opponents and the holding of the snap election. In a series of twelve radio talks spanning a period of almost a month from 13 September to 9 October 1961, Lee Kuan Yew made a series of sensationalistic radio broadcasts against his opponents to rally the

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electorate to the PAP’s “independence through a merger” policy. Socialist Club veterans such as James Puthucheary and Sydney Woodhull figured prominently in these talks as “pro-communists”. On 6 October, Lee made a specific reference to the Fajar sedition trial of 1954. He categorised three of the eight defendants, Kwa Boo Sun (then a teacher at Monk’s Hill Secondary School), M.K. Rajakumar (a doctor at the General Hospital in Kuala Lumpur) and Poh Soo Kai (Assistant Secretary of the Barisan), as communist sympathisers.50 In response, Fajar’s front page editorial in the September-October 1961 issue opened with the observation that “members of the public who read the daily newspapers, who listen to the radio and the present series of ‘Oppenheim thrillers’ by the Prime Minister, cannot fail but be struck … by the tremendous intensity with which the Government is utilising its vast propaganda network of radio, press and other organs of influence, to drum its point of view across, to the exclusion of all other points of view”.51 One of the greatest and most misleading myths in the merger campaign, perpetuated by the PAP-controlled press, arose over the Barisan’s “complete and unconditional merger” strategy. The government made the charge that the Barisan’s proposal for Singapore to join Malaysia as the twelfth state of Malaya would in effect strip half of the island’s population of its citizenship. Minister for Finance Goh Keng Swee first made this allegation in a radio debate against Dr Lee Siew Choh on 21 September. According to Lim Hock Siew, it was Tommy Koh, then a law pupil apprenticing with David Marshall, who alerted the Barisan leaders to Goh’s misrepresentation of Federal constitutional law: Tommy Koh heard the radio speech and was so shocked by it that he rang me up. He was very excited, he said, “Hock Siew, Hock Siew, Dr Goh is lying”.52 Dr Lee clarified the following day that Article 22 of the Federal Constitution allowed citizenship provisions to be revised for new member states joining the Federation.53 For the Barisan, the issue of citizenship was one of political will, not legality. In December, the Merger White Paper, proposing the PAP line that Singapore citizens would automatically become citizens of Malaysia while the Singapore government would maintain control over education and labour affairs, was passed in the Singapore Legislative Assembly. Whether or not the Singapore electorate would approve the White Paper in the upcoming referendum became the next major political test. In 1962, the Singapore National Referendum Bill, which framed the terms of reference for the referendum, was put forward for consideration in the Assembly. The Socialist Club once again played its role as

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an independent assessor of Malayan politics. In his scrutiny of the proposed legislation, Club member T. Lingam pointed out the “interesting innovations to some principles of Parliamentary democracy” the PAP government had made. These included the stipulation that unmarked or spoilt ballot papers be allotted to the government option, that the issue to be referred to the people need only be announced seven days before the ballot, and that those who destroyed or defaced the ballot paper were guilty of an offence.54 The Referendum Bill was duly passed on 11 July 1962. It offered the electorate essentially a choice between the PAP’s White Paper option (Option A) and allegedly the Barisan’s “complete and unconditional merger” alternative (Option B), where Singapore would join the Federation on the same terms as the other eleven states.55 In fact, the Barisan had called for a straightforward “Yes” or “No” vote on the question of whether to join Malaysia, and continued to do so right up to the referendum. The very next day, the Socialist Club and the Nanyang University Political Science Society conducted a Gallup Poll in Tanjong Pagar, the Prime Minister’s constituency. The poll posed a straightforward question to “every household in the constituency”: “Are you for or against the Merger Proposals under the Command Paper No. 33/61?”, an option which was not available to voters in the referendum. Over the course of four days, 12-15 July, some 400, mainly Nanyang University, undergraduates visited every household in Tanjong Pagar to explain the purpose of the exercise, distribute ballot papers to those whose names appeared on the electoral roll and recollect the papers after the poll in sealed ballot boxes. Under the chief supervision of Tommy Koh, and representatives from various opposition parties (no one from the PAP or the mainstream press was in attendance), the ballot boxes were transported to the Nanyang University campus, opened and counted. 89.51% of the 7,869 persons polled reportedly voted against the PAP government’s merger proposals.56 A day after the commencement of the Gallup Poll, the Straits Times gave full prominence to government press statements in a Page Three report, “Reds Behind this Gallup Poll”.57 The PAP political bureau statement charged that the poll was simply “another fraudulent anti-merger stunt conducted by sinister men behind the scenes using students as their tools”. It accused the Barisan organising secretary of “directing students as to which houses to visit”. The PAP branches in Tanjong Pagar and Anson joined in the condemnation by pointing out a list of racial “rumours” the undergraduates were allegedly spreading among the Tanjong Pagar residents.58 The Straits Times editorial poured more cold water on the poll by expressing doubt on the students’ selfacclaimed neutrality when “both the Political Society and the Socialist Club have been taking basically the same stand as the Barisan Sosialis

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Ballot counters and onlookers at the Gallup Poll organised by the Socialist Club and Nanyang University Political Science Society in 1962 in Tanjong Pagar

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction

has on the White Paper merger proposals”. It urged its readers to “not take this poll seriously, but to leave the referendum questions to the [Legislative] Assembly”.59 When the results of the Gallup Poll were announced, none of the mainstream newspapers in Singapore appeared to have carried the news. The Club brought out a special issue of Fajar later in the month to explain the nature, purpose and organisation of the poll, and announce the results. The issue emphasised that the students were simply doing their “duty as undergraduates who have the future and the security of the nation at heart and to do something about it”. The poll’s aim was stated, albeit rather unconvincingly, to be “merely for the

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purpose of academic pursuit” and as “an application of knowledge we have received from our university training”. The poll, the write-up stressed, had been “conducted in the best traditions of academic factfinding; adhering strictly to principles of impartiality and objectivity”.60 These statements reflected the students’ claim to be playing the idealised role of a critical intelligentsia. The Fajar editorial also lamented that the students had had to conduct the poll “in the midst of official smears and unofficial (or semi-official?) mud-slinging”, while “news and information about the Gallup Poll were completely obliterated in the local press”. In reply to the charges of political bias, the editors submitted that “there has never been any pretension about our categorical commitment with regard to the White Paper Merger Proposals. But we assured you at the outset that our impartiality would be maintained”. A photograph in the issue showed groups of students neatly seated around tables counting ballot papers at Nanyang University, with a string of placards hanging in the background that read, “Kangyi Xinwen Fengsuo [Protest Against Suppression of News]”.61 How unbiased the poll truly was is difficult to determine, although one should take into account the intensity of the merger debate. As even a sympathetic observer acknowledged, it was likely that some persuasion took place, for “the results achieved were somewhat pre-planned to achieve the political purpose of an anti-merger [against the “Malaysia” plan]”.62 The activism of the university students was duly ignored and bypassed. The PAP decisively obtained the victory for the “hearts and minds” of the citizenry in the September referendum that it had gone out of the way to fight for. An overwhelming 71% of the voters chose the PAP option, with the Barisan garnering 26% in blank votes. This paved the way for Singapore to join “Greater Malaysia”. How the Tanjong Pagar poll result was dramatically reversed in the referendum is difficult to fully explain. Lim Hock Siew, for instance, has alluded to a growing doubt among voters about the secrecy of the vote prior to the referendum, as well as the “systematic campaigns of intimidation and threats” waged by the PAP and Alliance governments.63 What Lim and other Barisan leaders may yet have to acknowledge was that, in the discursive battle of political ideas, the party’s “complete and unconditional merger” policy was a deviation from its earlier “genuinely full internal self-government” line; it was, in short, less convincing than the PAP option. Insofar as the Socialist Club had collaborated with the Barisan in the merger debate, the University Socialists, like their leftist seniors, had been outmanoeuvred and outthought by the ruling government. The political consequences of the merger defeat for the left were severe. For Singapore, the effects brought to an end a brief era of open politics and paved the way for a political shift to the right. Amid the battle for “hearts and minds”, some of the fundamental rules of

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democratic politics in Singapore were changed in order to secure the PAP’s victory. The Lee Kuan Yew leadership was the only one in postwar Singapore which did not form an all-party delegation to negotiate openly for constitutional change, despite clinging on to a one-seat majority throughout the entire fifteen months when the issue of the merger was being debated. By a combination of negotiating hard and in secrecy, playing up communal and communist anxieties, and controlling and discursively presenting information, the PAP was able to cajole the Singapore electorate into voting for the “independence through a merger” option. The fatal consequences of the politics of compromise played by both the PAP and Alliance governments, against which the left and the Socialist Club had long forewarned, would soon be realised in Singapore’s fateful twenty-three months in Malaysia. In this sense, the various parties in the city-state which had pursued their respective rationalist visions of “Malaya” or “Malaysia” failed to achieve their goals. Neither a socialist Malaya nor a united Malaysia materialised as originally intended. Tommy Koh’s Singapore independence thesis provided a modernist alternative which has since proven viable for the island state. Given the Alliance government’s fear of Chinese dominance and communist influence, Koh’s position was also better suited strategically to the left’s long-term Malayan plans. The left was, however, too emotionally and ideologically invested in the idea of the merger to consider tactical alternatives. So was the Socialist Club. Neither the University Socialists nor their seniors were ultimately able to frame a more cogent and compelling alternative to the PAP option than the poorly conceived “complete and unconditional merger”. In the battle against “Malaysia”, the Socialist Club’s endeavours, strengths and shortcomings were all starkly clear. Through its public forums and campaigns, the Club strove to realise its vision of a socialist Malaya including Singapore and to play its role as an independent jury of Malayan politics. In interrogating the bases for national unity, highlighting the dangers of communalism and mobilising the principles of socialism against the “Malaysia” scheme, the Club valiantly stood up to the PAP government and broke ranks with many political activists and reformist socialists with whom it had long collaborated in the 1950s. First and foremost among them was Lee Kuan Yew, the junior defence counsel for the Fajar 8. For the Club, the merger debate was a period of political crisis. It first proposed, through Tommy Koh, the microstate’s independence, then attempted to heal the rifts between rival groups of socialists and finally joined the side of the Barisan in pursuit of a more equal and genuine form of merger. The political victors in the battle were the Anglo-American alliance against Chinese (and Vietnamese) communism, and the Lee Kuan Yew and Tunku Abdul Rahman

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leaderships which were willing and determined to compromise in order to make “Malaysia” a reality. In the end, great power politics trumped the dreams of idealists and socialists for a nation.

9 Long Night after Coldstore

In the September 1963 elections in Singapore, Tan Jing Quee contested as a Barisan Sosialis candidate against the PAP Minister for Culture S. Rajaratnam at Kampong Glam. Tan lost narrowly by 220 votes, conceded the fight and shook Rajaratnam’s hand. The following month, as Assistant Secretary-General of the left-wing Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU), Tan helped organise a two-day protest strike against the move of the Registrar of Trade Unions to deregister the association for alleged “communist front activities”.1 The SATU comprised seven major left-wing unions in Singapore, including the Singapore General Employees’ Union, and formed a crucial mass base for the Barisan. After planning for the strike, Tan was arrested under Operation Pecah in the early hours of the morning, before the protest was scheduled to start. Also detained were other trade union leaders and several Barisan candidates in the September elections, three of whom had been successful at the polls. Pecah followed Operation Coldstore, a much larger crackdown launched earlier on 2 February in the same year, which had broken the back of the Singapore left. In a poem titled, simply, “Fajar”, Tan wrote about how and when he was arrested in September: I saw them coming from my window overlooking the deserted street the dim light shone listlessly and the dog had ceased to bark they came flashing their torches in this pre-dawn raid to seek out the stairs towards my incarnation knowing at long last they had come waiting hearing the shuffles of ominous feet

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that rude knock piercing the silent of the night and opening my freedom to their identification. “You know what it’s all about” the torch framed my visage they proceeded to rummage my papers, books turning my clothes and my drawers silently I turned to change packed my towel toothbrush a cake of soap silently I followed the exit into the night as the rooster awakened to the first cry of dawn.2 The other historical “Fajar” was of course the arrests of the eight members of the organ’s editorial board a decade ago. The incarcerations which broke the left-wing movement in February and September 1963 signified a new phase of Singapore’s history. As the sedition arrests had occurred at the beginning of the Second Malayan Spring experiment, so Coldstore and Pecah heralded its political end, cutting adrift the left wing of the decolonisation experiment which had served its purpose and was now deemed a hindrance to the political life of Malaysia. From its inception, the Socialist Club had constantly warned of the powerful effect detention without trial would have on the political life of an emerging nation-state. The contributors to Fajar in the 1950s had repeatedly made this point about the Emergency Regulations and its successor, the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance. Both were pieces of colonial legislation which were retained by the post-colonial governments of Singapore and Malaya in the form of the Internal Security Act. In the 1960s, the issues of detention without trial and the application of emergency powers by the state in the name of national security became even more critical when the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance was wielded to devastating political effect in Operation Coldstore. On 2 February 1963, large-scale arrests of leftists and deregistration of left-wing mass organisations took place in Singapore, avowedly to prevent the creation of a “Cuba” in the region.3 The arrests decimated the mass movement which had been integral to

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the struggle against colonialism in the 1950s and had been at the forefront in imagining a socialist Malaya.

The Geopolitics of Greater Malaysia and Operation Coldstore For the British colonial regime and the Lee Kuan Yew government, the long-established but analytically suspect links between the MCP and the Socialist Club and, more generally, the Singapore left were to become politically expedient in early 1963. Operations Coldstore and Pecah were made possible by the official surveillance of Socialist Club members, and of the Singapore left generally, in the 1950s and early 1960s. The Coldstore crackdown netted numerous former University Socialists who were involved with the Barisan or in some other facet of the left-wing movement, such as James Puthucheary, Sydney Woodhull, Lim Hock Siew, Poh Soo Kai, Jamit Singh, A. Mahadeva, Albert Lim Shee Ping and Ho Piao. Among the charges made against Lim Hock Siew and Poh Soo Kai was that they had been members of the Fajar editorial board charged for sedition in 1954.4 Linda Chen, a prominent node in the chain of communist conspiracy constructed by the Special Branch since the mid-1950s, was not surprisingly arrested a second time. At the time of the crackdown, Chen was a Master of Arts student at the History Department of the University of Singapore, and had just been accepted for a lectureship at Nanyang University. The University of Singapore Students’ Union condemned the arrests of Chen and other university students and graduates, including Puthucheary, who had also just passed his LLB examinations the previous week and was a lecturer in the university’s Economics Department. The Union called for the detainees to be either tried in a fair and open court or to be immediately released. The Socialist Club, as part of the Joint Activities Committee with the Singapore Polytechnic Political Society and Nanyang University Political Science Society, strongly condemned the arrests as constituting a reign of terror imposed by the state and demanded the repeal of the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance. The Joint Activities Committee also cabled their protest to U Thant, the United Nations Secretary-General, and to the Afro-Asian Secretariat based in Cairo.5 Ahmad Mustapha, like his fellow University Socialists, was “disgusted” by the detentions: he insisted that most of the Club’s members were not doctrinaire or card-carrying communists, and although they admired Marxism, this grew out of a basic conviction of the need to help the Malayan poor. It was important, he felt, for students to have convictions, but to the PAP, this was tantamount to committing a political crime.6

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Just as far-reaching for student political activism in Singapore as the Coldstore arrests was the direct punitive action undertaken by the PAP government against the Socialist Club. The Club avoided deregistration but its organ did not. On the grounds that it was, in Lee Kuan Yew’s words, “an adult ‘agitprop’ publication” for the Barisan Sosialis and former University Socialists, Fajar was banned, along with five Nanyang University publications.7 This proscription of the publication differed significantly from Lee’s view in late 1959; then, in a conversation with Lord Selkirk, the British Commissioner of Singapore, he had categorically dismissed the political impact of Fajar. Selkirk related: I mentioned my concern at the Communist propaganda appearing in Fajar. The Prime Minister said that this was being provided by three Chinese doctors. He had not himself seen Fajar recently but James Puthucheary should be keeping an eye on it. However, he was confident that Fajar was doing no harm. There was no danger of the English-educated being subverted nor was Fajar making any progress in the University. Abdullah Majid was having no success with the undergraduates.8 In fact, the ban on Fajar, along with eight Nanyang University and trade union journals, had been planned by Lee a year before in October 1962. This was part of his preliminary plan to harass the alleged communist united front and provoke it into unconstitutional action which would justify mass arrests. The Special Branch asserted that “in each and every issue … [Fajar] had consistently been paddling the Communist United Front line in political issues”. Noting the Club’s close alignment with the Barisan on political issues, the Branch claimed that it was under the influence of alumni like Lim Hock Siew, Poh Soo Kai, Linda Chen, and Tan Seng Huat, and that Fajar, with a circulation of 3,000 copies at the time, wholly echoed the views of Lim Chin Siong since the Barisan’s formation in 1961.9 Lee’s plan to ban the publications received grudging British support. Selkirk observed that the journals had “hardly gone outside the limits of political journalism”, and the evidence they carried communist propaganda was “very thin and stale”, with the case simply being that they had supported Barisan’s opposition to the Malaysia plan.10 The irony in banning Fajar, as his critic T.J.S. George charged, was that Lee was putting an end to the very publication which he had helped save from the British colonial regime ten years ago.11 The January 1963 issue of Fajar, published before the Coldstore arrests, was the last in its colourful and eventful history. It carried an article by O. Samad supporting the December 1962 Brunei revolt as an act of anti-imperialism driven by a popular desire for independence.12

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This was the same event which the British government in Singapore had used as a convenient pretext for Operation Coldstore. The British pointed out that, just prior to the rebellion, Lim Chin Siong had met rebel leader A.M. Azahari in Singapore, while the Barisan had also expressed sympathy for the uprising when it broke out. The January issue of Fajar also contained a joint press release by the Partai Rakyat and Labour Party of Malaya, condemning the arrest without trial of nine Socialist Front members in the Federation. The statement also warned, ominously, that “the political repression in this country is going to increase”.13 Research by British historians into the declassified imperial archives has thrown light on the underlying purpose and behind-the-scenes engineering of Operation Coldstore. The crackdown was in fact not incidental to but the necessary condition for the political brokering of Malaysia in September 1963; the arrests amply addressed the fears of both Tunku Abdul Rahman and Lee Kuan Yew over the influence of the Singapore left. The British were the power brokers at this decisive juncture of the Second Malayan Spring should be noted. The imperial historian Anthony Stockwell has argued that Britain’s decolonisation in Southeast Asia did not unfold according to a singular Machiavellian plan, but was significantly directed and modified by local circumstances and actors.14 Others such as Matthew Jones, Simon Ball and Tim Harper have highlighted the respective roles of local British officials in Singapore and Malaya, the Alliance leaders and in particular Lee Kuan Yew in the difficult negotiations over the timing, scope and responsibility of the February arrests.15 Lee had, for instance, quickly seen the Barisan’s sympathy for the Brunei revolt in December 1962 as “a heaven-sent opportunity of justifying action against them”.16 Such scholarship has tended to place Lee at the forefront of the calls for the mass arrests of the leftists and for the incorporation of Singapore into an anti-communist union with Malaya. But there also appears, as Harper himself has warned, to be an element of imperial apologetics in the scholarship. In contrast to Lee, the local British officials are depicted as unwilling supporters of Coldstore but attempting to act as custodians of the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance and, by extension, of British liberal democracy in Southeast Asia. Despite this bias, the research provides important historical insights into the reasons for Coldstore and the creation of Malaysia. At the basic level, the arrests were orchestrated by a tripartite of anti-communist actors in the region seeking to impose their visions of the political shape of post-colonial Southeast Asia: Britain, the PAP and the Alliance government of Malaya.17 “Greater Malaysia” was itself part of a larger, coordinated military-diplomatic campaign by Britain and the United States in the early 1960s, working in tandem with local conservative

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forces, to contain and suppress the rise and spread of radical politics in Southeast Asia.18 The PAP and its political partners in the region came to strongly believe that the realisation of “Malaysia” rested not merely on the expressed wishes of the electorate, but also on the suppression of the Singapore left. The arrests were intimately linked to the merger plan because of Tunku’s desire to curb the growing influence of the Singapore left and Lee’s tense and difficult struggle with the Barisan underpinned both men’s interests in realising the project. It was Tunku who, upon seeing Lee’s precarious position in the Legislative Assembly caused by a growing divide and eventual split with the left in 1961, first proposed that arrests be made prior to the merger. Lee initially felt lukewarm towards the idea, preferring a state of calm in Singapore leading up to the union. However, as British officials in Singapore noted, Lee soon turned around to support the arrests, partly because he saw the political benefit to himself and partly to appease Tunku.19 Lee and Tunku put forth strongly their own demands on the timing and manner of the arrests, both sides being unwilling to be overtly associated with the action. Senior British officials in London attempted to broker an agreement between them in a way which would also serve strategic colonial interests. Yet, officials in Whitehall also had to contend with the objections of their juniors in the Singapore and Malayan commissions, who understood the real reasons for the arrests and had a lesser stake in engineering Malaysia. In mid-1961, anxious about his escalating conflict with the PAP left, a visibly “overwrought” Lee pressed the Singapore Commissioner, Lord Selkirk, to hasten the formation of a merger with Malaya, arguing about a growing communist threat in Singapore.20 But both Selkirk and his deputy, Philip Moore, insisted that any sort of mass arrests must be accompanied by incontrovertible evidence that the leftists constituted a genuine security threat, without which the British themselves would be accused of stifling legitimate local opposition to the “Malaysia” scheme; this would in fact achieve the aim of consolidating mass support for the communist united front.21 Selkirk and Moore deflected calls for mass arrests by Lee and Tunku throughout most of 1962. In July that year, Selkirk informed his superiors in London that “the Malays talk about arresting 25 for security reasons; Lee Kuan Yew talks of arresting 250 for security and political reasons; in fact, I believe both of them wish to arrest the effective political opposition and blame us for doing so”.22 He was rather more damning in his assessment of Lee a few months later, in claiming that the Singapore leader wanted the arrests for “personal” reasons, due to “a strong sense of political rivalry [with the left-wing leaders] which transcends ideological differences”.23 Although both Selkirk and Moore were convinced that Lim Chin Siong was a communist, they believed that “Lim is working very much on his

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own and that his primary objective is not the communist millennium but to obtain control of the constitutional government of Singapore. It is far from certain that having attained this objective Lim would necessarily prove a compliant tool of Peking or Moscow”. This was a telling statement, given the tendency of British intelligence generally to make the transnational communist link. Moore stressed that “in Singapore today we have a political and not a security problem”.24 In June, Selkirk’s counterpart in Malaya, Geofroy Tory, went a step further to question whether Lim and Fong Swee Suan were even communists at all, for the evidence that “these men are Communists is now very stale and that there has been no recent proof of Communist activity or allegiance on their part”.25 Up to October, Selkirk felt that “Singapore has in fact been quiet all this period and there is no immediate threat to internal security”, with the Barisan adhering to constitutional politics.26 The decision to go ahead with Coldstore was ultimately made by Selkirk’s British superiors in London, bowing to strong pressure from Tunku. The British worried that failing to meet Tunku’s demands and conditions for the arrests would risk aborting the entire “Greater Malaysia” project. As Tan Tai Yong’s recent book on the politics of the merger has highlighted, the Federation side in the creation of Malaysia was equally as vital as Britain’s high policy of decolonisation and Lee’s manoeuvres. On his side of the bargain, Tunku demanded that a robust anti-communist policy, aimed at delimiting the political strength of the Chinese population, was vital for securing the UMNO policy of upholding Malay special privileges and its domination of the peninsula’s politics.27 Indeed, Tunku’s approach to the merger was just as political as Lee’s, for “the problem in Malay minds was the threat to their political position, not the maintenance of internal security which would in any case be safely in the hands of Kuala Lumpur under any scheme of merger”.28 If anything, Tunku’s take on the imagined communist threat in Singapore was much more pessimistic than Lee’s, and consequently much harder to change.29 The Malayans, too, did not think that the arrests would produce a groundswell in favour of the Singapore left as the British feared.30 By December 1962, the British realised, “the Malays are now very determined to force us to take action and will no longer listen to the arguments we have hitherto marshalled against it”.31 Given Malaya’s pivotal role in the merger plan, it became expedient, ultimately, for London to sanction the mass arrests. On 12 December, four days after the Brunei revolt broke out, Duncan Sandys, the Commonwealth Secretary, instructed Selkirk to go ahead with the crackdown, saying, “As you know I have all along been reluctant to give blanket approval in advance for arrests of subversive elements in Singapore. But if we are to avoid a dangerous disagreement with the Malayan Government we shall have to take some action of this kind before the

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merger”. He concluded: “Before the merger, sooner or later, arrests will have to be made”, so “[t]his is the best moment to do it”.32 Two months after the arrests, however, Selkirk was disappointed that no new evidence was forthcoming on the connection between the Barisan and the Brunei Revolt, with the only “embarrassing” new point suggesting that the party had been resisting Azahari’s overtures to give more militant support to the rebels.33 What emerges from these various sources is a solidifying picture of difficult but ultimately unsatisfactory agreements on the arrests and the politics of the merger. The agreements were politically expedient for the Alliance, the PAP and the British pursuit of orderly decolonisation. As an example of political engineering based on rationalist ideas, the merger between Singapore and Malaysia quickly failed. The hastily concluded compromises could not transcend the political, economic and cultural differences between the two countries, and particularly between the UMNO and the PAP. These revelations about the geopolitics of the merger in Southeast Asia vindicate the Socialist Club’s constant warnings of the dangers of detention without trial for the political life of a new state. In the aftermath of the 1955 Hock Lee Bus riots, the Socialist Club had sounded caution on the political effects of an anti-Red mass hysteria being fanned, for narrow political interests, by the conservative regime in Singapore. In the time that Singapore was part of Malaysia for a brief period of twenty-three months, most of the Club’s leaders or former leaders were under detention without trial, including Michael Fernandez.34 In detention, Club alumni like Fernandez, Tan Jing Quee, Lim Hock Siew and others followed closely the tribulations of Singapore’s difficult time in Malaysia. They learnt with dismay of the growing schism between the PAP and the Alliance and between the Malays and Chinese in the new state. In July and September 1964, bloody Malay-Chinese riots erupted in Singapore as the UMNO brought the political contest to the island. Then, to prevent further political conflict and ethnic violence, came the island’s sudden separation from the merger the following August, whereupon Singapore became a sovereign state which few politicians and intellectuals in the post-war period had envisaged. In Fajar, the Socialist Club had forewarned the dire consequences of playing the communal card in mass politics. Years later, Lim Hock Siew stated in an interview that the failure of the merger vindicated the Singapore left’s opposition to the framework and terms of the British “Grand Design”. It was difficult, Lim explained, to understand why the PAP had failed to see what was obvious enough to those in prison: that its “brinkmanship” policy in challenging the Malayan Chinese Associa-

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Dr Lim Hock Siew

Dr Lim Hock Siew, still being detained without trial, on Pulau Tekong in 1978, where he provides medical treatment for the residents. He was relocated to the island, from which he could not leave, after rejecting the government’s conditions for his release from detention. He was finally released in 1982, after nearly twenty years in prison. Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction

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tion and subsequently UMNO itself for a key position in Malaysian politics would have severe consequences: For the first time in the history of Singapore, riots broke out between the two major races – the Chinese and the Malays ... In fact, that was what we were afraid of all along when the PAP was campaigning for this kind of phoney merger. This UMNO-sponsored merger in which the Singapore citizens would become submerged into Malaysia as second-class citizens. If you have read carefully what the Barisan Sosialis leaders have been saying all along, this was what we foretold would happen. And to us, we were not proud – we were certainly not happy that we had been proven right because it has caused us so much lives and so much suffering for our people.35

After the Purges: Siaran Kelab Sosialis After the ban on Fajar, the University Socialists strove to make the Club viable in difficult circumstances. As Koh Kay Yew, its President in the mid-1960s, recalled, they had campaigned for Barisan Sosialis candidates such as Philomen Oorjitham at Whampoa in the September 1963 elections. But the PAP won 37 out of 51 seats, compared to the Barisan’s thirteen. Following the outcome, support for the Club “visibly declined”. The Club also obtained contributions to its finances from alumni members on both sides of the causeway. In 1967, however, the Registrar of Societies barred graduated students from becoming associate members of the Club, a move which Koh contended was politically motivated, since other student bodies were not subject to the same restriction.36 More importantly, what was now lost was the Club’s historical role as political activists, building the crucial bridge between university, society and politics. Without a license to publish and distribute, the Club found its voice and ideas restricted, officially at least, to within the campus. Fajar did have a campus successor known as Siaran Kelab Sosialis, or the Socialist Club Bulletin.37 The paper was cyclostyled and in internal circulation from early 1963. It was also well-received within the university.38 In 1966, in a discussion with five university student representatives, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew offered to grant a new permit for the publication of Fajar, but with the proviso that its name be changed. This was an attempt to disassociate the Club from the journal’s antiestablishment credentials and history. The University Socialists categorically rejected the offer.39 A leader of the rival Democratic Socialist Club claimed later that the Socialist Club had “lost much of its fire” after

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Coldstore.40 This was not completely true. The Club remained both an important player in campus politics throughout the rest of the decade, although its efforts in this period illustrate its continuing coercion by the state and the university authorities. In mid-1964, the Club still had a membership of about 200 students out of a total university student population of 2,700.41 As Koh Kay Yew maintained later, the Club “being campus-based was ideally situated to be the ‘think tank’ of the progressive national movement as it was not directly engaged in the battle for votes or mass action”.42 The first issue of Siaran was published in early 1963. It was headlined, just as Fajar had been a full decade earlier, by the metaphor of the political coming of dawn to Singapore and Malaya: “Awake! For morning in the bowl of night hath flung the stones that put the stars to flight”. The issue also reproduced the original declaration of the Socialist Club, made in 1953, reaffirming the University Socialists’ aim to tackle the threat of communalism in Malaya. The leading editorial in the issue acknowledged its lineage to Fajar as “the only journal of the English-educated Left-wing”. It traced the history of Fajar through the two periods of “dark days” in post-war Singapore: when the Lim Yew Hock regime banned its circulation in 1957-1959 and when the PAP government carried out the recent crackdown. Nevertheless, the Socialist Club, as the editorial made clear, was not a clandestine organisation engaged in subversive politics, but “a legally constituted student organisation of the University of Singapore, formed by students, run by students, and supported by students”. Siaran, the editorial admitted, could never be another Fajar because it was now merely a campus paper; this meant that the “nature and approach” of its articles had to be revised to cater to the undergraduate population. There would have to be less slogan shouting or issuing of “fierce” press statements and more “sober analysis”, based on rigorous research and analysis, as an academic student body was expected to do.43 These statements were made clearly in reference to the PAP government’s accusation that Fajar had been a mouthpiece of the Barisan. They highlighted the difficult and restrictive circumstances within which the Club now had to operate. Regardless of Siaran’s initial disclaimers, many of the Club’s preceding concerns and ideological postures in the 1950s soon resurfaced in the new publication: the importance of language in the making of a nation; continuing war and imperialism in Southeast Asia; the need for neutralism and Afro-Asian unity in the midst of the Cold War; and the neo-Emergency laws functioning in Malaysia and their implications for civil liberties. In May-June 1965, the Club organised a number of forums based on these themes: “The National Language by 1967 – Problems and Perspectives”; “Questions of Neutralisation in Indo-

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china”; “Afro-Asia and the United Nations”; “Is Parliament a Sufficient Guarantee of our Civil Liberties?”; and “The Struggle Ahead”. Until 1966, the University Socialists still managed to invite speakers to these talks who held progressive, left-wing perspectives, including Syed Nasir of the Partai Rakyat, Han Suyin, A. Samad Ismail, Lim Kean Siew and Lee Siew Choh.44 In 1969, in one of its final acts, the Club sought to appraise the political situation in Singapore and Malaysia by planning a forum, “Seminar on the Problems of the Left in Malaya”.45 The Club’s focus on the dangers of communalism was an important carryover from the 1950s and one which was particularly apt given the sharpening political, and later racial, conflict between the PAP and Alliance governments when Singapore was part of Malaysia. The outbreak of race riots on Prophet Mohammed’s birthday in Singapore in July 1964 left more than twenty persons dead and stunned both the leaders and the public in Singapore and the Federation. It was the culmination of a period of increasingly racially-tinged political rivalry between the PAP and UMNO. The leading article in the second issue of Siaran lamented this shattering of a long period of racial harmony in Malaya. It blamed the riots on the political struggle between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. More importantly, the editorial situated the communal clashes in the context of a serious economic disparity between the Chinese and Malay communities, underscoring a point repeatedly emphasised in issues of Fajar in the 1950s.46 Having fought so long for a united Malayan nation, including Singapore, the island’s sudden independence on 9 August 1965 would naturally have been of deep interest to the Socialist Club. How it responded to the event is rather unclear. The Australian government records indicate that the University Socialists quickly convened an emergency general meeting to discuss Singapore’s eviction from Malaysia. But only ten members attended the meeting, in which the “English-educated faction” agreed to recognise Singapore’s independence. The Club’s “Chinese-educated faction”, however, apparently stated that the independence was a phoney one because of the continued British military and economic presence, as well as Malaysian influence, in Singapore. This was similar to the Barisan’s stand which pressed for “genuine independence” and the complete removal of colonial influence in Singapore.47 The mention of “English-educated” and “Chineseeducated” factionalism within the Club is puzzling and cannot be explained with any certainty, but it might have referred to the increasing radicalism of Lee Siew Choh’s Barisan Sosialis, and consequently the influence of Maoism in China, in the mid-1960s. In any case, the stalemate within the Club on the independence issue dragged on. In a subsequent unofficial meeting, the “majority” of the members opposed a pro-independence statement because, it appeared, independence was

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merely a PAP ploy to prolong their rule over the island and further suppress the genuine nationalist spirit among the people. The Club did not appear to have taken a collective stand on the question of independence, which perhaps revealed its lack of collective resolve at this time in the mid-1960s.48 The claims of the Australian sources have, however, been disputed by Koh Kay Yew. He insisted that no meeting was held to decide on the issue of independence, and the Club took no formal stand on the matter. What was more crucial, he emphasised, was that “privately many felt that the separation validated the Left’s position that Malaysia was an artificial creation”.49 This response coincides with what many socialists and former University Socialists like Lim Hock Siew, then detained in prison, felt about the causes of the failure of the merger. Ironically, this deep sense of disappointment also led the leftists to accept the separation of Singapore and Malaysia by the politicians. In December 1965, the Joint Activities Committee issued a joint statement protesting the PAP government’s decision to charge non-Singapore citizens full school fees from the following year.50 This indicates a continuing belief in the unity of Singapore and Malaya by the left. The issue of class and the importance of an autonomous, organised labour movement did not disappear from the Socialist Club’s agenda either. In June 1964, the Club invited V. David, the General-Secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union in the Federation, to speak at the university. David warned against the vast powers given to the Registrar of Trade Unions to outlaw labour organisations without the recourse to an appeal in court. It was necessary, he emphasised, for trade unions to work closely with the political parties in order to protect the interests of the Malayan working class.51 In July 1965, forty members of the Club undertook a study tour of Malaya to investigate the political, social and economic situation on the peninsula, with particular emphasis on the rural areas.52 The most important change in the Socialist Club’s identity after Coldstore was that the thrust and content of Siaran’s articles, naturally, referred more to campus issues or international developments in the intensifying Cold War conflict. Siaran was discreetly read in Singapore and Malaysian society, while it was also distributed to “friends on a complimentary basis”.53 Clearly, as its articles demonstrate, national politics now became a less frequent topic for discussion than was the case with Fajar. The Club’s critique of the escalating American involvement in the Indochina conflict illustrates that despite the constrained political circumstances, the Club did not accept a role limited to campus activities. By 1965, the Club had felt sufficiently removed from the mass arrests two years ago to publicly restate its left-wing, anti-establishment political orientation. Echoing its aim in 1954 to speak for “stifled

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Malayans”, the Club’s Central Working Committee stated that prospective members should not seek to join the Club for the “ ‘academic’ politics of the drawing board only”, since it was “frankly partisan to the cause of the people of the country”.54 The following year, the Club prepared to commemorate thirteen years of what it hailed as “progressive student action in the struggle to achieve peace, justice, equality and freedom” in Singapore and Malaya. The Club organised a forum to consider the balance of power in Southeast Asia in the context of the escalation of the Indochina War and the Cold War. It also held an exhibition highlighting Western imperial aggression in Vietnam and Rhodesia. The Club aimed to launch a commemorative publication, Fajar Baru, documenting its history, although a year later, in 1966, the government had yet to issue a permit for it.55

The 1966 Seminar on Communalism and National Unity The flagship event of the Club’s critical work in 1966 was the three-day long seminar on Communalism and National Unity, held between 30 September and 2 October at the Bukit Timah campus. Three months earlier, the University Socialists’ rival, the Democratic Socialist Club, had organised a forum titled, “The Future of Singapore” which dwelt on the pragmatic theme of survival, now that Singapore was “out”. “Communalism and National Unity” demonstrated that the Club retained a central concern with the state of the nation and particularly with the 1964 race riots that had shattered Singapore’s merger with Malaysia. The seminar was the sister event to the National Language seminar of 1959. Where, seven years earlier, the Club had positively considered the question of building a Malayan nation at a time when the issue seemed most pertinent, the organisers of the 1966 event approached the causes and consequences of what appeared to be the ending of the Malayan dream. The Club also harked back to the early 1960s when it was contemplating the bases of national unity during the merger debate and interrogating the problem of Malayan communalism. Professor K.G. Tregonning from the university’s Department of History remarked at the opening of the seminar that it was “quite an achievement” that the Club was well and truly alive and kicking. This was because, Tregonning explained, it had continued to tackle pertinent, if difficult, political issues in Singapore and Malaysia year after year.56 The seminar’s speakers comprised former and present University Socialists and university academics, including Tregonning, Kassim Ahmad, Syed Hussein Ali, Syed Hussein Al-Attas, Tommy Koh, Robert Gamer and Shirle Gordon. Politicians from both sides of the causeway also participated, such as Tan Chee Khoon, the Malaysian Labour Party

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MP for Batu; Mahathir Mohammad, the Alliance MP for Kota Selatan; and Lee Siew Choh, Chairman of the Barisan Sosialis. The event was well-attended, although not by the PAP, which was invited to send a representative but chose not to.57 T.H. Elliot, a University of Singapore professor, disparaged the idea of having the “foreign guests” speak “out of context” in Singapore, referring to Malaysians Mahathir, Gordon and Tan.58 It seems that Elliot’s accusation was partly an allusion to the Club’s alleged manipulation by foreign communist elements in the early 1960s and partly an attempt to distinguish between Singaporean and Others in the immediate aftermath of Singapore’s emergence as a sovereign state. The University Socialists remarked that it was hardly out of place to have foreign academics participate in an academic seminar on a theme which was of wide relevance.59 The organisers of “Communalism and National Unity” aimed to take a “sincere and rational” look, based on “painstaking research and analysis”, at the dangers of communalism which had only recently divided Singapore and Malaysia. This was a reference to the political moves and counter-moves by the PAP and Alliance governments during the merger. The issue of communalism was explored in three sessions. In the first, “Communalism – A Legacy of Colonialism?”, papers by Lee Siew Choh and, in a more scholarly vein, Kassim Ahmad, traced the communal chauvinism practised during the merger to the British colonial policy of divide and rule, a policy, they argued, since adopted by the PAP and Alliance governments.60 Shirle Gordon, on the theme of the second session, “The Socio-economic Repercussions of Communalism”, warned of the deadly impact of communalism in creating divided cultural world views among the ethnic groups; this nurtured a volatile “atmosphere of relativism”, which made it impossible to forge a set of shared national values for the making of Malaya.61 Tan Chee Khoon, conversely, warned of the racial tensions generated by a bumiputra policy favouring the Malays.62 In the third session, “The Bases of National Unity”, Tommy Koh emphasised the importance of a shared language before national unity could be realised in Malaya, revisiting the central theme of the Club’s 1959 seminar.63 Syed Hussein Ali contended, as University Socialists had done a decade before, that the ideology and the practice of socialism was the most effective way for tackling the problem of communalism, since it would replace the basic structure and values which brought about racial conflict, rather than merely seek to check or reduce the incidence of such friction.64 Besides critiquing communalism, the seminar’s other significant endeavour was to restate the need to continue pursuing the Malaya project despite the formation of Malaysia and the expulsion of Singapore. This distinguished “Communalism and National Unity” from the Democratic Socialist Club’s earlier seminar, which looked ahead to a

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new future and identity for Singapore. The term “Malaya” was used several times by Abdul Razak, President of the Socialist Club, in his opening address and by various contributors at the seminar.65 Evidently, the modernist vision of a non-communal, socialist and united Malayan nation, including Singapore, still persisted among some student activists, academics and politicians, even when the Singapore and Federation governments had found it impossible to realise the vision. The seminar was courageous in attempting to turn back the political clock of Singapore and Malaysia and revisit the issues of colonialism, communalism, the national language, and the possibility of reunification. But as an act of advocacy, the seminar could not change what had become inevitable. While the failure of the merger had indeed highlighted the dangers of communalism, it had also rendered the Socialist Club’s pursuit of a united Malayan historically obsolete. Communal politics had gained the ascendancy in Malaysia, as it had done in Malaya, where the elevated place of the Malay language signified not a genuine national unity but the political dominance of the bumiputra. In Singapore, the city-state robustly charted its own independent path in subsequent years; Malay remained the national language only in name while English became the primary language of government, business and education. Socialist ideas, too, gave way to economic development driven by foreign capital investment and based on the labours of a disciplined working class. The idea of a re-merger was again explored in December the following year, in a forum co-sponsored by the Socialist Club and Democratic Socialist Club. The forum, titled “Reunification: Dream or Reality?”, canvassed the views of a diverse group of students, civil servants and politicians from both sides of the causeway. Tan Leng Choo, a President’s Scholar, represented the Socialist Club, while also in attendance were Ghazali Ismail, Political Secretary to the Ministry of Culture; Andy Lee from the DSC; and Dr Mahathir Mohammed, the United Malays National Organisation’s MP for Alor Star. Ghazali Ismail, not surprisingly, rebuffed the idea of reunification outright and emphasised Singapore’s independence. Lee was more circumspect in his assessment, but still sounded a strong note of caution in highlighting the factors against Singapore’s return to the Malayan fold. Tan, on the contrary, suggested that Singapore could well survive on its own, but warned of the political and economic price of independence. He cautioned about the freshly minted republic’s “obsession with security” and its economic competition with Malaysia which were “a form of economic lunacy”. Mahathir, the de facto guest speaker at the forum, argued that any reunification would be possible only if Singapore was willing to make political and economic compromises to the Federation government. Just as important as the speakers’ substantive arguments

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was the prevailing mood of the audience. As the British embassy official in attendance surmised, at least half of the crowd was predisposed to lay the blame for the failure of the merger on Singapore, while there was a “very apparent desire among these English-educated students for better relations with Malaysia”.66 The history of the Socialist Club in the 1960s paralleled the evolving identities of the new states of Singapore and Malaysia during the decade. The Club found the task of pursuing the ideal of a socialist nation increasingly difficult once Malaya and then Singapore had been granted their independence by the British colonial regime. The Alliance and PAP governments differed greatly over communal policy and were unable to tolerate each other’s presence and politics in Malaysia. But, even more than the British, both parties were virulently opposed to an autonomous left-wing movement. The UMNO viewed socialism as a challenge by the Chinese to Malay political hegemony in the Federation, while the PAP, with its democratic socialist philosophy, held the left to be a major stumbling block to the party’s industrial development programmes. In short, the post-colonial tasks of nation-building and development entailed a greater intolerance of alternative activism than the British experiment to effect an orderly transfer of power. Yet, despite the devastating proscription of the early 1960s, the Socialist Club’s long night was not quite over. Besides continuing to speak on international events and the problem of communalism, the Club had one more fight left over the roles of the university and the student.

10

In Defence of University Autonomy and Student Rights

In the 1960s, the Socialist Club frequently found itself engaged in defending the autonomy of the one remaining arena where its voice was still ringing out loud: the campus. The collision between the state and students over the issues of university autonomy, academic freedom and student rights in the 1960s grew out of the tensions over the university’s role that had existed since its inception in 1949. Yeo Kim Wah has noted how the very first cohort of student leaders in 1949-1950 “felt it their duty to vigilantly guard” these principles and even occasionally oppose “the sizeable presence of government elements in the university as a possible impingement on university autonomy”.1 For twenty-five years thereafter, the issues of university autonomy, academic freedom and student rights became a recurring trigger for protest among more student groups. Beyond the University of Singapore campus, the university’s students also became deeply concerned about the escalating pressure exerted on their fellow students in other educational institutions in Singapore.2 The exacerbated urgency and intimacy of the questions of university autonomy, academic freedom and student rights in the mid-1960s coalesced into a passionate student movement in which University of Singapore student activists of all political orientations actively participated. The Socialist Club usually participated as a follower, rather than as a leader, in student protests against state interference in the university. It did so both directly and through the efforts of its members in the Students’ Council. Many Club members saw the principles of autonomy and rights as inviolate and central to the roles and identities of the university and its students. Foremost among these was the right and obligation of students to contribute to national politics. As a student society of unabashedly critical and committed student activists, the Club often encountered and provoked government attention. The critical questions the University Socialists asked about the economic marginalisation of the masses, the deep-seated problem of communalism, the arbitrary use of undemocratic powers and the persistent forms of neo-colonialism in Singapore were deemed to be distracting, even dangerous, to the reconstitutive work of the post-colonial state. The Club’s members also celebrated its survival and resilience in the aftermath of

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yet another round of political suppression. But as much as state intervention won the Club the sympathy and support of other students otherwise indifferent to its politics, government pressure in the early 1960s finally dealt crippling blows to the cause of socialism on campus. The movement’s eventual defeat spelt the final decline and eventual demise of the university’s first and most-noted political club.

The Sanctity of the University and the Student The campus struggles in the 1960s caused different student groups to converge. University autonomy, academic freedom and student rights were essentially post-Enlightenment, rationalist principles, pitted against the high modernism of industrial development and social engineering led by the post-colonial states. The principles were cherished not only because they were ideals inherited from the British liberal tradition and originally enshrined in the University of Malaya.3 More importantly, most student leaders closely associated these principles with the democratic values underpinning an imagined Malayan nation. They castigated government action against the principles as anti-democratic, especially when student rights were violated in the process. The issues of university autonomy and academic freedom underpinned the question of the wider role and responsibility of students. To be a centre for creative and critical research and for humanist, liberal education to prepare students for their future roles as political leaders and creative thinkers, the university, it was argued, had to remain untainted by politics and unaligned with any political party. Under the sheltering protection of university autonomy and academic freedom, its staff and students would enjoy the freedom to teach and research, to learn and criticise. The 1951 arrests of the university’s staff and students led Malayan Undergrad, whose editor Abdullah Majid was among the detainees, to insist that “the University must be an institution free from political bondage of any kind, enjoying the advantages of academic detachment”.4 By the late 1950s, most student activists had tempered their stance on university autonomy and academic freedom. They accepted that the university could not be an ivory tower detached from the development of the society and nation it was meant to serve. Nevertheless, the activists continued to uphold university autonomy as a vital safeguard for democracy in the self-governing state of Singapore. Agoes Salim, an active member of both the Club and Students’ Council, recounted that the issues of university autonomy and academic freedom seldom crossed his mind during his undergraduate days, but only because he assumed that they were indisputable.5 However, the conscious defence of these ideals soon warranted the Club’s attention

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as they encountered increasing interference from the authorities, which threatened its ability to function as a political club. Because of its political links, the Club frequently bore the brunt of the crackdown of the British, Federation and Singapore governments against the left-wing movement in Singapore and Malaya in the 1950s. In the “Aggression in Asia” editorial in Fajar No. 7 that had provoked the British authorities in 1954, its authors noted that the Socialist Club was “particularly sensitive” to the restriction of academic freedom in the university. The editorial referred to the incarceration of student leaders without trial and the generation of “a cloud of fear”, compelling a leading member to disassociate himself from the Club, so that, purportedly, his future would not be endangered.6 In response to the arrest of the eight editors, the Club published an article in Fajar entitled, “A Note on Academic Freedom and Politics”. The essay, which clearly articulated the University Socialists’ stance, called for both the university’s undergraduates and graduates to protect the institution from the “present undermining and future violation” of its independence. At the same time, the un-named author argued, a truly democratic state was expected to provide for the university’s maintenance “without expecting to control it”. The university bore the responsibility of shielding its members from political pressures “directed against that free interplay and expression of critical ideas which is the university’s foundation, and which is known as academic freedom”. This autonomy, the author continued, was requisite for “the initiation and establishment of a social and material environment which affords the least limitations on the development and free expression of knowledge and criticism”.7 A few months later, two University Socialists, Walter Ayuthury and Chua Sian Chin, did not have their government scholarships renewed. Despite the authorities’ denials, this was perceived as an official reprisal for the duo’s involvement in the Club.8 Although the Federation’s attainment of independence in 1957 invigorated the student activists, it also quickly brought fresh worries for them. The Alliance government became increasingly distrustful of the educational institutions in Singapore. In particular, it was interested in establishing a national university of its own, specific to the needs and political concerns of the peninsula. In 1958, the decision was undertaken to split the University of Malaya into two autonomous divisions, a move which drew much consternation from the student activists. This split the Students’ Union into two separate unions for each division, while, just as significantly, government nominees were also introduced into the Division Council (the highest governance body of the university). As the first step of the separation, the first-year arts students in Singapore were transferred to the poorly equipped division in Kuala

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Lumpur, although this unwise move was soon revoked. These actions drew the Students’ Union’s displeasure between 1957 and 1959.9 More intimately for the Socialist Club, the Federation government followed the British lead in taking active measures to arrest the influence of left-wing student activism. As discussed in previous chapters, it blocked the students’ attempt to establish a National Union of Students in Malaya following the collapse of the Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation, while also banning left-wing student publications and imposing travel restrictions on students from Singapore. In 1960, when Fajar was banned along with several Nanyang University student publications from the Federation, the 13th University of Malaya in Singapore Students’ Union Students’ Council deplored the act as a repressive practice which constituted a “danger to [the] basis of freedom, democracy”.10 In concurrence, the Socialist Club portrayed itself as a “Victim of Undemocratic Democracy”.11 Shortly before, the Students’ Council had attempted to defend Linda Chen, when she was barred from entering the Federation to read for her Honours degree in the Malay Studies Department in the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur because of her previous detention in Singapore in 1956. In appealing for her, the councillors believed that “a person should not be deprived of an opportunity for higher studies solely because of his or her past political record”.12 The Socialist Club welcomed the Students’ Council’s support in denouncing the detention of its alumni and the restrictions imposed on Fajar. Ironically yet significantly, its “Friend in Need” (the Student Council) were to be student leaders who were otherwise hostile towards the Club’s politics. Though the other students disagreed on matters of political ideology or approach, the Club was “not alone in the fight for Democratic rights”.13 The first altercation between the newly elected Singapore PAP government and university students occurred in 1960 over what became known as the Enright Affair.14 On 17 November, British writer-academic Dennis Joseph Enright, in his inaugural lecture as the Johor Professor of English, made prefatory remarks criticising the government’s cultural policies. Enright was privately summoned by the establishment, duly berated and threatened with the withdrawal of his work permit. The university’s Students’ Union organised an emergency general meeting at the Bukit Timah campus. About 500 students, boycotting classes, almost unanimously supported a public condemnation of the government’s attempt “to strangle free discussion in the University and to cow an individual into silence for expressing views which do not coincide with the official ones”.15 The Enright Affair foreshadowed a decade of student resistance to perceived violations of university autonomy and academic freedom in the university.

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These contestations precipitated a remarkable convergence between different groups of student activists who opposed one another on other issues. The Students’ Union held university autonomy as an end in itself. The Socialist Club upheld the principle of academic freedom for a different reason: in order to resist the official attempts to manage student politics. Given its long-standing interest in playing a political role, the Club viewed itself as an autonomous voice for truth and change, entitled to the freedom to independently appraise the political, cultural, social and economic problems in Singapore and Malaya. Commenting on the question of academic rights as early as 1953, a Fajar editorial asserted that “if we are to arrive at any form of truth we must be in a position to yell out our feelings to any degree of fervour”; academic freedom was “the very breath of a university”.16 As another University Socialist wrote two years later, academic freedom was closely connected to “the maintenance and extension of democracy, so that people of each country may express its will and bring about whatever changes it may desire”.17 In this way, the Socialist Club mobilised as students to defend their role as political activists and came to the same defence of university autonomy alongside the Students’ Union. At the same time, the latter accepted that an involvement in national politics to defend university autonomy was justifiable; hitherto, the mainstream student leaders had castigated the University Socialists for their political activism. During the Enright Affair, both Socialist Club and USSU leaders held the professor to be at fault for his views, which they regarded as insensitive to the sentiments and aspirations of the local populace. They rejected, nonetheless, the government’s intervention and upheld the right of the university staff and students to voice criticism freely. Instead, the student leaders saw it as their prerogative to independently comment on national politics. 18 The question of university autonomy demonstrated to the Club that the students it often accused of political indifference were readily galvanised by campus concerns relating to liberal-democratic rights. The issues of university autonomy and student rights became a vital platform for the Club to cultivate students’ political consciousness at the university. These concerns drew the student body closer together than would have otherwise been possible. The Club lauded the university students’ response to the Enright Affair as “a most healthy reaction” and a triumph for both academic freedom and student power.19 In late 1962, more than 600 University of Singapore students attended another emergency general meeting to condemn the Internal Security (Educational Institution Visits) Order, which prohibited students and teachers from entering the Federation in groups of five or more persons without a permit. The University of Singapore Students’ Union, Nanyang University Students’ Union and Singapore Polytechnic

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Students’ Union, in a joint press statement, decried the legislation because it “directly affected … the rights and interests of the entire student population in Singapore”, and because such infringements were detrimental to “ensuring the growth and success of democracy in our country”.20 An editorial in Fajar supported the resolution and added that the Federation leaders’ measure was “inconsistent with their supposed intention to bring about unity through a ‘merger’ and Malaysia”.21 In February 1963, Students’ Union leaders joined the Socialist Club in vigorously condemning the Operation Coldstore arrests of several students and former students. Both student bodies also denounced the extension of the ban on Fajar and Nanyang University student publications to Singapore. While the Union refrained from formally supporting student political clubs, it allowed the Joint Activities Committee, of which the Socialist Club was a partner, to use Malayan Undergrad as a channel to articulate their condemnation of the mass arrests.22 With the People’s Action Party government driving its industrialisation programme upon coming to power, the role of the university in the making of a new nation-state was to change radically.23 The PAP viewed the university not as an independent ivory tower but as a necessary cog in the investment-driven development and social restructuring of Singapore. The government’s focus shifted from the anti-establishment politics of mass mobilisation in the 1950s to the high modernist programme of integrating individuals, families and institutions into the social, economic and political structures of the new state. Students, correspondingly, were important to the nation as model citizens and a human resource for the industrial economy, and not as much an independent intelligentsia. As Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said in 1960, among “the university students of today, we must find the administrative, technical and professional talent to man the institutions of state in the near future”.24 When Lee declared, in another speech to the Socialist Club the same year, that “the primary yardstick of the value of a university to any society is how does it best train the best brains and talent in that society to give its best to society”, he meant the production of sufficient numbers of doctors, dentists, engineers, lawyers and the other professional and economic elites necessary for the formation of an industrial society.25 Even more than its predecessors, the PAP state intervened with increasing frequency and intensity in the affairs of the university to advance their security and political interests, stem independent student activism and transform the roles of the university and its students. One-time editor of Fajar, V. Selvaratnam, went on to study the historical transformation of the university. The making of Singapore’s national university was to him a story of how the PAP government “intruded

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and interfered in the university administration, and attempted to assert its control of the university”.26 At the same time, as government action manacled student politics or engendered within the campus a tense atmosphere of trepidation and uncertainty inimical to student political activism, broadening coalitions of student activists mobilised to defend the sanctity of university autonomy, academic freedom and student rights. A well-known moment in June 1960 set the stage for more than a decade of political contestation between the Singapore state and student activists. Barely a year into the PAP’s electoral triumph, the Minister for Education Yong Nyuk Lin delivered a speech to UMSSU, highlighting the government’s expectation that the university be primed to serve the needs of an independent Singapore state and society. University autonomy, in this view, became an impracticable, and indeed dangerous, ideal. Yong emphasised that the university “cannot possibly remain as an ivory tower, isolated from the society which sustains and feeds it with millions of dollars each year”. He defined the relationship between the government and the university in paternalistic terms: The state is to the university as an indulgent father would treat an over-grown son, who although past 21, is however incapable of finding the means of supporting himself, and therefore dependent on a doting father, but at the same time, tolerated when he loudly and spiritedly claims his “independence” … When the not so “independent” son decides to go on a “binge”, the purse strings naturally tighten up.27 Yong’s pronouncement revealed the government’s intention to assert its authority over the university by pulling on the “purse strings”. Lee Kuan Yew similarly reminded everyone that it was the prerogative and duty of the elected government to “deploy public funds in what we assume to be in the interests of the people and not to sink public funds in what may be the fancies of an eccentric professor”.28 These official statements moved A.A. Sandosham, principal of the Singapore Division of the university, to strongly avow at a university convocation address that the university’s autonomy had to be preserved against present and future infringements. Gopal Baratham, a Socialist Club member, however, disagreed with Sandosham, arguing that the latter’s “use of emotionally charged language obscures the problem and brings it to the level of a feud between the University and the governments”. Challenging Sandosham to substantiate his claims with evidence of the PAP government’s infringements of university autonomy, Baratham was optimistic that the newly elected government would not replicate the intolerance displayed by the British and Federation authorities

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towards the institution. Sandosham was, in Baratham’s estimation, “jumping to conclusions … without sufficient data”.29 At this stage, many Socialist Club members were clearly still optimistic about the socialist nature of the nation-building programme directed by the PAP. However, the next decade and a half saw the relationship between the government and student communities in Singapore degenerate into exactly the sort of feud which Baratham thought was imaginary.

“A Seething Cauldron”: The 1963-1966 Pro-University Autonomy Movement By 1963, the battle lines between the PAP government and its critics were clearly drawn. This was when Vice-Chancellor Dr B.R. Sreenivasan resigned out of a refusal to condone the violation of academic freedom at the University of Singapore. The government had requested that he “remove from the list of candidates admitted for the next academic session those students the Government suspected of being subversive”. Sreenivasan refused and “categorically stated that this was political interference and thus an infringement on university autonomy”.30 The government then intimated that the funds required for the university’s development plans would be delayed, prompting the intransigent Vice-Chancellor to resign and bring the matter to a closure. To mourn for the loss of Dr Sreenivasan, but more for the violation of “the cardinal principles of free education”, the Students’ Council held an emergency general meeting and issued a resolution on 19 November to condemn the government’s role in the incident and demand that the state “refrain from any further incursion on University Autonomy and academic freedom”. The Union then organised the very first University Autonomy Day, where more than 400 students boycotted classes to protest against the “outrageous misuse of power”. A request to use the Padang for a sit-down demonstration was refused but the student leaders nonetheless attempted to see Lee Kuan Yew in his office in City Hall, where they reported themselves as having suffered the “most shocking and deplorable” indignity of being frisked before being permitted to meet him.31 In late 1964, when Singapore was part of Malaysia, the promulgation of the Internal Security (Amendment) Bill by the Malaysian Parliament further antagonised the students, both immediately and for years to come. The legislation mandated that students seeking admission into university had to acquire Suitability Certificates which vouched for their political “suitability”. The measure was specifically directed at preventing communists from infiltrating institutions of higher learning and barred admission to 100 and 132 prospective students in 1965 and

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1966 respectively. When the Bill was proposed in Parliament, about 320 students sent cables to the Speaker of the Malaysian Parliament to urge its withdrawal. The Suitability Certificates became for the students the most compelling symbol of the state’s repression of democratic rights, in particular of the fundamental right to education. They were never forgotten as a rallying point of student dissent until they were suspended, but not formally repealed, in 1978. Significantly, by then, the Singapore government acknowledged the legislation’s detrimental impact on student political participation; the Ministry of Home Affairs noted that the suspension “should remove any inhibition against healthy, constructive and open discussions among students of economic, social and political issues and Singapore’s future”.32 Both the Socialist Club and Democratic Socialist Club immediately denounced the legislation when it was promulgated. When the Students’ Council called for a strong response to oppose the Suitability Certificates, the Socialist Club declared in no uncertain terms that on “such National Student issues, WE STAND AS ONE!”33 On 13 July 1964, the Club sent a telegram to the Acting Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaysia, protesting the Bill as the “very negation of Academic freedom and tolerance” and demanding “A FREE UNIVERSITY IN A FREE SOCIETY”.34 The issue was to become even more embittered, engaging increasing numbers of student activists as the PAP’s integrative programme of nation-building gathered momentum in the mid-1960s. The Democratic Socialist Club, while more restrained in its general stance towards government policies, also collaborated with the Socialist Club in supporting academic freedom and student rights.35 Straddling the Malaysia interlude and the period immediately after, several Socialist Club members were also heavily involved as student councillors in leading the emerging pro-university autonomy movement in Singapore. As Koh Kay Yew remembered, they “decided that the best vehicle through which to lead the struggle would be the USSU more than the USC”.36 Some of them were influential members of the editorial board of Students’ Union Annual in 1964-1965 (such as James E. Wee, Chan Kian Hin and Koh Kay Yew) and 1965-1966 (Abdul Razak and Ong Ban Chai). The Annual became the channel through which University Socialists articulated their agitation against what they held to be the government’s “blatant violation of the two cardinal principles of liberal education”. “Viva La University Autonomy and Academic Freedom!”, screamed an editorial in the 1965-1966 issue of the Annual, as the pro-university autonomy movement approached its climax in late 1966.37 The editors reiterated the belief that while the university could not “remain aloof and not take cognisance of the country’s needs”, it must not become “a political tool of the government”. In order for the

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campus to be “non-partisan on political matters, it must be autonomous and must not be coerced into submission by pressure from any quarter”. Instead of the government dictating terms to the university, the editors maintained that “there should be mutual consultation between them as to how best the University can serve and meet the requirements of our young developing society”.38 Correspondingly, when the Malaysian government prohibited politicians from attending forums at the University of Malaya campus in Kuala Lumpur in 1966, this also evoked the ire of the Socialist Club’s 14th Central Working Committee. The Club issued a press statement branding the move as “a mockery of the concept of the university as an open forum for the expression of all opinions [sic]”.39 Other perceived acts of government interference into campus and student affairs after 1964 included the withdrawal of scholarships from politically active students; the state’s influence in the appointment of Students’ Council committee members; the replacement of Union nominees with government nominees for study tours; and the denial of university admission to over a hundred students. By the mid-1960s, university autonomy and academic freedom had become a recurring metaphor for both the PAP government’s interference in the university and its curtailment of student rights. Conversely, the student activists’ continued defence of these principles intensified the government’s growing frustration with a constituency perceived to be either politically indifferent, or in the case of the Socialist Club, vehemently hostile, to the cause and programme of national survival and development. In the 1950s, the Club had faced opposition from its campus rivals because both had stood on different sides of the bipolar Cold War divide. In the postcolonial period, an added complication was the explosive conflict between the principle of university autonomy and the mandate of nation-building which the government now held to be paramount. This categorical opposition pushed the government to intensify its efforts to bring the university within the orbit of social, economic and political integration. It added to the political opposition that the Socialist Club faced in its own endeavours throughout the 1960s. The government, as Club leader Peter Yip noted, charged the University Socialists of being “only capable of shadow boxing” and for harping on “unrealities”.40 The growing student disgruntlement with frequent infringements at the University of Singapore coalesced with government actions at other tertiary institutions in the city-state in the mid-1960s. These developments served to concoct “a seething cauldron of student activities”.41 Nanyang University, in particular, faced frequent interventions from both the Singapore and Federation governments eager to weed out its left-wing elements and punctuate the political movement for Chinese education and culture. In 1964, having already proscribed Nantah

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student publications from 1959 and arrested several of its students in the crackdowns on the left in 1963, the Malaysian government banned the Nanyang University Students’ Union and arrested fifty-one students in a massive police raid; the aim, purportedly, was to weed out “communist elements” and to “cull student activism”.42 The Singapore government then proceeded to reorganise the administrative structure and curriculum of Nanyang University to transform it into a “Malayan” university, instead of an institution that would, it argued, continue to perpetuate the “existing communal fault lines within a pluralistic society” and remain susceptible to communist influence.43 In late 1965, the release of the Wang Gungwu Curriculum Review Committee’s recommendations to redefine the university’s development along these lines drew furious protests from Nantah students, who viewed the proposals as a serious threat to Chinese education and culture, the university’s autonomy, and ultimately, its identity and survival. The students promptly embarked on a series of demonstrations and boycotts to protest the proposals. At least eighty-five students were expelled for participating in the unrest. Even though the University of Singapore was largely unaffected by the pressures the Singapore government was exerting upon Nanyang University, the Students’ Union and the Socialist Club soon became actively involved in the issue. This was partly because they were fighting for the same principles, and also because they felt driven to support their fellow students. The Socialist Club itself had advocated the rights of the Chinese middle school students since the early 1950s. In 1966, the Joint Activities Committee, inclusive of the Socialist Club, organised demonstrations against the Curriculum Review Report. More than 150 students picketed outside the Singapore Chinese Chambers of Commerce building, while a delegation formally presented a “Memorandum on the Present Nanyang University Crisis” to the President of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce. The memorandum strongly protested the government’s interference in “the growth of the Chinese Language and the free academic research by the students”. The students sought the President’s intervention to “preserve and safeguard Chinese Language and culture in our country and not to allow Nanyang University be converted into an English University”.44 In this context, the Socialist Club found an ally in the Students’ Union. On its own initiative, the Union had repeatedly attempted to hold discussions with Lee Kuan Yew between 1964-1966, only for him to decline the invitations or set conditions unacceptable to the students, such as the venue or timing of the meeting. An eventual meeting in City Hall on 30 August 1966 achieved little as Lee scoffed at discussing matters of national concern with a five-member Union delegation that, he observed, consisted of three non-Singaporeans. He categorically

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Student societies of the University of Singapore, Nanyang University and Ngee Ann College, including the Socialist Club, protest against the Wang Gungwu Curriculum Review Committee Report outside the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, 1965

Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction

rejected the delegation’s requests to repeal the Internal Security Act, stop curbing student political activities and lift the ban on Fajar.45 One concession Lee offered was to engage them in a televised forum at a neutral venue, although not on campus as he felt he would again be heckled. The debate never transpired for both parties were unwilling to accept each other’s conditions for the debate. Throughout these futile engagements, the Socialist Club pledged “its wholehearted support” to the Students’ Union and called for the entire student body to give their support to the Union in “its efforts to bring about a free University”. A

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press release by the Club in September reiterated how it had suffered the state’s “intolerance”, citing as examples the withdrawal of then Club President Koh Kay Yew’s scholarship, the prohibition of two Club members from holding posts on the editorial board of the Union magazine and the ban of the Club’s float from participating in the Union’s Rag and Flag Procession.46 In 1965, Koh’s State Scholarship had been withdrawn by the government without prior notice or explanation. The scholarship was worth $3,000 a year and had been awarded for Koh’s scholastic achievement. Its withdrawal, in Koh’s own view, was due to his strong involvement in the Club’s campus activism, although there had been no stipulation in the scholarship that the holder could not engage in political activities. Fortunately, Koh still had two other scholarships awarded by the university which covered his tuition fees and the cost of textbooks; he simply reduced his living costs and moved home from the campus hostel to defray his expenses.47 In 1966, too, the Ministry of Culture ordered the Club to obtain a permit for the publication of Siaran or cease publication altogether. The Club was also told to register with the Registrar of Societies under the Societies Act. In the face of these requirements, the University Socialists found that they had to do so with “a host of amendments that are so stringent that we can only conclude that their intention is to make us ineffective”.48 In the midst of its protracted negotiations with the Prime Minister on the televised forum, the Union held another University Autonomy Day on 11 October. The programme began with a boycott of classes, a protest march and rallies and demonstrations on campus. The refusal of the police to grant a permit for a public protest compelled the Union to confine its activities within the campus, although a small group of about forty Dunearn Road Hostelites attempted to march onto Bukit Timah Road.49 The students then gathered at the Upper Quadrangle to attend a series of rally speeches on university autonomy, academic freedom and the Suitability Certificates by faculty members like Tommy Koh, Chung Sing Yee, Robert Gamer, Union President Ong Leong Boon and D.P. Vijandran, a former Union official. Tommy Koh’s speech was commensurate with his viewpoint on the concept and role of a “National University” expressed only a few weeks earlier in Malayan Undergrad. Like some student activists and leaders before, he called for a university that offered a liberal education as much as it fulfilled its functional goals. Quoting Lee Kuan Yew, Koh maintained that Singapore’s national university had to “creatively pursue the problems of our society, define them and then set out, to attack them and provide solutions”. However, he emphasised that it was “not the function of the university to mirror the work of government and politicians”.50 About 2,000 students and lecturers participated in the activities in total, which

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concluded with a pledge to “agitate endlessly” for the repeal of “an obnoxious and undemocratic piece of legislation”.51 In early November 1966, the government’s intransigence pushed the University of Singapore Students’ Union to form a Student National Action Front (SNAF) with other tertiary institutions. Representatives from the banned Nanyang University Students’ Union participated as observers. The SNAF sought to press for the formation of a National Union of Singapore Students, and to “to explore all possible avenues to seek ‘redress’ from the Government and other relevant authorities on ‘violations’ of university autonomy and academic freedom”.52 For the government, this move raised the stakes too high and revived memories of the dynamic and powerful student movement of the mid-1950s and early 1960s.53 The context for the government’s heightened anxiety was situated in the other site of post-secondary Chinese-stream education in Singapore: the Ngee Ann College. Immediately prior, student unrest had peaked once more in October, when Ngee Ann College students were involved in riots in front of the City Hall to protest against the findings of the Thong Saw Pak Report commissioned to consider the institution’s development.54 Violent clashes between the students and police left thirteen policemen and thirty students injured. The government was infuriated, with the Minister for Defence declaring that “communist plans were afoot” to bring the present state of student unrest in Singapore “to the boil”.55 The authorities depicted the SNAF as “a new communist united front body” and an attempt “to thread together the disparate strands of student discontent into one all-embracing organisation” so that “the fires of discontent can then be more easily and effectively stoked so as to produce a bigger and better bang”.56 Ultimately, their persistence in agitating for university autonomy cost the Socialist Club and the University of Singapore Students’ Union dearly when the government decided to topple the cauldron once and for all. In mid-November, the authorities arrested and served prohibition orders on seventy-one non-Singaporean students, mostly Nanyang University students who had been expelled earlier for their role in the student unrest.57 Among the others were four University of Singapore student activists of Malaysian nationality: law students Gurdial Singh Nijar (2nd year), Chan Kian Hin (final year), Abdul Razak Ahmad (final year), and economics student Peter Yip (final year).58 All four were extremely active in the pro-university autonomy movement as student councillors, and Chan, Yip and Abdul Razak were highly placed Central Working Committee members of the Socialist Club. Abdul Razak had been the Club’s incumbent President, who less than two months earlier in his speech to open the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity had lauded the Club’s tenacity in the face of a long history of

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“harassment, intimidation and persecution”.59 The four were banished on the charge that they had “been closely associated with communist united front activities over a period”, and had participated “in illegal processions and demonstrations by Ngee Ann College students”. They were also alleged to have frequently consulted Dr Lee Siew Choh, Chairman of the Barisan Sosialis, in their regular visits to his house in front of the Dunearn Road Hostels. The Barisan contested the charge, retorting that the students had only normal social contact with Lee and were merely acting out of their own sense of justice.60 Up till today, Gurdial Singh denies that he had fraternised with Lee or that he had been pro-communist. Instead, he maintains that he had become an activist because he embraced the principle of university autonomy and sympathised with students who faced repression. Before his banishment to Malaysia, he publicly denied that the Ngee Ann College student demonstrations were “motivated by a political party”.61 The choice of the four students picked for banishment was partly intended as a warning to temper the agitation of University of Singapore students. The police reiterated the need to “disillusion these students and any others in the University of Singapore that they, unlike the Chinese, can engage in communist united front activities with impunity”, simply because they “believe that as students of the University of Singapore they enjoy a privileged immunity”.62 The collapse of the pro-university autonomy movement in the mid1960s was largely due to the government’s concern with communist influence in the Chinese schools. The state feared that the students’ grievances would be exploited in the same way as had happened in the Chinese middle schools a decade earlier. Whether the allegations of communist manipulation were founded, they neglected the fact that the formation of a national organisation of students had been an objective of university student leaders since the early 1950s. From the University of Singapore students’ perspective, they had full agency in the SNAF and considered it their own initiative, especially since the meetings were usually held in their Union House. In the last instance, the majority of the student activists were self-willed, autonomous actors driven by their identity, beliefs and ideals, as well as vivid recent memories of how the violation of university autonomy had constrained their rights. The government’s depiction of the students as manipulated innocents revealed a paternalistic refusal to recognise that students could independently organise against the government’s policies. All in all, the tussles between the student activists and the government throughout the 1960s reflected the grave divide between their views of the basic roles of the university and of students. Both sides were equally modernist on the issue: they

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concurred that the university could not afford to be parochial but had to serve broad societal interests. The differences arose over the sort of society that was to be built and the role of students in it. From its inception, the PAP government had adopted a utilitarian approach towards educational institutions in Singapore. While the students decried the violation of democratic rights, liberal ideals and socialist values, the government viewed these aspirations as irrelevant, or as subterfuge for the subversive agendas of foreign elements. Furthermore, the state saw the circumvention of university autonomy less as strictly campus or student issues, but more as issues of national politics. Lee Kuan Yew made his position starkly clear in a speech to the university’s Historical Society on 24 November 1966, after the student unrest had been quelled. While he had ostensibly been more tolerant with the students over the Enright and Sreenivasan affairs and the question of the Suitability Certificates, their participation in the November demonstrations was the last straw. He berated the students for agitating for what he elaborately explained to be “particularly British” concepts, rendering themselves susceptible to communist manipulation in the process. These were, he emphasised, frivolous pursuits which distracted the students from more practical, immediate concerns. As Lee put it in an exasperated tone: I find it difficult to understand that when you have so many vital, urgent issues to agitate you, you are agitated about the Suitability Certificate.63 Lee’s chastisements revealed his “particularly British” fears of communist manipulation and the political bridging of English- and Chineseeducated students in the 1950s. He also reiterated the dichotomised conceptualisation of the “emasculated, de-culturalised” English-educated students vis-à-vis the culturally anchored but “blinkered ideologists” and chauvinists in the Chinese middle schools. Lee went on about wishing that the English-educated students would possess their Chinese-educated counterparts’ dynamism, passion and commitment in fighting for their ideals, however politically unacceptable they were to the PAP government. Significantly, he associated the Socialist Club with the Chinese-educated group because some of its members were formerly from the Chinese schools: I am not saying they are Communists – because if they were, we would not have let them come in here – but they have what we would call an “activist” background. Not necessarily a bad thing, because that is what I want this to have. I want all the blackmollies and all the angel fish to develop the vitality to meet the

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other fish in the other tank. Then you will stand up – because you will really believe when you say academic freedom, democracy: you will believe it. But when they say it, they don’t believe a word of it. This is the irony of it.64 At the same time, Lee was invoking the familiar depiction of Socialist Club members as dangerous dissidents to discredit their activism. He suggested that they were only interested in capitalising on the issue of academic freedom to radicalise the student body and gain support for their politics. Some University Socialists could have indeed seen university autonomy as a platform to achieve these aims, but this would not have detracted from the consistency with which many university students, including both the Socialists and their opponents, supported these ideals. The banishment of the four Malaysian students was consistent with the government’s modus operandi of discursively externalising the sources and origins of political movements so as to further de-legitimise them. Added to the “communist” in this discourse was now the “Malaysian”. Lee pointedly singled out the Malaysian student activists for censure. In the wake of the banishments of November 1966, Lee associated the student unrest not only with communist subversion but Malaysian agitation: Some stupid boys from the University of Singapore tried to be clever and extended cover to these communist united front operators in Nanyang University by joining some national action front. What is very significant is that 70 per cent of all these troubles are created by Malaysian students. Not our students, not Singapore students, but Malaysian students.65 Lee’s representation belied the reality that student leadership and politics at the University of Singapore was not the sole province of the localborn students, and had not been so since the founding of the institution in 1949. Similarly, the issue of nationality did not figure heavily in the students’ concerns with democratic freedom and university autonomy, because they had upheld these principles firstly as university students and as nationals secondly. To Lee’s refusal to debate with the Malaysian students, for example, the student leaders retorted that the issues were being fought for by a Council which contained a mixture of Singaporean and Malaysian student councillors, who were all democratically elected by a student body made up mostly of Singaporeans. With the 1966 crackdown, the Singapore government succeeded in temporarily silencing student dissent at the University of Singapore, as the outcome had left “a bad taste in the mouths of many”.66 The

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Students’ Union, shaken, quickly “dissociated itself completely from the Students National Action Front”. Even though the student leaders attempted to appeal on behalf of their banished colleagues, they distanced the Union from the violent demonstrations in front of the City Hall on 4 November. The few University of Singapore students who participated in the protest were branded as undertaking irresponsible, “unconstitutional and irregular actions” on their own accord.67

Raging against the Dying of the Light, 1967-1971 While it had been momentously muted after the events of 1966, student dissent quickly resurfaced, as subsequent events further illustrated the continuation of government interference in the university. In the decade thereafter, state intolerance was more than ever before blamed for engendering a climate of fear that inhibited student participation, stymied student leadership and fostered deeper levels of student political alienation. In a National Day issue of Singapore Undergrad in 1967, a student signing off as “O.B.C.” refuted the comment G.G. Thomson, the Director of Information Services, made in the Far Eastern Economic Review, that the political apathy of English-educated intellectuals in Singapore was “a form of passive protest against the Government’s reluctance to allow these intellectuals to participate in decision-making”. O.B.C. pointed out that Thomson did not consider how government repression, spanning the colonial period to the present PAP administration, was a more crucial factor. Students were still interested in vindicating their identity but were not permitted to do so in a stifling climate, as O.B.C. added: One may even further suggest that such a political climate is producing and will produce more political morons from amongst the English-educated elite so that there will be no need even to “clobber” them.68 The events of 1966 left a deep impression on Sim Yong Chan, who became a leading member of the Socialist Club, a vocal and passionate student councillor and an editor of Singapore Undergrad. He was disgusted by what he saw as the Union’s abandonment of the four dedicated student leaders. In a letter to Singapore Undergrad, Sim directed his ire at Union President Ong Leong Boon, stamping his contempt at how “three futile months of agitation over autonomy etc. ended with a whimper and an apology”. In a tone reminiscent of the anger earlier University Socialists had reserved for university colleagues regarded as less committed and dedicated than they were, Sim chastised the Union

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for its failure to stand up for what it believed in, for “all [it] can do when the chips are down is to issue press statements branding others as ‘irresponsible’”.69 Sim and his fellow Socialist Club colleagues and supporters in the Students’ Council went on to join other concerned student intellectuals like Kishore Mahbubani in intensifying the clamour for university autonomy, democratic rights and student representation on the university administration as the 1960s wore on. They soon had more issues to contend with as the Singapore government began a fresh series of interventions at the University of Singapore. Police interference in student activities that belied the political motivations became more frequent. The Singapore Undergrad reported in June 1967 that the Socialist Club’s float for the University’s Rag and Flag Day was stopped by police outside of Raffles Hall on Nassim Road. The University Socialists were forced to take down a small banner with anti-US slogans and a red flag inscribed with the words “The Red Guards and the Revolution”, before being allowed to proceed.70 Lee Kuan Yew himself made his frustrations with the staff and students of the university keenly felt in a series of incidents in June 1969. Incensed by criticisms of the government’s pro-abortion policies (which were key to its family planning programme to bring down the birth rate) during a talk at the university, Lee rebuked the audience. Shortly after, he summoned the staff of the Political Science, Philosophy and Sociology departments, and some freshmen and student councillors to a clandestine meeting at the National Theatre on 13 June, where he threatened them against clashing with the government “on fundamental issues” or causing “organised disorder”.71 The appointment of Toh Chin Chye as the Vice-Chancellor of the university in April 1968, following the sudden demise of Dr Lim Tay Boh, further generated a great deal of consternation among the students. The placing of the PAP Minister for Science and Technology as head of the university signalled the government’s determination to accelerate the university’s transformation into a national institution meant to produce the leaders, managers and technocrats for Singapore’s postseparation industrial development. In addition to the appointments of PAP nominees to the University Council, Senate and staff, this move now “gave the PAP [the] means of direct control and influence over the day-to-day administration” of the university.72 The students’ fears about the political ramifications were realised as Toh quickly asserted control over the university “down to the smallest detail”.73 He began restructuring the university to provide a robust supply of trained professionals, managers and technical specialists to plan and propel the country’s industrial and economic growth and safeguard the infant nation’s security and survival.

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Toh tolerated student activism to a limited extent, provided it did not violate Singapore’s laws or university regulations. In an earlier speech at the Student Union’s Annual Dinner in 1966, he had conceded that the Suitability Certificates “could perhaps be modified, amended or improved”, although he still insisted that “university autonomy, academic freedom were relative values”. Significantly, Toh admitted that the students’ protest against the legislation was “healthy”, and their proposed march and public forum “good”. He preferred to direct his attention towards curbing the influence of the expatriate staff, on whom he laid the blame for the students’ apparent lack of identification with national interests. However, Toh still demonstrated a basic disapproval towards student transgression when it clashed with national imperatives. As the Straits Times stated, Toh “would be disappointed to find that Singapore was breeding an elite, a generation which was incapable of thinking in perspective – a generation which would fail to assume power in time to come and the responsibilities that went with power”.74 Allowing what he saw as students running amok on campus and worse, in the streets in defence of abstract ideas contradictory to the doctrine of investmentaided national development, was not something which the new ViceChancellor endorsed. He came down hard on a number of occasions against such acts of student protest. It was within this nebulous space for collective activism that the Socialist Club made its last strut on the stage of student politics. The suppression of the 1966 student movement at the University of Singapore had marked a turning point for the Club. Coming less than two months after it was required to register with the Registrar of Societies and abide by its regulations and conditions, the banishment of three of its leaders heralded the diminution of the Club’s voice and position in student politics. Most of its supporters had been frightened away, its activities constricted to “non-political” affairs by the Registrar and its allies in the other institutions crushed. While the student authors of Fajar and Siaran Kelab Sosialis had remained invariably optimistic and defiant in the face of government repression against the Club in earlier years, the tone of the editorial in the June 1968 issue of Siaran, the last known issue of a Socialist Club publication, was decidedly more subdued. The issue greeted Toh’s appointment as “the final phase of the protracted campaign for a free and independent university”. It lamented how government repression had emasculated the Students’ Union and created an atmosphere deeply inimical for “creative and constructing thinking”.75 Where an editorial of Siaran two years earlier had reaffirmed the Club’s commitment to defending the ideals of peace, justice, equality and freedom “despite constant harassment from quarters antagonistic to progressive forces”, the June 1968 editorial endorsed the same ideals with significantly less optimism:

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Certainly the university has a role to play – ideally as a centre of change and progressive thought. So long as the government believes that this university should only play the kind of role it considers fit and proper, the university will continue to sink intellectually as a source of critical and progressive thinking.76 Little is documented of the Club’s leadership or activities after 1966, although the Union handbooks continued to describe Siaran Kelab Sosialis as being well received on campus up to 1970. It is possible, however, to partially reconstruct what the Club’s leaders were doing through other student publications. A few of its executive members such as Sim Yong Chan, Sunny Chew and Koh Poh Tiong, were very active in the Students’ Council, whether in fighting for issues of student rights or in mobilising student consciousness. Sunny Chew and Sim, both one-time Presidents of the Socialist Club, were heavily involved in the 21st Students’ Council’s efforts to form the National Union of Singapore Students together with the Singapore Polytechnic Students’ Union. They also appealed for the re-registration of the students’ unions of Nanyang University and the since-renamed Ngee Ann Technical College. Sim still found time to demonstrate over more mundane campus matters as well. Together with other students like Kwa Chong Guan, Chandran Nair, Loke Yew Hai and Arthur Cheong, Sim staged a sit-down protest in the Union House Canteen in October 1967 to protest the unpalatable food supplied by the canteen’s caterers. On the same day, Sim and Tan Leng Cheo issued an open letter calling for the “re-examination of the priorities and values of the undergrads, the Students’ Union and the University Administration”. Among their suggestions, they sought the establishment of a Union Commission “to study the demands of the University and the demands and expectations of the Government and the Public”. Even as they worked to improve the ambivalent relationship between the university and government, they also called for the drafting of a University Charter “to define the role of our University and to safeguard its fundamental rights, among which”, they submitted, “is the right to academic freedom”.77 As the editor of Singapore Undergrad, Sim also launched vitriolic attacks on infringements of academic freedom and student rights in the university and elsewhere.78 Like their predecessors, Sim and his colleagues also sought to commit the Students’ Council to political issues, which brought them into dispute with student leaders with opposing perspectives. A prominent incident in late 1967 resurfaced the familiar set of disagreements over the Students’ Union’s basic role and identity. At an emergency general meeting, Sim and his supporters attempted to persuade the Council to pass a resolution condemning the ongoing American military

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involvement in Vietnam. A number of councillors led by Barry Desker objected and staged a walkout in order to prevent a vote from being taken, forcing the meeting to be adjourned for lack of quorum.79 Sim’s subsequent move to censure the councillors for their action was repulsed by another prominent student councillor and Democratic Socialist Club member, Lee Wah Hin. Lee approved of the walkout because he felt that as the Council had to represent the diverse views on the Vietnam War within the university, it was inappropriate to support Sim’s motion. He further reiterated that “the Council should certainly be a place free from such partisan political manoeuvres and adventures”.80 Sim disagreed, retorting that if the Council was not the avenue for the articulation of “student opinion of all complexion”, then “the Students’ Council has failed to justify its existence”.81 The rivalry in the Council between the Socialist Club members and Union VicePresident Barry Desker then escalated into a heady confrontation in May 1968. Francis Yeo, Sunny Chew, Koh Poh Tiong, Sim Yong Chan, Reginald Lee and Conrad Jeyaraj, all members of the Council’s Executive Committee, resigned en masse in protest after another clash with Desker.82 The momentum of the United States’ involvement in Vietnam ironically took the matter out of the hands of the vying sides in the Council. In March 1968, the massacre of the residents of the Vietnamese village of Mylai by an American unit led over a hundred University of Singapore students to stage a small and largely non-violent demonstration outside the American Embassy. A number of Socialist Club members participated in this protest, including its one-time Club SecretaryGeneral, Subhas Anandan. In an interesting departure from the earlier days when the Socialist Club ignored the atrocities committed by communist countries while condemning those by the West, Anandan and his friends also protested the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia in August the same year outside the Soviet Trade Mission. This was in spite of him and some of his fellow Socialists regularly enjoying cocktails at the Mission at the invitation of the Soviet delegates, presumably because they were fellow socialists.83 The willingness to criticise socialist states would have been rather more significant for the Socialist Club earlier, when it was accused of turning a blind eye to the questionable actions of socialist states, but by the late 1960s, it had been constrained to agitating international and campus issues. There was to be no new dawn for the role of students in national politics. Reminiscing in December 1971 to the university’s undergraduates, Tommy Koh observed that the campus community was “very much different” from the mid-1950s. Student politics then, he said, were “more conspicuous”, with the Music Society, the Dramatic Society, the Debating Union and the Socialist Club being “perhaps the most active

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and vibrant organisations on campus”. To him, the activism of students had attenuated because of the more “tranquil political atmosphere” now prevailing a decade after the PAP had been elected into power.84 It seems reasonable to suggest that the impulses underpinning student activism faded with the passing of the phase of anti-colonial mass politics of the 1950s and early 1960s. However, the reverse was truer; the new political context and developments after 1959 brought fresh concerns and constraints for student activism, while enjoining diverse student groups. The space for and scope of student activism at the University of Singapore became severely constricted in the 1960s, ironically much more so under the post-colonial governments of the Federation of Malaya and Singapore than was the case under the colonial administration. As a society of activists who were fiercely anticolonial and who opposed the politics of the Federation and the Singapore governments, the Socialist Club continually faced government interventions aimed at crushing student activism in the two states. The Club naturally included the defence of university autonomy, academic freedom and student rights as part of their endeavour, especially since this enabled it to reach out to other university students who also confronted these issues. Some Club members actively participated in the agitation for these ideals, whether through the Club’s collective efforts, in cooperation with their allies in the Joint Activities Committee, or through their work in the Students’ Union alongside other concerned student leaders. It remains one major irony in the Socialist Club’s history that some of its leaders stood against it after they joined the government. For them, public or political life meant the priority was to integrate citizens, students included, into the social structures of the state, rather than to endorse the autonomy of any of its constituents. Two former Club leaders played key roles in undermining student power and university autonomy in their capacity as Ministers for Home Affairs. Speaking at the Dunearn Road Hostels National Day celebration dinner in 1971, Wong Lin Ken unequivocally declared: There has been a tendency to misconstrue academic freedom as some kind of extra-constitutional right, and university autonomy as conferring upon the campus the status of an extra-territorial settlement. Such interpretations are figments of the imagination.85 It was another former Socialist Club CWC member who dealt a more crushing blow to student activism at the University of Singapore. The earlier Minister for Home Affairs Chua Sian Chin was largely responsible for promulgating the University of Singapore (Amendment) Act in

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late 1974 in the wake of a student movement led by Tan Wah Piow, the President of the Students’ Union and an Architecture student. The Act introduced wide-ranging organisational and constitutional changes to the university, including the proscription of the Students’ Union’s autonomy. This measure, coupled with the censure of Tan and his fellow student leaders, was seen by the late historian C.M. Turnbull as having “marked the end of student activism” at the University of Singapore.86 By then, the flame of the University Socialist Club had been extinguished a few years before. The leading roles some University Socialists played in the pro-university autonomy movement of the mid-1960s ended in failure. The Club, already afflicted by numerous interferences in its activities, lost three of its leading members to banishment by the state. Its lack of success in getting the government to respect university autonomy, academic freedom and student rights in turn rendered the Club’s position untenable. In early October 1970, the Assistant Registrar of Societies John Pasqual served an order on the Club to “furnish him with proof of its existence” within three months or be deregistered. The report claimed that Pasqual had “stated that he had reason to believe that it had ceased to exist”, but this was not elaborated on.87 According to a contemporary account, a Club spokesperson stated that it was impossible to furnish the number and names of its members “for obvious reasons”.88 The Club responded with a press release published in Singapore Undergrad on 21 October, denouncing the government notice “as the latest attempt to suppress” it. Most aptly, this statement by the 18th Central Working Committee exuded the same conviction and defiance with which the University’s most prominent political club had announced their arrival on the stage of Singapore and Malayan politics, with which now it protested its departure. The Club had burst into campus and national political life full of sound and fury in 1953-1954, seeking to spread the dawn that had flung the night of colonial domination to flight. Now, its demise was not accepted without its members, to borrow poet Dylan Thomas’s metaphor, raging and raging against the dying of the light: The University Socialist Club denounces the registration notice by the local authorities as the latest attempt to suppress us ... We reject as totally unacceptable the conditions imposed by the Societies Ordinance … The University Socialist Club will continue, despite [sic] all threats and persecutions, to struggle for the attainment of a unified Socialist Malaysia and we pledge our solidarity and support for the national liberation movement of the world.89

11

Entwined Memories and Myths

M.K. Rajakumar passed away on 22 November 2008 in Kuala Lumpur due to heart and lung complications. He was seventy-six. His family members, friends and fellow medical practitioners, politicians and University Socialist Club alumni gathered to pay tribute to his memory and life’s work on two separate occasions, the first in the Malaysian capital on 4 January 2009, followed by a second in Singapore on 14 February. Among them was Poh Soo Kai, Rajakumar’s old friend since 1951. At the Kuala Lumpur memorial meeting, Poh emphasised the recurring themes which underpinned Rajakumar’s life and work: his concern for the poor and sick, an unwavering commitment to socialism and his contribution to student and political activism in post-war Singapore and Malaya. Describing him as “quiet and studious, witty and humorous, sincere and kind”, Poh retraced the paths he had travelled together with Rajakumar as a student activist, from the formation of the Socialist Club in 1953, their arrests for co-authoring the “Aggression in Asia” article and subsequent acquittal the following year, and their efforts in the Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation. Upon graduation, both men traversed different paths, as Rajakumar returned to Malaya and became involved in Federation politics, while Poh remained in Singapore and participated in left-wing politics until his detention in 1963 during Operation Coldstore. While apart, as Poh emphasised, their socialist commitment had evolved along similar lines, and had further been sustained by occasional discussions on the issues of the day. Having recounted the various steps of this shared intellectual journey, Poh drew a line between Rajakumar’s path and his, saying: “Today I have come to terms with myself. He remains a revolutionary”.1 In celebrating the life and achievements of his old friend, Poh at the same time reaffirmed his own identity as a socialist and a maker of the modern Singapore and Malaya after the war. Poh’s recollections of Rajakumar’s life serve as a useful point of departure for examining the memories of the Socialist Club and the differing myths which had emerged from them. In using the term “myth”, we do not refer to a fabrication of the past but to widely held beliefs for it.2 By comparing the memories and myths of the Club held by former University Socialists who subsequently joined the political

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establishment and others who remained committed to their socialist beliefs, it becomes clear that both sets of narratives do converge. They are contentious because they differ greatly in representing the “right” and “wrong” paths in history. But they are also at times in agreement, because both the PAP and its left-wing opponents shared much of the same formative beliefs and experiences in the shared endeavour to break apart post-war Singapore and Malaya and forge new nation-states. The two parties also hold a similar view of history as an objective judge which will vindicate their own historical roles and affirm their identities. The ambivalent character of the memories and myths of the Socialist Club demonstrates the close relationship between the past and present and the modernist origins of the Singapore state. The study of memories and myths has much to do with identity. In discussing the memories of the Socialist Club, we are not judging who was right or wrong. Rather, the task is to uncover the meanings behind the memories and map the processes of identity formation, consolidation and redefinition. Oral history is not merely a repository of facts but also a reflection on historical events made in the aftermath. This leads oral history into decidedly subjective territory. Some scholars such as Alessandro Portelli have gone as far as to argue that individual testimonies are less important for what they say about events than about what these events mean to the narrator.3 Although oral testimonies have a greater value as a method for historical inquiry than Portelli maintains, his insight paves the way for us to understand the relationship between the past and present and its significance for configuring one’s identity. As Poh indicated at the memorial meeting, his memories of the Socialist Club are socially constructed – they are reinforced and even redefined through conversations with Rajakumar and other former members on different occasions, including the memorial meeting itself. Although Poh stated that he had come to terms with himself, the interaction between past and present does not end. It is the struggle over identity that leads memory narratives to alternately contest and converge with one another. There were other memory issues which we encountered in the course of our research. Speaking to former University Socialists brought out not only the relationship between memory, myth and identity, but also the erosion and even silencing of memory. We sometimes encountered in the course of our oral history work gaps in memory. A number of former members could not clearly remember what were – according to other participants and the archival sources – breaking moments in the Club’s history. They had since “moved on” from the time where they were young, idealistic student activists, a time now relegated to a mere footnote in the larger narratives of their lives. This is not simply a failure of memory due to advancing age and the passage

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of time, as might appear on the surface; in fact, the most vivid memories are often not the more recent ones but those which left the strongest impression on the individual.4 It is, rather, a consequence of having accepted new roles in family, society or politics which have become more emotionally significant and meaningful to the individual. Not surprisingly, the cases of “failed memory” are common among former University Socialists who subsequently occupied high places in the political establishment or public service. Another memory issue we encountered was the choice or even insistence of some Club alumni to remain silent. They turned down our requests for an interview, sometimes without giving a reason, at other times with an emphatic lecture on how history should be written. But even the silences of memory are socially significant. The individuals who chose not to reveal have also, albeit in different ways from Poh Soo Kai, “come to terms” with their pasts. In either failing to remember or deciding to remain silent, the alumni are highlighting the continuing dialogue between the past and present, between history and identity. The existence of emphasis, erosion and silence in memory means that the Club’s history will likely remain contested.

Misspent Youth and the Fajar Boys Whether and how University Socialists will remember their pasts are very much shaped by the context. In the late 1990s, the PAP Old Guard’s memories and reflections on the city-state’s history, previously publicised through official events, statements and interviews, began to be formally institutionalised as the nation’s collective historical experience. In 1997, Deputy Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong launched the National Education programme in schools, a project which aimed to nurture a strong sense of active citizenship among the student population. The post-war history of Singapore holds a pre-eminent place in this National Education programme as the centrepiece of an officially sanctioned narrative known as “The Singapore Story”. As Lee explained, this account is “a special story, our story ... the story of Singapore, how we came to be one nation”.5 This narrative was important, Lee argued, for highlighting to students the “lessons” of the island’s history, for the past is “the backdrop which makes sense of our present” and “shows what external dangers to watch out for, and where our domestic faultlines lie”. These warnings on the nation’s “dangers” and “fault lines” are targeted, in particular, at young Singaporeans born after independence, who, Lee reasoned, “must understand Singapore’s unique challenges, constraints and vulnerabilities”. On the natural question of bias, Lee emphasised that the official narrative was not propaganda but was

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an objective account: “The Singapore Story is based on historical facts. We are not talking about an idealised legendary account or a founding myth [but rather] objective history, seen from a Singaporean standpoint”.6 The official narrative should not be dismissed as propaganda, any more than the memories of former leftists be regarded uncritically as the gospel truth or deceitful apologetics. Some Singapore historians have pointed to the important role it plays as an adjunct to nationbuilding, while noting that such a pragmatic use of history is prevalent in other developed countries.7 Certainly, the official narrative deserves a place in the republic’s national memory as the historical account and perspective of the PAP Old Guard and a large proportion of ordinary Singaporeans whose experiences fit the narrative template. It is no academic justification to say that history and historians must remain outside politics: in relatively young states like Singapore where nationalism remains a central organising force and where the cultural side of nation-building is still incomplete, a national history is necessary to nurture a committed sense of citizenship, particularly among young Singaporeans. The real issue is for the official story to accommodate other versions of the past. If this can be achieved, as national history is enriched as a result, so the bonds of nationhood and citizenship in Singapore will grow stronger from a more inclusive and nuanced narrative of the past. Efforts to present more rounded views of Singapore history have begun, signifying the recognition among Singapore’s academics and researchers that the city-state’s pasts cannot be told as a singular monologue. The newly published history of the People’s Action Party, Men In White, penned by writers from Singapore Press Holdings, endeavoured to tell the story of “not just the winners, but the losers, and interested bystanders as well”.8 Just as important, and encouraging, was the book’s genesis in Lee Kuan Yew’s suggestion to then-Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, to write a “compelling” history of the party comprising “the views of all – those for or against the PAP”. Where other accounts had been in variance with Lee’s own recollection, he “told the writers to decide who is more reliable. The final version is their book”.9 Elsewhere, the National University of Singapore has published two books with new stories about Singapore’s past, one which viewed the post-war period not as a time of riots or communist collusion but of dynamic “political pluralism”, and another which appraised the Goh Chok Tong leadership both sympathetically and critically.10 The process of reconciliation with Singapore’s diverse pasts is fraught with difficulty and inner tensions but the encouraging sign is it has begun. In recent years, the government has begun to identify a number of “national heroes” who would both be the focal points of a progressive

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story of the nation and personify the desired values of committed citizenship. Most of the heroes identified so far have been community leaders, business pioneers, philanthropists, war veterans and senior public servants. The government has acknowledged a small number of former leftists such as Kuo Pao Kun, Pan Shou and Lim Chin Siong, albeit partially, with their left-wing politics ignored or de-emphasised.11 In particular, the half-hearted efforts to rehabilitate Lim’s place in Singapore history in recent years indicates that the state’s view of the historical role of the left remains ambivalent. Lim has recently received a more empathetic treatment in both the school textbooks and the Singapore History Gallery at the National Museum of Singapore.12 These developments, however, have not decentred the dominant theme of communist subversion within which Lim’s story remains situated. Other official signals and statements suggest that a full recognition of the role of the left as the political midwife of modern Singapore is still some way off. In February 2006, two former University Socialists arrested in the early 1960s for their political and labour activism, Michael Fernandez and Tan Jing Quee, spoke of their experiences of detention without trial at a public forum, “Detention-Writing-Healing”, organised by The Necessary Stage. Both Fernandez and Tan denied being part of the “Communist Open Front” at the event. Within a fortnight, the Ministry of Home Affairs responded to these claims in a letter to the Straits Times, reiterating the old charge that both men were not political dissidents or opposition politicians engaged in the democratic process but were part of the communist united front and indirectly the Malayan Communist Party.13 A state-sanctioned version of Singapore history may appear to favour its authors. Yet, even those “victors of history” once involved with the Socialist Club still have to negotiate a path between staying within the thematic confines of the “communist united front” story and acknowledging the genuine idealism and modernism of their youthful experiences. Ong Pang Boon was the one-time Club Treasurer who later became the Minister for Home Affairs in Lee Kuan Yew’s cabinet and signed the detention papers for many of his former Club comrades in 1963 and after. During the Fajar trial, along with Jeyaraj Rajarao and Chua Sian Chin, Ong was also one of three Club members-turnedwitnesses for the prosecution. Like Chua and Rajarao, when called to the stand, Ong denied knowledge about the Club and Fajar editorial board which, as Treasurer, he ought to know.14 In 1995, retired, Ong gave a rare interview to historian Melanie Chew. Although the transcript published in Chew’s Leaders of Singapore (1996) was heavily edited, it nevertheless provided an insight into the difficulties of remembering the past in the present for a “victor of history”. When asked about his contemporaries at the University of Malaya in the 1950s, Ong referred without hesitation to “the politically active

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Opening the memory gates

Michael Fernandez (with microphone), Tan Jing Quee (left background) and playwright Robert Yeo return to the memories of political activism and detention without trial in the forum “Detention-Writing-Healing” in 2006. Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. Permission required for reproduction

ones” such as James Puthucheary and Sydney Woodhull. In reply to Chew’s question about whether he knew about the Fajar trial, he answered resoundingly in the affirmative: “Yes! I was the Treasurer of the University Socialist Club. I was not in the editorial board of Fajar, so I was not personally charged. Still, I was called up for interrogation!

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Eight persons were charged. I remember Poh Soo Kai, James Puthucheary and all of them”. Ong did not attempt to simply whitewash his early involvement in a left-wing organisation but duly acknowledged this history. By stating how he was interrogated by the Special Branch like the others, Ong was emphasising his shared experience with the Fajar 8. Still, he did not mention his role as a witness for the prosecution or his efforts to sabotage that role in court. Although these omissions could of course be due to Chew’s editorial hand, it hints at what someone in Ong’s position would choose to remember or ignore of the shifts and turns in their personal history. Indeed, this ambivalence becomes clear later in the interview, when Ong admitted that detaining his former left-wing colleagues in the early 1960s was an “unpleasant” task that had to be done “in the national interest, and someone had to do it”.15 It was a rationalist task rising above personal relationships. Speaking to the authors in 2009, Ong acknowledged that many of the detained former University Socialists were his personal friends, such as Puthucheary, Poh, Linda Chen, A. Mahadeva and Lim Hock Siew.16 Ong’s memories exemplify the tensions between nation and self, and between politics and camaraderie, which exist in his recollections of Singapore history. Like Ong Pang Boon, S.R. Nathan, who left the Central Working Committee of the Socialist Club in 1954 together with Lee Ah Chai, represents a voice on the Club’s history from the side of the establishment. Following a long and distinguished career in the Singapore civil service, Nathan was elected the nation-state’s President in 1999, a post he held until 2011. In 2007, in a meeting with Michael Fernandez, Nathan warned of the problem of personal bias when interviewing former University Socialists. They were, he stated, likely to glorify the past and exaggerate their own roles in history, a point which is certainly valid. As to the point that history should not judged by the yardstick of objectivity without considering the emotional and psychological dimensions, he felt this was a matter of opinion. He was aware of, and concerned about, the appeal any new interpretation of the Club’s history may have, particularly to younger readers, who might readily accept it as the “gospel truth”.17 For some former University Socialists who had “moved on” from the heady days of anti-establishment student activism to the pragmatic work of nation-building, the idealist past is recalled with a mixture of pride, nostalgia and cynicism. Tommy Koh, presently Ambassador-at-Large with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Chairman of the National Heritage Board, is a prominent and internationally respected public servant, having served as a diplomat for Singapore at the United Nations and presided over many of the country’s statutory boards and research institutes. Recounting his Socialist Club days to the authors in 2008,

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Koh acknowledged the idealism and youthful excitement of the times. In particular, he reflected how the university activists had been “young, foolish and quite fearless” in disagreeing with the PAP’s position on the merger with Malaysia. Still, Koh added, “But I have to give it to the PAP leaders. They really worked hard for the campaign … tried to convince everybody”. Under his leadership, the Socialist Club had also sought, in vain, to prevent the split between the Lee Kuan Yew and Lim Chin Siong factions in the PAP in 1960-61. Again, Koh spoke in the same language of naïve youths and wiser politicians: “We were foolish. We thought we could prevent the left wing from splintering. We actually worked very hard at it”. He concluded, only half in jest, “I had a misspent youth – instead of chasing girls, I was chasing dreams”.18 These expressions of foolhardiness, naiveté and misspent youth highlight the ambivalence in Koh’s recollection of the past. The memory of the post-war modernity which he pursued has become incompatible with the present-day modernity in Singapore. This is characteristic of former University Socialists who had stood on both sides of the political margin in post-war Singapore and emerged on the victorious side of history, although not necessarily as government officials. Wang Gungwu, the first President of the Club and now an eminent historian, spoke at the Rajakumar memorial gathering in Singapore in February 2009. As a student activist, Wang recalled, he was a socialist and an anti-colonial nationalist, but, he emphasised, he rejected the use of violence in politics.19 It is important to note that while Koh’s career was forged in the civil service, Wang’s was in academia. But like Koh, Wang also shared the sentiment that his generation of student activists was “probably too idealistic and too naïve”.20 If former student activists-turned-establishment keyholders have not found it easy to reconcile personal and official narratives, Lee Kuan Yew, the Club’s legal adviser in the 1950s and for whom the Fajar trial was a singularly milestone moment, had little such difficulty. His account of Singapore’s recent past is monumentalised in the publication of his two-volume memoirs in 1998 and 2000. Lee did make the disclaimer that the memoirs did not constitute “an official history” as such but only “the story of the Singapore I grew up in”.21 In effect, however, Lee’s version of history, appearing soon after the launch of National Education and given his high place in Singapore history and politics, has naturally become synonymous with the national narrative.22 As a key participant and leading actor in the past, Lee had consistently maintained an advantage over the academic in understanding history. In 1980, Lee had stated that “history is not made the way it is written”:

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History does not happen in clean-cut units … It is after forces let loose in tumultuous events have run their course that the historian comes along … and narrates them in clear-cut chapters.23 In the first volume of The Singapore Story, Lee recalls in some detail his initial encounter with the University Socialists in the defence of the Fajar 8. Lee frames this account within the story of his evolution as an anti-colonial nationalist in the early 1950s; the trial, then, assisted him by “widening the Oxley Road Circle” of English-educated aspiring politicians who had hitherto no link to the majority Chinese-speaking world. In his account, Lee emphasises the alleged political apathy by D.N. Pritt in the trial, Lee’s own role in having Pritt appointed as the students’ senior defence counsel and the “instructive, entertaining, even hilarious” aspects of the trial. The account is, naturally enough, Lee-centric, with the Fajar 8 and other University Socialists who established the Students’ Defence Fund rendered nameless, being referred to collectively as “the students”. Upon concluding his account of the trial, Lee proceeds to the next chapter of his narrative: the Chinese middle school student leaders approaching him after the trial to defend their fellow students charged for their role in the anti-National Service riots earlier in the year. And this, one realises, is the historical juncture where Lee is really headed in his account. As Lee says in appraising the Fajar trial: “This case would lead me into a totally different world, one teeming with raw energy and idealism”. In narrating his encounter with the Chinese students, Lee makes a discursive U-turn on the University Socialists, and on English-educated intellectuals in general. Lee remarks how “the Chinese-educated were nothing like the English-educated students who had published Fajar. They were resourceful fund raisers”. Upon meeting Lim Chin Siong and Fong Swee Suan, Lee added that they “were the Chinese-educated equivalent of the Fajar boys who were prosecuted for sedition, but more determined, more selfless, more hardworking”.24 In contrast to the Chinese students, Lee strongly emphasises the alleged political apathy of the English-educated student “who spoke diffidently, lacked self-confidence, and were psychologically hobbled when they used a language that was not their mother tongue”.25 Such a representation has endured to the present day. The Fajar story, in which Lee encounters the local university student, has become the reference point for forging a powerful myth on the essentialist nature of post-war politics in Singapore. In this political discourse, there are two binary political types. One was the English-educated student, who was either outrightly submissive to colonial domination or politically apathetic to it. Nevertheless, this was a view shared by most University Socialists. The other political type was the Chinese-educated, politically conscious and

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well-organised, but also dangerously pro-communist and culturally chauvinistic. This essentialism ignores the patent fact that a significant number of politicians, activists and intellectuals in post-war Singapore were either conversant in both English and Chinese or had sought to build political and cultural bridges between the two language groups. Linda Chen, Wang Gungwu and Ong Pang Boon belonged to the former group, while the Socialist Club also attempted to establish links between the two groups.26 On certain issues, the Club members, too, did not mobilise as an English-educated group, but as students, socialists or political activists. The selective representation and omission of student activism is politically expedient. It enables the PAP government to similarly frame present-day Singapore students, youths and young adults as being apathetic to the project of nation-building.27 This, in turn, gives the authorities the moral mandate to treat young Singaporeans as politically immature and subject them to the paternalistic discipline of a “communitarian ideology”.28 Mobilisation by discursive means is still ongoing. The Lee Kuan Yew story has naturally exerted a strong hold over the public framing and telling of Singapore history. Journalists, for instance, are grappling with the history of the left under the shadow cast by this public history. The New Paper’s coverage of the M.K. Rajakumar memorial gathering in Singapore is a case in point. Initially, the doctor’s death the previous November had been greeted by a deafening silence in the Singapore press. A reporter for the New Paper was invited to the meeting and was in attendance. A full month passed before the paper ran a story on the event in mid-March. Accompanied by a picture of Rajakumar with the caption, “Radical: Dr Rajakumar fought for a united Malaya”, the article sought to explain why “a Malaysian radical” merited a place in the pages of a Singapore paper. It stated that Rajakumar was a hero of Malaysia and to both the old and young. The justification for this accolade was, however, neither clear nor convincing. In a light-hearted style, in which post-war Singapore and Malayan history was juxtaposed against pop references to Youtube, Barack Obama’s dog and the latest American celebrities in the news, the article laboured through its coverage of customary events, such as the Fajar trial and the formation of the PAP. One might argue, with some justification, that the article’s style and content were simply what one would expect in a tabloid. So the horror of an arrest was contrasted with the arrival of a home pizza delivery.29 Even a tabloid piece attempts to play a pedantic role in line with the aims of educating young readers. The article’s author had framed it in a way which, she believed, would draw them closer to history. In a letter to the paper in July 2007, a youth urged for Singapore history to be presented in new and visually stimulating ways, like the electronic gadgets

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of the present day: “We want to be seduced with a sexy quote”.30 At the same time, the media’s pop-culture approach and strained effort to stimulate runs the risk of dumping down history and losing the immediacy of the intense struggle to remake Singapore and Malaya after World War II. Standing in-between revealing and omitting the past, the New Paper article struggled to negotiate two different demands for empathy: one for the historical actors in the past, the other for young observers in the present. This underlines the basic tension which exists in public history in Singapore today. It highlights the difficult position on the past the establishment presently finds itself. The PAP government has achieved two victories over the left: first, as political participants in the 1960s, and then, as authors of a PAP-centric narrative which denies the Singapore left their role in history.31 However, the third triumph which the administration now seeks with younger Singaporeans who have no experience of the events of the 1950s and 1960s is proving elusive.

Countermemories and Staking Claims It is in the context of this discursive, albeit partially shifting, official representation of the history of the post-war period that the Socialist Club is being remembered by former University Socialists in the present day. Not all the former members seek to mythologise the Club story or glorify their role in it. For some, the idealism of the student days is recalled with deep disillusionment. Their memories are similar in motivation, structure and content to oral histories of the left in the United States, which shares themes such as the legacy of “an unfulfilled promise” and the organising frame of “idealists acting with wide and generally positive impact upon important social movements”. Such oral histories reveal a basic ambivalence in the memory of American radicalism, where resilient idealism and undeniable political defeat sit uneasily with each other.32 Like Poh Soo Kai, Jeyaraj Rajarao, one of the Fajar 8, has retained his commitment to the ideals of socialism; in The Fajar Generation, he said: “I shall pursue and practice those values and ideals until I breathe my last breath”, ideals which are the “heritage” bequeathed by the Socialist Club.33 Politically, too, he said, Lee Kuan Yew had ridden on the back of the Fajar trial and the Club to power.34 At the same time, however, Rajarao’s positive assessment of the Club struggles not only against the reality of failed socialism in the present day, but is also shaped by his perception of lost comradeship: Never mind the past! It appears I am erased from the socialist past because I remain poor, hold no peak position, no titles, and

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also because I am reluctant to meet the old guys since most of them have opted out of their onetime ideology, and many of the rest have become compromisers of fundamental socialist principles. I continue to remain steadfast in my beliefs and even aggressive if need be.35 This sense of being “out-of-sync” with history is also expressed by Ahmad Mustapha, who, like Rajarao, is now based in Malaysia. After a long career in the public service in the Federation, Mustapha plainly said that the Socialist Club’s history would find little interest in contemporary Malaysia.36 This downplaying of the Club’s contribution is common among former members who no longer locate their identity in that youthful stage of their lives. V. Selvaratnam does not attempt to deemphasise the Club’s role which, in his view, helped to raise the political consciousness of university students. Even so, Selvaratnam also approaches the Club’s history with a mixture of pride and regret: regret in that it made the fatal mistake of supporting Lee Kuan Yew and inadvertently bringing about the eventual suppression of the left.37 Former historian Lee Ting Hui, the self-avowed moderate who criticised the Club’s radical leaning before leaving the CWC in the early years, expressed perhaps the strongest personal view about its historical role. Rejecting the themes of youthful idealism, socialism and history altogether, Lee believed that the Club was merely a cog in the wheel of British decolonisation in the region, to allow the authorities to sniff out dangerous radical elements among the student population. Lee’s memory is also one of regret and hopes unfulfilled.38 Rajarao’s fellow accused in the sedition trial, Edwin Thumboo, has long been hesitant about having his name linked to the Socialist Club and the Fajar trial. Thumboo became a distinguished poet and scholar of Singapore literature and was appointed emeritus professor in 1997. In an interview on his literary career two years later, he was asked if he had been a member of an anti-colonial organisation as a student. Thumboo replied: “Now when you say ‘anti-’ something, you can say you are working ‘for’ something else”. He acknowledged that he had been a member of the Fajar editorial board, but then moved to distance himself from what he evidently felt was the “wrong” impression this fact might give, saying: “I don’t want to sound heroic and tremendously self-informed about the political agenda, I was involved in Fajar. Of course, we wanted independence. Who didn’t want it? But my interest was literary and getting the proofs done”. The statement is interesting in two ways. One, it is clear that to him, his work on Fajar and the ordeal suffered in the arrest and trial, however invigorating or traumatic they might have been at the time, have become mere prologues to an exceptional literary career. Thumboo preferred the limelight to fall on

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“the elders, people like James Puthucheary, Poh Soo Kai, Rajakumar, they were the ones who moved politically and who had a greater sense of socialist doctrine”.39 Ong Pang Boon’s recollections of the early days of the Club, by contrast, were much more unreserved. The other significance of the interview lies in the rhetorical question: “Who didn’t want it [independence]?”: it testifies to the shared modernist project of the post-war activists. More recently, Thumboo appears to have become more comfortable with his youthful past. In 2007, one of the exhibits in the post-war section of the Singapore History Gallery at the National Museum featured a video interview of him. He is shown relating the Fajar experience in some detail and with considerable passion, denying that the “Aggression in Asia” article was in any way seditious. He also read out a poem he later wrote on the trial. The interview showed how one’s memories could change over time, if not completely. Thumboo has now endorsed the trial as his baptism by fire.40 What is just as revealing, however, was that the rest of the interview closely followed the contours of Lee Kuan Yew’s memory: to Thumboo, the Chinese-educated students were far more politicised and were superior organisers, while the University Socialists were simply armchair intellectuals.41 Other Club alumni have consistently and closely linked their lives with the Club’s history and articulated countervailing views of the past. For them, the Club represents a foundational myth in the larger personal and national narratives of the socialist movement. Another former member who attended the Rajakumar memorial gathering in Kuala Lumpur and contributed to the memorial booklet produced subsequently, also named Fajar, was Tan Jing Quee.42 For Tan, this was one of many occasions since the mid-1990s where he asserted the contributions of leading personalities in the Singapore and Malayan left. The increasing number of such public statements by Tan, and others, is due both to a growing sense of one’s mortality and of the social need for “history”. This sentiment arises from several factors: the death of Lim Chin Siong in 1996 without having penned his memoirs; the launch of National Education in Singapore and the institutionalisation of the official account in schools; and the publication of Lee Kuan Yew’s memoirs two years later. The most important factor, perhaps, is the perception that both the state and the public have become more receptive to or interested in new views of the past. In 1998, Tan Jing Quee lauded James Puthucheary’s poetry in No Cowardly Past, a book dedicated to the latter’s role in Malayan history.43 Three years later, Tan wrote about the political life of Lim Chin Siong, whom he had known in detention and in London, describing him as a “comet” lighting up the political sky of the emerging nation.44 In 2006, along with Michael Fernandez, Tan spoke about his experiences of being detained without trial at the

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“Detention-Writing-Healing” forum. Since then, Tan also wrote eulogies for a number of former leftists and University Socialists, such as Linda Chen, Ho Piao and A. Samad Ismail, in s-pores, an online journal on Singapore studies.45 In 2009, Tan and Koh Kay Yew, another former President of the Socialist Club, edited and contributed to a book containing the poetry and reflections of former political detainees in Singapore.46 Tan Jing Quee’s writings and speeches on the contributions of the left to the anti-colonial struggle are “countermemories”, which seek to rebut the official charges of communist conspiracy made against the movement. This was manifest at the Kuala Lumpur memorial gathering, where Tan described Rajakumar as “a genuine Malaysian hero, a socialist and a patriot”. The New Paper article had also said this but Tan, as an insider, was able to contextualise the significance of the statement much more effectively. As Poh Soo Kai had also done, Tan traced the defining moments in the history of the Socialist Club from its birth as an anti-colonial political club to the victory of the Fajar 8. But Tan, unlike Poh, also broached events of wider historical importance, extending from Rajakumar’s life to the political development of post-war Singapore and Malaya as a whole. Tan stated that the 1954 trial “catapulted” Fajar into becoming “a major left-wing journal in the country”. He also observed that, upon their graduation, the University Socialists worked closely with politicians and trade unionists in Singapore, while Rajakumar himself joined the ranks of the Malayan left.47 As is often the case when political elites remember the past, what is said is also an act of staking a claim to what one views is their rightful place in history. To Tan Jing Quee, remembering Rajakumar was also a way to affirm the identity of the individual, the group and indeed, the “Fajar generation”.48 He spoke of Rajakumar as a historical type in post-war Singapore and Malaya – of belonging to a generation of privileged university students who nevertheless decided to “abandon the preordained path to wealth and fame” and “allied themselves with the mass of the population in the struggle for freedom and independence”. Tan reminded the audience that Rajakumar had “retained his fundamental belief in the socialist ideals he had embraced when he was a young man at university”, while his death had “left behind a yawning gap in the political and intellectual life of the country”.49 In saying this, Tan was not merely referring to the doctor but speaking on behalf of an entire generation whose hopes for a better Malaya remained unfulfilled. At the memorial gathering, both Tan and Poh Soo Kai spoke of the occasions when they had discussed with Rajakumar the ills of contemporary society as moments which helped sustain their socialist ideals. Similarly, in a letter to Rajakumar’s family, Lim Hock Siew also recalled

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those days when we discussed, till late into the night, how to free our country from foreign rule and to establish a united democratic society where all our people could live in peace and harmony in a just and fair society … We had no one to guide us but our conscience and our love for our fellowmen.50 The rituals of remembering, in both life and death, help to reinforce one’s identity, against both those who pejoratively represent the Club as communist-infiltrated and others who claim that the past is of no real consequence. The recollections of Lim Hock Siew, Tan Jing Quee and Poh Soo Kai are deeply personal as well as historical. Former University Socialist Michael Fernandez has also attempted to recover the place of the left in Singapore history. Concerned that younger Singaporeans should know about this past, Fernandez was encouraged by his friend and fellow political detainee Said Zahari, who has also been writing his own memoirs.51 Fernandez began his endeavour in 2004 when he joined a group of mostly academics working on a project to chart the pluralistic political and social activism in post-war Singapore. The result was an empathetic account of the left-wing trade union movement, rejecting the paradigm of communist subversion and focussing instead on its struggles for the rights and interests of labour. Fernandez had led a major strike at the Naval Base in 1963. The paper, co-authored with Loh Kah Seng, one of the writers of this book, then a postgraduate student, appeared in Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Postwar Singapore (2008).52 For Fernandez, returning to the history of the Socialist Club was also closely tied to the issue of identity. At a preview seminar of the Club project in January 2007, Fernandez explained why he was interested in unearthing its history. He pointed to the poignant experience of a “mini-Cultural Revolution” in Changi Prison where he had been detained along with the other leftists in the mid1960s. There, the more recently incarcerated Chinese-educated leftists, who had embraced the Maoist ideology then prevailing in China, had charged the English-educated detainees, including Fernandez, with reactionary revisionism.53 For Fernandez, writing a balanced history of the Club and the English-educated leftists would steer a middle path between the accusatory experience of the “mini-Cultural Revolution” in prison and the similarly discursive official representation of the left in the present. History, then, becomes a way for Fernandez to banish the ghosts of the past and reaffirm his own role in history, as a committed member of the “English-educated” left. In Fernandez’s view, the Club’s history was to be written not merely for the former members but also the education of young Singaporeans. History, to him, should take into account the different views of the University Socialists and their supporters and opponents, so as to

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provide “a balanced picture of the period”.54 This emphasis on the need for a “balanced” history and for supposedly unconcerned young Singaporeans to know the past is part of a shared public discourse on Singapore history. Lee Kuan Yew himself, in his memoirs and speeches, takes the same view. Fernandez’s approach is a step back from the “frankly partisan” position the Club had taken in the 1950s and 1960s as the voice of the marginalised Malayan masses. This is of course partly due to the restrictive political culture in contemporary Singapore. Submitting to the criterion of a balanced history enables countervailing interpretations of the past to be publicly expressed, while also providing some measure of defence against the charge of political bias. But the term is not only utilised for pragmatic purposes. Other former University Socialists also use it and in more revealing ways.

The Ghosts and Myths of History Like Fernandez and Tan Jing Quee, Lim Hock Siew has also actively challenged the mainstream representation of Singapore history and highlighted the historical contribution of the left. Collectively, the trio’s efforts indicate how the voice of the Socialist Club as the country’s intelligentsia, speaking on behalf of the marginalised (in this case, themselves), is still faintly audible in the present day. In response to Lee Kuan Yew’s intimation in 2007 that he might write a third volume of his memoirs, covering the “big events” of the new millennium, Lim countered, “Lee Kuan Yew can write his memoirs. That is his right. But it is his story and I read it like I read Harry Potter”. Lim, like a number of other former leftists, is also writing his own account of post-war Singapore history, since, he maintains, “I owe it to the people of Singapore to give the other side of the story”.55 Recently, Lim, Tan Jing Quee and Lim Chin Joo (Lim Chin Siong’s younger brother) gave interviews to the National Museum of Singapore about Lim Chin Siong’s contribution to Singapore’s anti-colonial history. Selected extracts of the interviews have been produced in a video exhibit on Lim in the postwar section of the Singapore History Gallery of the museum in 2008.56 Lim Hock Siew also left researchers and the public an open-access oral history interview conducted in 1982 by the Oral History Centre of the National Archives of Singapore for its pioneer interview series, Political Development in Singapore 1945-1965.57 The interview is significant for its length, Lim’s refusal to admit defeat and his attempt to claim a moral victory over the PAP.58 Lim in fact gave the interview in the same year he was unconditionally released from detention. A Socialist Club founder-member who also helped found the PAP and then the Barisan Sosialis, Lim had been arrested in Operation

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Coldstore and was detained for nearly twenty years. His oral testimony is framed in terms of an unyielding struggle for “a united, independent and socialist Malaya including Singapore”, which spans his early days as a university student activist to his political endeavours and subsequent struggles against the conditions of detention. Lim, in particular, recounts the idealism and contributions of the Socialist Club; the English-educated students’ close collaboration with their Chinese middle school counterparts and the trade unions; his growing disillusionment and eventual break with Lee Kuan Yew; and the intensity of the battle for merger.59 Lim’s oral history, like those of other former University Socialists, provides an “inside” story of the Socialist Club which questions the essentialist representations of student activism in the post-war years. Yet, there are other important layers of Lim’s oral history which underline the observation of memory scholars that countermemory is not fully opposed to the official memory, but both penetrate and affect each other.60 Despite its anti-PAP language and content, Lim also portrays the student population of the University of Malaya in much the same way as Lee Kuan Yew had done in his memoirs. In his interview, he was asked whether the Chinese- and English-educated students in postwar Singapore were different – a question which is itself value-laden and reveals the assumptions of the interviewer. But Lim duly engaged the question, replying: “The university students although coming from a higher educational institution were very poorly disciplined, were extremely individualistic and extremely difficult to organise, even for nonpolitical activities”.61 Such a perception of English-educated students was central to the entire modernity enterprise in the 1950s; it imbued the student activist with an acute sense of social responsibility and a high level of political consciousness. Yet, such a perception of the English-educated students, when expressed in oral history as a fact, also lends further support to the official portrayal of students. Lim challenges the PAP narrative by submitting a competing claim to the historical discourse, but also uses the familiar story of the leadership of an exceptional political elite in mobilising the ordinary people. The other major highlight of Lim’s interview is his detailed account of the merger debate as seen from the vantage point of the Barisan Sosialis. When asked to simply “touch upon” the party’s stand in the event, Lim was already armed with the relevant pages of the Hansard, the official report of the Singapore Parliamentary Debates. He had helped prepare the long speeches made in Parliament during the merger debate by Dr Lee Siew Choh and S.T. Bani, which articulated the Barisan’s call for a complete and unconditional merger with Malaya. In reply to the interviewer, Lim proceeded to quote, verbatim, full extracts of the speeches. Here, Lim was asserting his authority over the

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interviewer and making use of the interview format, and the official record, to “correct” history. He attempted to demonstrate that the Barisan had been right all along on the issue and to reject the PAP’s charge that the party had not wanted a merger. Lim’s use of the Hansard as an impartial voice and judge of the past becomes clear when he explained to the interviewer at one point: I also quoted at length to state for historical record, that we have consistently stood for a genuine reunification of Singapore with Malaya. And that we cannot be held responsible in anyway for the failure to achieve a merger.62 Speaking in the aftermath of the event, Lim was using public records produced by an anti-communist state to defend the Barisan’s position on a contentious issue in Singapore and Malayan history. He believed that the official documents would vindicate the defeated side in history and that historical claims must be supported by irrefutable evidence. In underlining the importance of the “historical record”, Lim also sought to leave behind important traces of the past not only for self-vindication but for the benefit of posterity. It has taken a full generation since the interview before his “statement for historical record” has been uncovered and studied by historians as a valid source of history.63 This is not to suggest that Lim Hock Siew holds a naïve view of official records produced by the state, which usually judges the left very harshly. On the contrary, he and other former University Socialists are keenly aware of the loaded language used in the records. They are particularly alert to accusatory official labels such as “moderate”, “radical”, “pro-communist”, and “merger”, which could by themselves approve or discredit politicians in the 1950s and 1960s; these were terms which they had frequently encountered and resisted in that time. Instead, the former leftists are using the official records selectively to advance their own interpretations of the past. Besides the usual recourse to memory, the contributions by Poh Soo Kai and Tan Jing Quee in The Fajar Generation also made extensive use of the colonial archives to defend the Club and the Barisan against charges of communist-inspired agitation, while also critiquing the British and PAP governments for suppressing legitimate political opposition.64 History in Singapore is becoming an increasingly sophisticated battleground to which contesting claims are submitted. It is also insightful to examine Tan Jing Quee’s perspective on how Singapore history should be properly written. On the surface, Tan’s view was fairly straightforward: the Socialist Club’s history was simply, in his own words, one “to be defended”. Tan also appeared to reject the possibility of an impartial academic inquiry into the past. He

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emphasised that the Club’s past was not to be “rediscovered”, as a historian might seek to do.65 Tan’s perspective was strongly shaped by the past experience that the “USC had more detractors than defenders of its activities throughout its years”.66 Yet, while insisting that history be “defended” rather than “rediscovered”, Tan also underlined the importance of the principle of objectivity. Tan firmly reminded the book’s authors that the USC deserves some space to have a sympathetic presentation and defence of its case against the history of demonisation to restore some sort of historical balance and objectivity which scholars always insist they want to see.67 This view was a statement of protest about how, in Tan’s view, historians have hitherto uncritically adopted the PAP perspective. At the same time, he hoped that history unfettered by political considerations would vindicate the Club’s role in Singapore history. Tan left unsaid how such a history would be possible, if historians were not critical both ways and the Club’s alumni remained partisan. There is, then, an underlying ambivalence among former University Socialists towards academic history. On the one hand, it is the means by which a neutral “third party” can accredit to the Club its proper place in the history of post-war Singapore and Malaya. On the other, it has so far been politically correct and failed to perform its proper role in providing a “balanced” and “objective” account of the past. So History, but not historians, holds a high place in the minds of many defeated participants. They regard young historians seeking to independently research the past with some scepticism and even suspicion. In January 2009, Koh Kay Yew replied in good spirit to a number of questions from the book’s authors on the Club’s history after Operation Coldstore. But he also added, “I sincerely hope that the new generation of scholars like yourself will not engage in perpetuating mythology as history but engage in true historical enquiry of past events regardless of any Ghosts revived”.68 Koh’s statement encapsulates the post-Enlightenment belief that “myth” and “history” are distinct, with history being superior although the historical inquiry might revive a number of personal “ghosts” of the past in the process. Nevertheless, he remains sceptical about whether any “true historical inquiry” into the Club’s past is possible now, even by new scholars. In the preface of The Fajar Generation, the editors extended their good wishes to the “young scholars” helming this project, but insisted that, because of their own direct involvement in politics, they are in a privileged position to capture “the mood and spirit of the times they lived through”.69 This

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is not unlike Lee Kuan Yew’s assertion that history is not made the way it is written, and should consequently be penned by the participants. The recourse to “objective” and “balanced” history as the final arbiter of the past has become the customary way by which the defeated in history can submit public claims on their role in the nation’s history. Both the PAP and the left use the notion of an “objective” and “balanced history” to distinguish their memories from “propaganda”. In the public debates on history which ensue, both sides are subscribing to some extent to the same rationalist terms of argument, which are rationalist. Both sides, too, reveal a basic distrust of academic historians while expressing support for history. They also view young Singaporeans as politically liable, yet claim to relate their accounts for the benefit of this age group. It is uncertain which, or any, of the two contesting views of the recent past will prevail. At first sight, the recourse to an “objective” and “balanced” history entails a heavy reliance on archives produced by the colonial and PAP states, much of which are written in the prose of counter-insurgency even if they are no longer still restricted. This favours the establishment.70 The difficulty, for Tan Jing Quee, Lim Hock Siew and other former members of the left, is having to compete for space in Singapore historiography against the presence of an official narrative, which has already laid claim to being “objective” and “balanced”.71 One is, however, also struck by S.R. Nathan’s reminder about what some people are likely to take as the gospel truth today. While the majority of young Singaporeans are indifferent to the nation’s history, there is growing interest in the accounts and memories of the former leftists. The online academic journal, s-pores, was launched in April 2007 by a group of mostly young scholars and public intellectuals. Its inaugural issue focused on the political history of pre-1965 Singapore. In explaining their choice of time-frame, the editors explained that “this period of ‘open politics’ before the consolidation of PAP rule is the starting point of enquiries when home scholars attempt to explore if there were alternative logics to that of the Singapore Story which it has silenced”.72 In the February 2009 issue, which contained a number of useful essays on the Socialist Club, the editors acknowledged that “we appear to be still stuck in the 1950s”.73 Lim Cheng Tju, one of this book’s authors, was among the founders of s-pores. As a school history teacher, he had wanted to use issues of Fajar for his lessons but found them difficult to locate. This difficulty aside, he had also been dissatisfied with the accepted portrayal of the politically “enfeebled” Englisheducated group in Singapore history and had wanted to consider its role in the post-war period.74

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The memories of former University Socialists hold an ambivalent place in the writing of Singapore’s post-war pasts in the present day. On the one hand, they are an important historical source for crafting a more rounded and nuanced account of the period. It is because of the power of memory that former members who subsequently joined the establishment have found it difficult to reconcile their earlier experiences and new identities. On the other hand, the memories also contain discursive frames, masked by the language of objectivity and a balanced history. As the authors of this book have sought to do, the historian has to be careful about disentangling discourse from source. At the same time, the recollections of members of the ruling government and its former opponents do converge. The unifying factor between the contesting narratives is the modernist project, expressed in different ideological forms, of post-war Singapore. The convergence of the reformist and left-wing groups in 1954 under the aegis of the Second Malayan Spring was the result of the Fajar trial. That collaboration ended in 1961, with the two groups breaking apart to contest the form of merger between Singapore and Malaya. But the forks and divides in the latter period have not totally fractured the recollections of the victors and defeated of history in the present day. The memories are still shared to a point.

Conclusion: Modernity in Singapore and Malaya Reconsidered

By charting the history of the University Socialist Club, this book has offered a new approach to understanding the making of post-colonial Singapore and Malaya. The period has typically been viewed as one of ideological conflict, between the British and nationalists, between the nationalists and communists, between Singapore and Malaysia. It is also one where the necessity of social, economic and political change which the contending parties advocated has been accepted without question, where the “old order” and the “culture” of the masses were held to be not only obsolete but injurious to the making of new states and societies. What this study has done, rather, is to locate the forces of conflict and change within an ambitious modernist project undertaken after World War II. Using Partha Chatterjee’s idea of nationalism as a derivative discourse originating from the post-Enlightenment rationalism, this book frames the various parties involved in the remaking of post-war Singapore and Malaya as tangled strands of modernity – differing in their approaches and methods but agreeing on the basic need to reorder the countries along rationalist-scientific lines into new nation-states. Rather than construct a narrative of contestation between the PAP and its left-wing opponents, this book underlines their shared optimism in the future and their common pursuit of a nationalist modernity. The struggle to establish a new nation-state was largely defined, as T.N. Harper notes, by the Second Malayan Spring experiment from roughly 1953 to 1959. As suggested by the decolonisation thesis advanced by Roger Louis and Ronald Robinson, the experiment involved a return to informal empire, commercial priorities and Britain’s search for new collaborators who could better serve its interests in the postcolonial era.1 The Socialist Club, and the left generally, helped facilitate this mission, which was eventually accomplished with the rise and dominance of the PAP. The Second Malayan Spring permitted the emergence of different groups of politicians and activists with different ideas of modernity and development: liberal-democrats, communalists, Fabian socialists and Marxist socialists. These various groups constituted what some scholars have called “multiple modernities”, a term usually ascribed to non-

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Western forms of modernity which departed significantly from the Western liberal-democratic type, but which remained distinctively modernist in their optimism towards a better future.2 In Singapore and Malaya, these different modernist groups were engaged in a struggle to both contest and consolidate the limits of British decolonisation and define the shape of the nation-state. The University of Malaya, founded in 1949 to nurture “reliable statesmanship” for the future, was a liberaldemocratic expression of this late-colonial experiment. Another, leftwing in character, was the Socialist Club, formed in 1953, which the university administration nonetheless envisaged as a political club in the liberal British tradition to enliven political discussion on campus and to raise the political consciousness of students. But the Club also stretched the limits of orderly decolonisation to participate in national politics. For the most part, the Socialist Club was a left-wing socialist group, and was the intellectual arm and voice of Marxian socialism. It actively participated in the contestations, curtailments and convergences between different political and student groups seeking to create a new Malaya. Both the Lee Kuan Yew group in the PAP and the left-leaning Fajar group envisaged the immediate removal of colonial rule, the reunification of Singapore and Malaya, the practice of socialism (though variously defined) to create a just society, and the mobilisation of “apathetic” subjects into model citizens of the imagined nation-state. Both sides were high modernist in seeking to transform the relationship between the people and the state; both possessed an optimism that nature could be mastered through state-led mega projects and that human nature could also be transformed to serve developmental needs. The way student activists could combine lofty ideals and a belief in ambitious developmental projects is not unique to Singapore: the popular Angkatan ’66 student movement in Indonesia was similarly led by “secular modernising intellectuals” who pursued a programme of development and helped establish Suharto’s New Order.3 The contestations which erupted between different modernist groups in Singapore and Malaya were over how to end colonialism and achieve a merger, what form of socialism was to be put into practice and how fast one should create the new nation. What was also crucial was that the modernist basis of the different groups rendered their positions fluid, making at one point or other unusual political bedfellows between Fabians and leftists, and between University Socialists and their critics in the Students’ Union and Democratic Socialist Club. The disagreements were not merely political but also deeply discursive. They erupted over the meaning of the vocabulary the various groups shared, over terms like “socialism”, “independence”, “university”, “politics”, “student activist” and “student”. These were terms

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which were commonly used, and abused, in the post-war period and which meant different things to different groups. They were not only referential but also patently accusatory or transformative; once cast, a charge of being communist or right-wing was difficult to extricate from. Post-war Singapore and Malaya were part of such a deeply discursive and essentialist world. Yet, the Socialist Club, while often a target of this form of discursive politics, also participated in it as a self-avowed advocate of Malayan socialism. Both it and its campus rivals in speaking of widespread “apathy” among the English-educated students sought to mobilise the students and integrate them into the structures of the state, albeit in different ways. Just as it was at different times depicted to be “pro-communist” or “pro-Barisan”, the Club had little hesitation in pointing fingers at the PAP’s alleged links with the imperial powers, global capital or the DSC. On the other side of the political fence, the discourse of an imaginary world of expanding communist conspiracies framed the work of the Special Branch, which systematically surveyed the Club. The Branch pondered over and forged “chains of conspiracy”, based on interpersonal links between alleged communists and University Socialists. The power of these often unreliable links enabled the arrest and detention without trial of numerous Club alumni in the 1960s. It reveals the role of a Cold War information order in the making of independent Singapore and Malaya. What distinguished the Socialist Club from other modernist groups was its identity as a collective of idealistic, socialist-inspired student intellectuals. They attempted to speak on behalf of, and to mobilise, diverse groups of people: fellow students, political party leaders and “stifled Malayans” like workers and rural dwellers. The 1954 Fajar trial and acquittal, which brought together English- and Chinese-educated students as well as left-wing and Fabian socialists, invigorated the University Socialists’ idealism and sense of mission. The real impact of the trial was to bring together the Fabian and left-wing socialists – through the PAP – in the modernity project. In this endeavour, the Club played a role, in its own estimation, as a “vanguard of progressive youth”. Through its organs Fajar and later Siaran Kelab Sosialis, campus seminars, public statements and joint student activities, the Club was an articulate, though at times overly doctrinaire, visionary and voice of Malayan socialism. It also took on a self-appointed role as the jury of Malayan politics; at different times, the Club criticised its own leaders and members; the Labour Front governments of David Marshall and Lim Yew Hock; the left’s attempt to take over the PAP Central Executive Committee in 1957; and the PAP’s policy of a “merger through independence” in the early 1960s. In extending its activism beyond the university, the Club embraced a broad role similar to many Asian student movements in the decolonisation period.4

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The Club was a fairly consistent advocate of Marxian socialism. But the meaning of socialism itself was deeply contested among the University Socialists, as it was between different political groups generally. The Club had Fabian socialists, democratic socialists and liberals (all discursively and unfairly called “fireside socialists”). This ideological diversity was manifest in two junctures of the Club’s history: during the first year of its founding when Wang Gungwu was its President and in 1959-1960 when Tommy Koh led the Club. The fact that shades of socialists and progressives were drawn to the Club in these two periods underlined how the meaning of the post-war socialism was not cast in stone, but was being formulated and contested through political debate and action. In its advocacy on behalf of the rural and urban masses, the Club believed that Malayan socialism called for a radical restructuring of society, by replacing class differences and primordial and communal loyalties with a single bond between individual and state. As budding political and student activists, many Club alumni joined the political parties and trade unions upon their graduation. The University Socialists’ debates with the DSC over the differences between left-wing socialism and democratic socialism underlined another dimension of the struggle. What these engagements reveal was not only a lack of ideological clarity, but the common aim, shared by a wide range of students, activists and politicians, of building a modern society, but differing over the doctrines and methods to be used. From the beginning, the Club also actively contested national issues like communalism, language and culture. It warned against the dangers of communal politics pursued by the Federation’s political parties and emphasised the need to build the nation on non-communal bricks. During the merger debates in 1960-1962, the Club strongly criticised the race-inspired politics of the British, Singapore and Federation governments in the creation of “Greater Malaysia” at the proverbial day of reckoning for the Singapore left. Rather than create a society based on established ethnic divisions, the Club envisioned a modern state built upon a national language and culture that was at the same time free of the taint of the coloniser. This reminds us of the sort of nationalist project which, as Partha Chatterjee points out, was both modernist and non-Western. Like other groups in post-war Singapore and Malaya, including the PAP, the University Socialists advocated the choice of Malay as the national language, ahead of English. The high point of the Club’s deliberations and advocacy on this question was the 1959 National Language Seminar, which was noteworthy for drawing a distinction between modern Malay and bazaar Malay. It was clear that the Malay language was intended to be both Malayan and relevant to the needs of a new society.

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On the issue of communalism, the convergences between the Socialist Club and other groups were often partial. The Club was overly idealistic in privileging class solidarity. It underestimated how the leftwing Chinese-educated groups, however “Malayan” in their discourses on other issues, continued to emphasise the autonomy of the Chinese language. Culture was one major ideological blindspot of both the University Socialists and the Chinese-educated left in their advocacy of class unity. The other was the lack of clarity about how socialism would resolve class antagonisms in Malaya, which arose deeply from the indebtedness of the Malay peasantry to the Chinese capitalist class and possessed an ethnic dimension. As a left-wing group comprising of students, it was notable that the Club appreciated the ethnic and cultural divisions and the dangers of communal politics, which were aptly illustrated in the outbreak of race riots in Singapore in 1964. But it did not persuasively demonstrate the superiority of the socialist way. As a student group, the Club’s engagement with fellow students also achieved mixed results; this was due to the bipolar ideological divide and the influence of Cold War politics. As a “beacon of light” in student activism, the Club was more successful in collaborating with likeminded socialists at other educational institutions and establishing formal and informal networks of synergy and cooperation. Through the Joint Action Committees, the University Socialists were able to form a united front with students from Nanyang University and Singapore Polytechnic on international, national and campus issues related to nationalism and socialism, while they also received the moral support of international student bodies. The Club’s empathy for the Chineseeducated students, evident in the lead-up to and the aftermath of the Fajar trial and in the efforts of the short-lived Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation, also bridged two political worlds in a way which greatly distressed the British colonial establishment. To some extent, the Club’s collaboration with the Chinese-educated students decentres the high place of language in the historiography of post-war Singapore. In its activism at the University of Malaya campus, in cooperating with other student bodies in Singapore, Malaya and beyond, and in defending the sanctity of the university from political interference in the 1960s, the language factor was of limited import. In these cases, the University Socialists were acting primarily as student or political activists, rather than as an English-educated group; it is difficult to speak of the latter as a homogeneous group, because at the University of Malaya alone, there were liberal-democratic, democratic socialist and left-wing socialist student groups, not to mention students who were apolitical. Language determined the character and contour of some forms of student politics more than others. Huang Jianli, while charting points of confluence between the English- and Chinese-

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educated groups, has overstated the role of the language factor in the post-war era. Rather, the collective identity of student activists shifted in connection with the historical context, the aims and forms of the movement and one’s partners in the coalition. Convergences alternated frequently with conflict. The Club’s attempts to engage other students and student leaders at the University of Malaya were fraught with difficulty. The different sides clashed frequently and fiercely over the role of students and the principle of partisanship. The great acrimony between the Club and its main campus critic, the Students’ Union, precipitated the collapse of the PMSF in 1956. The question of students’ political involvement beyond the campus deeply divided the two parties, particularly when some University Socialists were members of both organisations and attempted to wear two hats in the PMSF. The Club was “frankly partisan” in an unapologetic way which turned away many ordinary students, frustrated other student activists and spurred the rise of rivals. One may rightfully ask how Malayan history might have otherwise panned out if the Club had not so derided its critics as “patrons, opportunists, clowns and clots”, or if both the Club and its opponents had viewed the world in ideological shades rather than in solid black and white. But even in their failure, the University Socialists were able to push the boundaries of campus debate and activism and force its critics to come forth and define what socialism and politics meant to them. The campus struggles made students redefine their collective self-identity as “students”, and this selfawareness became particularly important when Singapore’s undergraduates were being socialised into the political economy of nationbuilding and industrialisation in the 1960s. The efforts of both the Socialist Club and the DSC in the decade, through their participation in national discourses and activism, demonstrate that both the authorities and mainstream student leaders had largely accepted the place of students in national politics. This was an outcome of the contestation between the two clubs. On the question of the merger, different political and student groups demonstrated a rationalist approach. One exception might seem to be Tommy Koh’s proposal in 1960 that Singapore could, like Israel, survive on its own. Nevertheless, this was still fundamentally a rationalist argument, based on what Koh saw as the political difficulties of an equal merger between the Malay-dominated Federation and a Singapore led by socialist Chinese. The Malayan project had little in it that was natural, as commonly alleged, and demanded a great deal of political engineering to make it a reality. What panned out as the “Greater Malaysia” plan, proposed by the British with the eventual support of the Federation and Singapore governments, was a rationalist way to bind two countries with very different governments, political systems,

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economies and cultures. This “super Malaysia” would, Britain believed, safeguard Malay hegemony in the Federation, suppress communism in Singapore and achieve London’s orderly withdrawal from the region. Besides Tommy Koh, the other leaders of the Socialist Club opposed the plan but continued to seek a viable merger alternative to the “Grand Design” at both intellectual and political levels. They organised a “Basis for Merger” forum to consider the various party approaches to reunification, before mobilising support for the Barisan’s “complete and unconditional merger” position. But its efforts were smashed in 1963; many of the Club’s alumni were arrested in February that year in the preliminary act of the Grand Design, Operation Coldstore, while Fajar itself was banned later in the year. The crackdown decimated the left and consigned the Club to largely operating on the campus for the remainder of the decade. Through its forums and writings, particularly in the 1966 Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, University Socialists remained hopeful about a genuine merger between the two countries even after Singapore was expelled from Malaysia. But there emerged no new rationalist plan for reunification, and both states developed along even more markedly different routes thereafter. The merger debate and mass arrests of the early 1960s signified that the British experiment had reached its historic conclusion. But when first Malaya obtained its independence in 1957 and Singapore attained self-governing status two years later, the two territories passed into the post-colonial phase. Nationalism and modernity swiftly acquired new meanings and precipitated new projects of development. As the dynamic, tumultuous anti-colonial dawn passed into the solemn day of national planning, consolidation, integration and development, students found themselves transformed from being independent critics to planners and architects of new states and economies. Like cases elsewhere in Asia, the Socialist Club’s role shifted from generating “a strong support for nationalist leadership to a major voice in opposition”, particularly in opposing the Malaysia scheme.5 After Coldstore and the Fajar ban, Singapore’s robust growth as a sovereign nation-state driven by foreign capital finally brought the wider political activism of the Socialist Club to an end. The University Socialists found that they had to constrain their activism to the campus in the defence of academic freedom and student rights for much of the rest of the 1960s. In working with other students at the university and with other educational institutions, they had to operate increasingly as students and less as political activists. Their political opposition was similar to the South Korean student movement in the 1980s, which in its critiques of major political, social, economic and cultural issues in society, manufactured a “counterdiscourse to the dominant ideology of the state”.6

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It was one of the ironies of the Club’s history that, despite the numerical majority and influence of Federation students at the early University of Malaya, its impact on Malayan politics was decidedly minimal. Among the early University Socialists who returned to Malaya, M.K. Rajakumar joined the Labour Party and the Socialist Front while Kwa Boo Sun joined a left-wing union in Perak. The Club, however, had limited influence on Malayan politics, despite the articles in Fajar advocating a socialist solution to the problem of poverty among the Malay peasantry and the contact between Federation and Singapore student unions. Much of this was ultimately due to the dominance of the ethnic-based politics in the peninsula, helmed by the Alliance government. James Puthucheary is sometimes credited with a role in the launch of the New Economic Policy in 1971, for which he was consulted by the Malaysian government, but it is uncertain if the policy of special rights for the Malays contained much of his socialist ideas for addressing the issue of Malay poverty.7 Most other University Socialists who remained politically active upon their graduation continued, despite their place of origin, to operate in Singapore, but the left-wing movement they supported could not bridge the growing political divide between the two territories. Their struggles would be repeated in the early 1960s by the PAP’s failure to break into Malaysian politics on a reformist socialist platform. From a comparative perspective, the history of the Socialist Club distinguishes the Singapore experience from many cases of student activism in post-war Asia and elsewhere. Philip Altbach explained that student movements in the developing world have often been more successful politically than their Western counterparts, because they have claimed for themselves a role as being a “normal” part of the political system.8 In contrast, despite its role in the left-wing movement, the Socialist Club consistently found itself on the periphery of student politics at the University of Malaya, where its opponents represented it as being doctrinaire and dangerously Marxian. Altbach also maintained that political systems in the developing world, being usually less stable, provided more space and opportunities for student activists to operate.9 Again, this does not apply well to the Club’s history. In managing the path to decolonisation of a strategic base and important entrepot port, the British colonial regime permitted socialist-minded students at the University of Malaya to form a political club and enliven political debate on campus, but was determined to continually harass it and keep it offbalance. The University Socialists succeeded in extending their activism into the wider political life of Singapore and to a lesser extent, Malaya, but what it could achieve also depended on the limits of Britishorganised decolonisation. The trial of the Club’s eight members in 1954 was a harbinger of official surveillance and suppression in the years to

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come, which intensified after the PAP came to power and transformed the thrust of parliamentary politics to national integration. Josef Silverstein, who observes that governments in Southeast Asia have always reacted strongly against student movements, was closer to the mark in his assessment of student politics in the region. Wielding the stick worked far better in Singapore particularly where students could see the material rewards of withdrawing from political participation.10 Despite its deregistration in 1971, the Club remains deeply embedded in the social memories of Singapore and Malaysia in the present day. The memories and mythologies which have emerged from the years of contestation, curtailment and convergence are also deeply ambivalent. The Club’s alumni have mythologised their student pasts in different ways. Those who had since joined the establishment and emerged on the side of the victors typically recall the Fajar trial as a breaking moment for the PAP and for Singapore. Arrayed against them are many others who remain firmly opposed to the official version of history and seek the vindication of their contributions in the historical record; in this sense, they are not losers of history. But even between the lines of the official memory and countermemories, there is a basic agreement that history, if objectively written, will distinguish right from wrong, truth from propaganda. This, both victors and defeated believe, will also educate “apathetic” young Singaporeans in the present day who know little of their country’s important recent history. The intersection of these different memories recalls the rationalist efforts of the Socialist Club and both its allies and rivals to create new nations after the war. As elderly participants discursively represent young Singaporeans, it becomes clear that, through the use of history, the wheels of modernist development and social engineering are continuing to turn.

The University Socialists: Biographical Sketches

This list of Socialist Club members, though incomplete, gives some sense of their pre-university background as well as their diverse endeavours upon graduation from the university up to the present day. Abdul Razak Ahmad (6 June 1939-20 August 2007) was born in Johor and attended Sekolah Melayu, Ngee Heng School, Public English School and Johor English College. He entered the University of Malaya in 1963 to study Law on a Johor state scholarship. He was the Socialist Club’s Secretary-General and, in 1966, served as its President. During his term of office, the Club celebrated its 13th anniversary with a Seminar on Communalism and National Unity on 30 September-2 October 1966. He was expelled from Singapore for his role in the prouniversity autonomy student protests that year. After graduating from university, Ahmad was involved in the Partai Sosialis Rayat, Malaysia, and became the Chairman of its Johor branch. In 1986, he led a group of demonstrators in protesting the visit of Israeli President Chaim Herzog to Singapore. Kassim Ahmad (b. 9 September 1933) was born in a village in Kedah and studied in a Malay vernacular primary school and an English secondary school. He entered the University of Malaya in 1956 and subsequently joined the Socialist Club. He wrote poems and short stories during his undergraduate years. Following his graduation, Ahmad went on to obtain his Master’s degree in Malay Studies at the University of Malaya, before teaching in several educational institutions, including the School of Oriental and African Studies in London. He was the Chairman of the Malaysian Socialist Party from 1968 to 1984 and has published several books on poetry, literary criticism, politics, Islamic philosophy and religion. Dr Gopal Baratham (9 September 1935-23 April 2002) was born in Singapore. Dr Baratham studied at St Andrew’s School before entering the University of Malaya in 1954. Other than being the editor of Fajar in 1958, he also wrote regularly for the column, Campus Notes, which appeared in the Sunday Mail. He was an active member of the

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Management Committee in the University of Malaya Society, and was the editor of its journal, Commentary. He graduated with a degree in Medicine in 1961. Dr Baratham spent seven years training as a neurosurgeon in England, before returning to Singapore in 1972. He worked in several hospitals and was head of neurosurgery at Tan Tock Seng Hospital (1984-1987) before he left for private practice. He retired in 1999. Dr Baratham’s novel, A Candle in the Sun, was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Book Prize in 1992. Some of his short stories like Island and The Personal History of an Island dealt with colonialism and politics. Tan Sri Osman Cassim (b. 22 August 1930) was born in Ipoh. Tan Sri Osman Cassim attended a private English school and then Anderson School. He enrolled in the University of Malaya in 1949 and joined the Socialist Club in 1953. He became the Secretary of the Club and was its treasurer in 1954 at the time of the Fajar trial. He graduated with an Honours degree in Geography the following year and worked in the Government Service. He rose to become the Permanent Secretary for three different ministries in Malaysia. Linda Chen (1928-29 December 2002) was born in China. Chen came to Singapore at the age of one and attended both Chinese and English schools. She entered the University of Malaya in 1950 and joined the Socialist Club soon after. She was an active student leader who was also involved in the formation and activities of the Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation. She was also the founder and Secretary of the Singapore Federation of Women in 1956. Being fluent in three languages – English, Malay and Chinese – Chen could communicate effectively with and initiate links between leaders of various student organisations. She was twice arrested and detained without trial – first on 18 September 1956 and then during Operation Coldstore in 1963. After she was released from detention, she accompanied her husband Dr Tan Seng Huat (also a former Socialist Club member) to London for his postgraduate studies. She returned to Singapore in 1967 and assumed management of her family’s business, the Shanghai Book Company. Despite her business commitments, she retained a continuing interest in the status and position of women in society. Her book, The Early Chinese Newspapers of Singapore, based on her Master’s thesis, was published in 1967, and a Chinese translation was published in 2009. Chow Sing Yau (b. 27 August 1940) was born in Kuala Lumpur. Chow was educated at the Confucian Chinese School in Kuala Lumpur before

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enrolling in the Law Faculty of the University of Malaya in 1962. He was a member of the Socialist Club from 1962 to 1966; in his first year, he was involved in organising the Gallup poll, which revealed that the majority of Tanjong Pagar’s residents were opposed to the merger with Malaya proposed by the PAP. Upon leaving university in 1966, he returned to Kuala Lumpur to practice law, before going into the property business. He is the brother-in-law of Tan Kok Fang, a Nanyang University student activist. Professor Tommy Koh (b. 12 November 1937) was born in Singapore. Professor Koh studied at Raffles Institution before entering the University of Malaya in 1957. He was a member of the Socialist Club from 1957 to 1961 and became its Secretary-General in 1959-1960. He was involved in organising the National Language Seminar in 1959 and was a vocal critique of the PAP’s retention of the Preservation of Public Security Ordinance and its merger policy. In July 1961, after Tunku announced his preliminary plans for Malaysia, Koh represented the Club at the first public forum on the merger, advocating independence for Singapore. A year later, at the Club’s invitation, he was appointed the Chief Supervising Officer of the Gallup Poll on the merger issue. After graduating from university in 1961 with a First Class Honours degree in Law, Koh became the legal adviser to three left-wing trade unions. Two years later, he left the country to pursue his postgraduate studies in law. Upon obtaining his doctorate, he joined University of Singapore’s Faculty of Law and became a Professor in 1977. He subsequently served as Singapore’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York (1968-1971 and 1974-1984), Singapore’s Ambassador to the United States (1984-1990), in a distinguished career in which he also served in numerous international and Singapore organisations. Chua Sian Chin (b. 1934) was born in Malacca. Chua attended the High School of Malacca and enrolled in the University of Malaya in 1952. He joined the Socialist Club the following year and was a member of its Central Working Committee from 1953 to 1954. With two fellow Club members, Jeyaraj Rajarao and Ong Pang Boon, he was interrogated by the Special Branch following the Fajar arrests the following year and intimidated into becoming a witness for the prosecution. However, at the trial, he was declared a hostile witness because he said that he did not remember what he had told the police during the interrogation. Chua subsequently obtained a degree in Law from the University of London and was called to the Bar at the Inner Temple. While in

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London, he also became the Secretary of the Malayan Forum and the editor of its newspaper, Suara Merdeka. In 1959, he returned to Singapore and joined the law firm Lee & Lee. He entered politics as a PAP candidate in the 1968 general elections and won in Macpherson constituency. He then served as Minister for Health (1968-1975), Home Affairs (1972-1984) and Education (1975-1979). In 1984, he stepped down from the cabinet and retired from politics seven years later, before setting up his own legal practice. Dr Peter Eng Peng Han (year of birth unknown) was born in Port Swettenham, Klang, and studied in Anglo-Chinese School Klang. He entered the University of Malaya in 1959 and four years later, was elected the President of the Socialist Club, representing it at the 7th International Union of Socialist Youths Congress in Oslo, Norway. In 1964, he graduated with a degree in Medicine and moved to Malaysia. Subsequently, Dr Eng and Dr M.K. Rajakumar, a friend and fellow former Club member, set up a clinic. Dr Eng helped to oversee Dr Rajakumar’s medical practice when the latter was detained under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act from 1965 to 1967. In 1970, Dr Eng emigrated with his family to Australia. Michael Fernandez (b. 24 June 1934) was born in southwestern Kerala, India, and arrived in Singapore in 1948, studying in Esther English School and St Joseph’s Institution before moving to Klang in 1950. He returned to Singapore five years later as a trainee teacher in the Teacher’s Training College attached to St Patrick’s School. As President of the Singapore Catholic Student-Teachers’ Guild (1955-1956), he attended the Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation Annual Conference in 1955 as an observer. He joined the Socialist Club when he enrolled in the University of Malaya in May 1960. He became a member of the Fajar editorial board, taking charge of its business affairs, and was elected to the Central Working Committee as the Secretary of External Affairs in June 1961. In December that year, he was a Club representative, along with fellow members Tan Peng Boo and Ng Leok Yew, at the Asian Seminar in Mysore, India, organised by the International Union of Socialist Youth. Between 1963 and 1964, he was the General-Secretary of the Naval Base Labour Union and the Singapore Commercial House and Factory Employees’ Union, and an adviser to the Singapore European Employees’ Union. As a result of his union activities, he was arrested and detained without trial for nine years between 1964 and 1973. In Changi prison, along with fellow detainees like Dr Lim Hock Siew, he went on a long hunger strike against the conditions in prison. His citizenship was revoked between 1964 and 1984. He was again detained

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without trial for a brief period in 1977. Reggie Fernandez, the principal protagonist in local playwright Robert Yeo’s Singapore Trilogy, is based on Fernandez’s experiences as a political activist and detainee. Fernandez presently lives in Singapore with his family and occasionally writes and does research. Ahmad Mustapha Hassan (b. 2 August 1936) was born in Alor Star, Kedah, and received his education at a Malay-medium primary school, before enrolling in the English-medium Sultan Abdul Hamid College. He joined the University of Malaya in 1956 on a Kedah state scholarship to study History, Economics and Statistics in the Faculty of Arts. He was a member of the Socialist Club from 1956 to 1959, during which he was the Secretary-General in 1958 and the President in 1959, when he helped to organise the National Language Seminar. In the 1959 general elections, he spoke at PAP rallies and worked with the party’s Propaganda Section under S. Rajaratnam; he also served as a polling agent for PAP candidate Ahmad Ibrahim in the Sembawang constituency. Apart from his Socialist Club involvement, Ahmad Mustapha was also the editor of Pelajar, a publication of the Peninsula Malay Students Federation, and the Treasurer of the University Islamic Society, an affiliate of the Federation, in 1958. He was a paid official of the Singapore Harbour Board Staff Association during the long university vacation in 1959, when he assisted Jamit Singh. Upon graduating from university, he joined the Kedah civil service and later served in the administration of Tun Razak as his press secretary. He was also the general manager of Bernama, Malaysia’s official news agency, in the 1980s, working for Dr Mahathir Mohamad (who was his uncle) before starting his own business. His exposé on Malaysian politics and society, The Unmaking of Malaysia, was published in 2007. Koh Kay Yew (b. 30 November 1944) was born on 30 November 1944 in Kuala Lumpur, but moved to Singapore in 1945. He studied at St Andrew’s School from 1951 to 1962 and enrolled in the Arts Faculty of the University of Singapore in May 1963, when he joined the Socialist Club. He became editor of Siaran Kelab Sosialis 1963-1965, Secretary General in 1964-1965, and President in 1965-1966. He authored the 17-page long anti-Vietnam War memorandum submitted by the Joint Activities Committee to the US Consul-General in 1965. He was a member of the Malaysian Students’ Goodwill Mission to Africa in 1965. He was also Associate Editor of The Undergrad in 1964 and President of the University of Singapore Economics Society in 19651966. He graduated in May 1966 with a B.A. (Upper II Honours) in Economics and did Economics research up to the end of 1968. He

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spent the majority of his working life in the aviation and hospitalityrelated industries until he retired at the end of 2009. He was arrested and detained from 14 February 1977 to 15 April 1977 with seven other former members of the Socialist Club and others, mainly university graduates and professionals. He has co-edited the books Our Thoughts Are Free: Poems and Prose on Imprisonment and Exile (2006) and The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (2009). Kwa Boo Sun (b. 1933) joined the University of Malaya in 1953 and was one of eight members of the Fajar editorial board arrested and charged with sedition that year. After the trial, he was elected the Club’s Publication Secretary following Sydney Woodhull’s graduation in August. After Kwa left the University in late 1957, he taught in Monks’ Hill Secondary School, where one of his students was Peter Yip, who became the Secretary-General of the Socialist Club in the mid-1960s. Kwa then became a paid secretary of the Malayan Mine Workers’ Union in Ipoh, for which he was labelled a member of the Communist united front in one of Lee Kuan Yew’s radio talks on the merger. Subsequently, Kwa and his wife, Sally, a former Treasurer of the Club, migrated to Australia. In Adelaide where they made their home, Kwa wrote a historical account of the Singapore Teachers’ Union, recording the story of one of the few unions of English-speaking workers to support the leftwing labour movement in post-war Singapore. Lam Khuan Kit (b. 1932) was born in Ipoh. Lam was educated at the Anglo-Chinese School in Ipoh and graduated in the same year as Jamit Singh. He enrolled in the Arts faculty of the University of Malaya in 1950 to read English, Economics and History. In his Honours year, he pursued Economics with fellow student James Puthucheary. Lam was one of the Fajar 8 charged by the British government for sedition, but acquitted, in 1954. In the general elections the following year, he was a polling agent for Devan Nair at Farrer Park constituency. He went on to study Law at Lincoln’s Inn from 1956 to 1959. In the 1964 Malaysian general elections, he stood unsuccessfully as a PAP candidate in Damansara. Lee Ting Hui alias Lee Ah Chai alias Zeng Tu (b. 1930) enrolled in the University of Malaya in 1951 to read history on a scholarship from the Federal Government of Malaya. He became involved in the Socialist Club after Sydney Woodhull introduced him into the Club. He became the Club’s Publications Secretary and was the editor of Fajar for one term, but subsequently resigned from the Central Working Committee.

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After graduating from university, Lee taught variously at St Andrew’s School, the Chinese High and later in the Chinese Department of the University of Malaya (where he taught Lee Guan Kin). He pursued his PhD studies at the university and later Oxford University but did not complete his doctorate. He returned to Singapore, where he worked in the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education, Teachers’ Training College, the Political Studies Centre and the Department of History of the National University of Singapore, before retiring in 1991. He received his PhD in History from the latter in 1985. He is a successful poet and continues to write poems today. His publications include The Open United Front: The Communist Struggle in Singapore 1954-1966 (1996) and Chinese Schools in British Malaya: Policies and Politics (2006). Dr Lim Hock Siew (b. February 1931) was born in Singapore. Dr Lim studied at Rangoon Road School and then Raffles Institution, before entering the University of Malaya to read Medicine. He was the Chairman of the Fajar Defence Fund in 1954 which managed to raise enough money to meet the expenses of the Queen’s Counsel, D.N. Pritt. Dr Lim was also a founding member of the PAP in the same year. When the party split in 1961, he left to join the Barisan Sosialis. He was arrested and detained without trial under Operation Coldstore in 1963 and held till 1982. He still practices at the Rakyat Clinic, set up by him and Dr Poh Soo Kai in the 1960s. His brother is Lim Hock Koon, a Chung Cheng High School student activist. Lim Teck Hui (8 December 1939-19 July 2005) was born in Singapore and attended Victoria School. He entered the Law Faculty of the University of Malaya and became a member, then President, of the Socialist Club. Upon graduating from university, he went on to obtain a postgraduate Business Law Diploma. He was admitted as an Advocate and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Singapore in 1967, but later entered private practice. He was the Chairman of the Criminal Law Review Board for many years and was also appointed a Justice of the Peace in 1986. A. Mahadeva (4 November 1931-22 August 2005) was born in Sri Lanka. Mahadeva came to Singapore at the age of one. His father was a civil servant in Singapore. He attended Victoria School before enrolling in the University of Malaya. After graduating from university, he became a journalist with the Tiger Standard in 1957 and later the Straits Times. He was a founding member and then Secretary-General of the Singapore National Union

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of Journalists in 1961. He was arrested and detained without trial under Operation Coldstore in 1963 and held for six years. He was stripped of his citizenship upon his release and was detained again without trial in 1977 for more than six months. He later became the manager of a finance company in Singapore. Sellapan Ramanathan (S.R.) Nathan (b. 3 July 1924) was born in Singapore. Nathan attended Anglo-Chinese Primary School, AngloChinese Middle School and Victoria School. He studied for the equivalent of an ‘A’ Level certificate while working in Muar, Johor. He entered the University of Malaya on a Shell bursary to read Social Work in the Economics Department. He became the Socialist Club’s SecretaryGeneral, but subsequently resigned from the Central Working Committee. After graduating from university in 1954, Nathan went on to a long career in the civil service in various ministries such as Labour, Home Affairs, Defence and Foreign Affairs. He subsequently became Singapore’s High Commissioner to Malaysia (1988-1990) and Ambassador to the United States (1990-1996). From 1999-2011, he was the President of Singapore. Philomen Oorjitham (year of birth unknown) was educated at the Anglo-Chinese School in Seremban. Oorjitham enrolled in the University of Malaya in 1951. When the Socialist Club was formed in February 1953, he was elected the Secretary-General of its Central Working Committee. Like many other Club activists, he helped found the People’s Action Party in November the following year. He was a 3rd year Medical student when elected the first President of the PanMalayan Students’ Federation in March 1953. He represented the Federation in many international students’ conferences and in 1955 attended the meeting of the National Students’ Union in Birmingham. He held the post till 1956 when the Federation was dissolved. Due to family commitments, Oorjitham was not politically active following his graduation from university. He stood as a candidate in Kallang constituency in the 1963 general elections as a Barisan Sosialis candidate but lost. His family subsequently migrated to Perth, Australia, and he died there in 1986. Ong Pang Boon (b. 27 March 1929) was born in Kuala Lumpur, where he received his early education in Chinese-medium schools. He enrolled in the University of Malaya in 1950 to study Geography. He became the Treasurer of the Socialist Club. Along with two fellow Club members, Chua Sian Chin and Jeyaraj Rajarao, he was interrogated by the Special Branch following the Fajar arrests in 1954 and intimidated

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into becoming a witness for the prosecution. Like the other two, he was declared a hostile witness after declaring that he was unable to recall what he had told the police during the interrogation. Ong graduated with Honours later that year and joined the PAP in 1955. He was elected to Parliament in 1959 as the Member of Parliament for Telok Ayer and was a cabinet minister from 1959 to 1984. He was also the party’s Organising Secretary (1956-1963) and Assistant Secretary-General (1963-1981). He retired from politics in 1988. Gopinath Pillai (b. 1937) was born in Singapore. Gopinath attended Choon Guan English School (later known as Presbyterian Boys’ School) and St Andrew’s School. He first enrolled in the Arts Faculty of the University of Malaya in Singapore but was soon transferred to the Kuala Lumpur campus of the university. On his return to the Singapore campus, he joined the Socialist Club in 1958 and later became its President. After graduating from university in 1961, Gopinath became a teacher and joined the Singapore Teachers’ Union. He later started his own business with investments in education, logistics and information technology. He has served as Singapore’s ambassador to Pakistan and Iran, and is currently an Ambassador-at-Large. Dr Poh Soo Kai (b. 1930) was born in Singapore and entered the University of Malaya in 1950. He was a founding member of the Socialist Club in 1953 and became its second President from August that year till the following year. He was one of the eight members of the Fajar editorial board charged with sedition in 1954. He graduated three years later with a degree in Medicine. Dr Poh was also a founding member of the PAP in 1954. When the party split in 1961, he left to join the Barisan Sosialis and was its Assistant Secretary-General. He was arrested and detained without trial under Operation Coldstore in 1963 and held until 1973. He continued his outspoken criticism of the PAP government and was again detained without trial under the Internal Security Act in 1976 for another seven years. He was a practising doctor. He co-edited the book, The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (2009) James Puthucheary (1923-3 April 2000) was born in India. Puthucheary moved to Malaya with his family in the 1930s and studied at the Johor English College. During World War II, he joined the Indian National Army to fight against the British in Burma. In 1947, returning to Malaya, he entered Raffles College, the precursor to the

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University of Malaya, and also joined the Anti-British League. In 1951, he was detained by the British Special Branch for one and a half years. Rejoining the University of Malaya after his release, Puthucheary was a founding member of the Socialist Club in 1953. He was one of the eight members charged with sedition in the Fajar trial the following year. After his acquittal, he graduated from university with a degree in Economics and was a founding member of the PAP. He also became involved in the trade union movement, particularly the Singapore Factory and Shop Workers’ Union, and was one of the “Big Six” union leaders. He was arrested by the Special Branch again in 1956 at the instruction of Lim Yew Hock. After the PAP came to power in 1959, he was released and appointed by Dr Goh Keng Swee as Director of the Singapore Industrial Promotion Board in June. When the PAP split in 1961, Puthucheary became an adviser to the Barisan Sosialis. He was arrested and detained without trial during Operation Coldstore in 1963 and exiled to Kuala Lumpur. Following his release in November that year, he was barred from entering Singapore and participating in politics. He then entered private legal practice. He also actively participated in the National Unity Council and the National Economic Council formed by Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Tun Abdul Razak after the May 1969 riots. No Cowardly Past, a collection of his writings and poems, was published in 1998 before his death in 2000. His influential book, Ownership and Control of the Malayan Economy, written in prison, remains relevant and in print. Dr M.K. Rajakumar (25 May 1932-22 November 2008) was born in Malacca, where he studied in the Government High School. In 1950, he obtained a state scholarship to read Medicine at the University of Malaya. He was a founding member of the Socialist Club in 1953 and one of the eight members arrested and charged with sedition in the Fajar trial the following August. From 1954 to 1955, he was the president of the Club. He was also a member of the Students’ Council of the University of Malaya Students’ Union and a member of the University Student Welfare Board. After receiving his medical degree in 1957, Dr Rajakumar worked in the general hospital in Malacca, then joined the general hospital in Kuala Lumpur and finally established his own practice in Klang in the early 1960s. He also became involved in the then Labour Party in Malaya and later the Socialist Front, and was detained under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act from 1965 to 1967. In his subsequent professional career upon his release from detention, he played a leading role in various national and international medical organisations.

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Jeyaraj Rajarao (b. 1932) was born in Penang. Rajarao studied in the Penang Free School and enrolled in the University of Malaya in 1953 on a Malayan Government Teaching Bursary. He became a member of the Socialist Club that year and was on the Fajar editorial board. With two fellow Club members, Chua Sian Chin and Ong Pang Boon, he was interrogated by the Special Branch following the Fajar arrests the following year and intimidated into becoming a witness for the prosecution, though he was eventually declared a hostile witness. He became the Secretary-General of the Club in 1957-1958, and its President in 1958-1959. Rajarao received a First Class Honours in History in 1958, before going to the United Kingdom to pursue a PhD in History at the School of Oriental and African Studies on a British Council (later Commonwealth) scholarship. He returned to Penang without completing the degree due to differences with his supervisor and subsequently worked in the Rubber Research Institute in Malaya as its publications editor, information chief and librarian. Dr Agoes Salim (year of birth unknown) enrolled in the University of Malaya in 1954 on a scholarship from the Federal Government of Malaya. Prior to this, he had read issues of Fajar and sent a small monetary contribution to the Fajar Defence Fund that year. He became the Socialist Club’s President in 1956. Upon graduating from university, Dr Salim returned to Malaysia to join the civil service. Subsequently, he went for his studies in the United States and obtained his PhD from the University of Wisconsin. He is an economist and was the first Secretary-General of the National Unity Ministry in Malaysia. He was on the public service secretariat of the National Operations Council following the 1969 racial riots in Malaysia and helped draw up both the Rukunegara and the New Economic Policy, for which James Puthucheary was also involved. Dr Salim was also the former Chairman of Bank Pertanian before starting his own private business. Dr Viswanatthan Selvaratnam (b. 12 May 1934) was born in Ipoh. Selvaratnam changed school several times as his father received different postings with the Malayan Railway. He entered the Arts Faculty of the University of Malaya in 1956, where he read Economics and History, doing his Honours in the latter. He was a member of the Socialist Club from 1956 to 1960. In 1958-1959, he was the Club’s Research Secretary and Publications Secretary. He helped secure the renewal of Fajar’s publication licence in May 1959, although it only became active in June after the PAP came to power. After obtaining his PhD, he taught at various tertiary institutions such as the University of

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Malaya’s Economics Department and the National University of Singapore’s Sociology Department. He also worked for ASEAN and the World Bank. Jamit Singh (1929-10 December 1994) was born in Sungei Siput. He studied in Clifford School, Kuala Kangsar, and Anglo-Chinese School, Ipoh. After joining the University of Malaya, he was a member of the editorial team of the Malayan Undergrad headed by Wang Gungwu. He was a founding member of the Socialist Club and an official of the Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation in 1953. In university, he was also an elected President of the Raffles Society and a Student Councillor in the University of Malaya Students’ Union. In May 1954, after he graduated from university, he became the paid secretary of the Singapore Harbour Board Staff Association. Two years later, he became the Secretary of the Singapore Trade Unions’ Working Committee and later, the Secretary of the Civil Rights Committee. He was also an adviser to several trade unions. In the 1955 and 1959 general elections, Singh and many Harbour Board workers campaigned for Lee Kuan Yew in Tanjong Pagar constituency. He was arrested and detained without trial during Operation Coldstore in 1963. Four years later following his release from detention, he returned to teach in Kuala Kangsar and then in Anglo-Chinese School and Methodist High School in Ipoh till he retired in 1994. He passed away on 10 December that year. Tan Guan Heng (b. 1937) attended Raffles Institution and enrolled in the Faculty of Arts of the University of Malaya in 1957. He joined the Socialist Club the following year and was elected its Treasurer. He became the Secretary-General in 1960 and also contributed articles to Fajar. He graduated from university in 1961. Despite his visual handicap, Tan has written two books, My Love Is Blind (1995) and Night Butterfly (2001). An unpublished manuscript on student life in the 1950s, The People’s Verdict: Singapore in the 1950s, is deposited with the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library. His latest book is 100 Inspiring Rafflesians: 1823-2003. Tan is also the President of the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped. Tan Jing Quee (18 January 1939-14 June 2011) enrolled in the University of Malaya in 1956 and was a member of the Socialist Club from 1960 to 1963. He was also the editor of Fajar in 1960 and the Club’s President. In 1961, he chaired the Club’s first public forum on the debate on the merger. He also consolidated the Joint Activity Committee – comprising the Socialist Club and the political societies of Nanyang University and Singapore Polytechnic – initiated by the

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previous Central Working Committee under Gopinath Pillai and Tommy Koh. Upon his graduation from university, Tan became a full-time paid secretary and was elected Assistant Secretary-General of the Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU). In the 1963 general elections, he contested Kampong Glam constituency as a Barisan Sosialis candidate but lost to PAP opponent S. Rajaratnam by 237 votes. When SATU called a protest strike against the government’s deregistration of seven major left-wing trade unions, Tan was arrested and detained without trial with most of the SATU leadership. He was released from detention in late 1966 and went to London to study Law. He returned to Singapore four years later and was again detained without trial in 1977. He then became a practising lawyer upon his release. Despite failing eyesight and health in recent years, he was a prolific writer and editor of books relating to the history of the left. He has co-edited, Comet in Our Skies: Lim Chin Siong in History (2001), a volume of essays in memory of Lim Chin Siong; Our Thoughts Are Free: Poems and Prose on Imprisonment and Exile (2006); The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (2009); The Mighty Wave (2011); and The May 13 Generation: The Chinese Middle Schools Student Movement and Singapore Politics in the 1950s (2011). In addition, Tan penned a number of biographical profiles of fellow socialists on the online journal s-pores. He also wrote Love’s Travelogue (2004), a book of poetry, and The Chempaka Tree (2009), a collection of short stories. Edwin Nadason Thumboo (b. 22 November 1933) was born in Singapore into a middle-class family living in Mandai. He studied at Pasir Panjang Primary School (1940), Monk’s Hill Secondary School (1946) and Victoria School (1948). In 1953, he entered the University of Malaya, majoring in History and English Literature with a minor in Philosophy. In 1954, he was one of eight Fajar editorial board members arrested on but eventually acquitted of charges of sedition. In November that year, he was among four students suspended from his hostel for excessive ragging. At the time he graduated from university with an Honours degree in English in 1956, he had already published his first collection of poetry, Rib of Earth. Before acquiring his doctorate in African Poetry in 1970, he served in various positions in the Singapore civil service with the Income Tax Department (1957-1961), Central Provident Fund Board (1961-1965) and Singapore Telephone Board (1965-1966), and became an assistant lecturer at the University of Singapore. He went on to become a pioneering literary stalwart and awardwinning poet and academic in Singapore, publishing several

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anthologies of Singaporean and Malaysian literary writing, and collections of poetry. He received numerous awards for his accomplishments both in public service and literature. As an academic, he headed the Department of English Language and Literature of the National University of Singapore between 1977 and 1993 and was Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences between 1980 and 1991. He was also the first Chairman and Director of the university’s Centre for the Arts between 1993 and 2005. He was appointed an Emeritus Professor after his retirement in September 1997. Professor Wang Gungwu (b. 9 October 1930) was born in Surabaya. Professor Wang grew up in Malaya and attended the Anderson School in Ipoh, Nanking University in China and the University of Malaya in Singapore. He was a founding member of the Socialist Club and its founding President in 1953. Other than being a distinguished student leader, he was also active in literary activities on campus. Professor Wang received his Master’s degree in History from the University of Malaya and his PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies in 1957. He led the committee on the curriculum review of Nanyang University in 1965. In 1969, he was also a founding member of the Gerakan Party in Malaysia. In his illustrious academic career, he has taught or held positions at the University of Malaya (both in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur), Australian National University, University of Hong Kong, and National University of Singapore. He is presently the Chairman of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies and of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy of the National University of Singapore. Sydney Woodhull (1933-25 November 2003) entered the University of Malaya in 1951 as a Sultan Ibrahim scholar from Johor. He was a founding member of the Socialist Club in 1953, serving as Financial Secretary in the first Central Working Committee. Following his arrest and acquittal in the Fajar controversy the following year, he graduated with a degree in English. He was involved in the trade union movement and became one of the “Big Six” union leaders for his leadership of the Naval Base Labour Union. He was arrested by the Special Branch in 1956. After the PAP came to power in 1959, he was released and appointed Political Secretary in the Ministry of Health. When the PAP split in 1961, Woodhull joined the Barisan Sosialis. He was arrested and detained without trial under Operation Coldstore in 1963 and exiled to Kuala Lumpur. Following his release in November that year, he was barred from participating in politics. He left for the United Kingdom to study law and upon graduation was a practising lawyer till his retirement in 2001.

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Peter Yip (year of birth unknown) attended Monk’s Hill Secondary School, where he was taught by Kwa Boo Sun, and Raffles Institution. He entered the Arts Faculty of the University of Malaya and in 1966, became the Club’s Secretary-General. He was involved in attempting to set up a National Union of Singapore Students which included students of University of Singapore, Nanyang University, Singapore Polytechnic and Ngee Ann College. In 1966, he was expelled from Singapore by the PAP government for his part in the pro-university autonomy student protests. Yip went on to study at Cambridge University and the London School of Economics, and completed a Master’s degree in Law. He taught briefly at the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur and is now a businessman in Johor. His application to re-enter Singapore in the early 1980s was rejected and he has not been in Singapore since his expulsion.

Timeline of Events

1953 – Inaugural meeting of the Socialist Club at the University of Malaya, Singapore (21 February). – 1st issue of Fajar produced (March). – Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation formed with P.S.G. Oorjitham as first President (March). 1954 – Reorganisation of the Club. Poh Soo Kai and M.K. Rajakumar take over as Club President and Secretary-General respectively. Fajar editorial board established. – 7th issue of Fajar, with editorial “Aggression in Asia”, published (10 May). – Eight editorial board committee members arrested on charges of sedition (28 May). – The Fajar Defence Fund established. – The Club begins to robustly express its support for workers, peasants and the Chinese middle school student movement. Many Club alumni join the trade unions and political parties after graduation. – D.N. Pritt arrives in Singapore to defend the Fajar 8; Judge F.A. Chua acquits the students of all charges (August). – Club members and alumni help found the People’s Action Party (November). – Club members Walter Ayuthury and Chua Sian Chin do not have their university scholarships renewed. 1955 – Formation of the Democratic Club (January or February). – University Socialists Lim Hock Siew, A. Mahadeva, M.K. Rajakumar and Poh Soo Kai campaign for C.V. Devan Nair (PAP) during the Singapore Legislative Assembly elections. Club members help out at the four PAP-contested constituencies on Polling Day (MarchApril).

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– University Socialists support the Chinese Middle Schools Students Union’s donation drives for flood victims (October-January 1956). – The Club’s Club Central Working Committee alters its constitution and passes resolutions urging members to participate actively in the political life of Singapore and Malaya and advance the cause of socialism through the labour and peasant movements (November). 1956 – The Club organises forum on political developments in Singapore and Malay in the university (February). – 1st romanised Malay edition of Fajar produced (July). 1957 – Lim Hock Siew and Poh Soo Kai campaign for Lee Kuan Yew in the Tanjong Pagar by-election. – Publication of Fajar halted after editorial board refuses demand by Lim Yew Hock government to submit Fajar articles for approval before publication. 1959 – Publication of Fajar resumes in July after V. Selvaratnam, the Club Publications Secretary, obtains a license permit in May. – The Club organises a two-day Seminar on the National Language in the university (August). 1960 – The Joint Activities Committee of the University of Malaya Socialist Club, the Singapore Polytechnic Political Society and the Nanyang University Political Science Society, is formed; Gopinath Pillai is the first Chairman of the Committee (October). – Circulation of Fajar, along with several Nanyang University student publications, is banned in the Federation of Malaya. 1961 – The Club joins other student societies in condemning the murder of Congolese anti-colonial leader Patrice Lumumba by Belgian troops. – The Joint Activities Committee organises a political forum on “The Need for Left-wing Unity” (24 February), and issues a joint statement stressing the need for unity in the anti-colonial struggle and indicating support for the PAP (March). – The Joint Activities Committee issues a statement on Nomination Day for the Hong Lim by-election urging the public to support the

TIMELINE OF EVENTS













283

PAP and the “legitimate aspirations of our people for freedom and democracy” (March). The Nanyang University Students’ Union, Singapore Polytechnic Students’ Union, University of Malaya in Singapore Students’ Union, and the Socialist Club collectively pledge support for the Algerian people and students’ fight against colonialism (March). The Club holds the first ever public forum “The Basis for a Merger” to discuss Singapore’s response to the Tunku’s “Malaysia” proposal (11 July). The Club’s Central Working Committee issues “Open Letter” to Tunku Abdul Rahman to clarify the Club’s understanding of the communal divisions in Malaya (August). The Club supports the Utusan Melayu staff’s strike against the UMNO government’s attempt to interfere with the newspaper’s editorial policies. The Barisan Sosialis is founded, with four Socialist Club alumni among its twelve-member executive committee: Sydney Woodhull, Poh Soo Kai, Lim Hock Siew and James Puthucheary. Other Club members who joined the Barisan included Philomen Oorjitham, Tan Jing Quee, Albert Lim Shee Ping and Sheng Nam Chin (August). The three student societies of the Joint Activities Committee begin to voice their criticisms of the proposed terms of the merger with Malaya (October).

1962 – The Joint Activities Committee holds Gallup Poll to assess the people’s views on the proposed merger in Tanjong Pagar (July). 1963 – Numerous Club alumni, including James Puthucheary, Sydney Woodhull, Lim Hock Siew, Poh Soo Kai, Jamit Singh, A. Mahadeva, Albert Lim Shee Ping and Ho Piao, arrested under Operation Coldstore; Fajar and five Nanyang University publications banned in Singapore (February). – Club members campaigned for Barisan Sosialis candidates such as Philomen Oorjitham during the September 1963 elections in Singapore. – Other Club alumni like Tan Jing Quee, together with Barisan Sosialis leaders and trade unionists, arrested in Operation Pecah, before protest strike against the Registrar of Trade Unions’ move to deregister the Singapore Association of Trade Unions for alleged “communist front activities” (October).

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1964 – Siaran Kelab Sosialis produced and circulated within the campus. – The Joint Activities Committee issues statement protesting the Federal government’s suppression of political opposition in the Borneo territories (April). – Goh Kian Chee, son of Goh Keng Swee, leads a group of students in an attempt to join the Socialist Club. Upon being rejected, they form the Democratic Socialist Club. – The Club sends a telegram to the Acting Prime Minister of the Federation of Malaysia protesting the introduction of Suitability Certificates (July). 1965 – A Joint Activities Committee delegation led by University Socialist James E. Wee presents a seventeen-page memorandum protesting U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War to the U.S. Consul-General. The document is researched and written by Koh Kay Yew. – Koh Kay Yew’s state scholarship withdrawn by the government without prior notice or explanation. – Forty Club members undertake study tour of Malaya to investigate the political, social and economic situation in the country (July). – The Joint Activities Committee issues joint statement protesting the PAP government’s decision to charge non-Singapore citizens full school fees from 1966 (December). 1966 – The Joint Activities Committee organises a demonstration against the Nanyang University Curriculum Review Report; more than 150 students picket outside the Singapore Chinese Chambers of Commerce building, while a delegation presents a “Memorandum on the Present Nanyang University Crisis” to the President of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce, seeking his intervention. – The Ministry of Culture orders the Socialist Club to obtain a permit for the publication of Siaran or cease publication; the Club is told to register with the Registrar of Societies under the Societies Act. – University Socialists like Chan Kian Hin and Peter Wee are active in leading the Students’ Union pro-university autonomy and student rights movement. – The Club organises a forum to consider the Indochina War and the Cold War, together with an exhibition highlighting Western imperial aggression in Vietnam and Rhodesia. – The Club organises a three-day Seminar on Communalism and National Unity at the University of Singapore (September-October).

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– Malaysian-born Club Central Working Committee members Chan Kian Hin, Peter Wee, Abdul Razak and Club supporter Gurdial Singh expelled from Singapore for participation in demonstrations by Ngee Ann College students (November). 1967 – Socialist Club and Democratic Socialist Club co-organise a forum on “Reunification: Dream or Reality” to consider the idea of a remerger. 1968 – The Club and Singapore Polytechnic Political Society presents petition opposing Operation Rolling Thunder to the U.S. ambassador in Singapore. – Club members participate in non-violent demonstration organised by University of Singapore students protesting the Mylai incident outside the American Embassy (March). – Club members participate in protests against the Soviet Union’s invasion of Czechoslovakia outside the Soviet Trade Mission (August). 1969 – The Club organises a “Seminar on the Problems of the Left in Malaya”. – The Club condemns the Malaysian government’s arrest of the President of the University of Malaya Students’ Union for involvement in anti-government activities (September). 1970 – Assistant Registrar of Societies John Pasqual serves order on the Club to furnish proof of existence or be deregistered. The Club refuses to submit membership details and denounces the government notice as another attempt to suppress the Club (October). 1971 – The University Socialist Club is de-registered.

Notes

1 1

2

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7

8

The Socialist Club and the Modernity Project For the sake of simplicity, the term “University of Malaya” is used here in general references although the university had various incarnations. The University of Malaya was founded in 1949 and based at the Bukit Timah campus. In 1958, it became the University of Malaya in Singapore, due to a Malayan campus established in Kuala Lumpur, and was then renamed University of Singapore four years later. The same applies to the University of Malaya Students’ Union. Sonny Yap, Richard Lim and Leong Weng Kam, Men in White: The Untold Story of Singapore’s Ruling Political Party (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, 2009), pp. 19, 33-35; Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Sydney Woodhull, 16 June 1985. Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew (eds.), The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (Petaling Jaya: SIRD, 2009), p. xvii. Koh Kay Yew, “Coming of Age in the Sixties”, in Poh, Tan and Koh, The Fajar Generation, p. 261. Michel-Rolph Trouillot, Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (Boston: Beacon Press, 1995), pp. 26-9; Lysa Hong and Huang Jianli, “Language Fault Lines: The Wang Gungwu Report on Nanyang University”, The Scripting of a National History: Singapore and its Pasts (Singapore: NUS Press, 2008). The only substantial study of the Socialist Club is Koh Tat Boon, “University of Singapore Socialist Club 1953-1962” (unpublished academic exercise, History Department, University of Singapore, 1973). The research is useful but it ends in 1962 and says little about campus politics or the Club’s activism after Operation Coldstore. Koh supplements his research well with oral history interviews but did not have the benefit of the British archival sources, which have since been declassified. Lee Kuan Yew, The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, 1998), pp. 161-5. For academic references to the Socialist Club around the “baptism of fire” theme, see Lee Ting Hui, The Open United Front: The Communist Struggle in Singapore, 1954-1966 (Singapore: South Seas Society, 1996), pp. 57-8, 306; John Drysdale, Singapore: Struggle for Success (Singapore: Times Book International, 1984), pp. 76-82, 465-66; Yeo Kim Wah, Political Development in Singapore, 1945-55 (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1973), p. 123; C.M. Turnbull, A History of Singapore 1819-1988, 2nd edition (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1989), p. 247; and Yeo Kim Wah and Albert Lau, “From Colonialism to Independence, 1945-1965”, in Ernest Chew & Edwin Lee (eds.), A History of Singapore (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991), p. 130. Matthew Jones, Conflict and Confrontation in South East Asia, 1961-1965: Britain, the United States and the Creation of Malaysia (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001).

288 9

10 11 12 13

14 15

16 17

18 19 20

21

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T.N. Harper, “Lim Chin Siong and the ‘Singapore Story’”, in Tan Jing Quee and Jomo K.S. (eds.), Comet in Our Sky: Lim Chin Siong in History (Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 2001), p. 13. Frank Furedi, Colonial Wars and the Politics of Third World Nationalism (London; New York: I.B. Tauris, 1994). Lee, The Open United Front, pp. 73-4. Socialist-inclined student activism at the University of Singapore re-emerged briefly in 1973-1974 in the form of the Tan Wah Piow group. Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, Dominic Sachsenmaier and Jens Riedel, “The Context of the Multiple Modernities Paradigm”, in Dominic Sachsenmaier and Jens Riedel (eds.), with Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, Reflections on Multiple Modernities: European, Chinese and Other Interpretations (Leiden; Boston, Mass.: Brill, 2002). Partha Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World: A Derivative Discourse (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1986), p. 170. Fabianism, as a form of reformist socialism, is commonly expressed as the ideology of the welfare state and was popular in post-war Britain where Lee Kuan Yew and other would-be PAP founders studied. Its key political tenet was social democracy through gradual change, which distinguished it from revolutionary Marxist socialism. Dipesh Charkrabarty, Provincialising Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton; Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000), p. 4. Chatterjee, Nationalist Thought and the Colonial World, p. 170; and The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1993), p. 203. James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998), pp. 4-5. Peter Wagner, A Sociology of Modernity: Liberty and Discipline (London; New York: Routledge, 1994). Meredith L. Weiss, “The Campus as Crucible: Student Activism in Singapore and Malay(si)a”, paper presented at the symposium, Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Postwar Singapore, 14-15 July 2005. See also Weiss, Student Activism in Malaysia: Crucible, Mirror, Sideshow (New York: Cornell Southeast Asia Programme Publications, 2011). Meredith L. Weiss and Edward Aspinall, conveners, “Vanguard in a Vacuum: Understanding Student Activism in Pacific Asia”, workshop organised by the Lee Kong Chian-Stanford Initiative on Southeast Asia and Global Cities Research Cluster, 28-29 September 2009; and “Political Learning? Understanding Student Activism in Asia”, workshop organised by the Asia Political and International Studies Association, 20-21 December 2008. Edward Aspinall, “Student Dissent in Indonesia in the 1980s”, working paper 79, (Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University, 1993). Weiss, “The Campus as Crucible: Student Activism in Singapore and Malay(si)a”. Fajar, 1 (3), 22 October 1953, p. 1. Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 2 (1), 1964, p. 1. Harper, The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya. Nicholas Tarling, The Fall of Imperial Britain in South-east Asia (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1993). Sarah Stockwell, “Ends of Empire”, in Sarah Stockwell (ed.), The British Empire: Themes and Perspectives (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers, 2008). Harper, “Lim Chin Siong and the ‘Singapore Story’ ”, p. 24. Harper, “Lim Chin Siong and the ‘Singapore Story’ ”, p. 19. Fajar, 1 (34), 30 September 1956, p. 5. Fajar, 1 (14), 30 December 1954, p. 2.

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NOTES

33 Lewis S. Feuer (ed.), Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy (New York: Doubleday, 1959), p. 245. 34 Marshall Berman, All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity (London: Verso 1983), p. 35. 35 Huang Jianli, “Positioning the Student Political Activism of Singapore: Articulation, Contestation and Omission”, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies, 7 (3), 2006, p. 405; “The Young Pathfinders: Portrayal of Student Political Activism”, in Barr and Trocki, Paths Not Taken; and with Sai Siew Min, “The ‘Chinese-educated’ Political Vanguards: Ong Pang Boon, Lee Khoon Choy and Jek Yeun Thong”, in Lam Peng Er and Kevin Tan Y. L. (eds.), Lee’s Lieutenants: Singapore’s Old Guard (St. Leonard’s: Allen and Unwin, 1999). 36 Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments. 37 Hong and Huang, The Scripting of a National History, p. 126. 38 Edna Tan Hong Ngoh, “ ‘Official’ Perceptions of Student Activism on Nantah and SU Campuses 1965-1974/5” (unpublished academic exercise, Department of History, National University of Singapore, 2002). 39 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 40 Loh Kah Seng, “The British Military Withdrawal from Singapore and the Anatomy of a Catalyst”, in Derek Heng and Syed Khairudin Aljunied (eds.), Singapore in Global History (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2011). 41 Garry Rodan, The Political Economy of Singapore’s Industrialisation: National State and International Capital (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989). 42 On the difficulties of obtaining access to the Singapore archives, see Loh Kah Seng and Liew Kai Khiun (eds.), The Makers and Keepers of Singapore History, forthcoming from the Singapore Heritage Society in 2009; and Loh Kah Seng (ed.), Tangent, special issue on The Makers and Keepers of Singapore History, 6 (2), 2007. 43 Koh Kay Yew, “Coming of Age in the Sixties”, in Poh, Tan and Koh, The Fajar Generation, pp. 239-40. 44 Hong and Huang, “Liturgy: Telling Singapore’s Past through Oral History”, The Scripting of a National History, p. 69.

2 1

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3

Awake in the Bowl of Night Han Suyin, “An Outline of Malayan Chinese Literature”, Eastern Horizon, 3 (6), June 1964; and T.N. Harper, The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998). Michael Fernandez and Loh Kah Seng, “The Left-Wing Trade Unions in Singapore, 1945-1970”, in Michael D. Barr and Carl Trocki (eds.), Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Postwar Singapore (Singapore: NUS Press, 2008). Melanie Chew, interview with Lim Chin Siong, Leaders of Singapore (Singapore: Resource Press, 1996); Devan C.V. Nair, “An Open Letter to Malayan Socialists”, Not By Wages Alone: Selected Speeches and Writings of C.V. Devan Nair, 1959-1981 (Singapore: Singapore National Trades Union Congress, 1982); T.N. Harper, “Lim Chin Siong and the ‘Singapore Story’”, in Tan Jing Quee and K.S. Jomo (eds.), Comet in Our Sky: Lim Chin Siong in History (Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 2001); and C.J.W.-L. Wee, “The Vanquished: Lim Chin Siong and a Progressivist National Narrative”, in Lam Peng Er and Kelvin Y.L. Tan (eds.), Lee’s Lieutenants: Singapore’s Old Guard (St Leonards: Allen and Unwin, 1999).

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T.N. Harper, “Communists, Leftists and Populists: The Social and Ideological Roots of Postwar Leftwing Politics”, paper presented at the symposium Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Postwar Singapore, 14-15 July 2005. Chua Ai Lin, “Imperial Subjects, Straits Citizens: Anglophone Asians and the Struggle for Political Rights in Inter-war Singapore”, in Barr and Trocki, Paths Not Taken. The Raffles College taught arts and science courses but in the early years also served as a teacher training institute. Department of Education, Annual Report 1947, pp. 12, 19. Yeo Kim Wah, “Student Politics in University of Malaya, 1949-51”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 23 (2), September 1992, p. 348. Alexander Carr-Saunders et al., Report of the Commission on University Education in Malaya (Kuala Lumpur: Government Printing Office, 1948), p. 7. A4231/1948 Singapore Despatch titled “Establishment of a University of Malaya” from Australian Commissioner of Malaya to Secretary, Department of External Affairs, 19 May 1948. Meredith L. Weiss, “The Campus as Crucible: Student Activism in Singapore and Malay(si)a”, paper presented at the symposium Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Postwar Singapore, 14-15 July 2005. Department of Education, Annual Report 1949, p. 46. Department of Education, Annual Report 1948, p. 23. Department of Education, Annual Report 1949, p. 45. A.A. Sandosham and T. Visvanathan (eds.), A Symposium on Student Problems in Malaya (Malaya: International Student Service, World University Service, 1953), p. 52. CO 953/9/5, Minutes of Meeting of the Committee on Mass Education, 1 December 1950. Department of Education, Annual Report 1949, p. 32. In 1950, the enrolment by subject comprised of 320 students studying medicine, 87 dentistry, 15 pharmacy, 113 science, and 246 arts. In that year, a Diploma in Education was also offered. Department of Education, Annual Report 1947, p. 44. On the politics of the separation of Singapore from Malaya, see Albert Lau, The Malayan Union Controversy 1942-1948 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1990). Singapore, Annual Report 1949, p. 8. Singapore, Annual Report 1949, p. 7. C.C. Chin, “The United Front Strategy of the Malayan Communist Party in Singapore, 1950s-1960s”, in Barr and Trocki, Paths Not Taken. Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew (eds.), The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (Petaling Jaya: SIRD, 2009), pp. 3-5. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with James Puthucheary, 15 June 1985. James Puthucheary, “The University and the Student in Society”, 1949, in Dominic J. Puthucheary and K.S. Jomo (eds.), No Cowardly Past: James Puthucheary, Writings, Poems, Commentaries (Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 1998), pp. 173-74. Yeo Kim Wah, Political Development in Singapore, 1945-55 (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1973), pp. 226-7. Singapore Police Force, Annual Report 1951, p. 1. The Malayan Democratic Union was a party formed in 1945 by English-educated politicians and which worked closely with the MCP towards an independent Malaya. It dissolved itself in June 1948 upon the declaration of the Emergency. For a history of the party, see Cheah Boon Kheng, The Masked Comrades: A Study of the Communist United Front in Malaya, 1945-48 (Singapore: Times Books International, 1979).

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29 Yeo, “Student Politics in University of Malaya, 1949-51”, pp. 349-50; Yeo Kim Wah, “Joining the Communist Underground: The Conversion of English-educated Radicals to Communism in Singapore, June 1948-January 1951”, Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 67 (1), 1994. 30 Patrick Anderson, Snake Wine: A Singapore Episode (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1955), p. 116. 31 Malayan Undergrad, 2 (2), 5 February 1951, p. 2. 32 Malayan Undergrad, 2 (4), 6 March 1951, p. 4. 33 Malayan Undergrad, 3 (1), 18 November 1951, p. 5. 34 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with James Puthucheary, 15 June 1985. 35 Letter by Thomas Silcock, 10 October 1951, cited in K. Kanagaratnam, “Extracurricular Activities in the Period of Transition from College to University 1940-1955”, in A.A. Sandosham (ed.), A Symposium on Extracurricular Activities of University Students in Malaya (Singapore: World University Service Malaya, 1954), p. 15. 36 K. Kanagaratnam, “Development of Corporate Life among University Students in Malaya”, in Sandosham and Visvanathan, A Symposium on Student Problems in Malaya, pp. 9-10. 37 Report by the Vice-Chancellor, University of Malaya Annual Report 1952-53, p. 5. 38 See Zakaria Salim, “Communalism in the University”, in Sandosham and Visvanathan, A Symposium on Student Problems in Malaya, p. 21. 39 According to an American government despatch summarising Lee Kuan Yew’s account of the origins of the PAP in 1955, other “militant dissidents” such as Devan Nair and S. Rajaratnam were also involved in the establishment of the Socialist Club and Fajar. RG 59, 746F.00/ Despatch from US Consul General to Department of State, 16 November 1955. This claim, however, is not supported by published historical works or interviews with former Club leaders. 40 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 41 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Sydney Woodhull, 16 June 1985. 42 Authors’ interview with Wang Gungwu, 24 August 2007. 43 Straits Times, 23 February 1953. 44 Sydney Woodhull, Letter to Editor, Fajar, 2 (1), July 1959, p. 7; Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Sydney Woodhull, 16 June 1985. 45 Poh, Tan and Koh, The Fajar Generation, pp. 13-6. 46 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Sydney Woodhull, 16 June 1985. 47 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with James Puthucheary, 15 June 1985; authors’ interview with M.K. Rajakumar, 4 August 2007. 48 CO 1030/361, Telegram from J.F. Nicoll to A.M. MacKintosh, 8 June 1954. 49 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 50 Lockman Musa, “Effect of the Curriculum on Extracurricular Activities”, in Sandosham, A Symposium on Extracurricular Activities of University Students in Malaya. 51 Yeo, “Student Politics in University of Malaya, 1949-51”, pp. 348; authors’ interview with Wang Gungwu, 24 August 2007. 52 Authors’ interview with Lim Ho Hup, 4 September 2007. 53 CO 1030/361, Memo from J.F. Nicoll to John Martin, 30 July 1954. 54 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Sydney Woodhull, 16 June 1985.

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55 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 56 M.K. Rajakumar, “Contributions towards Political Development I”, in K. Kanagaratnam (ed.), A Symposium on a University in a Malayan Society (Kuala Lumpur: World University Service Malaya, 1955), p. 21. 57 Straits Times, 23 February 1953. 58 Authors’ interview with Wang Gungwu, 24 August 2007. 59 Authors’ email correspondence with Wang Gungwu, 21 July 2009. 60 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with James Puthucheary, 15 June 1985; authors’ interview with Wang Gungwu, 24 August 2007; Koh Tat Boon, University of Singapore Socialist Club 1953-1962, unpublished academic exercise, Department of History, University of Singapore, 1973, pp. 14-5. 61 Authors’ email correspondence with Wang Gungwu, 21 July 2009. 62 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Sydney Woodhull, 16 June 1985. 63 Quoted in Koh, University of Singapore Socialist Club, p. 15. 64 Culture and language were frequently discussed in university symposiums in the early and mid-1950s; see Sandosham and Visvanathan, A Symposium on Student Problems in Malaya; A.A. Sandosham and Kiang Ai Kim (eds.), A Symposium on Some Problems of Higher Education in Malaya (Singapore: International Students Service, 1953); Kanagaratnam, A Symposium on a University in a Malayan Society. 65 Quoted in Koh, University of Singapore Socialist Club, p. 16. 66 Authors’ interview with Wang Gungwu, 24 August 2007. 67 The Fajar sold for twenty cents. According to Club founders M.K. Rajakumar and Poh Soo Kai, the title was provided by Hedwig Aroosoo from her own poem: “In the West, the sun is setting. But in the East, the sun rises bright”. The first two issues were cyclostyled but subsequent issues from 1954 onwards were printed by the Tiger Press at Lim Teck Road and subsequently the Star Press at Selegie Road. Authors’ email correspondence with Poh Soo Kai, 15 February 2007, and authors’ interview with M.K. Rajakumar, 4 August 2007. 68 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Sydney Woodhull, 16 June 1985; Poh, Tan and Koh, The Fajar Generation, p. 17. 69 Fajar, 1 (1), March 1953, pp. 1-2. The issue is actually un-numbered and undated but the second issue was clearly dated No. 2, April 1953. 70 CO 1030/361, Notes of Evidence, 23 August 1954. 71 John Drysdale, Singapore: Struggle for Success (Singapore: Times Book International, 1984), p. 77. 72 Fajar, 1 (1), March 1953, p. 3-4. 73 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 74 Authors’ interview with Wang Gungwu, 24 August 2007. 75 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Sydney Woodhull, 16 June 1985. 76 Fajar, 1 (2), April 1953, pp. 5-6. 77 Fajar, 1 (2), April 1953, pp. 3-4. 78 Fajar, 1 (1), March 1953, p. 1; Straits Times, 23 March 1953. 79 Fajar, 1 (1), March 1953, p. 4. Straits Times, 24 March 1953. The visiting undergraduates were called the “brassiere boys” because they conducted a local debate about women in Singapore. 80 Fajar, 1 (2), April 1953, pp. 1-2. 81 Fajar, 1 (3), 22 October 1953, p. 7; see also Drysdale, Singapore: Struggle for Success, pp. 76-8.

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82 Fajar, 1 (3), 22 October 1953, pp. 4, 6. 83 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lee Ting Hui, 14 October-19 November 2006. 84 Sydney Woodhull, Letter to Editor, Fajar, 2 (1), July 1959. 85 Report by the Vice-Chancellor, University of Malaya Annual Report 1953-54, p. 5. 86 Fajar, 1 (3), 22 October 1953, p. 4. 87 Fajar, 1 (1), March 1953, pp. 8-10. The members of the four study groups were: (Economic) Hashim Sultan, K.R. Chandra, Sim Kee Boon, Tse Kwang Tse, Osman Cassim, N. Jagathesan, S. Kathiravelu, James Puthucheary; (Political) Wang Gungwu, James Puthucheary, Dollah Majid, Hashim Sani, Sydney Woodhull, Chua Sian Chin; (Social) Yeoh Kean Hong, Philomen Oorjitham, Poh Soo Kai, Lim Hock Siew, M.K. Rajakumar, Tan Seng Huat, S. Ramanathan; and (Cultural) Jamit Singh, Ee Tiang Hong, Lee Ah Chai, James Loh Ching Yew and S. Maniam. 88 Fajar, 1 (2), April 1953, p. 4. 89 Fajar, 1 (2), April 1953, p. 8. 90 Fajar, 1 (3), 22 October 1953, p. 4. 91 CO 1030/361, Telegram from J.F. Nicoll to A.M. MacKintosh, 8 June 1954. 92 Fajar, 1 (3), 22 October 1953, pp. 2, 5, 6. 93 Fajar, 1 (4), 8 December 1953, pp. 7-8. 94 CO 1030/361, Telegram from J.F. Nicoll to A.M. MacKintosh, 8 June 1954. 95 Authors’ interview with Wang Gungwu, 24 August 2007. 96 Authors’ email correspondence with Lee Ting Hui, 31 December 2007; authors’ lunch meeting with S.R. Nathan, 14 April 2008; Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lee Ting Hui, 14 October-19 November 2006. 97 Poh Soo Kai, speech at the memorial gathering for Dr M.K. Rajakumar, held at Dewan Canselor, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, on 4 January 2009. Published in s/pores, 3 (1), 2009; Poh, Tan and Koh, The Fajar Generation, p. 18. http://s-pores. com/2009/02/speech, accessed 25 September 2009. 98 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 99 Fajar, 1 (5), 10 March 1954, p. 3. 100 Fajar, 1 (6), 10 April 1954, pp. 4-5. 101 CO 1030/361, Telegram from J.F. Nicoll to A.M. MacKintosh, 8 June 1954; Fajar, 1 (6), 10 April 1954, p. 3. 102 CO 1030/361, Telegram from J.F. Nicoll to A.M. MacKintosh, 8 June 1954. According to an interview with one of the Club’s founding members, Lim Hock Siew, the circulation of Fajar was much higher outside the university and the cover price for each issue was either ten or twenty cents. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 103 CO 1030/361, Telegram from J.F. Nicoll to A.M. MacKintosh, 7 August 1954. 104 CO 1030/361, Notes of Evidence, 23 August 1954. 105 CO 1030/361, Minutes of Meeting to Discuss Finance and other Matters in Connection with the University of Malaya on 22 June 1954. 106 CO 1030/361, Telegram from J.F. Nicoll to A.M. MacKintosh, 7 August 1954. 107 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982.

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The Fajar Trial Authors’ interview with M.K. Rajakumar, 4 August 2007. The Southeast Asia Organisation Treaty was signed in September 1954 and modelled after the North

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Atlantic Treaty Organisation. Malaya and Singapore, not yet being independent states, were not members of SEATO at its founding. Fajar, 1 (7), 10 May 1954, p. 1. Yeo Kim Wah, Political Development in Singapore, 1945-55 (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1973), pp. 190-1. The public was particularly angered at how the British riot squad had charged the unarmed student demonstrators in military formation. Authors’ interview with Jeyaraj Rajarao, 3 August 2007. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Sydney Woodhull, 16 June 1985. CO 1030/361, Note of the meeting held at 11 a.m. in Sir John Martin’s room to discuss finance and other matters in connection with the University of Malaya, 22 June 1954. Fajar, 1 (7), 10 May 1954, p. 2. CO 1030/361, Despatch from John Nicoll to John Martin, 30 July 1954. Fajar, 1 (7), 10 May 1954, p. 5. Fajar, 1 (7), 10 May 1954, p. 1. Thumboo was not at his Dunearn Road hostel room at the time of the early morning arrests. He only returned to the hostel at 12 p.m. on 28 May, when he was arrested, kept in the police lock-up and charged the following day. Koh Tat Boon, “University of Singapore Socialist Club 1953-1962” (unpublished academic exercise, Department of History, University of Singapore, 1973), p. 20. Straits Budget, 24 August 1954. There was initially some official talk of taking “action against the printers” which “should be comparatively simple”. However, no charges were made against the Star Press, which had printed the issue. CO 1030/361, Memo from A.E.G. Blades to E.P. Shanks, 26 May 1954. Shanks was the Deputy Public Prosecutor. Authors’ lunch meeting with S.R. Nathan, 14 April 2008. Nathan also believed that the trial made no impression on the British colonial government. Ann Wee’s comment at the University of Malaya Socialist Club Preview Seminar, held at the Institute of Policy Studies, 15 January 2007. Wee started teaching at the University of Malaya’s Social Work Department in 1952. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. Authors’ interview with Osman Cassim, 4 May 2008. In Mandarin: “杀鸡儆猴”. Arthur Lim’s comment at the Dr M.K. Rajakumar Condolence Meeting, held at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, 14 February 2009. Authors’ interview with M.K. Rajakumar, 4 August 2007. Jeyaraj Rajarao, “The Legacy of the Socialist Club of the University of Malaya: Influences and Reminiscences”, in Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew (eds.), The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (Petaling Jaya: SIRD, 2009), pp. 33, 54. In the book, Rajarao states that he does not remember resigning from the board. Other Club members who were picked up for questioning and made witnesses for the prosecution were Chua Sian Chin and Ong Pang Boon. Poh, Tan and Koh, The Fajar Generation, p. 18. Author’s interview with Jeyaraj Rajarao, 3 August 2007. CO 1030/361, Despatch from John Nicoll to Malcolm MacDonald, 10 July 1954. Authors’ interview with M.K. Rajakumar, 4 August 2007.

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26 Kevin Y.L. Tan, Marshall of Singapore (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008), p. 227. Also see Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with David Marshall, 25 September 1984. 27 Authors’ interview with Jeyaraj Rajarao, 3 August 2007. 28 Lee was also the legal counsel for the University of Malaya Students’ Union at that time. It was reported that Lee was away on holiday but was asked to come back to be the students’ defence counsel. Utusan Melayu, 29 May 1954. Also see Drysdale, Singapore: Struggle for Success (Singapore: Times Books International, 1984), p. 78; Dennis Bloodsworth, The Tiger and the Trojan Horse (Singapore: Times Books International, 1986), p. 52; and Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 29 Authors’ interview with M.K. Rajakumar, 4 August 2007. Lee has himself affirmed the significance of the Fajar trial to his political career in his own memoirs. The trial brought him to the attention of the Chinese-educated student and labour leaders like Lim Chin Siong and Fong Swee Suan. They were to help him form the PAP in November 1954. Lee Kuan Yew, The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, 1998), pp. 166, 177. 30 Drysdale, Struggle for Success, p. 78; Lee, The Singapore Story, pp. 161-2. 31 Pritt had just won the International Stalin Prize for Strengthening Peace Among Peoples that year and was certainly regarded as a friend of socialists. 32 Authors’ email correspondence with Poh Soo Kai, 15 February 2007; Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. See also Koh, “University of Singapore Socialist Club”, p. 20. 33 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 34 Lee Kong Chian was approached by Tan Seng Huat who knew him. See exchange between Poh Soo Kai, K.C. Chew, Edgar Liao and Michael Fernandez in the blog comments on Edgar Liao, “That He Shall Not Die a Second Death”, s/pores, No. 3 (http:// s-pores.com/2009/02/memorial), accessed 25 September 2009. 35 The British authorities took note that some university staff were doing this. John Nicoll wrote, “I have reason to believe that quite a number of the staff of the University have chosen to contribute to this fund. They justify their action by the piece of curious thinking that the Vice Chancellor (Caine) gave them a lead by standing bail for the students”. CO 1030/361, Despatch from John Nicoll to John Martin, 30 July 1954. 36 Authors’ interview with Osman Cassim, 4 May 2008. 37 Fajar, 1 (25), 30 November 1955, p. 7. Of the amount, $8,961.81 was used to cover the costs of the defence with a remaining balance of $2,722.10. See also Lee, The Singapore Story, pp. 162-3; authors’ interview with Jeyaraj Rajarao, 3 August 2007; and Drysdale, Struggle for Success, p. 79. 38 The British held the view that “generally, the local press has not shown much interest” in the trial. CO 1030/361, Despatch from John Nicoll to John Martin, 24 September 1954. 39 Authors’ interview with Jeyaraj Rajarao, 3 August 2007. 40 The authorities had already zoomed in on the first two pages of Fajar No. 7 as the seditious content when organising the arrests. On 26 May, A.E.G. Blades had stated that one of the objectives of searching the students’ rooms was to obtain the identity of the person who wrote the article entitled “Discussion in the University”. This comment had appeared on page 2 of Fajar No. 7. CO 1030/361, Memo from A.E.G. Blades to Deputy Public Prosecutor E.P. Shanks, 26 May 1954. In reporting to London on 8 June, John Nicoll enclosed a copy of the issue with “the passages upon

296

41 42 43 44 45 46 47

48

49 50

51 52 53

54 55 56 57 58 59

60

61 62

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

which the prosecution will mainly rely” marked. CO 1030/361, Governor’s despatch to the Secretary of State for the Colonies in London, 8 June 1954. On the third day of the trial, however, when the case was dropped, DPP Shanks’ reading of long extracts of the offending articles was reprinted verbatim in the press. Utusan Melayu, 2, 3 July 1954; CO 1030/361, Notes of Court Proceedings, 1-2 July 1954. Utusan Melayu, 22 July 1954; CO 1030/361, Notes of Court Proceedings, 21 July 1954. CO 1030/361, Governor’s despatch to John Martin, 30 July 1954. Koh, “University of Singapore Socialist Club”, p. 20. CO 1030/361, Notes of Court Proceedings, 30 July 1954. MacDonald was not the only one who advised Nicoll to drop the case. David Marshall had similarly told Nicoll that it was unwise to prosecute the Fajar editors. Tan, Marshall of Singapore, p. 227. Marshall had a very low opinion of Nicoll. He called the Governor “quite unbelievably stupid, an extra-ordinary stupid man … he was immured in the ivory walls of his own arrogance and his own position as a governor or representative of the colonial office of Her Britannic Majesty”. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with David Marshall, 25 September 1984. The personal rivalry could still be detected after the trial. In September, Nicoll was still sore about MacDonald, saying, “To sum up, on balance we have lost some ground but not as much as Malcolm MacDonald feared”. CO 1030/361, Governor’s despatch to John Martin, 24 September 1954. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Ahmad Khan, 15 February1984. Pritt’s CV appeared in Fajar, 1 (9), 24 July 1954, p. 8, under “Club News” just before his arrival. His arrival of course held much interest for the Special Branch, which took note of it and his subsequent activities in Singapore. CO 1030/239, Singapore Local Intelligence Committee reports, 3 July-16 August 1954 and 17-31 August 1954. Koh, “University of Singapore Socialist Club”, p. 20. Lee, The Singapore Story, p. 163. Pritt said in his memoirs, “It is curious how often sedition prosecutions fail. I have defended half a dozen such charges, and won them all”. D.N. Pritt, The Autobiography of D.N. Pritt, Part Three: The Defence Accuses (London: Lawrence and Wishart 1966), p. 149. Pritt, The Autobiography of D.N. Pritt, Part Three, p. 148. Pritt, The Autobiography of D.N. Pritt, Part Three, p. 149. Lee, The Singapore Story, p. 163. More details in The Malayan Law Journal Vol. XX No 8, August 1954, pp. xxiii, xxiv. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. Authors’ interview with Osman Cassim, 4 May 2008. Mr Sarangapany, proprietor of the Star Press, Singapore, said during the trial that his press had stopped printing Fajar because of the legal proceedings. The Socialist Club had to revert to cyclostyling the journal for a time. Koh, University of Singapore Socialist Club, p. 20; Straits Budget, 26 August 1954. On the second day of the trial, when the prosecution commented that Fajar had not ceased publication, Lee Kuan Yew stood up and said: “They are proud of it. This prosecution won’t frighten them”. Straits Budget, 26 August 1954. Issues 8-10 of Fajar were published in the period between the arrests and the trial. On the first day, Poh Soo Kai, Lam Khuan Kit and P. Arudsothy were late due to car problems and the court was adjourned to 10.15 a.m. Straits Budget, 26 August 1954. Lee had earlier attacked on the point of duplicity of “intent” during the mention of the case on 30 July. He argued, “Crown should specify the intention, otherwise

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78 79 80

81

82 83 84

85 86

87 88 89

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defence will be left to guess what ‘intention’ they have to meet, defence will be embarrassed”. Lee admitted that he “did not have Pritt’s standing as a senior QC, or his powers of invective” to press this point home at the time. Lee, The Singapore Story, p. 165. Straits Budget, 24 August 1954. Straits Budget, 24 August 1954. Straits Budget, 24 August 1954. Straits Budget, 24 August 1954. Lee himself headed Fajar’s subscription list. Drysdale, Singapore: Struggle for Success, p. 78. Authors’ interview with Ong Pang Boon, 31 October 2009. Rajarao, “The Legacy of the Socialist Club of the University of Malaya”, in Poh, Tan and Koh, The Fajar Generation, p. 58. CO 1030/361, Notes of Evidence, 23 August 1954. Authors’ interview with Ong Pang Boon, 31 October 2009. Authors’ interview with Jeyaraj Rajarao, 3 August 2007. Straits Budget, 26 August 1954. Straits Budget, 26 August 1954. Straits Budget, 2 September 1954. Straits Budget, 2 September 1954. Straits Budget, 2 September 1954. This was in response to Pritt’s suggestion that it was ridiculous to continue the conscription of a people who were destined to become independent in the near future. Pritt found Shanks’ reply to be equally ridiculous. Pritt, The Autobiography of D.N. Pritt, Part Three, p. 149. Straits Budget, 2 September 1954. Straits Budget, 2 September 1954. On page 3 of the thirteenth issue of Fajar, published on 29 November 1954, ran the note: “Copies of the now famous issue No. 7 of FAJAR that were seized by the Police have now been returned to us. Subscribers who wish to have copies are invited to write to the: Circulation Manager”. It was a collectors’ item then and now. Straits Times, 28 August 1954. The Adelphi Hotel was located next to the courts. A more elaborate celebration was planned later at a tea party for 200 guests at the Faculty of Medicine. A gift of a ruby ring was presented to Pritt by the students. The party was also attended by representatives from the Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation and the Singapore Chinese Middle School Students’ Delegation. Drysdale, Singapore: Struggle for Success, p. 79. Authors’ interviews with M.K. Rajakumar, 4 August 2007, 16 March 2008. CO 1030/361, Despatch from John Nicoll to John Martin, 24 September 1954. Lee had advised the students when he first took on the case that “theirs was a case best treated as a political contest, not a legal one”, in order that the trial became focused on scoring with “the public both in court and in the newspapers”. Lee, The Singapore Story, pp. 161, 165. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. CO 1030/361, Despatch from John Nicoll to John Martin, 30 July 1954. Nicoll also noted that “the (513) Chinese School students convicted of resisting the Police will ask him to represent them in their Appeals”. CO 1030/361, Despatch from John Nicoll to John Martin, 24 September 1954. CO 1030/361, Despatch from John Nicoll to John Martin, 24 September 1954. A point Attorney-General Davis made strongly when Lim Yew Hock raised the Fajar issue in the Legislative Council in September. CO 1030/361, Attorney-General’s reply to Lim Yew Hock, 21 September 1854.

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90 The British felt that they had scored a goal when they secured an apology from the Fajar editorial board to the City Council for an article the board ran in its ninth issue, published on 24 July 1954, “The City Council Workers’ Strike”, pp. 2, 7. CO 1030/ 361, Despatch from John Nicoll to John Martin, 24 September 1954; Fajar, 1 (11), 20 September 1954, p. 4. 91 CO 1030/361, Despatch from John Nicoll to John Martin, 24 September 1954. 92 CO 1030/361, Governor’s Despatch to the Colonial Office in London, 6 November 1954. Nicoll’s analysis was partially taken from the Special Branch’s assessment of the political situation, that “the Fajar group at the University of Malaya has not received the amount of additional support from within the University which they expected as a result of the Sedition case”. CO 1030/239, Singapore Local Intelligence Committee report, 30 October-17 November 1954. 93 Straits Times, 28 August 1954. 94 Authors’ interview with Jeyaraj Rajarao, 3 August 2007; and with Wang Gungwu, 24 August 2007. 95 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. For some of the students involved in the trial, however, the victory was bittersweet. Jeyaraj Rajarao, Arudsothy and Thumboo failed papers; the first had to repeat the entire year eventually. Chua Sian Chin did not get his government scholarship renewed in the same year. In an unrelated incident later, Thumboo was punished for ragging in the university. 96 Straits Times, 28 August 1954. 97 M.K. Rajakumar, however, disagreed with Lim’s claim that Fajar’s circulation rose to 5,000 copies after the trial. He said the circulation remained tiny throughout its history. Authors’ interview with M.K. Rajakumar, 4 August 2007. 98 Authors’ interview with M.K. Rajakumar, 4 August 2007. 99 Authors’ interview with Ahmad Mustapha, 5 August 2007. 100 Authors’ interview with V. Selvaratnam, 4 August 2007. 101 Authors’ interview with Agoes Salim.

4 1 2

3 4

5 6 7 8 9

Visionary of the Nation, Voice of Stifled Malayans University of Malaya, Annual Report 1954-55, p. 2. The United Malays Nation Organisation (UMNO) was the leading party in the Alliance, with its partners the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC). In 1952, the UMNO and MCA had cooperated informally to win nine out of twelve seats in the federal elections, defeating the non-communal Independence of Malaya Party. The UMNO-MCA alliance was formalised in 1953 and was joined by the MIC the following year. Fajar, 1 (26), 28 December 1955, p. 3. Poh Soo Kai, “Detention in Operation Cold Store: A Study in Imperialism”, in Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew (eds.), The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (Petaling Jaya: SIRD, 2009), p. 156. Fajar, 1 (14), 30 December 1954, p. 2. Fajar, 1 (34), 30 September 1956, p. 5. Fajar, 1 (11), 20 September 1954, p. 8. See Fajar, 1 (23), 21 September 1955, p. 3; Fajar, 1 (26), 28 December 1955, p. 2. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with David Marshall, 25 September 1984.

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10 Lee Ting Hui, The Open United Front: The Communist Struggle in Singapore, 1954-1966 (Singapore: South Seas Society, 1996), pp. 73-74. 11 Fajar, 1 (13), 29 November 1954, p. 2. 12 Authors’ interviews with Tommy Koh, 26 March 2008; and with Ahmad Mustapha, 20 September 2007; and Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Tommy Koh, 23 May 1998. 13 Authors’ interview with Tan Guan Heng, 5 January 2009. 14 Koh Tat Boon, “University of Singapore Socialist Club 1953-1962” (unpublished academic exercise, Department of History, University of Singapore, 1973), p. 32. 15 Malayan Undergrad, 6 April 1955, p. 1. 16 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982; and interview with James Puthucheary, 15 June 1985. 17 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 18 Author’s email correspondence with Lim Hock Siew, 7 August 2008. 19 Singapore, Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Corrupt, Illegal or Undesirable Practices at Elections (Singapore: Printed at the Government Printing Office, 1958), pp. 13-25. 20 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 21 Ahmad Ibrahim ran as an independent in Sembawang but joined the PAP after his electoral victory. 22 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 23 Authors’ interview with Ahmad Mustapha, 5 August 2007. 24 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982; interview with Sydney Woodhull, 16 June 1985; and interview with James Puthucheary, 15 June 1985. 25 Fajar, 1 (26), 28 December 1955, p. 3. 26 Patrick Anderson, Snake Wine: A Singapore Episode (Kuala Lumpur: Oxford University Press, 1955), pp. 119, 121. 27 Fajar, 1 (21), 30 July 1955, p. 4. 28 Singapore Commercial House and Factory Employees Union, Bulletin, 1 August 1966. 29 Fajar, 1 (9), 24 July 1954, pp. 2, 7. As stated in Chapter 2, the editors printed an apology in September over claims published in the local press, later retracted, that the City Council had responded by victimising the strikers and threatening to lock them out or dismiss them. Fajar, 1 (11), 20 September 1954, p. 4. 30 Fajar, 1 (12),October 1954, p. 5. 31 Fajar, 1 (19), 31 May 1955, p. 3. 32 Michael Fernandez and Loh Kah Seng, “The Left-Wing Trade Unions in Singapore, 1945-1970”, in Michael D. Barr and Carl Trocki (eds.), Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Postwar Singapore (Singapore: NUS Press, 2008), pp. 211-12. 33 Fajar, 1 (19), 31 May 1955, p. 2. 34 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 35 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 36 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Sydney Woodhull, 16 June 1985. 37 Authors’ interview with Tommy Koh, 26 March 2008. 38 Fajar, 1 (25), 30 November 1955, p. 3; Fajar, 1 (26), 28 December 1955, p. 3; Fajar, 1 (30), 24 May 1956, p. 3; Fajar, 1 (33), 31 August 1956, p. 3.

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39 CO 1030/240, Singapore Intelligence Report, 24 August-13 September 1956. 40 Fajar, 1 (19), 31 May 1955, p. 3. 41 On the industrial action of the Singapore Business Houses Employees’ Union, see Fernandez and Loh, “The Left-Wing Trade Unions in Singapore, 1945-1970”. 42 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Michael Fernandez, 25 May 1981. 43 Authors’ interview with Gopinath Pillai, 9 September 2008. 44 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 45 Authors’ interview with Ahmad Mustapha, 20 September 2007. 46 Authors’ interview with V. Selvaratnam, 4 August 2007; Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Tommy Koh, 23 May 1998. 47 Authors’ interview with Tan Guan Heng, 5 January 2009. 48 Authors’ interview with Gopinath Pillai, 9 September 2008. 49 Authors’ interview with G. Raman, 9 October 2007. 50 See Loh Kah Seng, “Change and Conflict at the Margins: Emergency Kampong Clearance and the Making of Modern Singapore”, Asian Studies Review, 33 (2), June 2009. 51 Fajar, 1 (14), 30 December 1954, pp. 4-5. 52 Tan Jing Quee, “Ho Piao: A Personal Recollection and Appreciation”, s/pores, No. 1, 2007 (http://s-pores.com/2007/04/ho-piao), accessed 25 September 2009. 53 Federation of United Kingdom and Eire Malaysian and Singaporean Student Organisations (ed.), Singapore: Behind the “Economic Miracle” (London: Federation of United Kingdom and Eire Malaysian and Singaporean Student Organisations, 1976), p. 81. 54 Authors’ interview with Jeyaraj Rajarao, 3 August 2007. 55 Authors’ interview with M.K. Rajakumar, 4 August 2007. The Labour Party was formed in 1952 and sought immediate independence for Malaya, agrarian reform and the adoption of Malay as the national language. In 1958, the Labour Party formed a coalition with the Partai Rakyat known as the Socialist Front. 56 Fajar, 1 (32), 31 July 1956, p. 5; CO 1030/248, Monthly Emergency and Political Report, 15 May-15 June 1956. 57 CO 1030/248, Monthly Emergency and Political Report, 15 July-15 August 1956; and Monthly Emergency and Political Report, 15 June-15 July 1956. 58 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Michael Fernandez, 25 May 1981; authors’ interview with Gopinath Pillai, 9 September 2008. For an insider’s account of the Utusan Melayu strike, see Said Zahari, Dark Clouds at Dawn: A Political Memoir (Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 2001). 59 Fajar, 1 (17), 30 March 1955, pp. 4-6. 60 Authors’ interview with Ahmad Mustapha, 20 September 2007. 61 Fajar, 1 (30), 24 May 1956, p. 2. 62 RG 59, 746F.00/2-956, Telegram from the US Consul General, Singapore, to Department of State, 9 February 1956. 63 Malayan Undergrad, 10 March 1956, p. 5. 64 Fajar, 1 (22), 29 August 1955, p. 2. 65 Fajar, 1 (23), 21 September 1955, p. 1; Fajar, 1 (27), 31 January 1956, p. 1. 66 Fajar, 1 (31), 28 June 1956, p. 1. 67 FO 1091/106, Singapore Intelligence Report, 12-25 November 1959. 68 FO 1091/46, Report titled “Internal Security Appreciation – Singapore and the Federation of Malaya” by Chief of Staff, Malaya Command, 17 Apr 1956. Linda Chen was also the President of the Singapore Anti-Yellow Culture Council, a former committee member of the Singapore Unemployed Association and an English teacher at

NOTES

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75

76 77

78 79 80

81

82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96

301

Chung Cheng High School. A4231/1956 Despatches, Annex 1 of Despatch titled “Arrest of Singapore Communists”, 24 September 1956. Fajar, 1 (34), 30 September 1956, p. 1. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. Fajar, 1 (35), December 1956, p. 1. Koh, University of Singapore Socialist Club, p. 33. Authors’ interview with V. Selvaratnam, 27 February 2007. The reason why the Club obtained the permit is unclear. Authors’ interview with Ahmad Mustapha, 20 September 2007 and 5 August 2007; authors’ interview with Jeyaraj Rajarao, 3 August 2007; authors’ interview with V. Selvaratnam, 4 August 2007. In the London talks, the delegation agreed to the creation of a seven-member Internal Security Council, with three members each from the British and Singapore governments. The decisive seventh vote was held by the anti-communist Federation government. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. Following the party conference, Lee Kuan Yew and his supporters amended the party constitution, creating a two-tier system, where only the cadres of the second tier, who were chosen by the members of the Central Executive Committee, were able to elect candidates to the committee. The reform was meant to prevent a repeat of the events of August 1957. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. Fajar, 1 (29), 21 April 1956, p. 2. Fajar, 1 (33), 31 August 1956, p. 2. For the history of the Malay Education Council, see E. Kay Gillis, “Civil Society and the Malay Education Council”, in Barr and Trocki, Paths Not Taken. PRO 480/55, Letter from Tan Seng Huat, USC, to Public Relations Secretary, 5 August 1955; and Letter from Chief Press Officer, Public Relations Office, to Tan Seng Huat, USC, 31 August 1955. CO 1030/240, Singapore Intelligence Report, 4-26 July 1956. Fajar, 2 (2), August 1959, p. 7. Straits Times, 22 July 1959. Straits Times, 25 July 1959. Authors’ interview with Ahmad Mustapha, 5 August 2007. FO 1091/106, Report of the Singapore Intelligence Committee, 25 June-8 July 1959. Fajar, 2 (2), August 1959, p. 7; Fajar Baru, 1 (1), September 1959; and authors’ interview with Ahmad Mustapha, 20 September 2007. Authors’ interview with Ahmad Mustapha, 5 August 2007. Ahmad Mustapha, “My Reminiscences”, in Poh, Tan and Koh, The Fajar Generation, p. 100. Fajar, 2 (3), September 1959, Seminar Supplement, p. i. Fajar, 2 (3), September 1959 Seminar Supplement, pp. i-iv; and Fajar Baru, 1 (1), September 1959 and 1 (2), December 1959. T.N. Harper, The End of Empire and the Making of Malaya (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 305-6. Fajar, 2 (3), September 1959 Seminar Supplement, pp. i-iv. Sunday Mail, 3 July 1960. Straits Times, 4 July 1959.

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3 4 5

6 7

8 9 10 11 12

13 14

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A Beacon of Light on the Campus and Beyond USSU Handbook 1966, p. 100. James Puthucheary’s oral history interview, cited in Yeo Kim Wah, “Student Politics in University of Malaya, 1949-51”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 23 (2), September 1992, p. 356. For example, Sydney Woodhull served as the editor of the New Cauldron, the literary journal of the Raffles Society from 1950 to 1952. In the same period, Jamit Singh became first the Society’s Vice-President and subsequently its President. Thereafter, it became common for the more active students to be involved in many other student organisations at the same time, such as the Non-Hostelites Organisation and the Students’ Council. Subhas Anandan, The Best I Could (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions, 2009), p. 62. The issue is dealt with more thoroughly in Chapter 6. During the infant years of the university, the more left-oriented student leaders like James Puthucheary sought to wield greater influence in the Students’ Union by drawing upon the support of moderate or left-inclined student councillors. Authors’ interview with Tommy Koh, 26 March 2008. Fajar, Special Lumumba Issue, 21 February 1961, p. 1; Malayan Undergrad, 12 (5), February 1961, pp.4, 8. Patrice Lumumba (1925-1961) was a Congolese independence leader who became Congo’s first elected Prime Minister after Congo won independence from Belgium in 1960. Subsequently his government was deposed and he was captured and assassinated by a Belgian firing squad on orders of the Belgian government. Fajar, 3 (1), March 1961, p. 8. Malayan Undergrad, January 1962, 13 (4), p. 8; Fajar, 4 (1), January-February 1962, p. 10. Malayan Undergrad, 42(5), February 1961, p. 8; Fajar, Special Lumumba Issue, 21 February 1961, p. 1. Prominent student leaders were active in fostering relations with other student organisations in Malaya and elsewhere. Before helping to found the Socialist Club, Wang Gungwu, as the President of UMSU, had already headed a delegation of four to represent Malaya at the Asian Students’ Conference organised by the United Nations in the University of Delhi, India, in December 1952. Fajar, 1 (3), 22 October 1953, p. 3. Fajar, 1 (31), 28 June 1956, p. 2. See Malayan Undergrad, 29 May 1956, p. 2, for the aims and background of the conference. Other than the five observers, UMSU’s official delegates to the conference were Mahmood Merican and R.D. Naidu, both student councillors not from the Socialist Club. Philip G. Altbach, “The International Student Movement”, Journal of Contemporary History, 5 (1), special issue on Generations in Conflict, 1970, p. 156. The article also examines the complex nature and history of these two international student organisations. Despite their altruistic claims, they were “stimulated and largely supported by non-student elements, and closely tied to the political and ideological conflicts of the Cold War”. The ISC was originally formed in 1950 by west European and North American students’ unions which opposed the politicisation of the international student movement by the IUS. The latter had very early on been dominated by communist student unions and were oriented towards being “a militant spokesman for university students” and promoting anti-colonialism. Conversely, the ISC was more democratically run than the IUS and appeared partisan only to the support of students around the world; that the ISC was covertly funded in part by the American government was not officially confirmed until 1967.

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303

16 Poh Soo Kai, “Detention in Operation Cold Store”, in Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew (eds.), The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (Petaling Jaya: SIRD, 2009), p. 225. 17 The Students’ Council only began to send delegates to participate in IUS events from 1960, when S. Jayakumar attended its sixth Congress in Baghdad, Iraq; this was after the IUS had discontinued its policy of opposing the participation of non-leftist student unions in 1956. While Cold War politics did not impede USSU from being associated with both the ISC and IUS, they restricted the involvement of its councillors in IUS events, due to the Union’s view that the IUS was communist-controlled. Students’ Council representatives attended IUS meetings only as observers, not affiliated delegates. This continued even up to 1967, when Sim Yong Chan of the Socialist Club attended the 9th Congress in Mongolia. In his report, he advised that USSU “should seriously consider the question of IUS membership” in order to assert a greater influence in IUS policy matters as well as to “improve, extend and consolidate” USSU’s international position. See Singapore Undergrad, 1 (2), June 1967, p. 10. 18 Fajar, 2 (7), April 1960, p. 2. 19 Fajar, 3 (8), December 1961, p. 12. 20 Fajar, 3 (8), December 1961, p. 12; Fajar 4 (1), January-February 1962, p. 13. 21 Malayan Undergrad, 13 (4), January 1962, p. 3. 22 Fajar, 4 (5), August 1962, p. 5. 23 See Chapter 7 on the official surveillance of the Socialist Club. 24 Yeo, “Student Politics in the University of Malaya, 1949-51”, p. 359. 25 Malayan Undergrad, 3 (9), 10 November 1953, p. 2; UMSU Magazine 1953-1954, pp. 37-44. 26 UMSU Magazine 1953-1954, p. 40. 27 Another Malayan Undergrad editor suggested that a national union of students would also serve as “an experiment in administration and politics” to train and prepare the future leaders. The Students’ Union, being of “the highest institution in Malaya”, had to “play its part as the leading student body” of the youth of the country. Malayan Undergrad, 25 October 1957, p. 4; Malayan Undergrad, 3 (9), 10 November 1953, p. 2; Malayan Undergrad, Souvenir Issue, 13 December 1952, p. 3. 28 Pan-Malayan Students Federation, 2nd Annual Conference Souvenir Issue, 1955, p. 1. 29 Malayan Undergrad, 22 January 1955, p. 5. The authors were unable to find out if the government responded. 30 Yeo, Political Development in Singapore, p. 193. 31 Authors’ interview with V. Selvaratnam, 27 February 2007. 32 Fajar, 1 (17), 30 March 1955, p. 2. 33 CO 1030/239, Singapore Local Intelligence Committee report, 3-16 December 1955. 34 See Yeo Kim Wah, Political Development in Singapore 1945-1955 (Singapore: Singapore University Press 1973), pp. 188 onwards. 35 Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation, 2nd Annual Conference Souvenir Issue, pp. 6-7. The SCMSSU was eventually registered in May 1955. 36 Even other students in the University of Malaya came to sympathise with the incrementally besieged Chinese students, even as they continued to regard Chinese student activism as driven by communist and communal interests. Eugene Wijeysingha, who later became a member of the Socialist Club’s first rival club on campus, the Democratic Club, was one such sympathiser. He joined some other sympathetic UMSU leaders in delivering supplies of food to students who had barricaded themselves in the Chinese High School. The Chinese students were protesting the detention of their counterparts and the ban on the SCMSSU under the Preservation of Peace and Security Ordinance in late 1956 by the Lim Yew Hock government. Oral

304

37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72

6 1 2 3

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Eugene Wijeysingha, 22 March 1995. Fajar, 1 (15), 28 January 1955, p. 2. Fajar, 1 (16), 27 February 1955, p. 2. Fajar, 1 (16), 27 February 1955, p. 2. Fajar, 1 (17), 30 March 1955, p. 2. Fajar, 1 (21), 30 July 1955, p. 7. UMSU Magazine 1953-1954, p. 40. Malayan Undergrad, 1 March 1955, p. 3; Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation, 2nd Annual Conference Souvenir Issue, p. 1. UMSU Magazine 1955-1956, p. 143; “An Obituary to the Pan Malayan Students’ Federation”, Malayan Undergrad, 27 April 1957, p. 5. Malayan Undergrad, 27 April 1957, p. 5. UMSU Magazine 1955-1956, p. 134. Malayan Undergrad, 21 November 1955, p. 11. Malayan Undergrad, 21 November 1955, p. 8. Malayan Undergrad, 27 April 1957, p. 5. Malayan Undergrad, 21 Nov 1955, pp. 12, 13. Malayan Undergrad, 10 March 1956, pp. 2, 4. UMSU Magazine 1955-1956, p. 134. Malayan Undergrad, 10 March 1956, p. 1. Fajar, 1 (26), 28 December 1955, p. 7. Fajar, 1 (27), 31 January 1956, p. 2. Malayan Undergrad, 3 (2), 20 April 1953, p. 4. Malayan Undergrad, 23 April 1956, p .1. Malayan Undergrad, 11 (8), May 1960, p. 8. Malayan Undergrad, 27 April 1957, pp.1, 8. Malayan Undergrad, 25 October 1957, p. 3. Malayan Undergrad, 10 November 1952, p. 2. University Socialist Club, Papers from the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, 1966. Authors’ interview with Tan Guan Heng, 5 January 2009. USSU Handbook 1966, p. 101. FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, February 1961. Fajar, 3 (2), April 1961, p. 2. Fajar, 3 (8), December 1961, pp. 5, 10. Siaran Kelab Sosialis, April/May 1965, pp. 2-3. Koh Kay Yew, “Coming of Age in the Sixties”, in Poh, Tan and Koh, The Fajar Generation, p. 248. The history of the movement is explained in Chapter 10. Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 1 (1), June 1968, p. 3. Lee Kuan Yew, The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings: Times Editions 1998), pp. 246-7.

Frankly Partisan in the Struggle for Student Leadership The Star, 12 March 2006. Haniff Omar was a University of Malaya student who later joined the Special Branch. Yeo Kim Wah, “Student Politics in the University of Malaya, 1949-51”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 23 (2), September 1992, p. 348. Malayan Undergrad, 10 (9), 19 August 1959, p. 1.

NOTES

4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37

38 39 40 41 42 43

44 45

305

Ernest Koh, Singapore Stories: Language, Class, and the Chinese of Singapore 1945-2000 (Amherst, New York: Cambria Press, 2010). Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. Fajar, 2 (10), October 1960, p. 7. Fajar, 4 (3), May-June 1962, p. 7. Malayan Undergrad, 6 April 1955, pp. 4-5. See for example Koh’s guest editorial in Malayan Undergrad, April/May 1962, p. 4. Fajar, 3 (22), October 1953, p. 4. Lee’s departure from the Club is discussed in Chapter 1. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. Yeo, “Student Politics in the University of Malaya, 1949-51”, p. 357. Fajar, 1 (34), 30 September 1956, p. 5. Fajar, 1 (26), 28 December 1955, pp. 2-3. Fajar, 1 (34), 30 September 1956, p. 5. Fajar, 1 (34), 30 September 1956, p. 5. Malayan Undergrad, 2 (7), 9 May 1951, p. 5. Malayan Undergrad, 2 (2), 5 February 1951, p. 2. Authors’ interview with Ernest Devadason, 14 August 2008. Authors’ interview with Tommy Koh, 26 March 2008. Fajar, 1 (3), 22 October 1953, p. 7. Fajar, 2 (12), December 1960, p. 8. Siaran Kelab Sosialis, April/May 1965, p. 4. Malayan Undergrad, 25 October 1957, pp. 6-7. Fajar, 4 (5), August 1962, pp. 4-5. Fajar, 1 (9), 24 July 1954, p. 7. Fajar, 1 (26), 28 December 1955, p. 2. Fajar, 1 (34), 30 September 1956, p. 5. Fajar, 4 (5), August 1962, pp. 4-5. Authors’ interview with Koh Buck Chye, 2 December 2007. Fajar, 1 (14), 30 December 1954, p. 1. Fajar, 2 (12), December 1960, p. 7. Fajar, 2 (9), June-July 1960, p. 8. Fajar, 4 (6), September-October 1962, pp. 5, 7. Fajar, 4 (6), pp. 5-7. Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 2 (2), 1964, p. 12. Han Suyin, “Development of Communes in China”, Fajar, 2 (6), March 1960, pp. 3, 4, 7. Other similarly partisan op-eds published in Fajar under Tommy Koh’s leadership include “Lies, Lies, Damned Lies”, 2 (8), May 1960, and “Crash”, 2 (9), June-July 1960, p. 2. Kritik, 2 (1), June-July 1963, p. 1. Fajar, 2 (12), December 1960, p. 7. Kritik, 2 (1), June-July 1963, p. 15. Kritik, 2 (1), June-July 1963, p. 15. Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 2 (1), 1964, p. 2. University Socialist Club, “The University Socialist Club”, 27 April 1966”. In Press Releases and Papers Issued by the 14th Central Working Committee, 1966, a collection of papers available in the Central Library, National University of Singapore. Yeo, “Student Politics in the University of Malaya, 1949-51”, p. 351. USSU Handbook, 1967, p. 100.

306

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46 A.J. Stockwell, “‘The Crucible of the Malayan Nation’: The University and the Making of a New Malaya, 1938-62”, Modern Asian Studies, 43 (5), September 2008, p. 27. 47 Malayan Undergrad, 8 June 1955, p. 2. 48 Malayan Undergrad, 14 (9), May/June 1964, p. 2. 49 Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 2 (1), 1964, p. 3. 50 Malayan Undergrad, 14 (4), June 1963, p. 4. 51 Malayan Undergrad, 14 (1), December 1962, p. 7. 52 Malayan Undergrad, 14 (5), July 1963, p. 4. 53 Authors’ interview with Ernest Devadason, 14 August 2008. 54 Malayan Undergrad, 15 (2), July 1965, p. 5. 55 Malayan Undergrad, 15 (3), October/November 1965, p. 2. Ironically, Koh herself came in for criticism from Ong and Chan in the same issue of Malayan Undergrad, ostensibly for shirking her responsibilities, after Chan took over as Publications Secretary when she accepted an American-sponsored study tour of the United States. 56 In the earlier years, the Catholic students appeared to have sought to undermine the Socialist Club. In March 1955, the Catholic Students’ Society produced a new student publication, The Challenge. A reviewer suggested that the publication was “a belated response to the challenge of another serious student paper which made its appearance very much earlier … [ filling] a long felt need for a serious paper which discusses questions in a field where in the past only one such paper held a monopoly”. As a challenge to Fajar, however, he felt that the paper was sorely inadequate. Malayan Undergrad, 1 March 1955, p. 6. 57 Malayan Undergrad, 1 March 1955, p. 5. 58 Authors’ interview with Ernest Devadason, 14 August 2008. 59 Malayan Undergrad, 1 March 1955, p. 1. 60 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Eugene Wijeysingha, 22 March 1995. 61 Malayan Undergrad, 10 March 1956, p. 5. 62 Fajar, 1 (16), 27 February 1955, p. 2. 63 See FO 1091/107 Special Branch Reports, May and August 1960. 64 USSU Handbook, 1961. 65 Malayan Undergrad, 14 (10), July/August 1964, p. 6. 66 Authors’ email correspondence with Koh Kay Yew, 18 September 2009. 67 Siaran Kelab Sosialis, April/May 1965, p. 7; Demos, No. 1, May-July 1965, p. 7. 68 Demos, 1, May-July 1965, p. 2; Fajar, 4 (6), September-October 1962, p. 7. 69 Demos, 1, May-July 1965, p. 1. 70 Demos, 1, May-July 1965, p. 12. 71 Siaran Kelab Sosialis, August 1965, p. 3; Demos, No. 1 May-July 1965, p. 1 72 Siaran Kelab Sosialis, August 1965, p. 7. 73 Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 2 (3), November 1964, p. 23. 74 Demos, No. 1, May-July 1965, p. 10. 75 Siaran Kelab Sosialis, August 1965, p. 7. 76 Koh Kay Yew, “Coming of Age in the Sixties”, in Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew (eds.), The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (Petaling Jaya: SIRD, 2009), p. 243. 77 Malayan Undergrad, 14 (7), January 1964, p. 2. 78 Malayan Undergrad, 14 (6), November 1963, p. 1. 79 Malayan Undergrad, 14 (7), December 1963, p. 2. 80 Siaran Kelab Sosialis, August 1965, p. 4. The controversy over Woo’s official status at the IUSY was more likely a mistake on the part of the IUSY documenters. An official People’s Association delegate had accompanied Woo to the same conference – Gilbert Chai, a former USSU President.

307

NOTES

81 82 83 84 85 86 87 88

7 1

Siaran Kelab Sosialis, August 1965, p. 3. Demos, 2 (1), May-July 1966, p. 1. See Chapter 10 for an in-depth discussion. Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 2 (3), November 1964, p. 30. Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 2 (3), November 1964, p. 3. Siaran Kelab Sosialis, August 1965, p. 3. Demos, 1 (2), August-October 1965, p. 2. The government eventually established a quasi-clandestine Junior Pyramid Club in the university to groom selected individuals for future leadership and administrative positions.

The Shadow over the Club

Lee Ting Hui, The Open United Front: The Communist Struggle in Singapore, 1954-1966 (Singapore: South Seas Society, 1996), pp. 73-4. A statement by Albert Lim Shee Ping, made during his detention without trial, claimed that while he considered the Club members to be “militant leftists” with a high level of political consciousness, they were “nowhere near the standard of the ABL [the Singapore People’s Anti-British League] ... [who] lived in a completely different world in spite of the fact that their political utterances were quite close to those of the Chinese-educated leftists”. The MCP leaders in Singapore, Lim added, considered the Club members, and the English-educated intelligentsia in general, as politically “immature and unreliable”. How reliable a detainee’s statement can be, without knowing the circumstances under which it was made, is, however, open to question. 2 Richard J. Aldrich, Gary Rawnsley, Ming-Yeh Rawnsley, “Introduction”, in Richard J. Aldrich, Gary Rawnsley, Ming-Yeh Rawnsley (eds.), The Clandestine Cold War in Asia, 1945-65: Western Intelligence, Propaganda, Security and Special Operations (Portland, OR: Frank Cass, 2000), p. 7. 3 David George Boyce, Decolonisation and the British Empire, 1775-1997 (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999), pp. 179-83. 4 See Ban Kah Choon, Absent History: The Untold Story of Special Branch Operations in Singapore 1915-1942 (Singapore: Raffles, 2001). 5 Syed Muhd Khairudin Aljunied, Colonialism, Violence and Muslims in Southeast Asia: The Maria Hertogh Controversy and Its Aftermath (London: Routledge, 2009), Ch. 4. 6 Yeo Kim Wah, Political Development in Singapore, 1945-55 (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1973), p. 225. 7 Ranajit Guha, “The Prose of Counter-Insurgency”, in Nicholas B. Dirks, Geoff Eley and Sherry B. Ortner (eds.), Culture/Power/History: A Reader in Contemporary Social Theory (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994), p. 346. 8 Aldrich et al., “Introduction”, pp. 6-7. 9 Chin Peng, the Secretary-General of the Malayan Communist Party, has maintained that the party received no aid from China or the Soviet Union during its insurgency against the British in Malaya. Chin Peng, My Side of History (Singapore: Media Masters, 2003). 10 C.A. Bayly, Empire and Information: Intelligence Gathering and Social Communication in India, 1780-1870 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), pp. 3-4. 11 One of the authors, Seng Guo Quan, was given access to the Police Intelligence Journals held by the Internal Security Department for his research on the Barisan Sosialis. But he had to undertake not to present or publish his research. The Barisan Sosialis and the Collapse of the Socialist Alternative in Singapore (1963-66), unpublished B.A. Honours dissertation, Faculty of History, University of Cambridge, 2005,

308

12 13 14 15

16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

pp. 8-9. Ban Kah Choon also used Branch files in his book on the pre-war Special Branch, Absent History. This isn’t clear. Bayly, Empire and Information, p. 1. Loh Kah Seng, “Introduction: At the Gates of History”, Tangent, special issue on The Makers and Keepers of Singapore History, 6 (2), 2007, pp. 14-6. Leon Comber, Malaya’s Secret Police 1945-60: The Role of the Special Branch in the Malayan Emergency (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008), pp. 2-3. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lee Ting Hui, 14 October-19 November 2006. Lee’s book is The Open United Front: The Communist Struggle in Singapore, 1954-1966 (Singapore: South Seas Society, 1996). Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. Authors’ interview with Chu Tee Seng, 31 March 2007. Authors’ interview with Ahmad Mustapha, 20 September 2007. Authors’ interview with Agoes Salim, 15 November 2007. Authors’ interview with Tan Guan Heng, 5 January 2009. FO 1091/106, Report of the Singapore Intelligence Committee, 9-22 July 1959. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Ahmad Khan, 15 February1984. CO 1030/239, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 31 July-16 August 1954. CO 1030/239, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 17-31 August 1954. CO 1030/239, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 16-29 October 1954. CO 1030/239, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 30 October-17 November 1954. CO 1030/239, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 3-17 November 1955. CO 1030/239, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 15 January-1 February 1955. CO 1030/239, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 3-17 November 1955. CO 1030/239, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 18-31 January 1956. CO 1030/240, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 4-26 July 1956. CO 1030/240, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 10-23 August 1956; and FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, April 1960. Today, 2 January 2003. Tan Jing Quee, “In Memory of Linda Chen (1928-2002)”, s/pores, No. 1, 2007, p. 1 (http://s-pores.com/2007/04/linda-chen), accessed 25 September 2009. CO 1030/240, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 10-23 August 1956. CO 1030/291, Telegram from Governor of Singapore to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, 15 December 1955. CO 1030/247, Malaya: Monthly Emergency and Political Report, 15 December 1955-15 January 1956. CO 1030/291, Telegram from Governor of Singapore to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, 17 January 1956. CO 1030/240, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 14-27 September 1956.

NOTES

309

40 CO 1030/240, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 28 September11 October 1956. 41 CO 1030/240, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 12 October-8 November 1956. 42 FO 1091/106, Report of the Singapore Intelligence Committee, 25 June-8 July 1959. 43 FO 1091/106, Report of the Singapore Intelligence Committee, 9-22 July 1959. 44 FO 1091/106, Report of the Singapore Intelligence Committee, 29 October-11 November 1959. 45 FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, February 1960. 46 FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, April 1960. 47 FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, September 1960; and FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, April 1961. 48 FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, April 1961. 49 FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, April 1961. 50 FO 1091/107, Singapore Special Branch Intelligence Summary, January 1961. 51 CO 1030/240, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 12 October-8 November 1956. 52 FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, May 1960. 53 FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, September 1960. 54 FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, November 1960. 55 FO 1091/106, Report of the Singapore Intelligence Committee, 24 September-14 October 1959. 56 FO 1091/106, Report of the Singapore Intelligence Committee, 12-25 November 1959. 57 Cheah Boon Kheng, Red Star over Malaya: Resistance and Social Conflict during and after the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, 1941-1946 (Singapore: Singapore University Press, 1983). 58 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Ahmad Khan, 15 February 1984. 59 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Richard Corridon, 4 August 1980. 60 Richard Corridon was interviewed in the series, Political Development of Singapore, 1945-65, which was the pioneer project of the Oral History Unit and the brainchild of Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and Deputy Prime Minister Goh Keng Swee. Even today, numerous interviews in that series remain classified. National Archives of Singapore, Access to Archives Online, Collection of Oral History Recording Database (CORD), http://cord.nhb.gov.sg/cord/public/internetSearch, accessed 24 September 2009. 61 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Richard Corridon, 4 August 1980. 62 CO 1030/240, Report of the Singapore Local Intelligence Committee, 24 August-13 September 1956. The allegation that Ong Pang Boon was a MCP sympathiser was probably based on his bilingual background and his being the Treasurer of the Socialist Club during the Fajar arrests, which had led to his interrogation by the Special Branch. Ong later became Minister of Home Affairs in the PAP government in 1959 and was instrumental in his firm support of Lee’s crackdown on the left in the early 1960s. Melanie Chew, interview with Ong Pang Boon, Leaders of Singapore (Singapore: Resource Press, 1996), p. 174.

310

8 1 2

3 4 5

6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16

17 18 19 20 21 22 23

24 25

26 27 28 29

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Resisting Malaysia, Swansong for Malaya Straits Times, 27 May 1961. Mohamed Noordin Sopiee, From Malayan Union to Singapore Separation: Political Unification in the Malaysia Region 1945-65, 2nd Edition (Kuala Lumpur: University Malaya Press, 2005), pp. 130, 137-9. Lee Ting Hui, The Open United Front: The Communist Struggle in Singapore, 1954-1966 (Singapore: South Seas Society, 1996), pp. 208-9. Lee, The Open United Front, pp. 207, 224. Loh Kah Seng, “Change and Conflict at the Margins: Emergency Kampong Clearance and the Making of Modern Singapore”, Asian Studies Review, 33 (2), June 2009, pp. 150-1. The terms of the internal security arrangements were negotiated by Lim Yew Hock in London in 1957. Lee Kuan Yew, The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, 1998), pp. 328-30. Fong Chong Pik, “Magong Quanquan Daibiao”, Fang Zhuangbi Huiyilu “The MCP Plenipotentiary”: The Memoirs of Fong Chong Pik (Petaling Jaya: SIRD, 2006), p. 143. Sonny Yap, Richard Lim and Leong Weng Kam, Men In White: The Untold Story of Singapore’s Ruling Political Party (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, 2009), p. 323. Gary Lee, “The Political Career of Ong Eng Guan” (unpublished academic exercise, Department of History, National University of Singapore, 1987), p. 48. Lee, Open United Front, p. 197. Fajar, 2 (10), October 1960, p. 1. Cited in Fajar, 2 (11), November 1960, p. 3. The Petir editorial could not be located. Fajar, 2 (11), November 1960, pp. 3, 8. Ahmad Ibrahim, “The Way to Merger”, in People’s Action Party 6th Anniversary Celebration Souvenir 1960 (Singapore: Petir Editorial Board, 31 December 1960), p. 32. “The Fixed Political Objectives of our Party: A Policy Statement by the Central Executive of the People’s Action Party”, in People’s Action Party 6th Anniversary Celebration Souvenir 1960, pp. 1-7, 36. Fajar, 2 (12), December 1960, pp. 7-8. Lee, The Singapore Story, p. 350. Fajar, 3 (1), March 1961, pp. 5-6; FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, February 1961. Fajar, 3 (2), April 1961, p. 2; FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, March 1961. FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, April 1961. Authors’ interview with Tan Guan Heng, 5 January 2009. Authors’ interview with Gopinath Pillai, 9 September 2008. This evidence sits awkwardly with Lee Kuan Yew’s claim that “Lim [Chin Siong] addressed a meeting of a thousand trade unionists at the Victoria Memorial Hall during the campaign along these lines [abolishing the ISC] and quietly passed the word around in Hong Lim not to support the PAP”. Lee, The Singapore Story, p. 354. Authors’ interview with Gopinath Pillai, 9 September 2008. See Greg Poulgrain, The Genesis of Konfrontasi: Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia, 19451965 (Townsville, Queensland: James Cook University of North Queensland, 1997); and Tan Tai Yong, Creating “Greater Malaysia”: Decolonisation and the Politics of Merger (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). FO 1091/107, Special Branch Report, May 1961. John Drysdale, Singapore: Struggle for Success (Singapore: Times Book International, 1984), pp. 263-4. Fajar, 3 (4), June-July 1961, pp. 4, 7. Straits Times, 12 July 1961.

NOTES

311

30 RG 59, 746F.00/7-1861, Telegram from US Consul General, Singapore, to Department of State, 18 July 1961. 31 Straits Times, 12 July 1961. 32 Koh Kay Yew, “Coming of Age in the Sixties”, in Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew (eds), The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (Petaling Jaya: SIRD, 2009), p. 230. 33 Straits Times, 12 July 1961. 34 Fajar, 3 (5), July-August 1961, pp. 4-5, 11. 35 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Tommy Koh, 23 May 1998. 36 Straits Times, 14 August 1961, cited in Drysdale, Struggle for Success, pp. 275-6. 37 Lee, Open United Front, pp. 205, 209-211. 38 For a list of the Barisan’s first Executive Committee, see Lee, Open United Front, pp. 221-2. 39 There were also a number of former University Socialists who were not formal members of the Barisan but nevertheless supported it, such as M.K. Rajakumar, Kwa Boo Sun, Lian Hock Lian, Gopal Baratham, Michael Fernandez, Chu Tee Seng, A. Mahadeva and Tan Guan Heng, among others. 40 Fajar, 3 (6), August-September 1961, p. 2. 41 James Puthucheary, “Socialism in a Multi-racial Society, A Talk to the University Socialist Club, 1959”, in Dominic J. Puthucheary and K.S. (eds.) Jomo, No Cowardly Past: James Puthucheary. Writings, Poems, Commentaries (Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 1998), p. 143. 42 James Puthucheary, “The Future of Socialism in Malaya, Letter to Wang Gungwu from Changi Prison Camp, 1958”, in Puthucheary and Jomo, No Cowardly Past, pp. 148, 150. 43 Ibid., p. 151. 44 Fajar, 3 (5), July-August 1961, pp. 2-3. 45 Ibid. 46 Fajar, 3 (6), August-September 1961, pp. 13-6. 47 Fajar, 4 (3), May-June 1962, p. 10. 48 Ibid. 49 See Lee, The Singapore Story; and John Drysdale, Singapore: Struggle for Success (Singapore: Times Book International, 1984). 50 Lee Kuan Yew, The Battle for Merger (Singapore: Government Printing Office, 1962), p. 72. 51 Fajar, 3 (7), September-October 1961, p. 1. 52 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. In the authors’ interview with Tommy Koh on 26 March 2008, he did not recall the incident. Lim himself felt that the citizenship laws were unimportant in the context of the merger debate because they could be changed if there was sufficient political will to do so. 53 Straits Times, 23 September 1961. 54 Fajar, 4 (2), March-April 1962, p. 2. 55 A third but inconsequential option, proposed by Lim Yew Hock’s Singapore People’s Alliance, was that Singapore would join Malaysia on terms no less favourable than those accorded to the Borneo territories. 56 Fajar, 4 (4), July 1962, p. 1. 57 Straits Times, 12 July 1962. 58 These alleged rumours charged that the Chinese in Singapore would become secondclass citizens in a Malay-dominant state, whereby discriminatory policies would be

312

59 60 61

62 63

9 1

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

implemented in education, the allocation of public housing, civil service employment and taxation. Straits Times, 12 July 1962. Fajar, 4 (4), July 1962, pp. 2, 3. Fajar, 4 (4), July 1962, pp. 2-4. According to Lim Hock Siew, the student bodies conducted another Gallup Poll in Tanjong Pagar after the PAP government dismissed the original one as differing in the options offered from those in the referendum. Lim stated that the “vast majority” of those polled cast blank votes. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. Authors’ interview with C.C. Chin, 24 September 2008. Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982.

Long Night after Coldstore

In August, members of the SATU, Singapore General Employees’ Union and Singapore Bus Workers’ Union had displayed anti-Malaysia placards and banners at a mass rally organised by the Chinese Chambers of Commerce on the “blood debt” issue. Michael Fernandez and Loh Kah Seng, “The Left-wing Trade Unions in Singapore, 1945-1970”, in Michael D. Barr and Carl Trocki (eds.), Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Postwar Singapore (Singapore: NUS Press, 2008), p. 219. 2 Tan Jing Quee, Teo Soh Lung and Koh Kay Yew (eds.), Our Thoughts are Free: Poems and Prose on Imprisonment and Exile (Singapore: Ethos Book, 2009), pp. 82-3. 3 Straits Times, 3 February 1963. 4 Poh Soo Kai, “Detention in Operation Cold Store: A Study in Imperialism”, in Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew (eds.), The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (Petaling Jaya: SIRD, 2009), p. 169; and Lim Hock Siew’s speech at the launch of The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore in Singapore, 14 November 2009. In Lim’s case, the charge was erroneous as he was a member of the editorial board. 5 Malayan Undergrad, 14 (2), February 1963, p. 1. 6 Authors’ interview with Ahmad Mustapha, 5 August 2007. 7 Straits Times, 11 September 1963; Malayan Undergrad, 14 (2), February 1963; Koh Tat Boon, “University of Singapore Socialist Club 1953-1962”, (unpublished academic exercise, Department of History, University of Singapore, 1973), p. 47. 8 FO 1091/104, Note by the United Kingdom Commissioner Selkirk: Meeting with the PM on 5 November 1959. 9 CO 1030/1161 Vol. B, Singapore Government Paper on “Action against Communist United Front Publications”, 6 October 1962. The document in turn draws upon an August 1961 Special Branch paper which alleges communist penetration of the Socialist Club through alumni like Lim Hock Siew (the paper notes that his younger brother is an MCP worker), Poh Soo Kai (“communist sympathiser”), Linda Chen (“identified MCP member”), and Tan Seng Huat (“communist sympathiser” and Chen’s husband), CO 1030/1161 Volume B, Special Branch paper on “The Security Situation in Singapore”, 3 August 1961. 10 CO 1030/1158, Telegram from Selkirk to Sandys, 8 October 1962. 11 T.J.S. George, Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore (London: Deutsch, 1973), p. 140. 12 In the Coldstore arrests, Lim Chin Siong was alleged to have conspired with A.M. Azahari, the leader of the Brunei revolt, to oppose the formation of Malaysia through violent means.

NOTES

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13 Fajar, 4 (7), January 1963, p. 3. 14 A.J. Stockwell, “Malaysia – The Making of a Neo-Colony?”, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 26 (2), 1998. 15 Simon J. Ball, “Selkirk in Singapore”, Twentieth Century British History, 10, 2 (1999); Matthew Jones, “Creating Malaysia: Singapore’s Security, the Borneo Territories, and the Contours of British Policy, 1961-1963”, Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 28 (2), 2000; and T.N. Harper, “Lim Chin Siong and the ‘Singapore Story’”, in Tan Jing Quee & K.S. Jomo (eds.), Comet in Our Sky: Lim Chin Siong in History (Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 2001). 16 CO 1030/1160, Telegram from Moore to Sandys, 10 December 1962. 17 See Ball, “Selkirk in Singapore”; Jones, “Creating Malaysia”; and Harper, “Lim Chin Siong and the ‘Singapore Story’”. 18 See Matthew Jones, Conflict and Confrontation in South East Asia, 1961-1965: Britain, the United States and the Creation of Malaysia (Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001); and Peter Busch, All the Way with JFK?: Britain, the US, and the Vietnam War (Oxford; New York: Oxford University Press, 2003). 19 CO 1030/1150, Singapore: Review of Developments by Philip Moore, 12 July 1962. 20 FO 1091/104, Selkirk’s Record of Conversation with Lee Kuan Yew, 25 July 1961. 21 CO 1030/1158, Memo from Selkirk to Sandys, 5 October 1962. 22 PREM 11/3868, Memo from Selkirk to Sandys, 27 July 1962, cited in Ball, “Selkirk in Singapore”, p. 180. 23 CO 1030/1158, Memo from Selkirk to Sandys, 5 October 1962. 24 CO 1030/1160, Memo from Moore to Wallace, 18 July 1962. 25 DO 169/214, Memo from Tory to Sir Saville Garner, 28 June 1962, cited in Jones, “Creating Malaysia”, p. 92. 26 CO 1030/1158, Memo from Selkirk to Sandys, 5 October 1962. 27 Tan Tai Yong, Creating “Greater Malaysia”: Decolonisation and the Politics of Merger (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). 28 CO 1030/1158, Memo from Selkirk to Sandys, 5 October 1962. 29 CO 1030/1157 Volume A, Telegram from Selkirk to Sandys, 1 March 1962. 30 CO 1030/1157 Volume A, Enclosure in telegram from Moore to Colonial Office, 19 April 1962. 31 CO 1030/1160, Telegram from Moore to Sandys, 10 December 1962. 32 CO 1030/1160, Telegram from Sandys to Selkirk, 12 December 1962. 33 CO 1030/1573, Telegram from Selkirk to Sandys, 2 April 1963. 34 Fernandez joined the Socialist Club in 1960 and became its External Affairs Secretary, looking after Fajar’s business affairs. Fernandez was detained in 1964, a few months after leading a month-long, albeit unsuccessful, strike involving nearly 10,000 workers at the Singapore Naval Base in October 1963 for better pay and working conditions. The PAP government had charged the strike to have been politically instigated by the Barisan close to the September general elections and had repeatedly sought to break it, a claim which Fernandez denied. See Fernandez and Loh, “The Left-Wing Trade Unions in Singapore”, p. 220; Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Michael Fernandez, 25 May 1981. 35 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 36 Koh Kay Yew, “Coming of Age in the Sixties”, in Poh, Tan and Koh, The Fajar Generation, pp. 232-4. 37 The authors have only managed to locate issues of Siaran Kelab Sosialis between 1964-1968.

314

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

38 USSU Handbook 1967, p. 101; Welcome Speech by Abdul Razak Ahmad, 30 September 1966, in University Socialist Club, Papers from the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, 1966. 39 University Socialist Club press release, “Academic Freedom and University Autonomy”, 5 September 1966. 40 Koh Tai Ann, speech at the “Education At Large: A Forum on Student Activities and Activism in Singapore, 1945-1965”, organised by The Tangent, 3 February 2007. 41 Malayan Undergrad, 14 (9), May-June 1963, p. 2. 42 Authors’ email correspondence with Koh Kay Yew, 1 January 2009. 43 Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 2 (1), 1964, p. 4. 44 Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 1965, volume and issue numbers unknown, p. 21. Lim Kean Siew was the founder of the Labour Party in Malaya. 45 USSU Handbook 1969, p. 80. 46 Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 2 (2), 1964, p. 1. 47 Singapore Parliamentary Debates, 14 December 1965, p. 131; 16 December 1965, p. 223. 48 A1838/3024/2/2/11/PART 1 Barisan Sosialis, Despatch from the Australian High Commission to the Secretary, Department of External Affairs, 29 August 1965. 49 Authors’ email correspondence with Koh Kay Yew, 15 April 2009. 50 Nanyang Siang Pau, 17 December 1965. 51 Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 2 (2), 1964, pp. 14-5. 52 USSU Handbook 1966, p. 100. 53 Koh Kay Yew, email correspondence with authors, 1 January 2009. 54 Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 1965, volume and issue numbers unknown, p. 2; University Socialist Club press release, 27 April 1966, untitled. 55 Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 4 (2), August 1966, pp. 1-3; Welcome Speech by Abdul Razak Ahmad, in University Socialist Club, Papers from the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, 30 September 1966. 56 Television Corporation of Singapore, audio recording on the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, Tape 2, 30 September 1966. 57 Television Corporation of Singapore, audio recording on the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, Tape 2, 30 September 1966. 58 Straits Times, 29 September 1966. 59 Welcome Speech by Abdul Razak Ahmad, 30 September 1966; and Shirle Gordon, “Notes – Preface to Introductory Speech”, in University Socialist Club, Papers from the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, 1966. 60 Working papers by Lee Siew Choh and Kassim Ahmad, in University Socialist Club, Papers from the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, 1966. 61 Shirle Gordon, “The Social Implication of Communalism”, working paper, in University Socialist Club, Papers from the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, 1966. 62 Tan Chee Koon, “Some Observations on Communal Relations in the Socio-economic Structure of Malaysia”, working paper, in University Socialist Club, Papers from the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, 1966. 63 Working papers by Tommy Koh and Mahathir Mohammad, in University Socialist Club, Papers from the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, 1966. 64 Working paper by Syed Hussein Ali, in University Socialist Club, Papers from the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, 1966. 65 Welcome Speech by Abdul Razak Ahmad, in University Socialist Club, Papers from the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, 30 September 1966. 66 FCO 24/289, Report on the forum “Reunification: Dream or Reality?” by L.P. NevilleJones, 11 December 1967.

315

NOTES

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3 4

5 6 7 8 9

10 11 12 13 14

15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23

In Defence of University Autonomy and Student Rights Yeo Kim Wah, “Student Politics in University of Malaya, 1949-51”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 23 (2), September 1992, p. 376. For the most recent surveys of the post-war educational policies imposed on the Chinese-medium schools and their impact in generating student protest, see Liu Hong and Wong Sin-Kiong, Singapore Chinese Society in Transition: Business, Politics and Socio-Economic Change, 1945-1965 (New York: Peter Lang 2004), pp. 125-62; and Huang Jianli, “Nanyang University and the Language Divide in Singapore: Controversy over the 1965 Wang Gungwu Report”, in Lee Guan Kin (ed.), Nantah tuxiang: Lishi heliuzhong de shengshi 南大图像 历史河流中的省视 (Singapore: Global Publishing/NTU Centre for Chinese Language and Culture, 2007). Alexander Carr-Saunders et Al., Report of the Commission on University Education in Malaya (Kuala Lumpur: Government Press 1948), p. 87. Malayan Undergrad, 2 (4), 6 March 1951, p. 4. The University of Malaya Students’ Union, which saw itself as the leadership on university issues and student interests, championed student protest against numerous perceived violations of university autonomy and academic freedom. Consequently, university students defended leftwing students when the state interfered in their activities. For instance, the Students’ Union protested the colonial authorities’ intrusion into the university to arrest students linked with the Anti-British League in 1951, and the eight University Socialists for sedition in 1954. These intrusions were seen as the colonial power’s attempt to retain power and hinder the students from realising their future roles as leaders of an independent nation. Authors’ interview with Agoes Salim, 13 February 2009. Fajar, 1 (7), 10 May 1954, p. 2. The “leading member” was not named. Fajar, 1 (12), October 1954, pp. 3-4. Malayan Undergrad, 12 November 1954, p. 1. See Colony of Singapore, Report of the Joint Committee on the Future of the University of Malaya, Command Paper No. 36 of 1954; Colony of Singapore, Report of the Commission of Enquiry on the University of Malaya, Command Paper 54 of 1957; Malaya, Report of the Joint Committee on the Constitution of the University of Malaya, 1958 (Kuala Lumpur: Government Press, 1958); Malayan Undergrad, 4 October 1957, p. 2; 9 (3), May 1958, p. 4; 9 (4), June 1958, p. 1; 9 (7), September 1958, p. 1. Malayan Undergrad, 12 (1), October 1960, p. 1; 12 (12), September 1961, p. 4. Fajar, 2 (10), October 1960, p. 2. Malayan Undergrad, 11 (7), April 1960, p. 3. Fajar, 2 (10), October 1960, p. 1. On the Enright Affair, see Edgar Liao, “The Enright Affair (1960): The Politics of Culture and Student Politics in Singapore” (unpublished academic exercise, Department of History, National University of Singapore, 2007). USSU Annual Report 1960-1961, pp. 26-30; Straits Times, 20 November 1960. Fajar, 1 (3), 22 October 1953, p.1. Fajar, 1 (26), 28 December 1955, p. 5. Fajar, 2 (12), December 1960, p. 2; Malayan Undergrad, 12 (3), December 1960, p. 6. Fajar, 2 (12), December 1960, p. 2. Malayan Undergrad, 13 (11), September/October 1962, p. 1. Fajar, 4 (6), September-October 1962, p. 2. Malayan Undergrad, 14 (2), February 1963, p. 1. Numerous studies trace the transformation of Singapore’s universities into “national” universities in accordance with changing local conditions and the developmental needs of the post-colonial Singapore state. See S. Gopinathan, “University Education

316

24 25

26

27 28 29 30

31 32

33 34 35

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

in Singapore: The Making of a National University”, in Philip G. Altbach and V. Selvaratnam (eds.), From Dependence to Autonomy: The Development of Asian Universities (Dordrecht, Boston and London: Kluwer Academic Publishers 1989); V. Selvaratnam, “University Autonomy versus State Control: The Singapore Experience”, in Guy Neave and Frans A. van Vught (eds.), Government and Higher Education Relationships across Three Continents: The Winds of Change (Oxford, England; Tarrytown, New York: Published for the IAU Press, Pergamon 1994); V. Selvaratnam, Innovations in Higher Education: Singapore at the Competitive Edge (Washington, D.C.: The World Bank, 1994); and Edwin Lee, Singapore: The Unexpected Nation (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies 2008). Speech by Lee Kuan Yew at the University Socialist Club, Straits Times, 1 July 1960. Speech by Lee Kuan Yew at the University Socialist Club, 1 July 1960, National Archives of Singapore, STARS: Speech-Text Archival and Retrieval System, http:// stars.nhb.gov.sg/stars/public/viewPDF.jsp?pdfno=lky19600701.pdf, accessed 1 January 2009. Selvaratnam, Innovations in Higher Education, p. 71. For a former expatriate staff member’s harsh account and appraisal of the Singapore state’s interventionist measures at the University of Singapore in the late 1960s, see Roland Puccetti, “Authoritarian Government and Academic Subservience: The University of Singapore”, Minerva, 10 (2), April 1972. Straits Times, 11 June 1960; Malayan Undergrad, 11 (9), June 1960, p. 3. Straits Times, 12 June 1960. Fajar, 2 (9), June-July 1960, p. 6. Selvaratnam, Innovations in Higher Education, p. 72. The PAP government’s fear of the increase in subversive elements at the University of Singapore relates to the new policy of allowing academically bright Chinese-medium school students to be admitted into the university after 1959. This, the government felt, ran the serious menace of the communist supporters among them “contaminating and killing” the University of Singapore. See Lee Kuan Yew, “Academic Freedom and Social Responsibility”, speech to the University of Singapore Historical Society, 24 November 1966, National Archives of Singapore, STARS: Speech-Text Archival and Retrieval System, http://stars.nhb.gov.sg/stars/tmp/lky19661124a.pdf, accessed 25 September 2009; and Lim Chong Koon, “The University of Singapore, 1962-1970” (unpublished academic exercise, Department of History, University of Singapore, 1975), pp. 8-9. Malayan Undergrad, 14 (6), November 1963, p. 4; 14 (7), January 1964, pp. 1, 5. Singapore Government Press Release, “Certificate of Suitability”, 10 February 1978, National Archives of Singapore. STARS: Speech-Text Archival and Retrieval System, http://stars.nhb.gov.sg/stars/tmp/786-1978-02-10.pdf, accessed 25 September 2009. Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 2 (2), 1964, p. 20. Fajar, 2 (2), 1964, p. 20. Koh Tai Ann, one of the prominent members of the Democratic Socialist Club, recounted how university autonomy and academic freedom were “very lively issues” during her undergraduate days. The DSC’s statements on the Suitability Certificates, which were more weighted than those of the Socialist Club but no less resolute, brand the legislation “a stigma on our democracy” that ought to be “hastily and happily repealed”. They echoed the belief in the important connection between the university’s autonomy and its ability to fulfil its social role, even while acknowledging the necessity to ward off political subversion. The DSC, too, condemned the repressive measures that affected other student activists, calling upon the government to “have complete respect for the autonomy of the university”. The government clearly did not agree with these arguments, having constantly argued that the university’s

NOTES

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37 38 39 40 41 42

43 44 45 46

47 48 49

50 51 52 53 54

55 56 57 58 59 60

317

dependence on public funding obligated it to serve national goals as defined by the state. Koh Tai Ann, “The World of the English-educated in the 1960s and 1970s: An Interview with Koh Tai Ann”, Tangent, 6, April 2003, pp. 265-67; Demos, 1 (2), August-October 1965, p. 2; 2 (2), October 1966, p. 5. Koh Kay Yew, “Coming of Age in the Sixties”, in Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew (eds), The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (Petaling Jaya: SIRD, 2009), p. 237. USSU Annual 1965-6, editorial, unpaginated. USSU Annual 1964-65, editorial, unpaginated University Socialist Club, press release, 30 August 1966, in Press Releases and Papers Issued by the 14th Central Working Committee, 1966. Television Corporation of Singapore, audio recording on the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, Tape 2, 30 September 1966. Gurdial Singh Nijar, “Student Activism at Singapore University – 1965-66: A Personal Experience”. Unpublished paper kindly given to Edgar Liao. Straits Times, 28 June 1964, quoted in Yao Souchou, “All Quiet on Jurong Road: Nanyang University and Radical Vision in Singapore”, in Michael D. Barr and Carl A. Trocki (eds.), Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Postwar Singapore (Singapore: NUS Press 2008), p. 184. A Malaysian government White Paper published the same month alleged that the Nanyang University Students’ Union and Guild of Graduates were dominated by Malayan Communist Party members and sympathisers. Huang Jianli, “Nanyang University and the Language Divide in Singapore”, p. 200. University Socialist Club, “Memorandum on the Present Nanyang University Crisis”, in Press Releases and Papers Issued by the 14th Central Working Committee, 1966. Malayan Undergrad, 15 (4), September 1966, p. 4. University Socialist Club, press release, “Academic Freedom and University Autonomy”, 5 September 1966, in Press Releases and Papers Issued by the 14th Central Working Committee, 1966. Malayan Undergrad, 15 (3), October-November 1965, p. 8; Koh Kay Yew, email correspondence with authors, 4 January 2009. Welcome Speech by Abdul Razak Ahmad, in University Socialist Club, Papers from the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, 30 September 1966. Malayan Undergrad, 15 (4), September 1966, p. 7. See also USSU Bulletins, 4 (2) to 4 (4), October 1966; and Straits Times, 12 October 1966, for the elaborate plans for the protest marches and rallies. Malayan Undergrad, 15 (4), September 1966, p. 6. Nijar, “Student Activism at Singapore University – 1965-66: A Personal Experience”; Malayan Undergrad, 15 (4), September 1966, p. 7. Straits Times, 3 November 1966. See Liu and Wong, Singapore Chinese Society in Transition, p. 161, for an account of this movement. The Ngee Ann College students were agitating for the institution to become a counterpart to Nanyang University. The Thong Report, however, recommended only the conferment of diplomas, not degrees, and the use of English in place of Chinese as the medium of instruction. Straits Times, 16 November 1966. Straits Times, 16 and 22 November 1966. Straits Times, 16, 18-19 November 1966. USSU Special Bulletin, 4 (12), November 1966. Welcome Speech by Abdul Razak Ahmad, in University Socialist Club, Papers from the Seminar on Communalism and National Unity, 30 September 1966. Straits Times, 19-20 November 1966.

318 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70

71 72 73 74 75

76 77 78 79 80 81 82 83 84 85 86

87 88 89

11 1

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

Straits Times, 10 November 1966. Straits Times, 19 November 1966. Lee Kuan Yew, “Academic Freedom and Social Responsibility”. Lee Kuan Yew, “Academic Freedom and Social Responsibility”. Straits Times, 22 November 1966. Malayan Undergrad, 1 (2), June 1967, p. 6. Straits Times, 23 November 1966. Singapore Undergrad, 1 (3), 9 August 1967, p. 7. Singapore Undergrad, 2 (3), January 1968, p. 4. Singapore Undergrad, 1(2), June 1967, p. 10. According to the report, a Socialist Club official said the flag was made from a banner intended to publicise a talk by Han Suyin, which eventually did not take place, on the Cultural Revolution in China. Singapore Undergrad, 3 (12), 10 June 1969, p. 1; 3 (13), 17 June 1969, p. 2. Selvaratnam, Innovations in Higher Education, p. 73. Puccetti, “Authoritarian Government and Academic Subservience”, p. 231. Straits Times, 11 September 1966. Siaran Kelab Sosialis, (2) 1, June 1968, p. 1. According to Koh Kay Yew, Siaran was forced to cease publication in 1968 after the university administration insisted that the Club had to apply for a permit if it wished to continue. Koh Kay Yew, “Coming of Age in the Sixties”, in Poh, Tan and Koh, The Fajar Generation, p. 235. Siaran Kelab Sosialis, 4 (2), August 1966, p. 2; 2 (1), June 1968, p. 1. USSU Bulletin, 5 (7), 7 November 1967, pp. 2-3. Singapore Undergrad, 3 (16), 8 September 1969, p. 2. Hamid Ali was accused of having obtained the Police licence for the May 9th procession for the Labour Party. Singapore Undergrad, 2 (2), December 1967, p. 1. Singapore Undergrad, 2 (3), January 1968, p. 4. Singapore Undergrad, 2 (4), May 1968, p. 4. Singapore Undergrad, 2 (4), May 1968, pp. 1, 6. Subhas Anandan, The Best I Could (Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Editions 2009), pp. 67-8. Singapore Undergrad, 6 (2), 20 December 1971. Singapore Undergrad, 5 (9), 17 September 1971, pp. 1-2. C.M. Turnbull, A History of Singapore: 1819-1988 (Singapore: Oxford University Press 1989), p. 309. Tan Wah Piow was a Singaporean student leader who led his fellow student activists in various activities to alleviate socio-economic problems in Singapore. Not long after the Students’ Union set up a Retrenchment Research Centre to help retrenched workers in Jurong, he was arrested on 30 October 1974, and subsequently charged with and convicted for rioting in the premises of the Pioneer Industries Employees’ Union. See Tan Wah Piow, Let the People Judge: Confessions of the Most Wanted Person in Singapore (Oxford: TWP Publishing, 1987). Singapore Herald, 5 October 1970, p. 13. T.J.S. George, Lee Kuan Yew’s Singapore (London: Deutsch, 1973), p. 140. Singapore Undergrad, 5 (1), 21 October 1970, p. 5.

Entwined Memories and Myths Poh Soo Kai, speech at the memorial gathering for Dr M.K. Rajakumar, held at Dewan Canselor, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, on 4 January 2009. Published in s-pores, No. 3, February 2009 (http://s-pores.com/2009/02/speech), accessed 25 September 2009.

NOTES

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6 7

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9 10

11

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13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20

21

22

319

Roland Barthes, Mythologies (Palandin Books, 1973), p. 109; Shahid Amin, Event, Metaphor, Memory: Chauri Chaura, 1922-1992 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), p. xx. Alessandro Portelli, “What Makes Oral History Unique”, in Robert Perks and Alistair Thomson (eds.), The Oral History Reader, 2nd edition (London; New York: Routledge, 2006), p. 36. Paul Thompson, The Voice of the Past: Oral History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1978), pp. 99-104. Lee Hsien Loong, “National Education”, speech at the Launch of National Education, 17 May 1997 (http://www.moe.gov.sg/media/speeches/1997/170597.htm), accessed 14 March 2009. Straits Times, 20 May 1997. Albert Lau, “Nation-Building and the Singapore Story: Some Issues in the Study of Contemporary Singapore History”, in Wang Gungwu (ed.), Nation-building: Five Southeast Asian Histories (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2005), pp. 231-2; Tan Tai Yong, Kwa Chong Guan and Derek Heng, Singapore: A 700 Year History (Singapore: National Archives of Singapore, 2009), pp. 6-7. Cheong Yip Seng, Preface, in Sonny Yap, Richard Lim and Leong Weng Kam, Men In White: The Untold Story of Singapore’s Ruling Political Party (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, 2009), p. xii. Lee Kuan Yew, Foreword, in Yap, Lim and Leong, Men In White, pp. viii-ix. Michael D. Barr and Carl Trocki (eds.), Paths Not Taken: Political Pluralism in Postwar Singapore (Singapore: NUS Press, 2008); and Bridget Welsh et al. (eds.), Impressions of the Goh Chok Tong Years in Singapore (Singapore: NUS Press: Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies, 2009). Lysa Hong and Huang Jianli, “Toying with Pandora’s Box: The Scripting of Singapore’s National Heroes”, The Scripting of a National History: Singapore and its Past (Singapore: NUS Press, 2008), pp. 165-80; Lysa Hong, “Hankering for National Heroes”, s-pores, No. 3, February 2009 (http://s-pores.com/2009/02/heroes), accessed 25 September 2009. Ministry of Education, Curriculum Planning and Development Division, Singapore: From Settlement to Nation, Pre-1819 to 1971 (Singapore EPB Pan Pacific, 2007); and Hong, “Hankering for National Heroes”. Straits Times, 8 March 2006. The idea of an ex-detainees’ forum was mooted by Lim Cheng Tju, one of this book’s authors, to his friends at The Necessary Stage. CO 1030/361, Notes of evidence, 24 August 1954. See Chapter 2. Melanie Chew, interview with Ong Pang Boon, Leaders of Singapore (Singapore: Resource Press, 1996), pp. 174-5. Authors’ interview with Ong Pang Boon, 31 October 2009. Michael Fernandez’s meeting with S.R. Nathan, 11 September 2007; authors’ lunch meeting with S.R. Nathan, 14 April 2008. Authors’ interview with Tommy Koh, 26 March 2008. Authors’ interview with Wang Gungwu, 24 August 2007. Wang Gungwu, remarks at the memorial gathering for Dr M.K. Rajakumar, held at Lee Kuan School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore, Singapore, on 14 February 2009. Lee Kuan Yew, The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings, 1998), p. 8; and From Third World to First: The Singapore Story: 19652000 (Singapore: Singapore Press Holdings and Times Editions, 2000). See Lysa Hong and Huang Jianli, “Apotheosis: The Lee Kuan Yew Story as Singapore’s History”, The Scripting of a National History, pp. 31-43.

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23 Title of a speech in 1980 by Lee Kuan Yew, Speeches: A Bimonthly Selection of Ministerial Speeches, 3 (8), 1980 (Singapore: Information Division, Ministry of Culture), pp. 3-12. 24 Lee, The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew, pp. 161-5, 171, 178. The memoirs make no further reference to the Socialist Club following the sedition trial, except a brief note that, during the public debates on the merger referendum in 1962, the Club discreetly supported the Barisan’s call for the electorate to cast blank votes, p. 446. 25 Lee, The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew, p. 172. 26 Sai Siew Min and Huang Jianli, “The ‘Chinese-educated’ Political Vanguards: Ong Pang Boon, Lee Khoon Choy and Jek Yeun Thong”, in Lam Peng Er and Kevin Y.L. Tan, Lee’s Lieutenants: Singapore’s Old Guard (Sydney: Allen & Unwin, 1999). 27 See Hong and Jianli, “Student Political Activism: Articulation, Contestation and Omission”, The Scripting of a National History, pp. 137-62. 28 Chua Beng Huat, Communitarian Ideology and Democracy in Singapore (London: Routledge, 1995), pp. 26-37. 29 Electric New Paper, 13 March 2009. 30 Electric New Paper, 24 July 2007. 31 Loh Kah Seng, “Within the Singapore Story: The Use and Narrative of History in Singapore”, Crossroads, 12 (2), 1998, pp. 3-6. 32 Paul Buhle and Robin D.G. Kelley, “The Oral History of the Left in the United States: A Survey and Interpretation”, The Journal of American History, 76 (2), 1989, p. 537. 33 Jeyaraj Rajarao, “The Legacy of the Socialist Club of the University of Malaya: Influences and Reminiscences”, in Poh Soo Kai, Tan Jing Quee and Koh Kay Yew (eds.), The Fajar Generation: The University Socialist Club and the Politics of Postwar Malaya and Singapore (Petaling Jaya: SIRD, 2009), pp. 23, 91. 34 Authors’ email correspondence with Jeyaraj Rajarao, 4 August 2007. 35 Jeyaraj Rajarao’s email correspondence with Michael Fernandez and Tan Jing Quee, 28 January 2009. 36 Authors’ interview with Ahmad Mustapha, 5 August 2007. In the same year, Mustapha published a book detailing his view of Malaysian politics as an “insider”. Ahmad Mustapha Hassan, The Unmaking of Malaysia: Insider’s Reminiscences of UMNO, Razak and Mahathir (Petaling Jaya, Selangor: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, 2007). 37 Authors’ interview with V. Selvaratnam, 4 August 2007. 38 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lee Ting Hui, 14 October-19 November 2006. 39 Ronald Klein, interview with Edwin Thumboo, 1 September 1999 (http://courses.nus. edu.sg/course/ellthumb/site/doc/interlogue.html), accessed 20 March 2009. See also Ronald Klein, “Edwin Thumboo”, in Ronald Klein (ed.), Interlogue: Studies in Singapore Literature – Interviews, Volume 4 (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2000). 40 Straits Times, 11 August 2008. 41 National Museum of Singapore, Singapore History Gallery, Stamford Road, visited on 14 December 2007. 42 Fajar: In Memory of Academician Dr M.K. Rajakumar, 25 May 1932-22 November 2008, memorial booklet. Tan’s commemorative notes in the booklet were subsequently published in s-pores, No. 3, February 2009 (http://s-pores.com/2009/02/mkrajakumar), accessed 25 September 2009. 43 Tan Jing Quee, “The Poetics of James Puthucheary”, in Dominic J. Puthucheary and K.S. Jomo (eds.), No Cowardly Past: James Puthucheary, Writings, Poems, Commentaries (Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 1998).

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44 Tan Jing Quee, “Lim Chin Siong – A Political Life”, in Tan Jing Quee and K.S. Jomo (eds.), Comet in Our Sky: Lim Chin Siong in History (Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 2001). 45 Tan Jing Quee, “In Memory of Linda Chen (1928-2002)”, s-pores, No. 1, April 2007 (http://s-pores.com/2007/04/linda-chen); “Ho Piao: A Personal Recollection and Appreciation”, s-pores, No. 1, April 2007 (http://s-pores.com/2007/04/ho-piao); and “The Enigma of A. Samad Ismail”, s-pores, No. 3, 2009 (http://s-pores.com/2009/02/ enigma). All accessed 25 September 2009. Lim Cheng Tju, one of the book’s authors, is a founding member of s-pores. 46 Tan Jing Quee, Teo Soh Lung and Koh Kay Yew (eds.), Our Thoughts are Free: Poems and Prose on Imprisonment and Exile (Singapore: Ethos Book, 2009). The book also contained the poetry of two other former Socialist Club members, James Puthucheary and Ho Piao. 47 Tan Jing Quee, “M.K. Rajakumar: A Life Well Lived”, speech at the memorial gathering for Dr M.K. Rajakumar, held at Dewan Canselor, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, on 4 January 2009. Published in s-pores, No. 3, February 2009 (http://spores.com/2009/02/mkrajakumar), accessed 25 September 2009. 48 The title of the 2009 book edited by Tan, Poh Soo Kai and Koh Kay Yew. In 2011, Tan, together with Tan Kok Chiang and Hong Lysa, edited another book with “generation” in its title: The May 13 Generation: The Chinese Middle Schools Student Movement and Singapore Politics in the 1950s (Selangor: Strategic Information and Research Development Centre, 2011). 49 Tan Jing Quee, “M.K. Rajakumar: A Life Well Lived”, speech at the memorial gathering for Dr M.K. Rajakumar, held at Dewan Canselor, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, on 4 January 2009. Published in s-pores, No. 3, February 2009 (http://spores.com/2009/02/mkrajakumar), accessed 25 September 2009. 50 Letter by Lim Hock Siew to M.K. Rajakumar’s family for the memorial service on 30 November 2008, reproduced in “A Life Devoted to his Fellow Human Beings”, Aliran Monthly, 10, 18 February 2009 (http://www.aliran.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=840:a-life-devoted-to-his-fellow-humanbeings&catid=75:200810&Itemid=10), accessed 17 March 2009. 51 Said Zahari has written two volumes of his memoirs and is currently working on a third: Dark Clouds at Dawn: A Political Memoir (Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 2001) and The Long Nightmare: My 17 Years as a Political Prisoner (Kuala Lumpur: Utusan Publications, 2007). 52 Michael Fernandez and Loh Kah Seng, “The Left-Wing Trade Unions in Singapore, 1945-1970”, in Barr and Trocki, Paths Not Taken. Upon leaving the University of Singapore, Fernandez became the General-Secretary of the Naval Base Labour Union in 1963 and, subsequently, of the Singapore Commercial House and Factory Employees’ Union; he was also an adviser to the Singapore European Employees’ Union. At the Naval Base, he led a 10,000-strong strike for improved wages and working conditions for a month in October/November 1963, an action that was broken by the PAP’s intervention. 53 Michael Fernandez’s speech at the University of Malaya Socialist Club Preview Seminar, Institute of Policy Studies, 15 January 2007; authors’ email correspondence with Michael Fernandez, 17 January 2007. 54 Michael Fernandez’s speech at the University of Malaya Socialist Club Preview Seminar, Institute of Policy Studies, 15 January 2007; authors’ email correspondence with Michael Fernandez, 17 January 2007. 55 Straits Times, 4 August 2007. 56 Straits Times, 9 July 2008.

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57 Besides Lim Hock Siew, the other former Club members interviewed by the Oral History Centre are Michael Fernandez, James Puthucheary, Sydney Woodhull and Tommy Koh. 58 Hong and Huang, “Liturgy: Telling Singapore’s Past through Oral History”, The Scripting of a National History, p. 69. 59 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. Lim’s interview ran over sixty-one reels and its transcript can be read online. National Archives of Singapore, CORD (Collection of Oral History Recording Database), http://cord.nhb.gov.sg/cord/public/internetSearch, accessed 17 March 2009. 60 Jeffrey K. Olick and Toyce Robbins, “Social Memory Studies: From ‘Collective Memory’ to the Historical Sociology of Mnemonic Practices”, Annual Review of Sociology, 24, 1998, p. 127. 61 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 62 Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore, interview with Lim Hock Siew, 5 August 1982. 63 See Hong and Huang, “Liturgy: Telling Singapore’s Past through Oral History”, The Scripting of a National History, p. 69. 64 See Poh Soo Kai, “Detention in Operation Cold Store” and Tan Jing Quee,“Merger and the Decimation of the Left Wing in Singapore”, in Poh, Tan and Koh, The Fajar Generation. 65 Authors’ email correspondence with Tan Jing Quee, 22 December 2007. 66 Authors’ email correspondence with Tan Jing Quee, 6 March 2009. 67 Authors’ email correspondence with Tan Jing Quee, 6 March 2009. 68 Authors’ email correspondence with Koh Kay Yew, 1 January 2009. 69 Poh, Tan and Koh, The Fajar Generation, p. xviii. 70 Loh Kah Seng, “Introduction: At the Gates of History”, in Tangent, special issue on The Makers and Keepers of Singapore History, 6 (2), 2007, pp. 12-14. 71 Loh, “Within the Singapore Story”, p. 17. 72 Editorial, s-pores, No. 1, April 2007 (http://s-pores.com/2007/04/editorial), accessed 25 September 2009. 73 Editorial, s-pores, No. 3, February 2009 (http://s-pores.com/2009/06/editorial-3), accessed 25 September 2009. 74 Lim Cheng Tju, “A Personal Journey in Search of Fajar”, s-pores, No. 1, April 2007 (http://s-pores.com/2007/04/fajar), accessed 25 September 2009. The other coauthors of this book, like Lim, are in their 20s and 30s and are also involved in rethinking post-war Singapore history. Loh Kah Seng, as mentioned earlier in the chapter, was Michael Fernandez’s co-author for the paper on the left-wing trade unions in Singapore, and also possesses a strong interest in the social history of the city-state. He also edited a special journal issue published by the Tangent, a bilingual civil society group, on the issue of archival access for research into Singapore’s history. Loh Kah Seng (ed.), Tangent, special issue on The Makers and Keepers of Singapore History, 6 (2), 2007. Seng Guo Quan worked on the history of the Barisan Sosialis as an undergraduate and subsequently on socialist movements in the region. Edgar Liao completed his Honours Thesis on student activism at the University of Malaya/ Singapore in the early 1960s, which he is expanding for his Master’s research. Liao also wrote on the Rajakumar memorial meeting in Singapore, noting on the gap in historical knowledge between the elderly participants and young Singaporeans. In particular, he criticised the attempts of members of the Singapore Democratic Party, present at the event, to make political capital out of the proceedings against the PAP government. “That He Shall Not Die a Second Death”, s-pores, No. 3, February 2009

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(http://s-pores.com/2009/02/memorial), accessed 25 September 2009. The SDP article is “More LKY Revelations at Rajakumar’s Memorial” (http://yoursdp.org/index. php/news/singapore/1938-more-lky-revelations-at-rajakumars-memorial), accessed 25 March 2009.

Conclusion: Modernity in Singapore and Malaya Reconsidered William Roger Louis and Ronald Robinson, “The Imperialism of Decolonisation”, The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 22 (3), 1994; Ronald Robinson, “NonEuropean Foundations of European Imperialism: Sketch for a Theory of Collaboration”, in R. Owen and B. Sutcliffe (eds.), Studies in the Theory of Imperialism (London: Longman, 1972). 2 Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, Dominic Sachsenmaier and Jens Riedel, “The Context of the Multiple Modernities Paradigm”, in Dominic Sachsenmaier and Jens Riedel (eds.), with Shmuel N. Eisenstadt, Reflections on Multiple Modernities: European, Chinese and Other Interpretations (Leiden; Boston, Mass.: Brill, 2002). 3 Edward Aspinall, “Student Dissent in Indonesia in the 1980s”, working paper 79, (Centre for Southeast Asian Studies, Monash University, 1993), p. 4. 4 Philip G. Altbach, “Student Movements in Historical Perspective: The Asian Case”, Journal of Southeast Asian Studies, 1 (1), March 1970, p. 75. 5 Altbach, “Student Movements in Historical Perspective: The Asian Case”, p. 80. 6 Lee Namhee, “The South Korean Student Movement: Undongkwon as a Counterpublic Sphere”, in Charles K. Armstrong (ed.), Korean Society: Civil Society, Democracy and the State (New York: Routledge, 2002), pp. 132, 135. 7 See Dominic J. Puthucheary and K.S. Jomo (eds.), No Cowardly Past: James Puthucheary, Writings, Poems, Commentaries (Kuala Lumpur: INSAN, 1998). 8 Philip G. Altbach, “Perspectives on Student Political Activism”, Comparative Education, 25 (1), 1989, p. 100. 9 Philip G. Altbach, “Student Politics in the Third World”, Higher Education, 13 (6), December 1984, p. 637. 10 Josef Silverstein, “Students in Southeast Asian Politics”, Pacific Affairs, 49 (2), Summer 1976, pp. 205-6. 1

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Oral History Interviews by the Authors Cassim, Osman. 4 May 2008. Chin, C.C. 24 September 2008. Chu Tee Seng. 31 March 2007. Devadason, Ernest. 14 August 2008. Fernandez, Michael. 5 January 2008. Koh Buck Chye. 2 December 2007. Koh, Tommy. 26 March 2008. Lim Ho Hup. 4 September 2007. Mustapha, Ahmad. 5 August and 20 September 2007. Nathan, S.R. 11 September 2007 and 14 April 2008. Ong Pang Boon. 31 October 2009. Pillai, Gopinath. 9 September 2008. Rajakumar, M.K. 4 August 2007. Rajarao, Jeyaraj. 3 August 2007. Raman, G. 9 October 2007. Salim, Agoes. 15 November 2007 and 13 February 2009. Selvaratnam, V. 27 February and 4 August 2007. Tan Guan Heng. 5 January 2009. Wang Gungwu. 24 August 2007.

Oral History Interview by Oral History Centre, National Archives of Singapore Corridon, Richard. 4 August 1980. Fernandez, Michael. 25 May 1981. Khan, Ahmad. 15 February1984. Koh, Tommy. 23 May 1998. Lee Ting Hui. 14 October-19 November 2006. Lim Hock Siew. 5 August 1982. Marshall, David. 25 September 1984. Puthucheary, James. 15 June 1985. Wijeysingha, Eugene. 22 March 1995. Woodhull, Sydney. 16 June 1985.

Authors’ Email Correspondence Fernandez, Michael. 17 January 2007; 21, 24 and 26 August 2008. Koh Kay Yew. 1 January, 15 April and 18 September 2009. Lee Ting Hui. 31 December 2007. Lim Hock Siew. 7 August 2008. Poh Soo Kai. 15 February 2007. Rajarao, Jeyaraj. 4 August 2007, 28 January and 30 May 2009. Selvaratnam, V. 4 August 2007. Tan Jing Quee. 22 December 2007 and 6 March 2009. Wang Gungwu. 21 July 2009.

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Index

“513” Incident see anti-National Service protests A. Samad Ismail 58, 202, 246, 321 A.M. Azahari 195, 198, 312 Abdul Razak Ahmad 122, 206, 217, 222-3, 265 Abdul Razak Hussein 19 Abdullah Majid 51, 53, 58, 92, 99, 106, 133, 141, 158-9, 161-3, 173, 194, 210 academic freedom see university autonomy Afro-Asian Students Conference 110 agitprop see Fajar Agoes Salim 79, 108, 110, 114, 1201, 157, 211, 275 Ahmad Mustapha Hassan 79, 84, 86, 91, 93, 99, 101, 157, 161, 163, 193, 244, 269 Alliance, The 23-4, 26, 30, 34, 36, 67, 82, 84, 93-5, 99, 103-4, 167, 171, 176, 188-9, 195-6, 198, 202, 205, 207, 211, 262, 298 All-India Students Federation 110 Anandan, Subhas 106, 230 Angkatan ’66 student movement 256 Anti-British League (ABL) 46-7, 4950, 84, 133, 162, 169, 274, 307, 315 anti-communism 40, 84, 97-8, 1189, 160, 164, 195, 197, 250, 301 anti-National Service protests on 13 May 1953 33, 59, 61-3, 72, 75-6, 79-80, 114-6, 153-4, 158, 241, 297

apathy as a discourse 21, 33, 37, 501, 60, 128-31, 135, 226, 241, 257 Arudsothy, P. 71 Arumainathan, P. 57 ASAS-50 102 Ayuthury, Walter 211 Baker, Maurice 19 Bani, S.T. 168, 175, 249 Baratham, Gopal 173, 215-6, 265-6, 311 Barisan Sosialis 24-5, 33-4, 84, 90, 133, 138, 144, 147, 153, 156, 167, 180, 184-6, 188-9, 191, 193-8, 2002, 205, 223, 248-50, 257, 261, 2714, 277-8, 307-8, 311, 313, 320, 322 bazaar Malay see Malay language Bedok resettlement 92 Board of Student Welfare see University of Malaya Britain 30, 33-4, 45, 75, 146, 155, 160, 162-4, 195, 197, 202, 255, 261, 288 British colonial government 19, 21-4, 26, 37-46, 48, 51-3, 56, 589, 61, 63-4, 66, 68-70, 78-80, 82-3, 95-8, 102-3, 112, 115, 153-4, 158-9, 161-2, 164, 166-7, 169-70, 175, 178, 181, 184, 193-8, 205, 207, 211-2, 215-6, 244, 250, 2556, 258-62, 294-5, 298, 301 Brunei revolt 194-5, 197-8, 312 Bumiputra 205-6 Byrne, Kenny 53

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Caine, Sydney 47-8, 55, 63, 66, 295 Carr-Saunders Commission 43 Cassim, Osman 65, 67, 266, 293 Chai, Gilbert 108, 142 Chen, Francis C.K. 107-8, 142-4 Chen, Linda 95, 99-100, 114, 133, 153, 159-63, 173, 193-4, 212, 239, 242, 246, 266, 300-1, 312 Chen Mong Sin 162 Chew, Sunny 107, 122, 129, 230 Chinese Brass Gong Musical Society 96 Chinese Communist Party 42 Chinese dialects 35 Chinese education see educational policy Chinese High School 59, 63, 96, 125, 303 Chinese middle schools 50, 59, 82, 96, 114-5, 158, 161, 223, 224 student activism in 23, 29, 33, 54, 61, 63, 72, 88, 96, 114-6, 119, 125, 129, 133, 153, 158-60, 219, 224, 241, 249, 297 Chan Fee Hon 139 Chan Kian Hin 107, 112, 122, 141, 144, 150, 217, 222 Cheong, Arthur 229 Chow Sing Yau 266-7 Chu Tee Seng 157, 311 Chua Sian Chin 54-5, 58, 73, 134, 163, 179, 211, 231-2, 237, 267-8, 272, 275, 293-4, 298 City Council workers’ strike 88, 298-9 Chung Sing Yee 221 Cold War 22-3, 26, 39-40, 84, 127, 133, 136, 153, 155, 163-4, 178, 201, 203-4, 218, 259, 302-3 information order 34, 40, 164-5, 169, 257 College of Agriculture Students’ Union 113

colonialism 21, 23, 25-6, 31, 36, 42, 50, 53-4, 60, 64, 103, 108-10, 131, 154, 158, 183, 193, 206, 256, 266 Comber, Elizabeth see Han Suyin Comber, Leon 156 communal politics 21, 23-4, 26, 357, 44, 48, 51-4, 56-8, 60, 81-2, 84, 92-3, 95, 103-4, 109, 115, 123, 181-2, 184, 189, 198, 201-2, 204-7, 209, 219, 222, 255, 258-9, 261, 265, 3034 communism 21, 27, 37, 44, 47, 49, 72, 83-4, 95, 133, 154-5, 160-1, 1646, 189, 261 communist united front 23, 153, 156, 159, 184, 196, 222-3, 225, 237, 250, 312 contestation see modernity convergence see modernity Corridon, Richard 156, 164-5, 309 counter-insurgency 23-4, 30, 154-5, 252 curtailment see modernity David, V. 203 decolonisation 22-4, 30, 33, 39-40, 42-4, 46-7, 82, 103, 108, 131, 154, 175, 192, 195, 197-8, 244, 255-7, 262 democratic socialism 26, 105, 148, 150, 166, 258 Democratic Socialist Club see University of Singapore Democratic Socialist Club Demos 146 deregistration 25, 96, 191, 232 De Silva, Jack 145 Desker, Barry 230 “Detention-Writing-Healing” forum 237-8, 246 Devadason, Ernest V. 108, 133, 142-5 development (economic and industrial) 20, 22, 24-7, 31, 33-4, 38, 40, 52, 84, 113-4, 130, 145, 152,

339

INDEX

174, 183, 206-7, 210, 214, 218, 2278, 255-6, 261, 263, 315 Eber, John 67, 161-4 economic development see development educational policy 22, 30, 43-5, 60, 98, 101-2, 112, 176, 185, 206, 209, 216-7, 224, 312, 315 adult education 114 Chinese education 30, 36, 98, 104, 116-7, 218-9, 222, 316 English education 44 Malay education 98 university education 45-6, 107, 209-11, 217, 221, 249, 316 vernacular education 104, 117 elections 23-4, 81, 83, 85-6, 95-6, 98, 142, 144, 146, 161, 170, 191, 200, 268-70, 272, 276-7, 298, 313 Elliot, T.H. 205 Emergency Regulations see Malayan Emergency Eng, Peter 183 English language 29-30, 35-6, 44, 58, 82, 88, 99, 102-3, 110, 114, 117, 206, 242, 258, 266, 317 Enright Affair 212-3, 315 Enright, Dennis Joseph 212-3, 224 Fabian ideas 23-4, 26, 31, 39, 54, 61, 81, 255-8, 288 Fajar 19, 29, 34-5, 39, 51, 53-61, 646, 68, 70, 72-4, 76, 78, 82-3, 85, 87-94, 96, 98-9, 101, 104, 106, 110-2, 115-7, 120-1, 129, 132, 134, 136-9, 147, 150, 155, 159, 162-4, 170, 172, 174, 180, 182-5, 187-8, 192, 194-5, 198, 200-3, 211-5, 220, 228, 241, 246, 252, 257, 261, 265, 270, 275-6 as “agitprop” publication 33, 194

ban in 1963 in Singapore 20, 25, 139, 194, 261 ban in 1960 in the Federation 212 cessation of circulation in 1957 104 editorial board 55-9, 61, 63-6, 734, 78, 83, 87, 96, 192-3, 237-9, 244, 268, 270, 273, 275, 277, 298, 312 Fajar Baru 99, 101, 204 No. 7, “Aggression in Asia” issue 61-4, 68, 73-7, 114, 211, 233, 245, 295-7 resumption of circulation in 1959 96, 275 Fajar (memorial booklet) 245 “Fajar” (poem) 191-2 Fajar 8 see Fajar trial Fajar Generation, The 19-21, 243, 250-1, 270, 273, 277 Fajar trial 19-21, 24-5, 29, 32-4, 61, 63, 68-82, 88, 108, 115, 131, 153-4, 157-9, 163, 179, 185, 192, 237, 23845, 253, 257, 259, 263, 266-7, 2725, 278 Fajar 8 64-7, 77, 81, 93, 114, 158, 189, 239, 241, 243, 246, 270 Fajar Defence Fund 67, 79, 241, 271, 275 Federation of Malaya see Malaya Ferhat Abbas, Dr. 108 Fernandez , Michael 111-2, 180, 198, 237-9, 245-8, 268-9, 295, 311, 313, 321-2 Fong Chong Pik 169 Fong Swee Suan 80, 88, 91, 168, 173, 175, 197, 241, 295 Gallup Poll see merger Gamer, Robert 204, 221 General Electric Company 87 George, T.J.S. 194 Ghazali Ismail 206

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Gill, S.S. 114, 125 Goh, Jerry 48 Goh Chew Chua 86 Goh Chok Tong 236 Goh Keng Swee 19, 53, 147, 150, 165, 179, 185, 274, 309 Goh Kian Chee 147 Gordon, Shirle 204-5 Grand Design see Malaysia Plan

Japanese Occupation 22, 51 Jayakumar, Shunmugam 146 Jek Yuen Thong 124 Jeyaraj, Conrad 230 Joethy, R. 20, 91, 107, 141, 143, 162, 180 Joint Activities (Action) Committee see University of Malaya Socialist Club

Hansard 249-50 Han Suyin (Elizabeth Comber) 105, 138, 202, 318 Haniff Omar 128, 133 Hashim Sultan 51, 56, 293 hawkers 85 high modernism 27, 34, 210 history, role of 32-3, 234-7, 245, 2512, 263 Ho Piao 92, 193, 246 Hock Lee bus workers’ strike 88-9, 198 Hussein bin Abdul Ghani 118

Kam Siew Yee 87 Kanaganaratnam, K. 133 Karmakar, Tejen 117 Kassim Ahmad 204-5, 265 Khan, Ahmad 63, 66, 70, 72-3, 1567, 164-5 Khir Johari 99 King Edward VII Medical College 43, 45, 130, 140 Koh, Tommy 25, 37, 84, 90-1, 100, 107-8, 111, 121, 130, 132-3, 137-8, 147, 171-2, 174-6, 178-9, 185-6, 189, 204-5, 221, 230-1, 239-40, 258, 260-1, 267, 277, 311, 316, 322 Koh Kay Yew 19-20, 107, 124, 134, 141, 147-8, 200-1, 203, 217, 221, 246, 251, 269-70 Koh Poh Tiong 229-30 Koh Tai Ann 144, 306, 316-7 Kritik 138 Kuo Pao Kun 237 Kwa Boo Sun 58, 65, 93, 185, 262, 270, 279, 311 Kwa Chong Guan 229

Indochina conflict see Vietnam War, opposition to industrial development see development intelligence 34, 59, 146, 153-61, 16466, 169, 197 internal security 39, 97, 146, 175, 192, 197, 213, 216, 310 Internal Security Act (and Department) 153, 156, 220, 268, 273-4, 307 Internal Security Council 94, 155, 168, 301 International Students’ Conference 110-1, 118, 143, 146 International Union of Socialist Youths (IUSY) 111-2, 148-150 International Union of Students 110-2, 119, 143, 158-61, 302-3

Labour Front 81-3, 85, 95-8, 103, 146, 257 Labour Party (Britain) 54, 151 Labour Party (Malaya) 92, 151, 195, 262, 274, 300, 314, 318 labour movement see trade unions Lam Khuan Kit 65, 71, 270, 296 Lazarous, A.R. 85-6

INDEX

Lee Ah Chai (alias Lee Ting Hui) 556, 58, 130, 153, 156, 239, 244, 2701, 305, 308 Lee, Andy 206 Lee Hoe Guan 114, 125 Lee Hsien Loong 235 Lee Kuan Yew 19-21, 24, 26, 28, 313, 36, 38, 53, 66-8, 70-3, 77, 79-81, 86, 89-90, 94, 97-8, 104, 106, 125, 143-4, 150, 162, 164-5, 167-73, 175, 179, 182, 184-5, 189-90, 193-6, 200, 214-6, 219-21, 224, 227, 240, 242-5, 248-9, 252, 256, 270, 276, 288, 291, 295-7, 301, 309-10, 320 Lee, Reginald 230 Lee Siew Choh 180, 185, 202, 205, 223, 249 Lee Ting Hui see Lee Ah Chai Lee Wah Hin 230 left-wing socialism 20, 22-3, 25, 31, 39, 41, 47, 49, 51, 56, 61, 82, 84, 114, 127, 133, 166, 176, 212, 256-9 Liao, Edgar 322-3 liberal-democratic ideas 26, 30, 32, 41, 43, 54, 59, 132, 139, 147-8, 195, 210, 213, 224, 255-6, 259 Liberal Socialist Party 94 Lim, Arthur 125 Lim Cheng Tju 252, 319, 321-2 Lim Chin Joo 248 Lim Chin Siong 28, 31, 80-1, 86, 89, 91, 124, 168-70, 173, 175, 17980, 194-6, 237, 240-1, 245, 248, 295, 310, 312 Lim Hock Siew 20, 36, 48, 50, 54, 58-9, 65, 67, 72, 77-8, 85-6, 89, 91, 96-8, 106-7, 122, 129-30, 135, 141-2, 156, 173-4, 180, 185, 188, 193-4, 198-9, 203, 239, 246-50, 252, 268, 271, 293, 311-2, 322 Lim Kean Siew 95, 202, 314 Lim Shee Ping, Albert 87, 90, 153, 173, 180, 193, 307 Lim Swee Cheong 150

341 Lim Tay Boh, Dr. 227 Lim Teck Hui 107-8, 142, 271 Lim Yew Hock 33, 91, 94-7, 156, 160, 168, 201, 257, 274, 297, 303 Ling, Sonny 142 Loh Ching Yew, James 51, 293 Loh Kah Seng 247, 322 Loke Yew Hai 229 London constitutional talks 97, 160, 170, 301, 310 Lord Selkirk 194, 196-8 Lumumba, Patrice 108 MacGillivray, Sir Donald 119 Mahadeva, A. 85-6, 90, 100, 162-3, 173, 193, 239, 271-2, 311 Mahathir Mohammad 205-6, 269 Mahbubani, Kishore 227 Malay Education Council 98 Malay language 82, 98-103, 206, 258 bazaar Malay 35, 102, 258 romanised Malay 35, 99, 159 Malay Language Society 99 Malaya 19-24, 26-8, 30, 32, 34-7, 41, 44-6, 48-53, 55-7, 59-61, 72, 75-6, 80-3, 88, 92-5, 99, 101-5, 112-3, 120-3, 128, 146, 155, 160, 164, 167, 173, 175-6, 180-3, 189, 193, 195, 201-4, 206, 211, 242, 248, 256, 260 Malayan Cauldron 46 Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) 23, 56, 67, 72, 182, 298 Malayan Communist Party (MCP) 22-5, 30, 42, 45-6, 48, 82, 84, 89, 95, 97, 133, 153-5, 159, 162, 164-5, 168-70, 193, 237, 290, 307, 309, 312, 317 Singapore City Committee 154 Malayan Democratic Union 47, 67, 162, 290 Malayan Emergency 22-3, 41, 45, 52, 132, 136, 153-6, 163, 290

342

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

Emergency Regulations 24, 42-3, 57-8, 61, 64, 75-6, 83, 87, 192, 201 Malayan Forum 19, 162-3, 268 Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) 23, 298 Malayan National Seamen’s Union 92 Malayan Orchid 46 Malayan socialism 29, 54, 58, 257-8 Malayan Spring 30, 41-3, 154 Second Malayan Spring 30, 33, 39, 43, 45, 47, 59, 61, 63, 153, 167, 192, 195, 253, 255 Malayan Student, The 159 Malayan Students’ Party 46 Malayan Textiles workers’ strike 88 Malayan Trade Union Congress 93 Malayan Undergrad 46-7, 59, 106, 108-9, 111, 118-20, 130, 133, 135, 141, 145-7, 210, 214, 221, 276 Malayan Union 23, 51 Malaysia, Federation of 24-5, 36-8, 42, 112, 122, 147, 151, 157, 167-8, 184-6, 189, 192, 198, 200-7, 214, 216-9, 222-3, 225, 232, 242, 244, 261-2 Mandarin 19, 35-6, 159, 294 Maniam, Bala S. 147 Maria Hertogh riots 154 Marshall, David 66, 73, 77, 81, 83-4, 100, 124, 145, 160, 173, 176-8, 185, 257, 296 Marxist ideas 25-6, 31, 42, 50, 52, 56, 58, 132, 137, 148, 162, 255-6, 258, 262 May Fourth Movement 35 Mayo, P.D. 145 McCoy, R.S. 113 Men in White 19-21, 169, 236 merger 24, 33-4, 36-7, 99, 104, 107, 124, 166-8, 196-200, 203-6, 240, 249-50, 253, 256-7

debate 169-90, 249-50, 258, 2601, 267, 270, 276, 311, 320 Gallup Poll 170, 186-8, 267, 312 referendum on 24, 170, 181, 1848, 312, 320 Merican, Mahmood 117 Ministry of Home Affairs see Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs modernity 21-2, 25-38, 41-2, 50, 81, 101, 103-4, 128, 189, 206, 223-4, 234, 237, 240, 245, 249, 253, 255-8, 261, 263 Moore, Philip 196-7 Moorthy, E.S. 137 Morais, Herbert 144 Motor Workshop Employees’ Union 92 Musa bin Hitam 108, 120, 145-6 Musa, Lockman 50 multiple modernities 28, 255-6 Muslim Society 99 Nair, Chandran 229 Nair, Devan C.V. 85-6, 88, 168, 1767, 270, 291 Nanyang University 36, 82, 99, 117, 123, 151, 153, 161-2, 170, 176, 186, 188, 193-4, 212, 214, 218-9, 222, 225, 229, 259, 267, 276, 278-9, 317 Nanyang University Political Science Society 123, 173, 183, 186-7, 193 Nanyang University Students’ Union 108, 213, 219, 222, 229 Nan Chiau High School Alumni Association 162 Nathan, S.R. 57-8, 65, 239, 252, 272, 294 nation-building 24, 36, 47, 52, 82, 98, 182, 207, 216-8, 236, 239, 242 National Education programme 235, 240, 245 National Language Seminar see University of Malaya Socialist Club

INDEX

National Union of Journalists 90, 162 National union of students, formation of 112-123, 212, 223, 229 National University of Singapore 236 nationalism 21-4, 27-8, 31, 35, 38, 41, 43, 81, 84, 99, 102, 120, 133, 147-8, 155, 175, 203, 236, 240-1, 255, 2589, 261 as a derivative discourse 25-7, 255 optimism of 26, 29, 31, 255-6 Naval Base Labour Union 58, 8990, 268, 278, 321 Navaratnam, Ramon 120, 146 Necessary Stage, The 237-8, 319 neo-colonialism 24-5, 30, 138, 209 New Cauldron 106 New Economic Policy 262, 275 New Villages 30 newspapers 68, 79, 98, 187 Ngee Ann College 123, 222-3, 279, 317 Ngee Ann Technical College 229 Ng Leok Yew 111 Nicoll, John 63, 69-70, 77-8, 158, 295-6, 298 Nijar, Gurdial Sigh 222-3 non-communal politics 30, 38, 98, 104, 168, 171, 182, 206, 258, 298 Non-Hostelites Organisation 106, 122, 141 Ong Ban Chai 107, 141, 144, 217 Ong Bock Chuan 122 Ong Eng Guan 97, 162, 170, 172-3, 175, 178 Ong Leong Boon 221, 226 Ong Pang Boon 58, 73, 86, 165, 179, 237, 239, 242, 245, 267, 272-3, 275, 294, 309

343 Oorjitham, Philemon 48, 51, 98, 107, 110, 113-4, 117-9, 121, 180, 200, 272, 293 Operation Coldstore 34, 40, 191-8, 200-1, 203, 214, 233, 248-9, 251, 261, 266, 271-4, 276, 278, 287, 312 Operation Pecah 40, 191-3 oral history 38-9, 70, 156, 164, 234, 248-9, 287, 309, 322 Oral History Unit, National Archives of Singapore 164, 309 Pan-Malayan Students’ Federation (PMSF) 32, 34, 39, 107, 110, 11223, 125, 159-60, 212, 233, 259-60, 266, 268, 272, 276, 297 Pan Shou 237 Partai Kommunis Indonesia 58 Partai Rakyat 195, 202, 300 Pasqual, John 232 peasant associations see rural associations Pelandok 106, 141 People’s Action Party (PAP) 19-21, 23-34, 36-8, 61, 79-82, 84-6, 88, 90-1, 93, 96-100, 102-5, 123-4, 1323, 138, 146, 149-51, 156, 158-9, 162, 165-96, 198, 200-3, 205, 207, 2128, 224, 226-7, 231-7, 240, 242-3, 246-52, 255-8, 262-3, 266-79, 288, 291, 295, 299, 309-10, 312-13, 316, 321-2 Pillai, Gopinath 87, 90-1, 123, 129, 174, 273 Phoa, Eugene 143 Poh Soo Kai 19-20, 49, 51, 58, 61, 64, 67, 71, 74, 78, 83, 85-6, 91, 978, 107, 110, 162, 173-4, 180, 185, 193-4, 233, 235, 239, 243, 245-7, 250, 271, 273, 292-3, 296, 312 Preservation of Public Security Ordinance 43, 83, 192-3, 195, 267 Pritt, D.N. 19-20, 67-8, 70-9, 114, 158, 241, 271, 295-7

344

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

Puthucheary, Dominic 87, 168, 175 Puthucheary, James 46-53, 58, 61, 65-6, 73-4, 76, 86, 89-91, 93, 105-7, 112, 133, 140-1, 158, 165, 174, 17982, 185, 193-4, 238-9, 245, 262, 270, 273-5, 293, 302, 322 Raffles College 43, 45, 130, 140 Raffles Society 106 Rajah, A.P. 177 Rajakumar, M.K. 48-9, 51, 58, 61, 64-6, 71, 79, 85-6, 92, 97, 106-7, 130, 141, 151, 162, 185, 233-4, 240, 242, 245-6, 262, 268, 274, 292-3, 298, 311, 322 Rajarao, Jeyaraj 61, 66-8, 73, 78, 92, 129, 237, 243-4, 267, 272, 275, 294, 298 Rajaratnam, S. 68, 191, 269, 277, 291 Rasanayagam, W.R. 118-9 Razak Committee on National Education 102 Registrar of Trade Unions 191, 203 Rendel Constitution 23, 25, 30, 43, 48, 57, 86 right-wing 27, 176, 181, 257 rural associations 92, 180 s-pores 246, 252, 277, 321 Said Zahari 247, 321 Sani, H. 56-8, 293 Samad, O. 194 Samad Ismail see A. Samad Ismail Sandoshan, A.A. 215-6 Sandys, Duncan 197-8 Santhiran, S. 143 Second Malayan Spring see Malayan Spring security establishment see intelligence sedition trial see Fajar trial Selvarajah, T. 146

Selvaratnam, Viswanatthan 79, 91, 96, 114, 214, 244, 275-6 Seminar on Communalism and National Unity see University of Malaya Socialist Club Seng Guo-Quan 307-8, 322 Seow, George 145 Siaran Kelab Sosialis 106, 134, 139, 147-8, 151, 200-4, 221, 228-9, 257, 269, 313, 318 Sim Yong Chan 107, 122, 141, 22630 Singapore 19-27, 30, 33, 36-8, 41-5, 61-3, 81-3, 85-92, 94-6, 99, 101-2, 104, 109-110, 122-4, 154-6, 160, 162, 165-75, 184, 188-92, 195, 198, 200, 202-7, 209, 214-9, 222, 2278, 235-7, 245-6, 252-3, 255-6, 258, 260-1, 263 Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU) 191, 277, 312 Singapore Business Houses Employees’ Union 87, 90, 168 Singapore Chinese Middle School Students’ Union (SCMSSU) 92, 96, 116, 159-60, 303 Singapore Factory and Shop Workers’ Union 89, 93, 274 Singapore Farmers’ Association 92 Singapore General Employees’ Union 168, 173, 191, 312 Singapore Harbour Board 90 Singapore Harbour Board Staff Association 89, 269, 276 Singapore History Gallery, National Museum of Singapore 237, 245, 248 Singapore Machine and Engineering Workers’ Union 92 Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs 156, 217, 237 Singapore People’s Alliance 176, 311 Singapore Polytechnic Political Society 123-5, 173, 193

INDEX

Singapore Polytechnic Students’ Union 108, 213-4, 229 Singapore Story, The 21, 235-6, 252 Singapore Story, The (memoirs) 241, 295, 320 Singapore Undergrad 106, 141, 226-7, 229, 232 Singapore Wooden House Dwellers’ Association 92 Singapore Women’s Federation 95, 162 Singh, Daljit 137, 151 Singh, Gurmukh 51 Singh, Jamit 46, 48, 51, 86, 89-90, 107, 168, 175, 193, 269-70, 276, 293, 302 social engineering 24, 33, 38, 40, 102, 210, 263 social integration see social engineering socialism 20, 24-7, 29, 31, 38, 49, 52-5, 58, 60, 78, 82-4, 87, 93, 95-6, 103, 105, 127, 131-2, 134-5, 137-8, 146-8, 152, 166, 171, 180, 189, 205, 207, 210, 233, 243-4, 256-60, 288 Socialist Club see University of Malaya Socialist Club Special Branch 34, 46, 50, 59, 61, 63, 66, 70, 72-3, 90-1, 93, 96, 112, 151, 153-66, 169, 193-4, 239, 257, 267, 272, 274-5, 278, 296, 298, 304, 308-9, 312 Sreenivasan, Dr. B.R. 216 Sreenivasan Affair 216, 224 Student National Action Front 2224 students activism of 20-1, 25, 28-30, 33-9, 41, 47, 49, 53, 63, 87, 89, 103, 104-5, 110, 112, 114, 124-5, 127, 131, 133-6, 139, 141, 147, 152-4, 167, 169, 188, 194, 212-5, 219, 221, 225, 228, 231-3, 237-9, 242,

345 247, 249, 257, 259-62, 287-8, 303, 322-3 Chinese-educated 21, 29, 35-7, 63, 68, 80, 88, 94, 104, 116, 129, 153, 159, 160-1, 179, 202, 224, 241-2, 245, 247, 257, 259, 295, 307 English-educated 19, 21, 29-30, 32-3, 35, 37, 42, 44-6, 50-1, 63, 85, 88-90, 98-9, 102-4, 115, 125, 128-30, 135-6, 153-4, 158, 160, 162, 168, 179, 194, 201-2, 207, 224, 226, 241-2, 247, 249, 257, 259-60, 269-70, 290, 307 idealism of 26, 29, 31, 84-5, 91, 120, 157, 179, 182, 190, 234, 237, 239-41, 243-4, 249, 257, 259 identity and role of 26, 28-9, 31-2, 37, 113, 118, 120, 130-52, 209-10, 214, 223-4, 260 rights of 28-9, 34, 40, 50, 107, 116, 123, 140, 150, 209-32, 261 Suitability Certificates 216-7, 224, 228 Syed Hussein Al-Attas 204 Syed Hussein Ali 204-5 Syed Nasir 202 Tan, C.C. 85-6, 96 Tan Chee Khoon 204-5 Tan Cheng Lock 67, 72, 84 Tan, Gem 146-8, 151 Tan Guan Heng 84-5, 91-2, 123, 157, 173-4, 276, 311 Tan Jing Quee 19-20, 87, 90-2, 100, 107, 112, 135-6, 141, 143, 149, 173, 176, 180, 184, 191-2, 198, 237-8, 245-8, 250-2, 276-7 Tan Kok Fang 20 Tan Leng Choo 206 Tan Leng Cheo 229 Tan Peng Boo 111 Tan Poh Hwa, Jenny 161

346

THE UNIVERSITY SOCIALIST CLUB AND THE CONTEST FOR MALAYA

Tan Seng Huat 67, 98, 114, 159, 161-3, 173, 194, 266, 293, 295, 312 Tan Seng Lock 50 Tan Wah Piow 232 Teachers’ Training College 113 Technical College Students, Union 113, 117, 121-2 Thomson, G.G. 226 Thumboo, Edwin 64-6, 76, 244-5, 277-8, 294, 298 Thong Saw Pak Report 222 Toh Chin Chye 67, 99, 227-8 Tory, Geofroy 197 Tregonning, K.G. 204 trade unions 20, 23, 34, 42, 59, 878, 90, 153, 167, 169-70, 177-8, 203, 249, 258, 267, 276-7, 322 Transport Workers’ Union 203 Tun Abdul Razak 163, 274 Tunku Abdul Rahman 36, 67, 84, 95, 146, 167-70, 175-6, 183-4, 18990, 195-7, 267 United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) 23-4, 37-8, 52-3, 56, 67, 84, 102, 168, 171, 175, 181-2, 197-8, 200, 202, 206-7, 298 university autonomy 21, 25, 29, 34, 40, 107, 124, 140, 150, 209-13, 21629, 231-2, 261, 265, 279, 315-6 University of Malaya 19, 24, 29, 31, 36, 39, 41, 43-7, 49, 79, 92-3, 99, 105-6, 110-1, 114-5, 118, 120-3, 125, 127-30, 139, 141, 145, 151-5, 157, 159, 161, 165, 176-7, 183, 193, 201, 205, 209-13, 216, 218-20, 222-3, 225-8, 230-2, 237, 249, 256, 259-60, 262, 287, 303, 322 Board of Student Welfare 107, 112 University of Malaya Catholic Students’ Society 145 University of Malaya Democratic Club 145-6

University of Malaya Historical Society 107, 110, 224 University of Malaya Philosophical Society 138 University of Malaya Socialist Club and Chinese students 29, 33-5, 54, 59, 61-3, 68, 81, 88-9, 92, 96, 114-7, 119, 125, 127, 133, 153-4, 158-61, 179-80, 219-20, 222-3, 225, 245, 247, 249, 259-60 and labour 20, 23, 25-9, 32, 34, 37, 56, 58-9, 81-2, 86-91, 92-4, 160, 168-9, 178-9, 180, 203, 237, 247, 249, 257-8, 267-8, 270, 274, 276-8, 298, 313, 321-2 and Operation Coldstore 33-4, 191-4, 200-1, 203, 214, 233, 2489, 251, 261, 266, 271-4, 276, 278, 287 and peasants and kampong dwellers 25-7, 32, 37, 81, 91-2, 93-4, 96, 180, 183, 257 critique of 1957 coup within the PAP 97-8, 257 deregistration 25, 232 Forum on “Basis for Merger” 17580, 261 Forum on “Reunification: Dream or Reality?” 206-7 Founding 24-5, 41, 47-51 Gallup Poll see merger impact of 1956 crackdown 33, 91, 95-8, 160-2 Joint Activities (Action) Committee 34, 123-5, 142, 148, 173, 176, 193, 203, 214, 219, 231, 257, 259, 269, 276 Manifesto 51-3 National Language Seminar 98104, 161, 204, 258, 267, 269 new tone in 1954 57-9 on Malay rural poverty 36, 81, 934, 98, 103-4, 182-3, 259, 262

INDEX

on partisanship 32, 82-5, 121, 1313, 138, 140-4, 204, 218, 248, 251, 260, 302, 305 relationship with alumni 81, 90-1, 174, 178-9, 194, 200, 212 response to Singapore’s independence 202-3 Seminar on “Communalism and National Unity” 36, 123, 204-7, 222, 261, 265 Seminar on “The Current Political Situation in Singapore” 162, 173 surveillance of 33-4, 153-66, 193, 257, 262-3 University of Malaya Student Christian Movement 106, 145 University of Malaya Students’ Union (UMSU) 46-7, 50-1, 61-2, 82, 1068, 110-1, 113-4, 118-23, 128, 133, 1412, 145-6, 150, 159, 193, 213, 217, 222, 274, 276, 287, 295, 302-3, 306, 315 University of Singapore see University of Malaya University of Singapore Democratic Socialist Club (DSC) 38, 144-5, 147-51, 152, 200, 204-6, 217, 230, 256-8, 260, 316 University of Singapore Law Society 106 University of Singapore Socialist Club see University of Malaya Socialist Club University of Singapore Students’ Union (USSU) see University of Malaya Students’ Union University Socialist Club see University of Malaya Socialist Club

347 University Socialists see University of Malaya Socialist Club Utusan Melayu 58, 67, 93 Vietnam War, opposition to 68, 124, 148, 230, 269 Vijandran, D.P. 221 Wan Abdul Hamid 114, 119 Wang Gungwu 48-9, 51, 53-4, 56-7, 78, 107, 113, 122-3, 141, 219, 240, 242, 258, 276, 278, 293, 302 Report of Curriculum Review Committee 219-20 Report on Nanyang University 36 Wee, Eric 85 Wee, James E. 107, 122, 124, 141, 143, 217 Wee Kim Eng, Peter 93 Whitfield, L.D. 117 Wijeysingha, Eugene 145-6 Wong Lin Ken 231 Woodhull, Sydney 19, 46, 48-55, 589, 62, 66-7, 86, 89-91, 100, 105, 110, 133, 168, 173, 175-8, 180, 185, 193, 238, 270, 278, 293, 302, 322 World Federation of Democratic Youth 161 World War II 21-2, 42, 110, 112, 115, 243, 255, 273 World Youth Festival 161 Woo Tchi Chu 148-50 Yeo, Robert 220 Yeo, Francis 48 Yeoh Kean Hong 51, 56, 293 Yip, Peter 107, 218, 222, 270, 279 Yong Nyuk Lin 215

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