Monday, 10 November 2014

History for history's sake?

Revisionists and their supporters are clearly distressed by the wide publicity on the communist threat in the early 1960s, as a result of the re-launching of the Battle for Merger. They do not seem to want the public to be reminded about the global Cold War or communist subversion in Singapore and insurrections in Southeast Asia.

To counter the publicity and mainstream narrative about the communist threat, Hong Lysa cites the dated work of Tim Harper and echoes the claim that there "is no evidence" of instructions from communist China or the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) to the communists in Singapore. She cites British Deputy Commissioner Philip Moore as saying in a dispatch that "while we accept that Lim Chin Siong is a communist, there is no evidence he is receiving orders from the CPM, Peking or Moscow."

But Moore's claim has been established to be inaccurate. It is roundly contradicted by revelations from the Secretary General of the CPM himself, Chin Peng. In his book published in 2003, Chin Peng revealed that in a meeting in July 1961 in Beijing, Deng Xiao Ping told him that he wanted the CPM to continue its armed struggle; Chin Peng agreed and accepted Deng's offer of financial support. (If anyone is interested, Chin Peng actually made a dangerous overland route from south Thailand to communist-controlled Hanoi, before boarding a plane to Peking.) Further, at the meeting in Beijing in 1961, Chin Peng instructed Eu Chooi Yip, the chief CPM strategist running operations in Singapore from Jakarta, to "sabotage" merger and Malaysia.

Picture from Chin Peng: My side of history

Picture from Chin Peng: My side of history

Fong Chong Pik aka the Plen has confirmed the instruction Chin Peng gave to Eu Chooi Yip. The Plen disclosed in his book published in 2008 and also to historian CC Chin that in a meeting in Beijing in 1957, the CPM had directed Eu to set up a working committee in Jakarta to strengthen and consolidate communist united front activities in Singapore. He was assigned this task, with further instructions to rebuild the united front with the PAP. One of his priorities was to meet Lee Kuan Yew in order to coordinate the policies and activities between PAP and the left-wing movement. On the merger issue, the Plen even revealed that he had used the local Chinese press to disseminate CPM's lines to influence the Chinese-speaking community.

There above should suffice to debunk Hong Lysa's and Moore's claims that there "is no evidence" of instructions from communist China or the CPM in Beijing to the communists in charge of running operations in Singapore. (As for Harper's dated article which Hong Lysa lauded, it was published in 2001 well before Chin Peng's and Fong's memoirs.)

The question arises as to why the revisionists have chosen to ignore the remarkable admissions of the communist leaders. Why do they instead grasp at a dated official document (Moore's) with an assessment that has been proven to be patently wrong at the time it was written? Moore himself later effectively conceded in another dispatch to the Colonial Office dated 7 December 1962 that he was mistaken! He wrote that the "communists (in Barisan Sosialis) seem to be sufficiently entrenched to control policy and action." The revisionists failed to mention this reversal of opinion and re-assessment of the communist threat in Singapore.

The explanation for the revisionists' selective use of documents and sources boils down to the fact that they are less keen in establishing historical truths and more interested in being the vanguard of fashionable counter-theories. Together with like-minded persons, they sought to show that there was no justification for Operation Coldstore, and to use this as a pretext to join the bandwagon of opposition politics. This is not history but politics.

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