Monday, 4 May 2015

Another Misleading Account by Thum Ping Tjin

After being thoroughly exposed for his one-sided and erroneous account of Operation Coldstore (1963), Thum and his close supporter Loh - others seem to have withdrawn support after realizing the lack of academic rigour in Thum's works - have now moved into the 1950s to look for safer areas to push their revisionist line.  In their latest article, Thum and Loh again take the position that there was no communist threat, no communist subversion and no communist united front.  In other words, the British, Labour Front Chief Ministers David Marshall and Lim Yew Hock (1955-1959), Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, Cabinet ministers, hundreds of government officials and diplomats and the many local and foreign scholars who have written extensively on the communist threat since the 1950s have all got it wrong? There was no communist threat? 

Unfortunately for Thum and Loh, the CPM leaders themselves have let the cat out of the bag.  CPM Secretary General Chin Peng himself had stated in his memoirs (2003) that the CPM controlled the left-wing trade union movement in the 1950s.  Fong Chong Pik aka the Plen, who was in charge of CPM operations in Singapore, had revealed in his memoirs (2008) about the conspiracies hatched by the CPM secret working committee in Jakarta, and his dealings with top trade union and political leaders and activists in Singapore in the 1950s and 1960s.  CPM members in Hong Kong and China have revealed in their 2013 book that they were behind the unrest in the 1950s, including the Hock Lee Bus riots.  No wonder Thum and Loh ignore these more recent works in their article as they completely demolish their claims that there was no communist threat or conspiracies in Singapore. 

Both writers blame the management and the police for the Hock Lee Bus riots that broke out in 1955 and exonerated the communists and their open front leader Lim Chin Siong and his close confidante Fong Swee Suan.  As in Thum's flawed account of Operation Coldstore, this version of the Hock Lee Bus riots is equally defective, with significant omissions and simplistic one-sided narrative.  

They conveniently fail to mention that Chief Minister David Marshall had denounced the strikers and rioters in his radio broadcast on the day of the riots (12 May 1955), saying that the pattern of developments today closely conforms to the Communist technique in seeking to foment industrial unrest on any excuse and to obstruct peaceful solutions - a strong indictment of the communists and their united front leaders by Marshall which was published in The Straits Times the next day and which Thum and Loh conveniently ignore.

In the Legislative Assembly debate that ensued, Marshall demanded that Lim Chin Siong declare publicly whether he spoke in the Chamber as a "communist and a fellow sympathiser of the Communists". Chief Secretary William Goode also accused both Lim Chin Siong and Fong Swee Suan of instigating the use of violence. The CPM itself, through its propaganda organ, Freedom News, celebrated the victorious ending of the Hock Lee incident and declared that "[an] economic struggle has been precipitated into becoming a political struggle".

It did not fail to draw a link between the "expansion of the workers" movement and the expansion of the national liberation war? it was waging.  There are many other quotes that can be cited to thoroughly demolish the claims in their joint article.  There is no question about the communist threat or communist involvement in the strike and riots that followed.

The only reason Thum and Loh persist in their misrepresentation of historical facts is probably because this approach fits well with their political agenda to undermine public confidence and trust in the present Government which had continued the anti-communist policy of the Labour Front Government (1955-1959) after it took over power in 1959.

If history is to move us forward, it has to be depoliticised from the meandering antics of revisionist historians, such as Thum and Loh, who seek to weave their current political aspirations into their historical analysis. Similarly, pro-establishment historians have to resist against pressure that call for no change, for the study of Singapore's history to remain at status quo. There hasn't been enough in-depth study of Singapore's history from 1950s to 1970s and what I see currently isn't doing us any good.  

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