The past few years, members of the Fajar Generation came forward to speak to the present generation to tell us of the truth behind historic events and bring to us lessons from the past. There is a string of history that connects the masses standing in the field in Hougang several weeks ago to the men and women in the Fajar Generation 50 years ago - it has been a long struggle to fulfill a dream for Singapore.
51 years ago, Dr. Lim and his colleagues broke away from the PAP to form the Barisan Socialis. Here s the editorial from the Fajar, the organ of the USC(University Socialist Club) in Aug 1961, one month before the formation of the Barisan Socialis. It outlined the difference in principles that led to the formation of the Barisan Socialis.
"We call the PAP not to resort to undemocratic practices in its bid to remain in power, lest the few democratic rights we have painfully achieved will be lost and the next stage......." - The Fajar 1961.
Lim Chin Siong outlined the goals of his party and his vision for Singapore in 1961 after the formation of Barisan Socialis. He envisioned a Singapore that is democratic and free. In 1963 while they were preparing for the General Election which they had a good chance of winning, they were arrested and jailed without trial. Operation Cold Store crushed the dream and vision of Dr. Lim and his colleagues for a free and democratic Singapore.
"The Big Six – Mr Lim, Mr Fong Swee Suan, Mr Woodhull, Mr Dominic Puthucheary, Mr S.T. Bani and Mr Jamit Singh – had stated that while they supported the PAP in the coming by-election, they would not compromise on issues such as detention without trial and freedoms of press, speech, assembly and organisation.
Dr Poh argues that these statements amounted to a ‘request’, not an ‘ultimatum’. But Mr Lee, he says, saw this as a challenge to the PAP leadership and decided to make the split."
- Dr. Poh Soo Kai, Straits Times Interview "Dr. Poh:Why I parted company with PAP", 27 Dec 2009.
50 years later, Singaporeans live in a semi-authoritarian state still struggling for their basic rights to assemble and to speak freely. Elections have been tweaked to preserve PAP's dominance and Singapore ranks very low in press freedom. The same laws that were used to detain these leaders still exist in Singapore today. Why do we need the ISA when no other developed countries need this law to ensure the security of its citizens?
Dr. Lim's stood by his principles and never wavered from doing what was right. He was detained for 19 years for his beliefs by those who resorted to undemocratic means to retain power. His life is an inspiration for current and future generations of Singaporeans. We must keep fighting for a democratic future and never forget if we ever waver, the other side will win and govern us and our children using fear and propaganda.
Today the Asian countries around us have progressed and moved away from their authoritarian and undemocratic past. Many have found new and better ways to thrive and succeed in a freer more democratic environment achieving more equitable outcomes for their citizens. When we look at the dream of the Fajar Generation, it is not the dream of a past generation but a dream for our own generation and a dream for our children. We have to keep this dream alive by not falling for tricks used by men who will resort to undemocratic means to retain power. We must not succumb to greed and easy promises. The path to democracy will always be made hard and painful for Singaporeans. Dr. Lim fought for it all his life and the people of Hougang fought against threats and financial temptation for 20 years to retain a small area that serves as a beacon and inspiration for the rest of us.
Yesterday, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan said on his Facebook page:
" He was a good and honourable man" - Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan
Why does the law that detains good and honourable men without trial still exists? Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan should do the honourable thing and ask the gvot to repeal ISA and replaced by an anti-terrorism act. By retaining the ISA, the PAP govt reminds us that it has not changed and the existence ISA symbolises the frustrating lack of political progress in Singapore.