Why Singaporeans need to discuss 1987’s “Marxist Conspiracy”

The following are excerpts from an article by Sudhir Thomas Vadaketh on the “Marxist conspiracy” saga of 1987. Mr Sudhir is a full-time writer. His most recent book is “Floating on a Malayan Breeze: Travels in Malaysia and Singapore.”

Apparently, Mr Sudhir had tried to have the following article published in the “more mainstream channels”, but he was told “No”.

“I mention this so readers know that there are people “up there” who might want to engage in this kind of discussion; but ultimately the outcome is what one might expect,” he writes in the post-script to the article. “Certain issues will remain off limits for public discussion, no matter how inclusive, open, etc. the government claims it wants to be. No matter, will keep trying.”

The following are excerpts from the article.

You can read the full piece on his blog here.

Why Singaporeans need to discuss 1987’s Marxist Conspiracy

Do people become subversive after reading Animal Farm?

George Orwell’s allegory on totalitarianism was one piece of evidence Singapore’s Internal Security Department (ISD) allegedly seized in 1987 during Operation Spectrum. Thirty years on, the arrest and detention without trial of twenty-two people accused by the government of plotting a Marxist conspiracy to overthrow the state is still an episode shrouded in fog. There are good reasons today for society to embrace a more honest conversation about it.

The facts bear mention. On May 21st and June 20th 1987, a total of nine men and thirteen women, aged eighteen to forty, were arrested and detained by the ISD using powers conferred by Singapore’s Internal Security Act (ISA). The accused were a mix of activists, Catholic Church members, social workers and theatre performers. Some had ties to the rejuvenated Workers’ Party.

A week after the first arrests, the government released a statement tying them to a supposed plot masterminded by Tan Wah Piow, a Singaporean student activist who had gone into exile in London a decade earlier. All of the detained eventually gave written and/or video confessions.

By the end of 1987, all except Vincent Cheng, a church worker, had been released. On April 18th 1988, nine of the ex-detainees issued a statement recanting their confessions, saying they had been made under duress.