Singapore—On October 8, Tuesday, writer Joshua Ip wrote the following post that seems to be particularly relevant for our times, although Mr Ip draws no parallels to present situations. But his post struck a chord with many, and has since been shared 700 times.
Mr Ip, a Singaporean writer and editor, wrote in his Facebook account,
“A minority-race poet is involved in publishing material that the government of the day considers offensive.
Words are bandied about publicly as accusations – “left-wing”, “socialist”, “English-educated”.
Elsewhere, Chinese students riot in the streets. The government draws links between these two separate incidents.
The poet is arrested along with his associates and put on trial.
The university defends him and even pays his bail.
(One of his seniors will later make the case that their trial was accidental – the offensive material was actually ghostwritten by the seniors but they had to take exams so they let the juniors do it.)
He is defended by a young lawyer who subscribes to their work, who brings in a foreigner to help defend him – both work pro bono.
The young lawyer helps the poet and his friends crowdsource for funds. Foreign politicians, including the soon-to-be PM of Malaysia, send in money to contribute to the defence.
A young newspaper journalist writes several articles supporting the poet and his friends. He defiantly titles his column “I write as I please”. He is called in for questioning by the government.
The defense is successful and the poet and friends are acquitted.
The young lawyer becomes incredibly popular as a result of this, leading directly to him forming a political party in the same year, with the young journalist and several of the poet’s friends.
The poet is Edwin Thumboo.
The senior is SR Nathan.
The journalist is S Rajaratnam.
The lawyer is Lee Kuan Yew.”
A minority-race poet is involved in publishing material that the government of the day considers offensive. Words are…
For those who need a bit of a historical refresher, Edwin Thumboo, considered by many as Singapore’s poet laureate, had been part of the editorial board of Fajar, which means dawn in Malay, the student publication of the University Socialist Club at the University of Malaya (now the National University of Singapore). This was in 1954, in Mr Thumboo’s first year at university.
In May 1954, Fajar published an editorial, ”Aggression in Asia,” calling for the country’s independence from the United Kingdom.
A few days later, students from a Chinese middle school staged a rally wherein they fought with the police.
Shortly afterward Mr Thumboo, with seven other students got arrested on the charge of sedition. The University Socialist Club’s legal adviser was Singapore’s founding father Lee Kuan Yew, and ended up as the students’ legal counsel.
They were all later acquitted.
Writer Lim Cheng Tju wrote in 2007, “The trial strengthened Lee Kuan Yew’s credentials as a left-wing anti-colonialist and it brought him to the attention of the Chinese student activists. Later that year saw the formation of the PAP on 21 November 1954. The founding members of the PAP had people from Chinese student groups as well as members of the University Socialist Club, the very people who were involved in Fajar. All these facts have been well documented in Lee’s own memoirs. (The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Volume one. 1998).”/ TISG
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