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The Forgotten Past May 9, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

While most of us probably know who Lee Kuan Yew is, there is a high possibility that names like Toh Chin Chye, Eddie Barker, Goh Keng Swee, Rajaratnam will elicit a very Singaporean “catch no ball response” from the younger generation. In fact it was only after Rajaratnam passed away last year whereby his achievements were made known to the public, leading many younger Singaporeans to make comments like ” I didn’t know Mr Rajaratnam penned the National Pledge” and so on so forth. Thus it seems that in so far as the development of modern Singapore is concerned, it was all the effort of one man, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Even his old guard is slowly being forgotten in society.

If thats the case, what then of those who fought, IN THEIR OWN small way, for Singapore, notwithstanding that they did not fight under the lightning bolt? If even those who fought under the lightning bolt are rarely mentioned, except in their passing, then those who were under a different banner are slowly being removed from the National History. Men like Lim Chin Siong, Lee Siew Choh, CC Tan (of the Progressive Party, chief rival being the Labour Front) among others. Men like Zahari, who’s movie was just banned because of the alleged attempt to portray the government in a negative light, Francis Seow, once a rising star, Gopalan Nair, who blogs in his http://www.singaporedissident.blogspot.com/ and Tang Liang Hong have also been, tarred, their memories forever stained. Given time, no one will remember these people who, despite the National Narrative which states the contrary, fought for what they believed in and perhaps have paid the ultimate price.

Putting all the debate on whether those men were given a fair deal, lets look at a certain person, who’s name is not there. Leader of the then Labour Front and 1st Chief Minister of Singapore, he is none other than the redoubtable David Saul Marshall (1908-1995).

David Marshall is a rather well known person in both the blogosphere and the legal sphere. In the blogosphere, there are few bloggers who have not seen Dharmandra Yadev’s interview with David Marshall. In the legal circle, he was a renowned Criminal Lawyer, having been involved in several of Singapore’s very own “trials of the century”, to wit, the Joseph Michael Nonis Case, the Watts-Carter Trial, the case of Thanami among others. In fact, one of the rationals Mr Lee used to justify the abolishment of trial by jury was that “David Marshall is responsible for 200 murderers walking freely the streets of Singapore.” However, there are other sides of the David Marshall that not many people talk about.

http://ourstory.asia1.com.sg/independence/ref/david.html This was published in the ST on December 13 1995. While the thing speaks for itself, there are several paragraphs of note.

“When he failed to convince the colonialists to relinquish control to him, he kept his promise to the people and resigned in protest, leaving the seats of power to be filled by more modest men.
By then, he had fired the imagination of a whole generation of post-war nationalists. In his inimitable, innocent and enthusiastic way, he was a populist politician who, more than anyone else in the early 1950s, aroused the interest of the common man in elections. He could mesmerise a crowd with his magnificent oratory — the commanding, authoritative tone, the measured cadences, the well-chosen words — or send them into paroxysms of laughter.
His tenure as Chief Minister was, by present standards, not a phenomenal success. He was strong on ideas but poor on details, leading what some hacks of the day called a “walking administration”; policies were formed as he walked along the corridors of power from one department to another.
But even though he failed to follow through on the numerous good ideas he spawned, many were subsequently embellished and translated into policies by the People’s Action Party that took over the reins of government in 1959, such as the creed of multi-lingualism and multi-racialism, an education policy for nation-building, meet-the-people sessions and the Central Provident Fund. ”

The highlighted portions speak for themselves. As can be seen, David Marshall succeeded in politicising a generation of Singaporeans so that they would start to think of other stuff rather than their rice bowls and whether they were going to get hand outs or not. In fact, it is entirely possible that Marshall’s politicising of the populace eventually helped the opposition PAP gain control of the Parliament. I must say that it takes great skill in politicising a populace, and can say that perhaps there are few in these times who can successfully emulate such a feat.

Furthermore, it can be seen that he had many ideas which have become translated to reality in Singapore today. While it is true that as Chief Minister his track record seems to pale in comparison to Lee Kuan Yew’s it would be unfair to then write him off as a force during those turbulent times. As Marshall gave PAP credit where credit was due, people should also do likewise, that is to say give Marshall credit for his ideas. In fact a case in note would be the Roman Empire, which “borrowed” from various civilisations such as the Greeks. Unforunately all we hear about Marshall nowadays is how he let “murderers” go free, and even then no one talks about WHY Marshall believed in the thing he did. Marshall’s contributions, and that of the abovementioned people, are slowly being forgotten as time goes by. Yes, PAP was the party in power when Singapore made the transformation from Third to First World, but what is PAP? A Party. Who makes up the party? The People in the party, of which Mr Lee Kuan Yew was one of them. BUT to throw everything at Mr Lee feet is to neglect Dr Toh Chin Chye, Mr Rajaratnam, Mr Marshall and the countless others who have, at one point or another, played a part in this Nation’s history, be it under the lightning bolt or the hammer or what have you. That, as Heck Tate puts it in To Kill A Mockingbird, is a sin.

* Herein is the article by Thrasymachus on Dr Toh Chin Chye and Mr Rajaratnam.


** And this is the David Marshall Interview at Drew and Napier.




1. The Kingdom of Heaven & Modern Society « Winter Is Coming - May 12, 2007

[…] and being without fear are also noteworthy given the fact that the truth in Singapore seems to be lopisided and fear seems to be very prevalent in this society of ours, leading often to self censohship and […]

2. Of National Education « Winter Is Coming - June 19, 2007

[…] people who stood side by side Mr Lee Kuan Yew are given little mention in the current NE. This is rather disappointing; if they […]

3. Ned’s Reflections « Winter Is Coming - July 2, 2007

[…] The National Scripture too is skewed. Even the men who stood beside Lee Kuan Yew during the early days have been forgotten; and what of those who in their own way fought for Singapore? And what of the contributions of those who were not under the lightning bolt? Ie David Marshall? […]

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