Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Truth Will Always Be Malleable

Non-fiction is often updated in light of fresh developments that have transpired after the first print, but whoever heard of a revised eulogy? Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew rephrased his version of history in the eulogy he delivered at Goh Keng Swee's funeral just last month.

He had then claimed that it was Goh who, "on his own.. decided to have a clean break (with Malaysia)" . Goh, lying in state, was in no position to refute the distortion, but others like political scientist Hussin Mutalib of the National University of Singapore decided to press for the truth, writing in to the Straits Times to query whether it was Singapore or Malaysia that "precipitated the idea of Separation".

In the current Petir, official newsletter of the PAP, Lee penned this version:
"When we found ourselves trapped in a Malay-dominated Malaysia, I led the fight for a Malaysian Malaysia. When the movement gathered massive Malaysia-wide support from the non-Malays in Peninsular Malaysia, Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah, the Tunku decided to cut Singapore off".

No mention is made of how he dissed the Central Government by contesting the April 1964 elections. Mubin Sheppard, authorised biographer of Tunku Abdul Rahman, recorded that Lee actually told one rally audience that Tunku was not of the calibre to lead the nation. And as for the mythical "massive Malaysia-wide support", PAP won only 1 out of the 104 contested in the non-gerrymandered electoral process. MCA, pronounced dead by Lee' s PAP, won a respectable 27 seats. According to Tunku, "We dreamt of Singapore in connection with Malaysia as what New York is to America, but little did we realise what the leaders of the PAP had in mind was a share in the running of Malaysia. This was considered as unacceptable" (No Man Is An Island, by James Minchin, 407 pages). Even as Tunku was receiving treatment for shingles In London, he was convinced Lee was making his plans for Malaysia unworkable, "Every movement caused grinding pain, but the mind was alive and active; so as I laid (sic) there I was thinking of Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The more pain I got the more I directed my anger on him..."

Who was it that said history is written by the winners? The brute that is totalitarianism is not only the atrocity it commits but the attack it makes on objective truth - the attempts to control the past as well as the future. Our only hope, is that the liberal habit of mind will survive, which thinks of truth as something outside oneself, something to be discovered, not as something one can make up as one goes along.


  1. If we are citizens of Malaysia, why are we not allowed to contest the april 1964 election?

    Shouldn't the PAP as a legitimate party aspire to share in the running of Malaysia ?

    Pls read page 119 of the book " GOH KENG SWEE - a PORTRAIT" by Ms Tan Siok Sun who is the daughter in law of GKS.

    From what i understand, the separation was proposed by the Malaysian leaders. LKY want GKS to negogiate a looser federation but GKS on his own, realise that separation was better for Singapore and persuaded LKY and then other cabinet colleagues to agree on it.

  2. Tunku is generally accepted as the "father of Malaysia". In his own words, "Singapore came into the Federation with her eyes wide open... and because Malaysia was born the PAP was returned to power. Now having joined the Federation, the party in power in Singapore must try to make Malaysia workable." In Ms Tan Siok Sun's book, you will read that the Malaysians trusted Goh because he was not a political animal. Goh knew of the possible outcomes, so before he went to the fateful meeting, he got a letter of authorisation from Lee Kuan Yew. The full contents of that letter is reproduced in Tan's book.