The term "expert" has been defined as anyone talking about anything more than 25 miles away from home.
Operation Cold Store was executed in February 1963, when 24 Barisan Sosialis members were detained under the notorious Internal Security Act, and the Cultural Revolution began in the summer of 1966. Dr Poh Soo Kai, 77, should know, he was one of the key leaders, which included Lim Chin Siong and Lim Hock Siew, who were incarcerated unjustly, and led to Dr Lee Siew Choh initiating a walk-out to launch an extra-parliamentary struggle in October 1966. So how did historian Dr Cheng Ying-Hong, conclude that the decline of the Barisan Sosialis was "due to radical influences from China's Cultural Revolution"?
Cheng, 51, born in China but teaching at Delaware State University in USA, had simply picked up the terms used in the Barisan's Front and Party News newsletters. Terms like "rebellion", "eliminate", "running dogs" and "black gangsters", which he suggests are unique to Cultural Revolution propaganda. It's a tenuous link, to say the least. How about the word "thug", also a favorite of Mao's zealous Red Guards? Lee Kuan Yew used this quite effectively in those days when he grabbed a newspaper proprietor by the collar and said, "I'm a thug, you're a thug, and as one thug to another, you'll do what I say." Was Lee's exhibition of pugnacity also "due to radical influences from China's Cultural Revolution"?
Giving the speaker at the seminar of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies a lesson in real history, Dr Poh explained patiently that the Cultural Revolution, which began 3 years after the arrests, was not significant in the Barisan's decline. A critical factor for the the Barisan's radicalisation was the imprisonment of its more moderate members, like himself, Lim Chin Siong and S. Woodhull. Playing the semantics game, the stubborn Dr Cheng stuck to his flawed thesis, saying that he never claimed the Cultural Revolution was a "decisive" factor in causing the left's decline, just a "significant" one. Let W.C. Fields have the last word, "I am an expert of electricity. My father occupied the chair of applied electricity at the state prison."