There are many pioneer leaders in Singapore history. Although Lee Kuan Yew and his PAP try their best to persuade the people that they are the reason for Singapore's "success", many in our generation know better. We are not fools.
We know we were forced to accept Lee Kuan Yew as our leader, a man without morals who used British imperialist laws like the ISA to oppress and detain his enemies, leaving us with no other options to choose from. Anyone who dared speak against him was jailed. Students, doctors, engineers, teachers, journalists, union workers. This was during the first detention called "Operation Coldstore".
We know we were forced to give up our Chinese ancestry and culture in exchange for English education and jobs for our children. Because Lee Kuan Yew wanted full control over the powerful and progressive Chinese community, he shut down our Chinese schools, jailed and tortured our young leaders, silenced our press and destroyed our languages and way of life. In just one generation, the Chinese in Singapore lost their heritage and their culture, no thanks to Lee Kuan Yew and his English-speaking lackeys.
What were the choices facing the Singapore Chinese community? Did we really have to choose this opportunistic leader Lee because we had no choice?
The answer is NO.
After WWII, Singapore had many young, passionate and bright Chinese leaders, ready and willing to break free from the hated British imperialists. These young Chinese leaders would have led Singapore and Malaysia into a prosperous and just new future, not like the current inequality under Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP.
Many of these leaders received their education from the best Chinese schools in all of South East Asia like the Chinese High School.
Chinese High was built up in Bukit Timah by a wealthy Chinese patriot and leader, Mr Tan Kah Kee, in 1919. Many of its former students are legendary names in the history of Singapore: Lim Chin Siong, Jek Yuen Thong, Chan Sun Wing, Fu Chiao Sian, Ng Mengqiang, Fong Chong Pik, Chia Thye Poh.
Why did this school produce so many outstanding leaders? It was because the founder of the school, Tan Kah Kee, put in all his effort to ensure that Chinese students were patriotic, had high moral standards and great academic achievements. To Tan Kah Kee, education should be given to all students, regardless of their ability to pay, unlike the situation today where a few elite schools are restricted for the rich and the powerful.
These Chinese students would serve an important role in resisting the hated British Imperialists, who were the biggest obstacles for a prosperous, equal society in Malaya.
To fight the British, the Malayan Communist Party and the local Chinese community in Singapore and Malaysia sprang into action. Local Chinese heroes from the Malayan People's Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA) took up arms against the British when they tried to destroy Chinese education and society. (Sadly, a few years later the PAP would use the same policies to silence the vibrant Chinese community in the 1970s and 1980s.)
Another group of pro-communist students looked far into the future and realised that they needed to develop young student leaders in Chinese schools to resist the British and defend Chinese education.
One senior leader from the Chinese High remembers the first group of anti-British leaders:
"在6-20之前，华中已有一些马共地下党员。不过，6-20之后，其中部分地下党并不归学委领导。我同班同学卢坚文，是华中当时的一位地下党员。为了加强党的斗争事业和扩大党的影响，他在6-20之后极端严酷的白色恐怖统治的阴霾笼罩下，便开始在校园里开展抗英同盟的活动，小心谨慎地秘密吸收盟员。我就是卢坚文发展的第一个盟员。[Translation: Before 20 June (the Malayan Emergency), there were already some underground members of the Malayan Communist Party in the Chinese High School. However, after 20 June, some of the other underground cadres did not report to the Students' Committee. My classmate Lu Jianwen was one of the members of the underground MCP. In order to strengthen the MCP's struggle and expand the party's influence, Lu started to conduct anti-British struggle in school and carefully recruited members to our cause. I was the first member Lu recruited.]
事实上，卢坚文在6-20之前就把我当作是未来发展的对象，他曾通过我在华中推销党报《民声报》。在他的领导下，我在1948年已开始在学校建立起一个几乎遍及全校各班级的进步书刊推销网，推销包括《民声报》在内的各种进步书刊，在校园内进一步传播革命思想。我还在《民声报》副刊上发表了介绍在华中推销《民声报》的经验的文章。《民声报》于6-20被禁止出版后，我在同学中转为推销新加坡市委出版的地下报《自由报》，并从《自由报》读者当中发展了一大批抗英同盟盟员，团结了全校具有进步思想的同学。 [Translation: In fact, Lu felt that I was suitable for the cause before 20 June and had previously asked me to help promote the party newsletter Min Sheng Bao in the Chinese High. Under his leadership, I had already built up a large network throughout the school to promote Min Sheng Bao and other progressive publications, and to spread revolutionary thinking. I even wrote an article in Min Sheng Bao on how I promoted the paper. After Min Sheng Bao was banned, I started promoting the Singapore Town Committee's underground newsletter Zi You Bao. By doing this, I recruited many anti-British and progressive thinking students.]
华中第一个抗英同盟小组于1949年前诞生在我们班上，其成员包括曾爱美、林使宾、卢坚文等同学们，他们都是班上出类拔萃、品学兼优的高材生。小组每周在曾爱美家开学习会，学习《自由报》上的重要文章和讨论马来亚革命问题。大家都很踊跃发表自己的意见，气氛非常热烈。 [Translation: The first Anti-British League group was set up in our class around 1949. The members included Ceng Aimei, Lim Shee Ping and Lu Jianwen, who were all outstanding and well-read students. The group held its study meetings at Ceng Aimei's home weekly and studied important articles from Zi You Bao and discussed the problems of revolution in Malaya. Everyone eagerly contributed their own opinions and created a fiery atmosphere.]"
As anti-British sentiments grew, more students, teachers, workers and other professions supported the communists and other leftist groups. The many riots that took place during the 50s shows the strength of the Chinese community's support for its young leaders and the deep anger against the British.
This same group of young Chinese students helped Lee Kuan Yew and his opportunist English-educated lackeys into power. In 1954, Lee Kuan Yew allied with the Malayan Communist Party and other leftists when he represented some students who the British were trying to charge for rioting.
In November, Lee persuaded rising stars Lim Chin Siong and Fong Swee Suan to co-found the People's Action Party with him. It was a smart and devious move by Lee Kuan Yew. He later made use of the mass support from the students and workers to help the PAP win the 1959 elections.
The tragedy would only unfold from then on. The cunning Lee Kuan Yew would later accuse Lim Chin Siong and Fong Swee Suan of being violent terrorists out to subvert Singapore and Malaysia and detain both men without trial for many years. A period of "White Terror" in Singapore was to come...