What else can you call buggers who hide behind and use State powers to bring misery and pain to others for the sole reason of maintaining a stranglehold on power. Equally bad are those bastards who say they were just doing their jobs. Its no different from prostitution.
My political awakening came about sometime between 1997-1999. Nothing in particular triggered this awakening except a very uncomfortable feeling, deep inside, that the system in Singapore was seriously diseased. I got involved in political and human rights activism after reading this book.
Last Saturday, 26th June, I attended a book launch for Teo Soh Lung’s Beyond the Blue Gate: Recollections of a Political Prisoner.
I was 18 years old in 1987 and was oblivious of the arrests, arbitrary detentions, physical and mental tortures of alleged “Marxist conspirators”.
During, and since, my awakening, through people I’ve met, activities & issues i’ve been involved with and reading, I’ve learned quite alot about the arrests of ’87, other past, current and ongoing injustices and human rights abuses perpetrated by the PAP government.
Seeing and listening to Soh Lung and her fellow ex-ISA detainees from the 1987 arrests at the launch felt something like coming full circle.
Here are reviews of the book. See here for information on where you can purchase a copy.
Lawyer Teo Soh Lung’s memoir of her 21 May 1987 arrest and framing by the Singapore authorities as part of the so-called ‘Marxist Conspiracy’ is a remarkable document. Not only does it show how a person of courage and integrity can speak truth to power, but it also illustrates how that power corrupts and destroys the souls of those who wield it unscrupulously. One day a Singaporean Truth and Reconciliation Commission will determine the truth of the PAP years. Until this happens, this memoir will serve as an essential benchmark. – Peter Carey, Fellow Emeritus, Trinity College, Oxford
Teo Soh Lung’s book should be read by all people who are interested in democracy and the rule of law. Not only is it a poignant personal account of official ill treatment, but it is a brilliant testimony to the cruelty of authoritarianism, even, indeed especially — when it comes in the guise of legal due process. This is perhaps the most shocking aspect of her story: the abuse of the law in a republic which is democratic in theory, but sacrifices its most democratic citizens to the whims of the rulers. – Ian Buruma, Henry R Luce Professor of Democracy, Human Rights and Journalism, Bard College
Beyond the Blue Gate documents vividly Soh Lung’s intellectual and emotional awareness and reflections of a person in captivity. How power blinds justice is nothing new in the world of politics. But Soh Lung’s account impressively details and transmits viscerally her physical and psychological journey whilst in detention. This book is a must-read. It not only gives the reader insights to the human condition, but it also enables one to reflect on one’s moral capacity when facing the hurdles and challenges in standing up for one’s beliefs.
It’s so very important to have this literature. Thanks, Soh Lung, for taking the trouble to write it all down. Reading the accounts amazes me how sharp your memory was. It is testimony of how human cruelty can be etched so deeply in the human psyche. – Alvin Tan, Founder and Artistic Director, The Necessary Stage
Messages. Source: Function 8
May 21, 1987, will forever remain Singapore’s own day of infamy, the day when Lee Kuan Yew, then Prime Minister, using the guise of internal security, abused its executive powers by ordering the arrest and detention of twenty-two innocent young men and women, who were associated with the Roman Catholic Church and allied social activities. Amongst them was Miss Teo Soh Lung, a young lawyer with a keen sense of social justice, who, Lee claims, was a dangerous Marxist. Given Lee Kuan Yew’s style of governance, the Internal Security Department (the ISD) – the so-called guardian of the security of the nation — was virtually overruled by him, as the PAP cabinet of ministers was similarly ignored and left in a similar state of ignorance and shock, as it did the nation.
On this infamous day, twenty-two young Roman Catholic Church and social activists were accused of plotting the violent overthrow of Lee and his PAP government through force of arms and replacing it with a Marxist state, which only their timely arrests under the notorious Internal Security Act had thwarted. Given that Communism world-wide was passé, a cruel new twist was given to these arrests in that they were accused of being Marxists or Marxist-inclined. In brief, they were accused of trying to subvert Lee and his PAP government through violence and replacing it with a Marxist government. Not a single round of ammunition nor any weapon was ever produced to substantiate this allegation. A more ludicrous allegation is hard to come by!
Even so, I acted as legal counsel to Miss Teo Soh Lung, a lawyer and keen social activist, who was arrested and detained with several others on those preposterous grounds. In the course of my professional visit to her at the infamous Whitley Road Centre, I suddenly found myself arrested and detained under the same Internal Security Act. No reasons were given for my arrest and detention. In the result, I could not see my client, Miss Teo Soh Lung, that day. This was Lee Kuan Yew’s tortured thinking, and he, of course, is never wrong! It also marks the overriding powers of one man over his cabinet colleagues, all of whom are in mortal dread of him, It was, however, later alleged that I was an agent of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency from which I allegedly received payments of vast sums of money.
After my release from detention, I was in the United States of America as a visiting fellow at Yale University, New Haven, and, later, at Harvard University, Cambridge, from where I gave numerous presentations and at other U.S. institutions of learning, at all of which I tried to pass word that, contrary to Lee Kuan Yew’s wild and morbid accusations, I have yet to receive payment from the C.I.A. in the hope that it would reach the right ears of the fate that had befallen me so that I can at least receive from the C.I.A belated payments To this day, I have not heard from the C.I.A.
And so, Miss Teo Soh Lung was not a Marxist nor I, a paid CIA agent.
Kevin de Souza
Here in cold wintery Perth, I am looking forward to reading Teo Soh Lung’s recollections, “Beyond the Blue Gate”.
Knowing the dynamic and spirited character of Soh Lung, I am certain it would make honest and compelling reading of her time in detention.
But more than that, Soh Lung’s book has significant importance in the political context of Singapore where for too long, sensitive matters such as ISA arrests and detentions were only discussed behind closed doors.
I congratulate Soh Lung in taking the bold and courageous step of exposing the truth of her arrest and detention while continuing to remain in Singapore under the surveillance of the PAP security apparatus.
Soh Lung’s book follows a trend of recent publications by former political prisoners in Singapore in exploding the lies and myths behind their detention propagated by the PAP Government and the local press. It will add to the ongoing debate on the legitimacy of the ISA and its place in a democracy. It will challenge each and every Singaporean to reflect whether the absolute powers of the ISA have been previously used to safeguard the security of Singapore or only to maintain PAP’s stranglehold on political power.
During the detentions, I admired Soh Lung for her determination to pursue justice through the Singapore courts. Whilst the PAP government had no compunction in using the ISA and destroying the rule of law, Soh Lung was the very opposite. By pursing justice through the Singapore courts, she affirmed her commitment to protect the rule of law in Singapore and never ceased in having faith that one day justice would prevail.
Soh Lung by her actions is indeed a true Singaporean committed to building a democratic society based on justice and equality.
Kevin de Souza
26 June 2010
Koh Kay Yew
By electing to share her experience of her two and a half years as a political prisoner with a wider audience, Teo Soh Lung has spoken out on behalf of many of her compatriots who suffered a similar trauma but chose to remain silent witnesses for a variety of reasons. Though armed conflict never engulfed post war Singapore, it is estimated that a few thousand men and women of various backgrounds were incarcerated without due process by the State from the early fifties to the late eighties as part of its pacification program to keep its residents and citizens at bay. Many personal lives were destroyed besides the anguish, mental and physical, suffered by their loved ones. This human tragedy represents the lesser known social costs of Singapore’s ‘modernisation’ and is only now beginning to be told. As we approach the second half century of Statehood, it is timely to call for the abolition of the ISA and its consignment to the rubbish heap of History.
Dear Soh Lung,
The arrests of 1987 marked a distinct heightening in international awareness and concern about the state of human rights in Singapore. I well remember the many inquiries I, as an Amnesty International member in Canada, received, and the immediate increase in campaigning on Singapore. It was a bleak time indeed for human rights. But in the following years, after their release, there was widespread sympathy for the former prisoners of conscience, who mostly remained silent, apart from those who were able to go into exile. Now in recent years, we have welcomed the forceful accounts of a number of those former prisoners who still live in Singapore. Those accounts are vital to the true record of Singapore’s history. Soh Lung, you were at the very centre of that group of young professionals who were arrested following their involvement in social justice issues. Your book will be essential to the telling of that shameful era – an era that is not yet fully past.
Coordinator for Singapore and Malaysia
Amnesty International Canada
This is Teo Soh Lung’s story of her experience in prison. It reminds me of how human beings can disrespect other human beings just because they are perceived as opponents. This is contrary to the high ideals of Asian philosophy – Confucianism, a philosophy that has been promoted in Singapore. One wonders whether her interrogators have a moral conscience over what they did to her. Whether they have a sense of morality. Whether, while dehumanising Soh Lung and her friends, they dehumanise themselves too. If they do not regret what they do, one can ask if they are human beings at all.
Tang Fong Har
Dear Soh Lung,
I regret that I cannot be here with you today, but I am so proud that you have written about your experience behind the Blue Gate. This book will show Singaporeans how an authoritarian government made use of the Internal Security Act to suppress and oppress dissenting voices. The draconian and archaic ISA was put into place by our colonial masters, the British to oppress the natives, and it has no place in modern Singapore society.
If your book acts as a catalyst towards the abolition of the ISA, then you have contributed to a more democratic and humane Singapore.
Teo Soh Lung belongs to that increasingly rare breed of lawyers who believe in social justice and human rights. For that, she paid the price of her commitment by being imprisoned without trial under the Internal Security Act. The ISA is a most pernicious piece of legislation which has no place in modern Singapore. Her book will give us a glimpse of her campaign against the Act and her fight for freedom. I do hope a new generation of Singaporeans will read and be inspired by her courage and take up the challenge to see the eventual abolition of the Act.
I would have loved to be present at the book launch but, given my state of exile from the country of my birth, must send my sincere apologies. My deepest congratulations to a heroine of Singapore.