It is with deep sorrow that we learn of the passing of Dr Lim Hock Siew, one of the most vocal, consistent and unwavering former political detainees in Singapore, on 4 June 2012. Committed to socialism till the end of his life, he worked tirelessly as a medical doctor at Rakyat Clinic along Balestier Road which he shared with Dr Mohd Abu Bakar.
Detained under Operation Cold Store in 1963 and released only in 1982, he was a formidable moral force who was never cowed by prolonged state repression, and strengthened by the conviction that the dignity of a human being is sacrosanct.
Dr Lim grew up in a poor neighbourhood near the Kadang Kerbau Maternity Hospital. His life-long commitment to socialism emanated from his awareness of the problems and difficulties faced by the poor, supplemented by the theoretical knowledge he gained from books.
At university, he was a committed founder-member of the University Socialist Club. He was also a member of the then left-wing People’s Action Party (PAP) from its inception, and campaigned in the 1955 and 1959 elections.
When the PAP expelled 13 dissident MPs who refused to support its Malaysia scheme in July 1961, Dr Lim resigned as a government doctor and joined the newly-formed Barisan Sosialis, which he regarded as the only meaningful party that could carry its anti-colonial struggle one step forward. He had a major role in formulating the party’s position and debates against the PAP’s terms for merger with Malaya. As he put it in his oral history recorded by the National Archives: ‘It was my deep conviction in the Barisan’s position on the issue that in great measure helped me withstand the torments and efforts to destroy my morale in the long years of imprisonment from February 1963. My stand and that of the Barisan has been vindicated by historical events.’
Dr Lim distinguished himself as a leader in detention. He kept the morale of fellow detainees high, fought for the rights of political prisoners, and rejected every opportunity offered to him to sign statements which would have gained him release, but which were patently false. He refused to do anything which could be used to justify his detention.
When he was released on 2 September 1982 after 20 years of continuous detention without trial, he was then the longest-serving political detainee in the history of Singapore and Malaysia.
Dr Lim had throughout his life called for the abolition of the Internal Security Act (ISA). Together with 15 former ISA detainees, he issued two joint statements in September 2011 calling for the abolition of the Act and the setting up of an independent Commission of Inquiry to investigate the allegations made against ISA detainees. The statements urged the government “to have the moral and political courage to set up such a commission in the interest of truth and transparency.”
He reiterated these calls when Function 8 invited him to attend the 25th anniversary of Operation Spectrum on 2 June 2012. Due to ill health, he could not attend the event but sent us a message saying: “Please don’t be disappointed. I am still feeling very tired n giddy on getting up.”
We are profoundly saddened by the passing of a leader and patriot in nation building. Our condolences and sympathies to his wife, Dr. Beatrice Chen, son, Lim Yue Wen, daughter-in-law, Jenn Lui and grandson, Sean Lim.
Members of Function 8
Teo Soh Lung
Low Yit Leng
Chan Wai Han
Vincent Cheng Kim Chuan
Fong Hoe Fang
Ho Choon Hiong
Isrizal Mohamed Isa
Pak Geok Choo
Tan Tee Seng
Wong Souk Yee
William Yap Hon Ngian