Paul Lim Huat Chye

Reflections on 1987

I became a political exile as a consequence of the 1987 arrests and detentions of ‘Marxist conspirators’.   Shortly after the arrest of 16 persons, I received an aerogramme from the Ministry of Home Affairs in Singapore requesting me to go to the Singapore Embassy to surrender my passport and obtain a laissez-passé to return to Singapore.  I was shocked to read in The Straits Times that I was on the blacklist of the Internal Security Department. It all happened so suddenly.  At that time, I was pursuing a doctorate in Brussels, Belgium.

I wanted to return to Singapore but was persuaded by friends not to do so, as it would be more useful for me to be in Europe – to campaign for the release of the detainees. My being in Europe would also cause less anguish for my family in Singapore. I therefore approached the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and obtained political refugee status within six months.

In 1987, I could not understand why I was named by some of those arrested as a courier, with the result that I was placed on the blacklist. If I were so dangerous, it would have been better for the Singapore government not to name me. That would have enabled them to arrest me on my return home after I completed my doctorate. I can only hypothesise that I was needed to create a convenient plot, a “Marxist conspiracy” for the government.

I know that I have been wronged and that I should seek justice. But if Jesus Christ, whose teachings I studied for many years, has anything to say, it is the call to forgive those who have offended you.

I was and am now very much at home in Belgium.  If tomorrow, I am allowed to return to Singapore, it does not mean I will return permanently. I may only be a visitor. Perhaps I will not turn up at all.

The events of 1987 which resulted in my exile are long past. Perhaps in the future, I will return to take an active interest in Singapore. For now, I do not go out of my way to look up Singapore and find out what is happening there.

Paul Lim Huat Chye
Professor of European Studies and International Relations

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