There is a prominent news item in the Lianhe Zaobao today on the establishment of a
historical section in the National Museum of Singapore to commemorate Mr. Lim Chin Siong,
a controversial leftist hero of the fifties.
Not many people of the present generation are familiar with this name. His name was a
household name in Singapore in the fifties even before Mr. Lee Kuan Yew had become
slightly known. Mr. Lim emerged from obscurity in 1953 to become the unchallenged leader
of the pro-communist movement aimed at overthrowing first the British colonial government,
after that the David Marshall and Lim Yew Hock governments.
Mr. Lim was secretary-general of the massive Singapore Factory & Shop Workers' Union
with is headquarters in Middle Road which became the nerve centre for anti-government
activities. Mr. Lee Kuan Yew was legal adviser to this and many other unions under Mr. Lim's
control. Mr. Lee had lofty political ambitions but he lacked the mass base necessary for the
realisation of such ambitions. Mr. Lim chin Siong had the mass base. Mr. Lee recognised
this and he shrewdly hanged on to Mr. Lim for mass support.
Mr. Lim was a charismatic pro-communist leader and was able to hold his audience spellbound
with his consummate Hokkien at mass rallies organised by the Communist United Front (CUF).
When he entered the Happy World Stadium where CUF rallies were held, Mr. Lim was
invariably greeted by a standing ovation. Mr. Lee used to tag along and could not have missed
the overwhelming response Mr. Lim received.
After Mr. Lim was detained in October, 1956, Mr. Lee very cleverly portrayed himself as a
champion of workers to try to fill the vacuum left behind by Mr. Lim's detention. And I must say
he succeeded to a certain extent. It is true to say that it it had not been for the mass support
from Mr. Lim Chin Siong, Mr. Lee Kuan Yew's path to the prime ministership in May, 1959
might not have been that smooth sailing.
Mr. Lim Chin Siong was released from detention following the PAP's victory in the general
election in May,1959. He enjoyed his freedom for a few years but could not refrain from going
back to his old ways by being involved in CUF activities, especially in opposition to the
formation of Malaysia. He was again detained in February,1963 in a security operation
code-named "Coldstore". He was released in 1969 and resigned from the Barisan Solialis.
He proceeded with his family to UK for study and returned to Singapore in 1979. He kept a
very low profile and succumbed to a heart attack in February, 1996 at the age of 62.
He was a personable pro-communist leader who, it cannot be denied, contributed immensely
to the history of Singapore and it is appropriate for the National Museum to commemorate
Mr. Lim Chin Siong.