Friday, May 4, 2018

The Conundrum of Operation Coldstore

Actually I have stopped blogging since last year. Lately I have been intrigued by the persistent appeals of interested political observers to give my view on the controversial Operation Coldstore. I will make this my swan song.

I will try to give an objective view on Operation Coldstore without giving offence to any party be it the powers-that-be or the opposition. The bombastic submission on Operation Coldstore by the authentic reputed Oxford Historian Dr. Thum Ping Tjin  to the Select Committee on deliberate falsehoods has created an unprecedented uproar to the members of the Select Committee as well as the public .Dr. Thum's submission seems to lack objectivity by presenting only one side of the picture without the opportunity of having the insight of the deliberations and discussions of the Internal Security Council (ISC) comprising Malaysian and British representatives which gave the approval to PM Lee Kuan Yew to proceed with Operation Coldstore. What the ISC discussed was top secret and not privy to the public. So it remained a secret how Lee Kuan Yew had been able to convince the ISC with his eloquence to give him the approval. Members of the ISC were not guillible people who could be easily persuaded.

That Operation Coldstore was  mounted against the leaders of the Communist United Front ostensibly to pre-empt them from seizing power was never in doubt but that it had also helped Lee Kuan Yew in consolidating his position against his political opponents cannot be dismissed as a fact. Some of those detained can be described dyed-in-the-wool subversives but it cannot be denied that some may be less implicated.

The fact that Dr. Thum Ping Tjin is an authentic reputed Oxford Historian  can  never be detracted by any amount of denigration by any party though there was no lack of such attempts as seen in his six-hour questioning in the Select Committee. The Operation Coldstore controversy will go on indefintely because there can never be a definitive conclusion to it.

4 comments:

Tony said...

There was independent external concurrence that Singapore faced a real "communist threat" in the early 1960s – according to declassified U.S. government records from the State Department’s Office Of The Historian. From the American perspective, the British and Malaya governments promoted the proposed Federation of Malaysia in part to check the communist threat in Chinese-majority Singapore.

Excerpts from declassified memorandum of conversation of July 1964 meeting between American and Malaya leaders: “The U.S. President (John F. Kennedy) then asked about the situation in Singapore, especially the racial composition of the Singapore Communists and the percentage of Communists among the Singapore Chinese. He asked what the Singapore Communists were trying to do. Tun Razak (then Malaya’s deputy prime minister and later Malaysia’s PM 1970-76) replied that most of the Singapore Communists were Chinese and he estimated that about 30% of the Singapore Chinese have Communist orientation. In his opinion the Communists are endeavoring to seize control of the city-state of Singapore and make it a Communist bastion in Southeast Asia—a sort of Cuba. He added that creation of the new Federation of Malaysia was the only effective means of fighting that Communist effort. He added that the Malayan Government was convinced that coexistence with the Communists was impossible and that it was necessary to fight them constantly.”
https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v23/d331

Excerpts from declassified memorandum of conversation of July 1962 meeting: “The U.S. President (John F. Kennedy) inquired as to the relations between Malaya and Singapore... (The Malaysian Ambassador Dato Ong Yoke Lim, a Malayan Chinese man) went on to explain that the major problem was the Communist element in Singapore… The President inquired as to the degree of Communist influence in Singapore. The Ambassador said Singapore was about 80 percent Chinese and that the Communists exercised a good deal of influence through lies and deceit.”
https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v23/d328

A National Intelligence Estimate is the combined U.S. intelligence community’s most authoritative written intelligence analysis provided to the U.S. president, his senior advisors and policymakers. The declassified NIEs provide a ‘big picture’ of 1960s Singapore based on contemporaneous analysis (by a cross-functional group of highly-qualified senior intelligence analysts with real-world expertise in analyzing complex internal security situations around the world).

Excerpts from NIE July 1962: “The Federation of Malaysia... The chief threat to achievement of the merger comes from the pro-Communist Barisan Sosialis Party (BSP) of Singapore which is seeking an opportunity to upset the precariously situated Singapore Government and to halt further progress toward federation… The chief threats to the new Federation will be communal antagonisms, easily aroused because of the ethnic diversity found in each of the component states, and the opposition of Communists and other radical elements. The leftists will probably find additional support within the Chinese communities, in Singapore and elsewhere, which are resentful of the political discrimination in favor of the Malays as announced in the proposals for the new Federation.”
https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v23/d327

Tony said...

Excerpts NIE February 1963: “The proposed Federation of Malaysia was promoted by the UK and the Government of Malaya primarily as a means of: (a) checking the Communist threat in Singapore, whose population is overwhelmingly Chinese… Both within the areas which are to form Malaysia and in the neighboring countries, there are elements strongly opposed to the scheme which threaten to prevent its accomplishment and which make uncertain the viability of the new state, if it does in fact emerge…. In Singapore, there is powerful opposition from the predominantly Chinese, pro-Communist Barisan Sosialis Party (BSP). However, a number of its leaders have recently been arrested and pro-federation Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew can probably maintain his position by a combination of political acumen and an effective internal security apparatus… Indonesia has posed the challenge and has taken many steps to oppose federation, steps in which Sukarno has had the enthusiastic support of the armed forces and the Indonesian Communist Party (PKI)… (Indonesian) intelligence forces have long been engaged in clandestine activities designed to establish Indonesian influence in Malaya, Singapore, and the Borneo territories. Its army is probably training guerrillas, and has called for Indonesian “volunteers.” The PKI is also active in the area… Peiping’s current caution probably reflects concern about the overseas Chinese and about possible conflicts between Indonesia’s ambitions and Communist China’s own designs in the area. Communist China almost certainly has ambitions to dominate the Malaysian area; its influence is probably largely exerted through the Chinese-dominated leftists in Malaya, Singapore, and Sarawak… Opposition forces in Singapore and the Borneo areas are not likely to acquire sufficient power to frustrate the plan. Indonesia will actively oppose the establishment of the Federation, and will have Soviet support… Even if the Federation is formed on schedule without further serious difficulty, it will at once be embarked on stormy seas. The internal elements which have opposed federation will continue to exist and, within an independent and untried country, may well gain in strength… In Singapore, BSP efforts to displace the Lee Kuan Yew government through strikes, riots, and parliamentary means will continue and have at least an even chance of success… Both the Soviets and the Chinese Communists will continue their interest in frustrating development of a viable Malaysian state…. The Chinese are likely to support the subversive efforts of internal, Chinese-oriented, leftist parties seeking control of the new state, and may become increasingly concerned over Indonesian expansionism… Consequences of Delay or Cancellation: A serious delay in meeting the August target for Malaysia would play into the hands of antimerger elements. The BSP would have an excellent chance of winning the Singapore elections scheduled for 1964… Cancellation of the whole scheme… Another step to the left would be likely in Singapore where the Lee government would probably fall... As Communist influence rose in Singapore, the UK military base would be placed in jeopardy….”
https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1961-63v23/d330

Excerpts NIE December 1965: “Singapore's present stability in part reflects leftist weakness following a steady government effort during the last two years to reduce Communist influence in the labor movement, student organizations, and the Barisan Sosialis Party (BSP). The PAP's extensive experience in handling the Communist threat in Singapore and the demonstrated effectiveness of the government's internal security apparatus are almost certainly sufficient to handle any threat to public order likely to occur in the short term… The pro-Communist BSP is the only other large, well organized, and well financed party, and would profit if Lee finds it impossible to meet the basic economic and political needs of the Singapore people…”
https://history.state.gov/historicaldocuments/frus1964-68v26/d270

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