“Some of you may have heard that when you are young you are idealistic, when you’re old you are realistic. Now this is the kind of rubbish that is used by those who have either lost their ideals or have sold their ideals for self-interests. Each should not wither one’s ideals or convictions. If anything, it should only consolidate and make it more resolute. If age has anything to do with it, it is only by way of expression and application of these ideals and convictions having the benefit of a youthful experience. And a life without convictions, without idealism, is a mere meaningless existence, and I’m sure most of you will agree that as human beings, we are worthy of a life much more meaningful than just that.”
– Dr Lim Hock Siew
It was with a heavy heart that I attended the wake of the late Dr Lim Hock Siew on Tuesday evening.
Gone is the doctor who looked out for the poor by dispensing free medication to patients who could not afford it and gave them money to cover their travelling expenses; gone is the former politician who had contributed to the founding of PAP (which was a left-winged party then) but left to join the Barisan Socialis in 1961 when the PAP expelled 13 MPs who did not agree with its Malaysia scheme. Gone too, is the man who suffered 20 years of detention without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA), accused of being a communist – something which was never proven til this day.
Due to his detention, he was separated from his family and was not given the opportunity to see his only son grow up. It must have been an extremely painful ordeal, but the remarkable spirit within him was not destroyed. After he was released in 1982, he was actively involved in calling for the abolition of the ISA. Last year, he was among the 16 former detainees who issued joint statements calling for the abolition of ISA as well as the setting up of an independent commission of inquiry to investigate the claims made against the former detainees.
Although almost 20 years of his life was cruelly robbed from him with his arrest during Operation Coldstore (1963), he never seemed to be bitter or revengeful. Instead, he often spoke softly but articulately with a calm demeanor which never failed to fill me with awe.
After having the pleasure of speaking to his family, as well as witnessing the amazing strength that Dr Beatrice Chen still carries within her at the wake, I left the wake with one thought: Lee Kuan Yew owes this entire family as well as other surviving victims (and their families) of the ISA an apology which can only be expressed with an independent commission of inquiry, the abolishment of ISA as well as re-writing the history textbooks to include the accounts of the former detainees.
May Dr Lim Hock Siew rest in peace, and may his family continue to remain strong. Hopefully, Lee Kuan Yew will wake up one of these days, feeling the guilt of throwing his friends, former comrades and other individuals into detention for reasons unproven, robbing them of their youth and freedom, causing great grief to their immediate family members and friends so much so that before he too kicks the bucket, he shall atone his political sins by clearing the surviving victims of ISA of their alleged crimes… crimes that all of us who have come to know the former detainees personally, are sure that they did not intend to commit nor part of.
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