Exile's story on why he fled 'not full picture'

Exile's story on why he fled 'not full picture'
Minister of State Sam Tan.

Minister of State Sam Tan has rebutted a political exile's account of why he fled Singapore in 1976, saying it fails to give a full picture and makes contradictory claims.

In a rare move by an office-holder, Mr Tan wrote to socio-political website The Online Citizen (TOC), saying London-based Ho Juan Thai omitted mentioning that the police wanted to question him because he "made inflammatory speeches" when he ran in the 1976 General Election.

Mr Tan, who is with the Prime Minister's Office, pointed out that Mr Ho made contradictory claims - "on the one hand, that he was a victim of police intimidation, and on the other, he was willing to turn himself in for questioning".

During the 1976 election campaign, Mr Ho criticised the Government's Chinese-language policy.

Mr Ho, who was contesting Bukit Panjang on a Workers' Party (WP) ticket, said the Government was out to "exterminate" Chinese education in Singapore and "wipe out" the Chinese language.

He also said the achievement of the Government had been to kill off Chinese education.

These statements, Mr Tan said, were on public record.

"In multiracial Singapore, such allegations were reckless and irresponsible then as they would be now. Mr Ho's remarks could have caused divisions in society and sowed distrust between the English- and Chinese-educated."

"This could have torn apart our fragile social fabric then," Mr Tan added in his letter, which TOC posted on its website yesterday.

The website published Mr Ho's commentary, titled The Truth From A Singapore Exile, on Nov 2.

Mr Ho wrote that he left Singapore, without applying for an exit permit, because he believed his personal safety was at risk.

He claimed Internal Security Department officers - one with gun drawn - came to arrest him some time after the 1976 election.

Now aged 63, he said that despite having "great reservations", he respected the law and legal process in Singapore.

In his rebuttal, Mr Tan said it was revealing that after Mr Ho fled to London, his then colleagues in the WP did not make much of a fuss on his behalf or similarly flee Singapore.

"Why did they not do so, or run away like him, if there was such a pervasive climate of intimidation?" wrote Mr Tan.

He also noted that Mr Ho admitted, in an open letter in 1982, that he amended the December 1976 expiry date on his Singapore passport to enter Britain in July 1977.

Mr Ho was among nine Singaporeans living in exile in Britain and Thailand who are featured in a documentary film, To Singapore, With Love.

It was screened at a London arts festival, and Mr Ho and another exile, Mr Tan Wah Piow, attended one of the screenings.

The film is not allowed to be screened in public or distributed in Singapore. The authorities say it undermines national security because the security agencies' legitimate actions, in protecting Singapore's national security and stability, are distorted as acts that victimised innocent individuals.


This article was first published on November 11, 2014.
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