Violence and peaceful protests in Singapore

Watching television yesterday about the protests in Hong Kong and the violence that erupted late in the night, I cannot help reflecting on Singapore’s history.

Most of us grew up with the history that was taught in school. We simply believed that the unrests in Singapore in the 1950s and 60s were caused by communists and that they were all to be blamed for the Hock Lee “bus riot”.

The violence in Hong Kong in recent weeks brought to my mind some incidents in Singapore as well as what I studied in law school about the role of “agent provocateur”, a term which refers to the involvement of the police with informers.

Why would thousands of peaceful protesters suddenly turn violent? Did they lose their cool or were they provoked or made use of? Who started the violence? Agent provocateur?

Did the protesters retaliate or were they just victims of violence. I don’t know the answer. Only a full and independent investigation or prosecution of those responsible can reveal what actually happened. It may take a long time to unravel what actually happened. Until we know what happened, we should maintain an open mind as to why violence had erupted.

In Singapore, historians and the public did not have access to archive documents in London until the 1990s. When the documents were made available, several historians and former political detainees started to investigate and question the official narratives.

We are fortunate to have historians like T.N. Harper, Greg Poulgrain, Lysa Hong and Thum Ping Tjin and Poh Soo Kai, a doctor who pored over thousands of these old and faint documents for years before putting down their thoughts and research in writing. Today, we have a few books reflecting the other side of Singapore’s history.

Dr Poh Soo Kai’s “LIVING IN A TIME OF DECEPTION” edited by Hong Lysa and Wong Souk Yee is an indispensable and invaluable book for anyone who wishes to know the other side of Singapore’s history. It has a comprehensive index and contains information that has never been discussed in other books.

Dr Poh Soo Kai lived through the times and has personal knowledge of what happened. Though incarcerated for 17 years without trial, Dr Poh retains his sharp faculties and analytical mind. He ponders over documents, checks, discusses and critiques them with historians and friends before putting his thoughts on paper. His personal knowledge of events enabled him to analyse evidence as he would do when treating a sick patient or cutting him up on the operating table.

If you have not read LIVING IN A TIME OF DECEPTION, do borrow the book from the National Library or buy a copy from the usual bookshops – City Bookroom, Kinokuniya, AGORA when there is an event or online from Ethos Books.


Teo Soh Lung




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5 Responses to “Violence and peaceful protests in Singapore”

  • patriot of TUMASIK:

    Soo Kai’s book is a MUST READ…TRUTHFUL from the 1st sentence as compared to The BS “Hard Truth???) written by a lapdog of the Japanese during the Occupation

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  • lying pap thieves:

    Why would thousands of peaceful protesters suddenly turn violent?

    why turn violent?

    desperation. with no more hope. nothing more to lose. seeing the connected justifying their owneself pay ownself S$m wage while median wage is stagnant at S$3,500 GROSS per month.

    because when HDB rental leases get out of hand, and large number of local born with local U degrees driving grab part time ONLY or shaking legs at home, while everything that lying pap touches increases in price, whether water electricity gas carpark, what is there to lose?

    many said Qing dynasty peasant kiasi kiasu. Qing dynasty mandarins load themselves up on peasant misery. Made worse when same Qing dynasty mandarins lord them up. Qing dynasty peasants with nothing more to lose, revolted. Qing dynasty died. And is no more. So the same with lying pap.

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  • TianZi:

    What constitute violence in people’s view had very much been influenced by the law so they can’t see “violence” (which is basically a destructive force or power) in their normal daily lives. For instance, when families and personal lives and relationships are destroyed because they work and live in an “animal farm” which turns them into “animals”, devouring each other( they deceptively label it “healthy competition ” though their are many who became lawless)…like animals and someone somewhere has to “bite the dust” in a puppy eat puppy world, is that not….violence?

    Violence then begets violence. Their “freedom” has been violently taken away from them politically so unlike Singapore, they are fighting for “freedom” or rights to live a decent life.

    Even in “freedom” we may not see eye to eye.

    The kind of freedom that sets mankind free is the kind that….moves the huge mountain upon which the man of Sin sits.

    Do not tempt the Lord YOUR God( most don’t even understand what that means).

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  • sweet talk does not work:

    //What constitute violence in people’s view had very much been influenced by the law so they can’t see “violence” (which is basically a destructive force or power) in their normal daily lives//

    aiyoh. ultimately force (violence) will be used for some people / entities if their sweet talk does not work lar e.g wars, revolution, civil-strife, etc. history is replete with many examples and no one seems to know when the next storm will come after the calm ???

    same for the garment or enforcement units, just that top or influential people seem to have enough resources – e.g lesser foot soldiers (who somehow feel ‘protected’ by some sanction to do it) to do their dirty ‘violent’ work so they always can have a cleaner pair of hands to ‘preach’ non-violence and ‘law-n-order’ ????

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  • Police HUM KA CHAN:

    Get permit first.

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