'Marxist plot' revisited


Part 1:
Relating of the facts: May – September 1987

Part 2:
Initial reactions of the Church of Singapore (Below)


Concluding Reflections

Initial Reactions of the Church in Singapore

  From the 22nd of May, the co-ordinating committee formed by the four associations involved reacted the very day of the publication of the press release of the Minister of the Interior by publishing its own communique. It mentioned the names of the 10 persons belonging to the Church movements, and asked the government to give clear proofs of the guilt of those arrested that it pretended to have. It declared its conviction that the ten militants arrested were not Marxists and had not devised any plot against the Singapore government. On this occasion the four presentation notes of the Catholic movements implicated in the affair were also published in the Catholic News.

The next day, a large crowd, worried about the fate of the prisoners, participated at the Eucharist celebrated in the Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, to pray for the detainees and their families.

On the 28th of May, it was the turn of the archbishop of Singapore to publish his press release after a meeting with all the priests of the archdiocese. It was unanimous with the initial reaction already noted. The archbishop expressed his support for the Catholic movements incriminated. He affirmed the right and the duty of the Church to speak and work for justice, a right and duty not linked to any particular theology and which were valid for the universal Church. On Sunday 31st of May, the text of the communique was read in all the churches as a Pastoral Letter.

Pressure of the State and First Results

The Pastoral Letter of the archbishop provoked the fury of the government. In the afternoon of that Sunday, the Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew informed the archbishop that he wanted a meeting be held at which the archbishop, the representatives of the Catholic Church and himself.. The next day, 1st of June, in order to reply to this “invitation”, the archbishop convoked the presbyteral Senate which would select the members of the delegation which would meet with the Prime Minister. The list presented to the Prime Minister’s bureau comprised of 19 names of persons who represented quite exactly the Church of Singapore. However, when it was returned to the archbishop, it had been reduced to 9 names. All the priests and lay persons engaged directly or indirectly in the incriminated movements had been struck off the list. The members of the co-ordinating group then went to see the archbishop to tell him that such a meeting with the Prime Minister should not be attempted without a serious preparation. Otherwise, it would be better not to go. The archbishop of Singapore, Msgr Gregory Yong, did not agree, and considered it his duty to comply with the invitation.

On the 2nd of June, the archbishop and the delegation were received by Mr Lee Kuan Yew. The Prime Minister presented them with the report from the police regarding Vincent Cheng as well as his so-called “confession” in which he admitted his Marxist convictions and his participation in a plot to destabilise the State. The representatives of the Catholic Church learned also of the four reports drawn up by the police on the four priests of the co-ordinating committee. When the time came for the archbishop to speak he declared that faced with that presentation of facts, he realised that he did not have the possibility of proving the contrary.

On leaving that meeting, the archbishop was suddenly called back by the Prime Minister’s aides for an impromptu press conference. Thus on the evening of the 2nd of June, radios and television programmes gave first place to the following theme: that the Archbishop had publicly accepted the proofs presented to him and avowed that he could not prove the contrary.

From then on things happened in quick succession. The last stage of the affair was begun and the attacks of the government were now aimed at the four priests who from the 22nd of May had regrouped in a Committee of co-ordination: Father Joseph Ho, the president of the Commission Justice and Peace Edgar D’Souza, assistant of the editor of the journal Catholic News, Patrick Goh, national chaplain of the Young Christian Workers and Guillaume Arotcarena, director of the Catholic Centre for foreign workers.

On the 3rd of June, the four priests met the nine members of the delegation at the archbishop’s residence, who told them of what took place the day before, in the office of the Prime Minister. They were "faced with their responsibilities”. This phrase, though rather strange, is nonetheless understood by everyone: the archbishop and the delegation as well know that from now on, the Prime Minister’s will was not so much the prolongation of the detention of the arrested activists as the elimination of the four priests. That would avoid an open conflict with the Church. How could they be mistaken as the Prime Minister had declared explicitly: “Put order into your house, otherwise the State will do it!”

In the evening of that same day, a rumour went round to the effect that an order of arrest had been given for the four priests. They held a consultation, discussed the matter with their respective organisations and finally, after a meeting on the 4th of June, they decided to diffuse the situation and offer their resignations. Two principal reasons led them to take this decision. Faced with the blackmail exercised on the Church by the government, they argued that their resignations would serve the interests of the arrested activists and others. They also wanted to remain united to the Church as she was, and thought that it would be dangerous to divide it. Some of the priests and laymen who were responsible members of the delegation which had met with the Prime Minister told them that they would not support them if they resisted. That very day their resignations were presented to the archbishop, who accepted them immediately. The archbishop and Fr Guillaume Arotcarena together decided to close the Catholic Centre for foreign workers. The resignation of the director, the arrests of the full-time employees, did not permit the functioning of the Centre, against which, besides, a decision of expulsion had been taken and would be carried out on the 15th of June.

The day ended with a press release of the archbishop of Singapore. He announced the resignations of the four priests and expressed his hope that the affair was now nearing its conclusion. He also said that the next issue of the Catholic News already printed was forbidden to be circulated. The journal was going to publish photos of the four employees who had been arrested, notes of the presentation of the four movements (6), and also the pastoral letter of the archbishop that was declared to be “inopportune”.

On the morning of the 5th of June, the press in unison announced the resignations of the four priests. The assembly of priests met once again around the archbishop who explained the situation, related the last events and expressed his gratitude for the abnegation of the priests who were resigning. The Vicar General then mentioned his last contact with the political police. It happened the day before. He was made to understand that these resignations were not enough. They wanted to know what would become of the priests in question. The four priests were then invited to “clarify the situation”. Fr Guillaume Arotcarena declared that he had no intention of re-forming a group of the four, and informed those present of his intention of leaving Singapore not for his own convenience, but for reasons of the Church. The three other priests expressed themselves in like manner.

These declarations appeared to satisfy the Vicar General, Fr Francis Lau, but not the political police who, that very evening, gave voice to their dissatisfaction and wanted ecclesiastical sanctions to be dealt out to the priests.

On the evening of the 5th of June, a communique of two paragraphs from the archbishop’s residence announced curtly that “he was suspending the four priests from preaching and from having anything to do with the organisations they were once in charge of” (Straits Times, 6 June p.11).

Fr Guillaume Arotcarena was informed of this decision that concerned him from the papers of the 6th of June. In the course of the morning, a telephone call from the Vicar General explained to him that this sanction was intended to assure his protection. Father Arotcarena then decided to accelerate his departure for Europe and he left that very day. The day before, Fr Edgar D’Souza had left for Australia. Five days later, Fr Patrick Goh left for Canada. The last of the four priests incriminated in the affair, Joseph Ho, also undertook a long-lasting journey.

After the arrests of the 16 activists and the dispersion of the chaplains, this affair seemed to be ended. Undoubtedly, it was a happy conclusion for the government. To be sure, none of the accusations contained in the press communique of the Minister of Home Affairs had as yet been proved, no convincing proof of the guilt of those accused had been brought forward, and already international opinions were anxious and a certain number of international organisations were preparing to begin very precise inquiries which risked exposing the legitimate reasons for these arrests (7). However for the moment it was enough for the government to have got everyone to tow the line. Did not the archbishop, Monseigneur Yong declare in his press conference of the 2nd of June that there was no conflict between the Church and the State in this affair? Thus, on the 7th of June the Sunday Times of Singapore was able to print bold headlines on the front page saying: “The archbishop intends to bring the Church into order”. In fact, the archbishop had just announced his determination to control the Justice and Peace Commission more closely, to bring back the Catholic News to a more “religious” spirit. He also affirmed that his two actual priorities were to avoid a conflict with the State and to do what was necessary for the Church not to be used in future for any other purposes but those which were specifically hers (8).

Government attempts to justify the plot

The government soon perceived that it could not rest contented with these first results. During the whole of the period which followed, besides its declarations, the government tried to render plausible the idea of a Marxist plot. Actually, the arrests provoked a strong reaction in international opinion: protests and demands for explanations arrived in Singapore, ever more numerous, from the most diverse places.

International Reactions

International concern was very rapidly alerted. One of the first reactions to the affair came from Rome, even by the end of May some 120 charitable organisations who were assembled at a congress sent a telegram to Mr Lee Kuan Yew, demanding the immediate release of the detainees and the opening of a judicial procedure. In the days which followed and for several months letters and protests from everywhere would crowd the desk of the Prime Minister. Major Asian publications such as Far Eastern Economic Review,“Asiaweek, and The Star of Malaysia would follow the affair very closely and after often minute analysis, they would adopt a very critical attitude in regard to the Singapore authorities. (To facilitate the account we will give herewith a statement in chronological order so as to group together various international pressures that played such a big role in the evolution of the affair).

Malaysia, which is very closely linked to Singapore (and in what concerns the Catholic Church, one single episcopal conference unites the bishops of the two countries) was particularly attentive to the whole of the affair. On the 2nd of June, a pastoral letter signed by the three Malaysian bishops, as a sign of their solidarity with the Church of Singapore, quoted from and took up for their part a passage of the first press communique of Monseigneur Gregory Yong which affirmed on the right of the Church to be involved in virtue of its faith, in both economical and social matters.

Inernational organisations for human rights such as Amnesty International began their inquiry. This association sent a group to Singapore to investigate the case and they would work on it from the 14th to the 21st of June. On the 26th of June, on the return of their mission, Amnesty International adopted 12 of the detainees as prisoners of conscience. Three organisations, the International Commission of Jurists of Geneva, the International Federation of Human Rights of Paris and the Asian Commission of Human Rights in Hong Kong made up a delegation named International Mission of Jurists to Singapore came to make inquiries on the spot from the 5th to the 9th of July 1987.At the conclusion of the visit, they would publish a file on the affair. All in all, according to the Far Eastern Economic Review, they were able to register the reactions of more than 200 organisations, among which were the US Asia Watch, the Korean Human Rights Committee, the Commission of Justice and Peace in different countries, etc…

The Singapore arrests also provoked reactions in some political instances at the highest level. The affair was brought to the attention of the European Parliament. On the 4th of July, 55 members of the American Congress, among whom were several presidents of Commissions signed a letter demanding that legal procedures be begun or else that the detainees be set free rapidly. At a meeting, the ministers of Foreign Affairs of the USA, Canada, New Zealand and Australia dispatched to their Singapore counterpart a demand for explanations of this affair. Fifteen deputies of the Japanese Diet signed a letter to the Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.

From then on, all the allegations without proofs which were contained in the press communique of the Minister of Home Affairs which were published in the first days of the affair were no longer sufficient in the face of the precise inquiries demanded by the delegations of the international organisations and the concern that was manifested in different parts of the world. In hindsight, the authorities went searching how to give a certain coherence to the idea of a plot which evidently was not discernible.

The televised interview of Vincent Cheng – June 9, 1987

This was held on the 9th of June, some 19 days after his arrest, and announced by the press the day before. For two hours, the chief accused in the affair would answer the questions of four journalists, in the course of an interview to which they would try to give the appearance of a confession. The next and following days, the Singapore press would publish large extracts of the dialogue.

It is not possible to pronounce a judgement on the whole affair from the declarations of Vincent Cheng who, it must not be forgotten, was imprisoned and subjected to strong pressure. One thing however was very evident, the government story was not comfortable with the answers of the so-called leader of the conspiracy. As the remarkable Report of the International Mission of Jurists to Singapore noted after a detailed study of the broadcast, at no time did Vincent Cheng admit his participation in a Marxist plot, nor an eventual recourse to violence.

The image which the accused gave of himself throughout the interview was not that of a Marxist militant but of a determined opponent of the actual regime of Singapore. He admitted having been attracted by Marxism, but he also said that he did not want a State of that type for his country. He declared having been inspired in his action by Christian ideals, in particular by those that made up what was called the current of Liberation Theology. He did not deny his opposition to the government which he described as an “open, critical attitude” and if he realised that his activities could result in some public disorder, even bloody ones, he added that that was not his aim. The “undeclared” objective towards which his militant action was directed was a “classless society”, a social ideal which he insisted he drew from his Christian faith, especially in an evangelical option for the poor. The only moment when this interview took on the form of a confession was when Vincent Cheng recognised that he had used Church institutions as a cover for his political activities. He also affirmed that he regretted it.

Releases and New Arrests

After this broadcast, there was a week’s pause in the affair. Apart from some commentaries in the press, there were no developments or new elements. Then, on the 20th of June, through two steps contradictory in appearance, the government went deeper along the way to demonstrate their theory. On that day, the Minister for Home Affairs announced the release of four of the detainees and at the same time, the arrests of six new persons (3 men and 3 women) who, according to him, were involved in the same “Marxist plot”.

Freedom had been granted to four activists who were directly engaged in Christian movements. Two of them, Ng Bee Leng and Tang Lay Lee were full-time employees; the two others, Mah Lee Lin and Jenny Chin Lai Ching were voluntary workers. The Minister for the Interior declared that these persons were less involved in the plot than the others and that the authorities were sure that they would not go back to subversive activities. One might think that these releases were a gesture of good will on the part of the government towards the Catholic Church by way of thanks for the attitude adopted by the hierarchy, which they esteemed to be positive. However these releases were dependent on conditions which restricted the civil liberties of the persons concened. In effect, with the exception of the Malaysian journalist, Jenny Chin Lai Ching who was freed without any conditions, the others who were released were subjected to a restriction of their civil rights (under a Restriction Order). They were obliged to remain in Singapore and could not leave its territory without a written permission from the Internal Security Department. This same permission would be necessary for them to belong to any association whatsoever. Furthermore, they were forbidden to take part in any activities or be members of any groups which could be used for Marxist or communist propaganda. Besides, other measures were taken to worsen the fate of those who were still in prison. The duration of their detention was fixed to two years for Vincent Cheng and one year for the other prisoners.

The six new arrests which were carried out that same day, were undoubtedly part of the will of the authorities to render their theory of a plot more credible. By thus increasing the number of persons implicated in the affair, they wished to reveal to both interior and above all exterior opinions which had already begun to react energetically, the wide scope of the plot and by this fact, to mask the weakness of their theory of a “Marxist plot”.

A manifestation of this will could be seen in the press communique published that day by the Minister for the Interior. He leaned heavily on the so-called “confession” of Vincent Cheng in order to expose once again the theory of a plot. The leader was in London, and he was Tan Wah Piow. Vincent Cheng was his subordinate in Singapore. Their objective was to introduce by communist methods, subversion into the social and political order of Singapore in view of establishing a Marxist State. The communique gave the confession of Vincent Cheng as proof of this. Did he not admit having tried to use several Church institutions to aid the Marxist cause? (A somewhat high-handed and untrue summary of what television spectators had heard the preceding 9th of June).

The new detainees were either close or distant members of the same circles as the victims of the first series of arrests.

Tang Fong Har

A 31-year-old lawyer, she was also an advocate-councillor for the Geylang Centre for foreign workers. She had also taken part in the theatrical group “The Third Stage”. During her student days, she was also a member of the University of Singapore Students Union.

Chew Kheng Chuan

A business man of 29, he was a graduate of Harvard and a former student of the London School of Economy. According to the press communique of the Minister for the Interior, he was engaged in the “plot” since 1982.

Chng Suan Tse

A lecturer at the Polytechnic, she had been a member in the SCM (Christian Student Movement). She was the director of the group The Third Stage.

Nur Effendi Sahid, Ronnie Ng Soon Hiang, Fang Want Pen.

Aged respectively 21, 22 and 18, all three had different responsibilities and were members of the Students Union at the Polytechnic of Singapore.

A New Television Broadcast: A Documentary on the Plot

On the 28th and 29th of June, the Singapore television broadcast a documentary in two parts: it was an assembling of the declarations of the 16 persons implicated in the plot. According to the press accounts, the emphasis was placed on two points of interest. The first was TAN WAH PIOW. Four of the detainees had stated that they had met him in London. He had asked them to prepare the way for his return and he had revealed his plans to them. The second point of interest was the meeting together of the sectors in which the influence of the London based leader worked indirectly: the group The Third Stage, the Workers’ Party, Catholic circles, the Polytechnic…Yet, many of the declarations were vague and did not make sense except within the assembling of the broadcast.

First Modifications of the Theory

In the two-part documentary, all the witnesses had been carefully solicited in order to underline the existence, the cohesion and all together organised character of the plot, particularly in Singapore, to endanger the security of the State. The central role played by TAN WAH PIOW seemed evident. The government developments and declarations which were to follow in the month of July would reveal that the conviction put forward by the promoters of this theory was more apparent than real, and, what was more, that it was not shared, it seemed, by all the members of the governing body in Singapore.

The invisible hand. The declarations of the Minister for Home Affairs, Shunmugam. Jayakumar, on July 6.

It was the Minister for Home Affairs who, during a meeting of young people of the People’s Action Party, himself presented a new version of the theory of a plot. In a talk entitled “The conspiracy, the unanswered questions, the invisible hand”. The very title (we do not know if the wording of the title was that of the Minister or if its author was one of the journalists who reported the speech) shows clearly in which direction the theory was from now on to be modified. The fact that there were now unanswered questions showed that the conviction exhibited in the first press communiques from this same Minister were no longer quite as certain. The mentioning of an "invisible hand" that manipulated from a distance the “puppets” acting on the Singapore scene showed that, from now on, they were going to somewhat put the events and the Singapore actors of the plot into perspective. In the course of his talk we learnt that in fact TAN WAH PIOW could no longer be considered as the chief of the plot. He and his partners living in Singapore were nothing other than “puppets” on the inside of a “play” which was much greater, dangerous and menacing. What had just taken place was but an episode in a conflict between Singapore and Communism which, now, took the form of a conflict between the Church and the State.

From now on, the attention of the Minister would be directed beyond the frontiers of his country to “an invisible hand”. Who is it? In that regard, one could as yet only ask “questions without answers to them”. But it was possible to think of the Malaysian Communist Party, and whose chiefs lived in the Republic of China to which Tan had travelled. One could also call into question his dealings with Malcolm Cadwell, an “anarchist-Marxist” labour deputy who was sympathetic to all Asian liberation movements.

One may suppose that this change of orientation was in part brought about by the strong international pressure which was being brought to bear upon the government of Singapore. Besides, in his answers to the questions asked at the end of his talk the Minister presented a plea pro domo in which he minimised as much as he could the reactions of world opinion. According to him, some were due to the incomprehension of the situation in Singapore; others rose from the same quarters that were trying to create subversion in the country. In order to reply to the protests of Human Rights organisations, he also tried to defend the preventive detention system practised in Singapore.

Nevertheless, despite the declarations of the Minister for Home Affairs and the new orientation given to the theory of a plot, it seems that for a while there was some hesitation and the Minister wished to give more importance to the plot which was proper to Singapore.

The televised appearance on the 19th of July of the three first victims of the second series of arrests, Chew Kheng Chuan, Tang Fong Har and Chng Suan Tse, was a proof of this. Their interview would reveal to public opinion a new sector of the society that was threatened by subversion: the Law Society. The questions and answers furnished by the detainees would reveal that, always under the impulsion of Tan Wah Piow in London, they would have tried to manipulate this institution to make of it an instrument to criticise the State. That same day the press announced two other measures taken by the authorities concerning the persons implicated in the second series of arrests: the three militants of the Union of Students of the Polytechnic were released on Saturday night, 18th of July; the preventive detention of the three first of this series was now fixed to one year.

Debates in Parliament

Observers had not failed to note that since the beginning of the affair, the Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew and his Minister for Home Affairs, Shunmugam Jayakumar, had unfailingly occupied the front of the stage. Several important ministers, in particular the Deputy Prime Minister, Goh Chok Tong, the Minister for Education, were kept in the wings and had never expressed themselves in public on the subject. The parliamentary session at the end of the month of July would allow them to make their views known. The debates would show that inside the government, there was no unanimity on the way to conduct the affair.

In Parliament, the affair was strongly evoked by the member of the opposition, Chiam See Tong, who proposed a motion demanding the immediate release of the detainees. During the discussion which ensued, the Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, took the floor to expose his view of the last events. In particular, he revealed his “skepticism and astonishment when, at the beginning of June he was told of a conspiracy, of the questions he had asked himself when the unpleasant decision was taken. All the same, he added that if the decision was maintained, it meant that one could not play with the Security of the State.

Let the Church remain in its own domain!

A Speech of Lee Kuan Yew

The whole of the second part of the speech given by the Prime Minister on the occasion of the national day dealt with the affair of the arrests. The document, which came in two parts, tried to show that the subversion to which the networks gave prominence, and of which the chief agents had been arrested in May, was not limited to Catholic circles only and it attacked many other sectors as well, the opposition Party, the Students Syndicate…It was meaningful that this affair to which Lee Kuan Yew referred turned very specially to the Catholic Church. It was uncommon, he declared, for Marxists to find in the Church a “screen” to camouflage their activities. He had always regarded Catholicism as a natural ally against Communism and atheism. He then spelled out what he now expected of the Church “after this experience”. She should never again allow ecclesiastical institutions or para-ecclesiastical ones to be involved in political activities. She ought to remain within her own domain! In Singapore, moral and spiritual evolution did not necessarily follow material developments. It was only in this domain that the Church should exercise her influence. This warning of the Prime Minister would be repeated in a speech on the 14th of August with, this time, a special mention for priests, advising them to put aside their ecclesiastical garb if they wanted to immerge themselves in politics.

Liberation Theology, source of all evils.

The speech by S. Rajaratnam on August 14, 1987.

This speech entitled Is Liberation Theology Good? was given by one of the theoreticians of the governing party, S. RAJARATNAM, at the National University of Singapore. In fact, it was a development of the advice given by Lee Kuan Yew to the Church: Remain in your own domain!

“Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God” commented S. Rajaratnam. Well, Liberation Theology is not religion but Leninism mixed with Maoism, or again, according to the expression of the speaker “it is Marxism spoken in a theological language”.

In all likelihood, the speaker had not read a single book on Liberation Theology. He quoted from Ernesto Cardenal. The passages from Juan Segundo, Miguel Bolino and Frei Betto which he mentioned were very brief and without any reference: they could just as well have been found in second-hand in articles. Why did he not follow the advice that he so wisely gave the Church: “Remain within your own domain!” We believe him readily when at the beginning of his speech he affirmed that the things of God were not his “job”. In fact, there was absolutely no theoretical refutation of the modern current of theological Christian thinking. He simply clung to showing that it was but a new off-shoot of Leninism and Maoism. One of the proofs that he offered was the adopting by Liberation theologians of some of the essential concepts of Marxism. He insisted that the idea of Leninist truth (everything that served a revolution was true for him) could be found, for example, in a phrase which he quoted out of context and repeated without any references, by Juan Segundo: “Truth is always an efficacious truth for the liberation of men.”

The real promoters of this Christian current were not the priests, bishops and cardinals who are usually quoted. He gave an unflattering portrait of these: he saw in them churchmen fooled by propaganda who wanted in this way to realise a political ambition which was otherwise frustrated. The real instigators of this current were the communist leaders who tried to give a new face to their efforts to destabilise the universe. He gave a very personal explanation to this curious alliance between Leninism and religion. According to him, one of the defects of Marx’s thought where he differed from communism, was that it cruelly lacked mythology and irrationality which were elements which formed the attraction of the revolutionary thought for people. Marx was wrong to suppress paradise from the world beyond. Lenin, Mao and Castro had always used to their profit myths that were capable of drawing the simple-minded. Thus, Liberation Theology was for them an unexpected godsend. Did it not promise two paradises: a communist paradise here on earth and a second, Christian one in the life to come?

New releases and abrupt change of policy

For more than four weeks, these two speeches would be the only light on the affair. Then, suddenly, new facts and new declarations would precipitate it towards a very strange conclusion. We recall that everything had begun with the brutality of the first arrests, the vehemence of the Minister for the Interior’s accusations. Then there followed the will to render the theory of a plot more coherent, to show how widespread were the damages caused by subversion in the different sectors of society in Singapore. Then, for a time, the attacks changed their objective. But halfway through September the affair instead of being concluded would in some way begin to unwind itself little by little like a balloon which was deflating. Everything in the final developments give this impression, plunging into perplexity those who sill tried to give meaning to the whole series of events, as a writer in “Far Eastern Economic Review” of the 22nd of October 1987 remarked.

On the 13th of September, two of the detainees, Chew Kheng Chuan and Tang Fong Har who nevertheless had been condemned for two year in preventive detention, were released, with restrictions of their civil rights as had already applied to the others who had been released before them. Fifteen days later, the same conditions for release were applied to seven other detainees: Kevin Desmond D’Souza, Teo Soh Lung, Tan Tee Seng, Low Yit Leng, Chung Lai Mei, and Wong Sou Yee. No official commentary accompanied these releases.

On the 19th of September, a strange declaration of the Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong, became known which did not permit people to understand any better the signification of these new releases to which, by the way, he did not even allude. He addressed young people directly, graduates of universities, and to the middle classes of his country, he let it be known that perhaps the government had shown itself to be too intolerant and had been too aggressive in regard to opinions which differed from its own.

Thus, what at the beginning had been called an international plot which menaced the security of the State of Singapore became a simple difference of opinion, and the whole mode of conduct of the authorities during the four previous months had been brought about by a “vulgar allergy to being contradicted”…For the moment, the story rested there. Yet, no doubt the affair ought to be hurriedly concluded as six detainees were still in prison, which proved that the recent declarations of the Deputy Prime Minister were not yet the last word…all the more so as one of the priests who had left Singapore in June for Australia was violently attacked in the Parliament. On the 30th of November 1987, the Minister for Home Affairs flung a diatribe against him in which abject remarks on the private life of the priest which still did not succeed in hiding the weakness of the arguments he used. It was not impossible to suppose that this new attack was the beginning of a new offensive.

Concluding Reflections


(6) Extracts of the Pastoral Letter had indeed been printed in the press.

(7) These international reactions will be the object of the following paragraphs.

(8) “The Sunday Times”, 7th June 1987.