BACK to the decades-old question in Singapore history that refuses to go away: Was Lim Chin Siong a communist?
He had denied being a communist until his death. His close associates were adamant that he was not a communist. Even some of his critics agreed, noting that a communist would not have abandoned politics the way Lim did.
Lim Chin Joo said he believed his brother: 'Different people would like him to be remembered as a communist. By doing so, his detractors could justify his removal from the political scene and the Malayan Communist Party (MCP) could claim credit for his contributions to the cause of national independence and freedom.'
Former communist guerrilla Chan Sun Wing said that Lim was close to being an MCP member but lost contact with his 'superior' in his cell who 'disappeared' suddenly. To be a communist, according to Chan, one was required to take part in a special initiation ceremony. He recalled that he had to take a pledge before the portraits of Mao, Lenin, Marx and Engels in a solemn ceremony in the late 1960s before he became a member.
Likewise, Lee Kuan Yew noted that Lim was a communist cell member who was on the way to becoming an MCP member. 'Technically, he was not a communist, but he was taking orders from the party. He was not acting independently.'
Going by a strict legal definition, Lee said, a communist would be a member of a communist party. But he adopted the popular usage of the term 'communist' to include anybody who took orders from either the communist party or its affiliates.
According to information from the Internal Security Department (ISD), Lim admitted in 1984 that he met the communist leader, Fang Chuang Pi, also known as Fong Chong Pik, three times between the late 1950s and 1961. Fang was dubbed 'the Plen', short for plenipotentiary, by Lee.
Lim was vague on specific dates and locations of the meetings. He told ISD officers that one of the meetings took place when PAP split in 1961.
In a corroborative report, ISD noted that Lim held a secret meeting with Fang in a secluded attap hut at 7ï¿½ milestone, Upper Thomson Road, on July 16, 1961, five days before the make-or-break vote of confidence in the legislative assembly.
ISD had information that Lim exerted all his efforts to win over the pro-communist and wavering elements in PAP in a bid to topple the government. The vote, which could have changed the course of Singapore forever if it had gone the other way, saw the PAP government clinging on to power by 27 ayes against 8 nays and 16 abstentions, including 13 by dissenting PAP assemblymen.
Another Lim-Fang rendezvous was revealed by Fang's girlfriend in a statement to ISD in 1964. She said that one night, she drove Fang along Dunearn Road and picked up Lim before going to Kallang Park where both men had a discussion. She did not provide the date of the meeting but ISD assessed that it was sometime between late 1959 and early 1960.
Former Home Affairs Minister Ong Pang Boon conceded that Lim might not be a card-carrying member of MCP 'but by his actions and speeches in the 1950s, he sounded like a communist and he supported communist objectives'.