Episode 31: The Big Kelong

Working with the British and Lee Kuan Yew, Lim Yew Hock had successfully crushed the left-wing anticolonial movement. But this was strictly temporary. Eventually an election would have to be called, and the left-wing would be able to contest the election, and they would win. What to do? In this episode, PJ Thum explains how British Colonial Secretary Alan Lennox-Boyd, Lim, and Lee, colluded in secret, using legal manoeuvres to fix the 1959 election; and also discusses the international context of Singapore’s decolonisation in the wake of the Suez Crisis. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

 

Episode 30: Pah Mata

By 1956, Singapore’s left-wing anti-colonial movement had grown into a coherent multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic movement, that threatened the moral right to British rule in Singapore. The British, Labour Front President Lim Yew Hock, and PAP Secretary-General Lee Kuan Yew all saw the movement as a threat to be crushed (for very different reasons). But they had to find an excuse to destroy the movement, while pinning the blame elsewhere (ideally on each other). In this episode of “The History of Singapore”, PJ Thum explains how Lim Yew Hock attempted to destroy the left-wing anti-colonial movement, while trying to escape the blame. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 29: Game of Thrones

The most dramatic impact of David Marshall’s tenure of Chief Minister was that the prospect of independence suddenly seemed possible – and soon. The British would be leaving soon – but who would assume power afterwards? Marshall’s resignation kicked off a deadly race for the Iron Throne of independent Singapore. In this episode, PJ Thum explains the political manoeuvering and treacherous alliances that began the moment Marshall stepped down, and how they would shape the next seven years. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit http://thehistoryofsingapore.com/ Support the show at http://patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 28: “Christmas Pudding with Arsenic Sauce”

At the end of 1955, Chief Minister David Marshall’s popularity was at an all-time high. Five months and seven days later, after a failure to win independence at the Constitutional Talks with the British in London, he resigned. What happened? In this episode, PJ Thum recounts the events of the Talks, the failings and failures of Singapore’s politicians, and reflects on what David Marshall’s 14 months in office tell us about what makes a great leader. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit http://thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at http://patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 27: “The Living Buddha”

If you read English-language sources, David Marshall appears naive, weak, and irresponsible as Chief Minister. If you read Chinese-language sources, Marshall appears as courageous, principled hero, fighting on behalf of the downtrodden and oppressed people of Singapore. Why the difference? In this episode, PJ Thum discusses David Marshall’s tenure as Chief Minister from April to December 1955, how he was seen by Singapore’s various peoples, and how perspectives change historical narratives. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 26: The Lion of Singapore

The greatest of Singapore’s leaders – not the best, nor the most accomplished, perhaps not even the smartest – but the *greatest* of the five men who have led Singapore’s government since 1955 – is David Saul Marshall. David Marshall shaped the praxis of power in Singapore, setting a moral standard that no leader since has managed to reach. His actions – and equally importantly, what he didn’t do – irreversibly shaped his office, and have made a significant, lasting, and often overlooked impact on Singapore’s democracy. In this episode, PJ Thum discusses the origins of David Marshall, and how his humble upbringing shaped his principles, his passions, and his courage, and how this thrust a humble Jew, reluctant to take part in politics, into the role of the first Singaporean-born man to lead our government. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 25: Questions and Answers II

Recorded extemporaneously while sitting outside the Colosseum in Rome, PJ Thum answers listeners’ questions about the the importance of historical context and the meaning of communism in Singapore in the 1950s, and about the political significance and context of new historical research which the government has attempted to deride as “revisionist”. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 24: The Spirit of Afro-Asia

The Afro-Asia Conference, held in Bandung in April 1955, was hugely inspirational for anticolonialism around the world and for Singapore’s anticolonial movement. What is the spirit of Afro-Asia? Why was Bandung so inspirational? And how did it change the anticolonial movement in Singapore? In this episode, PJ Thum answers these questions, and visits the entirely fictional state of “Singalaysia” and asks what lessons the spirit of Bandung might offer to a theoretical opposition “Democratic Worker’s Action Party” on how they might successfully defeat the neo-colonial government at a General Election. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 23: Living in a Time of Deception

Dr Poh Soo Kai was the president of the University of Malaya Socialist Club in 1954-55 and its secretary general in 1955-56. He was a member of the eight-person editorial board of the Socialist Club newsletter, Fajar, who were charged by the colonial government in 1954 with sedition. He was a founding member of the People’s Action Party in 1954 and was later the Assistant Secretary-General of Barisan Socialis when it was established in 1961. In 1963, he was detained without trial under Operation Coldstore and was held for a total of 17 years. He has recently published his memoir, “Living in a Time of Deception”, has just launched in Singapore and Malaysia. In this episode, recorded live at the book launch, PJ Thum sits down with Dr Poh to discuss his book, his political career, and what he’s learnt from his long life. Please send questions, comments, and feedback to thehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show at patreon.com/pjthum.

Episode 22: de Tocqueville in Singapore

1955-56 was the peak of mass participation in Singapore’s democratic process. Singapore has a long tradition of highly politicised mutual associations, with fierce internal and external competition. From 1955, thanks to the new government, space for legitimate political activity rapidly expanded in Singapore. Yet the public also understood that the constitution heavily circumscribed what elected ministers could achieve in the Legislative Assembly. In this episode, PJ Thum explains how and why associations became the focus of political activity in Singapore, and how they transformed the organisation and practice of politics in Singapore. Please send questions, comments, and feedback tothehistoryofsingapore@gmail.com or visit thehistoryofsingapore.com. Support the show atpatreon.com/pjthum.

“Living in a Time of Deception” by Dr Poh Soo Kai will be launched at 2pm on Saturday 13 Feb at the Holiday Inn Atrium, Outram Road. Please come! www.facebook.com/events/214541525557653/