- Operation Coldstore
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Early history of Singapore (pre-1819) Founding of modern Singapore (1819–1826) Straits Settlements (1826–1867) Crown colony (1867–1942) Battle of Singapore (1942) Japanese Occupation (1942–1945) Sook Ching massacre (1942–1945) Post-war period (1945–1955) First Legislative Council (1948–1951) Maria Hertogh riots(1950) Second Legislative Council (1951–1955) Anti-National Service Riots (1954) Internal self-government (1955–1962) Hock Lee bus riots (1955) Merger with Malaysia (1962–1965) Merger referendum (1962) Operation Coldstore (1963) Race riots in Singapore (1964) MacDonald House bombing (1965) Republic of Singapore (1965–present) 1969 race riots of Singapore (1969) Operation Spectrum (1987) East Asian financial crisis (1997) Embassies attack plot (2001) SARS outbreak (2003) Timeline of Singaporean history
Operation Coldstore (sometimes spelled Operation Cold Store, Chinese: 冷藏行动) was a security operation launched in Singapore on 2 February 1963 in which at least 111 anti-government left-wing activists were arrested and detained, including key members of the opposition political party Barisan Sosialis. Others arrested included newspaper editors, trade unionists and university students. The operation, authorised by the Internal Security Council which comprised representatives from the British Colonial, Malaysian Federal and Singapore governments, was touted as an anti-Communist sting.
At that time, Singapore was a self-governing state under British rule; but was preparing for a merger with the Federation of Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia in September 1963. The pro-communists, led by Lim Chin Siong strongly opposed this merger and were challenging the government of Singapore headed by Lee Kuan Yew of the People's Action Party (PAP) in their endeavour to establish a socialist state.
Lim's faction broke away from the PAP in 1961 to form the Barisan Sosialis. The Singapore Trade Union Congress, the dominant trade union at the time, was also split into two factions; the left-wings formed the Singapore Association of Trade Unions (SATU), while the pro-PAP faction formed the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC).
Malaya had a strong anti-communist policy. During the Malayan Emergency, Malaya managed to contain communist influence. However, the communists had substantial influence in Singapore. Fearing a communist resurgency, the Malayan Prime Minister Tengku Abdul Rahman insisted that Singapore round up all pro-communists before the merger occurred. Despite Lee Kuan Yew's initial objection, the British and the Malayans cast the decisive ballots at the Internal Security Council to launch the operation.
Those arrested were detained under the Prevention of Public Security Order (PPSO). They were alleged to be involved in subversive activities aiming to establish a "Communist Cuba" in Singapore. The arrestees include
- Lim Chin Siong, secretary-general, Barisan Sosialis
- S Woodhull, vice-chairman, Barisan Sosialis
- Fong Swee Suan, secretary-general SATU and executive committee member, Barisan Sosialis
- James Puthucheary,
- Dominic Puthucheary, committee member SATU and Barisan Sosialis; vice-president Singapore General Employees' Union
- Said Zahari, former editor of Utusan Melayu
- Tan Teck Wah, president Singapore General Employees' Union; vice-president, SATU
- A Wahab Shah, chairman, Party Rakyat
- Lim Hock Siew
- Poh Soo Kai
The Operation dealt a heavy blow to the Barisan Sosialis, just months before the 1963 general elections.
SATU was deregistered after its leaders were arrested, and the NTUC became the main trade union in Singapore ever since. NTUC remains closely associated with the PAP, with many of its union leaders being PAP's members of parliament.
Were Barisan Sosialis and Lim Chin Siong communists?
However, with new archives opened up in London, evidence linking Lim Chin Siong and Barisan Sosialis to be communist seems vague at best. In other words, there was no direct evidence linking Lim Chin Siong and Barisan Sosialis to communist ideas.
Furthermore, according to Mathew Jones' article, Operation Coldstore was more a barter deal as Tengku Abdul Rahman stated that he would not take in Singapore if the Borneo Territories were not given up by the British and if there was no detention of the radical leftists in Singapore.
- Hussin Mutalib (2004). Parties and Politics. A Study of Opposition Parties and the PAP in Singapore. Marshall Cavendish Adademic. ISBN 981-210-408-9
- Lee Kuan Yew. (1998). The Singapore Story. Federal Publications. ISBN 0-13-020803-5
- Mathew Jones, “Creating Malaysia: Singapore Security, the Borneo Territories and the Contours of British Policy, 1961-1963” in Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, Vol. 28, No. 2, May 2000. pp. 85-109
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