Survivors of Operation Spectrum—the alleged Marxist conspiracy—speak up in this volume. For many of them, this is the first time that they cast their minds back to 1987 and try to make sense of the incident. What they did in that period was meaningful and totally legitimate. Their families and friends share the same view.
The detainees were subjected to ill-treatment, humiliation, and manipulated television appearances. Under duress, and threatened with indefinite imprisonment without trial, they had to make statutory declarations against their will.
It is hoped that with this publication, Singaporeans will know what actually happened and decide for themselves if there was a national security threat that necessitated the mounting of Operation Spectrum.
This book is a portal to Singapore’s soul, to the human spirit that can be suppressed or manipulated but never defeated. It is also a signal to the current generation of the task to be completed: to exercise the inalienable rights of free citizens even while the Internal Security Act and other legislation denies these rights.
The book also provides a kind of social media map of all those who played along with the defenestration of the innocents. Many of these collaborators with state repression are in positions of public influence and private wealth, some expressing private sympathy while maintaining public loyalty to the regime. Paradoxically, mired as they are in moral compromise, they are less free, and possibly more fearful, than those who were detained in 1987 and now speak with clear voices.
Singapore’s future will be the outcome of a contest between an administration-in-perpetuity (in power since 1959) that has big data reaching into almost every aspect of people’s lives, and the upwelling pressure from social inequality. The weakening economy and the declining salience of Singapore’s geo-strategic location will be best compensated for by the emergence of a democratic Singapore. Will a free citizenry emerge to challenge rule by the algorithms of a wealthy elite?
Research Fellow in Political Studies
University of Auckland
Singapore is, in some ways, a model for many people around the world in that it seems to provide the full implementation of a neo-liberal capitalist agenda without being troubled by democracy and human rights. It has achieved prosperity for some (but not all) of its citizens. The price has been a loss of freedom and vitality that still keeps the country in a state of political paralysis. It is a false model, one which the "Marxist conspirators" challenged then and continue to challenge now.
This book tells the stories of many who were involved in this troubling episode in Singapore's history and who continue to be affected by it. These stories are a vital part of modern Singapore history and should be read by everyone. I am honoured to know so many of these witnesses who have been willing to take the risk to tell the truth.
Professor Shelley Wright
Department of Aboriginal Studies,
Langara College, Vancouver, Canada