Chia Thye Poh
|Chia Thye Poh|
|Member of the Parliament of Singapore|
1963 – October 1966
|Preceded by||Chor Yeok Eng|
|Succeeded by||Ho Kah Leong|
|Political party||Barisan Sosialis|
|Chia Thye Poh|
Dr Chia Thye Poh (born 1941) is a Singaporean former political prisoner.
Detained under the Internal Security Act of Singapore for allegedly conducting pro-communist activities against the government, he was imprisoned for 23 years without charge or trial and subsequently placed under conditions of house arrest for another nine years – in which he was first confined to the island of Sentosa and then subject to restrictions on his place of abode, employment, travel, and exercise of political rights.
Prior to his detention, he had been a teacher, a physics lecturer, a socialist political activist and a member of the Parliament of Singapore. Subsequent to it, he has been a doctoral student and an interpreter.
As a member of the Barisan Sosialis he was elected member of the Legislative Assembly for Jurong Constituency in 1963, being nominated as the candidate in replacement of a colleague who had been arrested by the government of Singapore. Concurrent with his holding of office, he worked as a university physics professor.
In July 1966, he was convicted for publishing a "seditious article" in the Barisan's Chinese-language newspaper. In the same month, he was arrested with 25 others and charged with unlawful assembly for his participation in a demonstration against United States involvement in the Vietnam War that resulted in open confrontation with police. It has been noted that he was active among peace campaigners calling for an end to the US bombing of Indochina during the Vietnam War in the 1960s.
In early October 1966, he and eight other Barisan Sosialis MPs boycotted the Parliament over the decision by the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) to split from Malaysia. This was part of the Barisan's strategy to protest "undemocratic acts" of the Government, by carrying their struggle against the PAP outside of Parliament. He declared that the means of the struggle would be "street demonstrations, protest meetings, strikes".
On 8 October 1966, he led an illegal protest march of 30 supporters to Parliament House and handed a letter to the Clerk of the House demanding a general election be held under eight named conditions, with the release of all political detainees and the revocation of all "undemocratic" laws.
Arrest and imprisonment
On 29 October 1966, he and 22 other Barisan Sosialis leaders were arrested pursuant to powers afforded by the Internal Security Act. The official statement released by the Government alleged that Barisan's attempt to arouse a mass struggle outside of parliament was prejudicial to the stability of Singapore. The round of arrests was the second one conducted by the government, including those occurring as part of Operation Coldstore in 1963. Chia was specifically detained for his role in organising and leading the street procession on 8 October.
The other detainees were released eventually after they each signed a document promising to renounce violence and sever ties with the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). However, he refused as he felt that signing such a document would imply that he was affiliated with the CPM and, in his own words: "to renounce violence is to imply you advocated violence before. If I had signed that statement I would not have lived in peace." Thus, in time, and without ever being the subject of an indictment or a criminal trial, he became one of the longest serving political prisoners in the world – with some consequent restrictions upon his civil rights remaining in place for a total of more than 32 years subsequent to his initial arrest. The length of his detention has been compared to that of Nelson Mandela, who was imprisoned for a total period longer than 27 years subsequent to his arrest, trial and convictions for treason, sabotage and other political crimes.
He was deprived of Singapore citizenship in February 1968 as he could not produce a birth certificate to substantiate his claim that he was born in Singapore in 1933. He was served with a Banishment Order in August 1968. He remained detained in the Queenstown Remand Prison "awaiting deportation" until 1976, when the Banishment Order was dropped and he was served with a fresh detention order under the ISA in June that year.
During his incarceration, he spent substantial time in solitary confinement at the Whitley Road Detention Centre. In late 1978, Amnesty International confirmed that he was detained at the Moon Crescent Detention Centre located within the grounds of Changi Prison.
In 1985, the government of Singapore asserted that the purpose of his detention related to the allegation that he had been a member of the CPM and suggested that he was therefore willing to participate in anti-Singapore political violence and terrorism.
Confinement on Sentosa
On 17 May 1989, he was released from 23 years of imprisonment without charge or trial on the mainland, and instead confined to a one-room guardhouse on Sentosa where he was required to pay the rent on the pretext that he was then a "free" man. He was also required to purchase and prepare his own food. As he had no money, he was offered a job as the assistant curator of Fort Siloso on the West of the island. He refused the offer on the understanding that it was a government civil service position in which he may, as a result, be "muzzled" from talking to the media without official permission. Instead, he negotiated an arrangement where he worked as a freelance translator for the Sentosa Development Corporation. About that time he made the following remarks about the circumstances of his continuing detention and the culture of politics in Singapore in general:
I am confident that no matter how much difficulties I face, and how long it will take, the government will have to release me unconditionally one day... I hope that with continued support from the people, I can one day gain my complete freedom.
Under the PAP rule, there is no genuine parliamentary democracy. In essence, it has been practicing a one-party rule. It seems to want to remain as the sole, dominant party, with other smaller parties acting as marginal opposition and 'sparring partners' for new PAP MPs. The opposition parties will never be allowed to grow strong... There is always the danger of one-party rule slipping into one-man rule, and worse still, into dynastic rule. The PAP... seems elitist and arrogant, regard themselves as the best and the most suitable to rule Singapore. And they rule with iron-handed policies.
In 1990, there was some relaxation of the restrictions applying to him. Chia has stated his belief that representations by Chancellor Helmut Kohl of West Germany in the mid-1980s played some part in the Singaporean government's decision to soften its stance in regard to him.
In November 1997, restrictions were further relaxed to an extent that allowed him to accept a fellowship from the Hamburg Foundation of the German government for politically persecuted persons. He subsequently spent a year in Hamburg studying economics, politics, and German language. He was also permitted to change his address and to seek employment without prior permission of the director of Singapore's Internal Security Department.
In November 1998, it was reported that the source of his income was the work that he performed as a freelance translator.
On 27 November 1998, all remaining restrictions were nullified. He thus formally regained rights to make public statements, address public meetings, and participate in political activity. He immediately called upon the Government to repeal the Internal Security Act and expressed his interest in becoming involved in political activity.
On 27 November 1998, Amnesty International issued a public statement that restrictions on "Singapore's longest serving prisoner of conscience" had been lifted. Amnesty International considered the announcement to be more than thirty years' overdue.
In late 2000, he was pursuing a Master's degree in development studies at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague and expected to complete those studies and return to Singapore in December of that year.
- Transplanted or Endogenized? FDI and Industrial Upgrading in Developing Countries. Case study of Indonesia (2006), Shaker Publishing
- "1963 Legislative Assembly Election Results". Elections Department Singapore.
- Ang Hiok Ga (14–15 October 2000). "Spirit of Asia's Mandela" (reprint). Malaysiakini.
- Barry Porter (30 November 1998). "Singapore's gentle revolutionary" (reprint). South China Morning Post.
- Report of an Amnesty International Mission to Singapore, 30 November to 5 December 1978. Amnesty International Publications. 1980. ISBN 0-86210-002-X.
- Straits Times; 26 October 1966 (as cited in Mutalib)
- "Looking Back". Asiaweek 26 (47). 1 December 2000.
- Hussin Mutalib (2003). Parties and Politics: A Study of Opposition Parties and the PAP in Singapore. Singapore: Eastern Universities Press. pp. 70, 106–107. ISBN 981-210-211-6.
- Plebeian (newspaper of the Barisan Socialis), 8 October 1966
- "Ministry refutes Chia Thye Poh's claim that he was never under any communist party and that he was merely performing duties as a MP, 30 November 98" (Press release). Ministry of Home Affairs. 30 November 1998.
- "Restriction on Chia Thye Poh lapse, 26 November 98" (Press release). Ministry of Home Affairs. 26 November 1998.
- James Gomez, Susan Chua (August 1989). "Chia Thye Poh? The Man Himself" (reprint). PHILOTIN (Newsletter of the Philosophy Society, the National University of Singapore) (2): 4.
- "Security act must go, says victim of 32-year ordeal" (reprint). Deutsche Presse-Agentur. 28 November 1998.
- "Ex-detainee Chia Thye Poh muzzled for trip" (reprint). Associated Press. 19 July 1997.
- "Chia Thye Poh a free man". The Straits Times. 27 November 1998.
- "Document – Singapore: Restrictions on Singapore's longest-serving political prisoner lifted". Amnesty International. 27 November 1998.
- www.ThinkCentre.org – News for a Vibrant Political Society
- "Peter Knorringa – Curriculum Vitae" (PDF). Institute of Social Studies.
- http://www.llgcultural.com/eng/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=163:longest-serving-political-prisoner-chia-thye-poh-received-award&catid=49:press-statements-2011&Itemid=55 Longest-Serving Political Prisoner Chia Thye Poh Received Award
- "Staff Profile – Chia Thye Poh". Institute of Social Studies. 14 March 2008.
- "SINGAPORE: Chia Thye Poh long time prisoner of conscience is honored". Asian Human Rights Commission. 19 December 2011.
- "Award for ISS alumnus Chia Thye Poh". Institute of Social Studies. 20 December 2011.
- Singapore's gentle revolutionary
- Security act must go, says victim of 32-year ordeal
- PDF (134 KiB)
- Singapore Ministry of Home Affairs press statement of 26 November 1998
- Amnesty International statement of 27 November 1998
- November 1990 face images of Chia Thye Poh
- November 1990 images of Chia Thye Poh in his room
- November 1990 image of Chia Thye Poh waving to tourists
- Interview with Chia Thye Poh, Newsweek
Chor Yeok Eng
|Member of the Parliament of Singapore representing Jurong constituency
Ho Kah Leong