Operation Coldstore

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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. In 1959 the People's Action Party (PAP) headed by Lee Kuan Yew won the general elections and established the government. In order to secure the support of the Progressives and union leaders, Lee had made a number of promises during the election campaign to work for the release of the political prisoners detained by Lim Yew Hock's government in 1956 and 1957. As a result, Lim Chin Siong and some other PAP left wing members were released.

By 1961, no further political prisoners had been released. This played a role in the PAP's loss of two by-elections, to David Marshall in Anson and To Ong Eng Guan in Hong Lim. This led Lee to consolidate his party's support in his government. It was during this period that Lim's faction broke away from the PAP in 1961 to form the Barisan Sosialis.

Come 1962, a referendum was put forth for Singapore's integration into the Federation of Malaya to form the Federation of Malaysia in September 1963. The pro-communists, led by strongly opposed this merger and were challenging the government of Singapore of the in their endeavour to establish a socialist state.

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 Tunku Abdul Rahman insisted that Singapore round up all pro-communists before the merger occurred.[citation needed] Despite Lee Kuan Yew's initial objection[citation needed], the British and the Malayans cast the decisive ballots at the Internal Security Council[citation needed] to launch the operation.

On 8 December 1962, the Brunei Rebellion broke out. The Barisan Sosialis issued a statement in support of the uprising against British colonialism. As this could lead to violent subversion in Singapore, a case was made for the arrests in the interests of safety and security.

Those arrested were detained under the Prevention of Public Security Order (PPSO)[citation needed]. They were alleged to be involved in subversive activities aiming to establish a "Communist Cuba" in Singapore[citation needed]. The arrestees include


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.

See also[edit]


  • 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