12 quotes on why Lee Kuan Yew had successfully auditioned as a DJ if his radio talks lost PAP’s battle for merger

He is probably the country's best story-teller too.

Martino Tan | October 12, 2014 @ 04:44 pm

In the words of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the Battle for Merger book “still reads like a thriller today”.

Originally published in 1962, the book contains a series of 12 radio talks delivered by Lee between Sep 13 and Oct 9, 1961, giving an account of the ongoing political struggle over merger. PM Lee attended the exhibition yesterday, as the book was recently republished.

PM Lee, whose role as a leader was described by Tommy Koh to be a superman, praised his father’s “superhuman effort” in making a total of 36 broadcasts in just one month (12 talks, in 3 languages).

So step aside top social media influencer PM Lee. These 12 quotes from Lee Kuan Yew’s 1961 radio talks showed how he could have ruled the Internet if Internet was born during his time. 

1. And the story begins: “Soon you will have to decide on your future…In the series of broadcasts, I hope to tell you what merger means, why it is good for all of us, why it is coming, and why some people are deliberately creating trouble and difficulty over it to prevent it from taking place”. Radio Talk 1 – Merger and the Stakes Involved


Photo from the Ministry of Culture Collection, Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

2. Exposing how his opponents operate: “Because the Communist Party is illegal in Malaya none of its followers go about telling people that they are Communists. Publicly they will always pretend to be democrats; privately they keep on recruiting as many effective persons as they can persuade to join them in the Communist cause”. Radio Talk 2 – The Communist Challenge

Malaysian Communist Flag


Source: Imperial War Museum

3. Praising his opponents: “I came to know dozens of them. They are not crooks or opportunists. These are men with great resolve, dedicated to the Communist revolution and to the establishment of the Communist state believing that it is the best thing in the world for mankind”. Radio Talk 3 – How the Communists Operate

Lim Chin Siong

(From left, with garlands) Fong Swee Suan, S. Woodhull, Lim Chin Siong and Devan Nair were among eight leftist detainees released in June 1959 after the PAP won the elections (Source)

His hook for his third talk? 

“So the battle goes on for the hearts and minds of the political activists of the country. Some I will be able to tell you by name. Others I shall refer to by nicknames. But they are all real living people, men of my generation, fierce men on both sides. They will be listening to these talks wondering how much I will disclose, whether I will take an unfair advantage over them.”

You would have ordered all 12 episodes of Lee’s talks if Netflix is available in 1961. 

4. On opposition leader Lim Chin Siong: “Lim (Chin Siong) was the most important open-front leader the M.C.P. had built up. By 1955 he knew that I knew this. He is a friendly and quiet person. He is prepared to devote his whole life to working for the creation of a Communist Malaya”. Radio Talk 4 – A Lesson for Socialists


Photo from the Ministry of Culture Collection, Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

Lim is a founding member of the PAP. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly in 1955. In 1961, he was expelled from the PAP and formed the opposition party Barisan Sosialis (BSS).

5. Meeting the Plenipotentiary: “He [the Plen] tried to allay my doubts…this time I was dealing with the top, the men who decided and gave the orders, and they would keep their word”. Radio Talk 5 – Envoy from the Underground


Photo from the Ministry of Culture Collection, Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore

In this broadcast, Lee revealed the existence of the Plenipotentiary for the first time. Lee shared that he met the Plen – Fong Chong Pik (1924-2004) – , who was the Malayan Communist Party’s representative in Singapore.

6. Losing a PAP comrade back to the communists: “[H]e had been won back to the Communist side. So we prepared for trouble ahead. It was a worthwhile risk to have taken to win him (Fong Swee Suan) over to our democratic side. But we had to be prepared to lose.” Radio Talk 6 – Communist Plan for Expansion 


Fong (top right) in the first PAP Central Executive Committee (CEC) in November 1954.

A trade unionist, Fong was a founding member of the PAP and a member of PAP’s 1st CEC. He was close friends with Lim.

7. Whacking your former colonial master: “Let me tell you how and why the British deliberately misled the Communists and maneuvered their open-front workers into a false position”. Radio Talk 7 – The British Plot

Queen-615x236 Source: Mothership (“90 reasons why you secretly fancy Lee Kuan Yew“)

Guess all is forgiven now. 

8. Exposing the contradictions of his opponents: “I want to explain this paradox, that the Communists prefer Singapore still under British control but with the Internal Security Council abolished, to a Singapore independent together with the rest of Malaya”. Radio Talk 8 – The Communist Paradox

Why? Lee said that the Communists preferred a Singapore still under British control because their struggle for a Communist Malaya can be camouflaged as an anti-colonial struggle.

9. Explaining the uncomfortable marriage of convenience: “Now that we all know Lim and his friends are up to no good, why do we not take immediate steps to deal sternly with them? The answer is because if we take immediate steps to deal sternly with them, we shall lose the open argument of who is right and who is wrong. This is a battle for the minds of the people, for the people’s support for what we believe is right for the country”. Radio Talk 9 – The Open Argument

10. Exposing the betrayals of former PAP assemblymen: “We decided to take the fight into the open and draw the line clearly between those who were prepared to make a stand and fight, and those who had either defected or were not prepared to take a stand and face the consequences”. Radio Talk 10 – Communist Bid to Capture PAP


Photo from NLB exhibition.

The challenges to be overcome by the PAP looked grim in 1961:

– PAP: 19 out of 23 organising secretaries (the most senior grassroots leader) defected and 33 out of 51 PAP branches crossed over to Barisan Sosialis (BSS).

– Unions: 82 unions supported BSS, while 27 unions supported the PAP. 

11. Explaining why the government was facing problems in 1961: “Their third plan is now to make it so hot and uncomfortable for the government all round that we shall quit before merger is accomplished.” Radio Talk 11 – Communist Turn on the Heat


Source: Remember Singapore

On 9 September 1961, workers at Robinsons department store at Raffles Place went on strike over alleged abusive treatment by employers. Lee said that investigation found over 60 out of about 200 of those who picketed were not Robinson employees, but people brought in by pro-Communists.

12. Let the people decide: “I have recounted these events to you so that you can better judge what is in your best interests. Some of the facts are not in favour of my colleagues or myself. But you have to know them. You judge the truth for yourselves from what I have said, and also what the persons involved have not been able to deny.” Radio Talk 12 – A New Nation Through Merger

The merger result? 71% supported the PAP’s position, while 25% cast blank votes as advocated by the anti-merger group. 


Top photo from here

Check out the exhibition at the National Library Building on Victoria Street (Oct.9 – Nov.30).  It will then travel to public libraries including Jurong Regional Library and Ang Mo Kio Public Library. 

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About Martino Tan

Martino’s parents named him after an Italian priest, Vatican's 1st ambassador to S’pore. He's inspired by the lives of Robert Kennedy & Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the words of George Orwell & William F. Buckley Jr., & the music of the Beatles.

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