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60 years ago, New York Times called PAP ‘extreme leftists’ who formed a ‘S’pore regime’

It also reported the disappearance of Queen Elizabeth's portrait.

Sulaiman Daud | June 6, 04:13 pm

A day in politics is considered a lifetime.

But 60 years in politics? That can make a lot of difference.

PAP in 1959

Back in 1959, the New York Times provided an unfiltered description of Singapore’s new kids on the block — the People’s Action Party — calling them “extreme leftists”.

On May 31, 1959, NYT published a report on the 1959 Legislative Assembly election, which would give the people of Singapore their first government of a self-governing state.

The article is now available in the NYT archive.

“Voting won by leftists”

The article was titled, “Singapore voting won by leftists” — which no one would have foreseen at that time were to be the purveyors of state capitalism in decades to come.

The first two paragraphs read:

“The left-wing People’s Action party scored a landslide victory yesterday in elections for a new assembly that will take over local rule from the British here.

The winning party has pledged that it will pave the way for a ‘future Socialist society.'”

It also described the party’s secretary-general Lee Kuan Yew, as a “fiery Cambridge-educated lawyer”.

NYT said that the PAP drew its support from the youth and labour groups, the Chinese-speaking population, and “left-wing extremists”.

It also said that the PAP was helped by the fact that its opponents were “badly divided”.

Release detained members first

The NYT report also mentioned the PAP’s pre-election announcement that it would refuse to form a government until some of its members, who were detained by the British, were released.

It speculated that the PAP seemed confident that a “triumph” at the polls would help persuade the British governor, Sir William Goode, to release them.

The British did so, as detailed by Chief of Government Communications Janadas Devan in a Facebook post he shared on June 4, 2019, the 60th anniversary of their release.

Janadas listed the eight detainees who were freed, including Lim Chin Siong and his own father, future Singapore President Devan Nair.

You can see the post below:

“Extreme leftist party”

After the release of the detainees, the PAP then formed a government.

NYT also reported this in a June 5 article, “Nine leftists form Singapore regime”.

However, the piece did not mention the released detainees.

It described the PAP as an “extreme leftist party”, and described Lee as the leader of the “moderate faction” of the party.

NYT also noted the case of the missing portrait of Queen Elizabeth:

“In keeping with the requirements of a state within the British Commonwealth, they swore allegiance to Queen Elizabeth.

But a portrait of the Queen, which only yesterday had a place of honour on walls of the City Hall ceremonial room, was gone.”

The NYT’s official Twitter account marked the anniversary with a tweet:

Top image from NYT Archives and Janadas Devan’s Facebook page.

About Sulaiman Daud

Sulaiman believes that we can be heroes, if just for one day. His favourite Doctor is Peter Capaldi's Twelve, and he lives according to the teachings of Jürgen Klopp. He also writes about film and pop-culture, which you are very welcome to read here.

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