Samad Ismail: Of Friends And Foes

I read something about my late father yesterday. He was mentioned in an article written by a former Singapore Minister Othman Wok in a tribute to the republic’s first Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew who died on Monday. I reproduce it (in bold) from (excerpt) of Othman’s piece that was published in the Straits Times (Singapore).

It is a nice tribute to Singapore’s founding father. But the bit on my late dad – not so nice.

For reasons, perhaps known only to Othman who considers my father “a good friend”, he chose to repeat and publish a false allegation made decades ago against my late father – that he was a “card-carrying member” of the Malayan Communist Party. A charge my father had denied following his release in 1981 after four-and-half years in detention under the ISA.

I write, on behalf of my sisters and brothers, to say that – with due respect to Othman, we find the reference made of our father despicable and a deliberate act to malign him.

We will not be drawn into further remarks to set the record straight or to clear our father’s name for obvious reasons. Individiuals (from both sides of the causeway) responsible for the detention of our father are all dead and gone.

We will let it rest but we must register our protest and to express our regret and that we are deeply saddened by Othman’s invocation of our father’s name – by resurrecting and repeating a false accusation – a false narrative – that had been put to rest decades ago.

Below is part of Othman’s article.

“I told him my concerns were about how we were going to cope with the communist threat in an independent Singapore. He said to me: “You don’t worry. I will handle them.”

He made good on this promise, dealing firmly and deftly with the communists after Independence. Some have expressed disagreement with Kuan Yew on his subsequent actions, since many of those detained continued to insist for many years that they were not communists.
This is a misunderstanding of how the communists worked in that era. They did not admit they were communists then because communist organisations had been declared illegal from the time of the Malayan Emergency. So it became their strategy to go underground and to secretly infiltrate groups throughout society. My good friend Samad Ismail, also an Utusan Melayu newsman, did not admit to being a communist at the time, but he turned out to be a card-carrying member of the Malayan Communist Party.

Samad was detained in Malaysia in the 1970s. I have no doubt there were detainees in Singapore who, like him, were underground communist members or strong communist sympathisers who fought for the same violent cause. Kuan Yew fought the communists vigorously and Singapore is better off because of it.”

Othman Wok, 90, served in Lee Kuan Yew’s Cabinet as Social Affairs Minister from 1963 to 1977.


Nuraini A Samad


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