A letter from the families of political prisoners in Singapore in 1971

The following open letter written by families of political prisoners in Singapore was published in the Journal of Contemporary Asia in 1971. It gives us a window into deep anguish caused by the PAP to countless families in those years.

Dear Sir,

There are political detainees in Changi and Queenstown prisons who have been arbitrarily arrested and detained, some for longer than eight years. During all these years, these political detainees have been subjected to all sorts of inhuman ill-treatment, by the prison authorities in contravention of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. They have been deprived of all their basic democratic rights.

Towards the end of last year, so-called “vocational training” was started with the intention to further humiliate political detainees. Reading of newspapers and writing of letters were severely restricted. Food provided is inadequate and poor. Supplementary food stuffs taken to detainees by their families are also severely restricted. Whenever detainees show their dissatisfaction or resistance to unreasonable impositions by the prison authorities, they are punished in a fascist manner and kept in solitary confinement.

Most unreasonable is the attempt by the Lee Kuan Yew authorities to force political detainees to give up their ideals and their beliefs, sign statements and go on TV, with the threat that otherwise their citizenship will be revoked and they will be banished or their families’ weekly visits will be stopped. Today, when detainees meet their families, they are separated by glass partitions and they speak only by telephones. Whenever their conversation touches on their conditions of detention, their telephone conversation is immediately cut off. When detainees ask for medical treatment, there are always delays and they are never given prompt treatment. The prison authorities seem to treat the lives of detainees as mere playthings.

Suffering under all the above listed persecutions and ill-treatment, the detainees with great patience asked to hold discussions with the prison authorities. But the fascist LKY authorities completely ignored the reasonable requests of the detainees. Thus the detainees have been forced to carry out a hunger-strike in defence of their fundamental human rights.

We the families and relatives of the political detainees are full of anxiety and anguish about the hunger-strike.

The hunger-strike started on 15th December, 1970 has now entered the 138th day. The detainees are now in a critical condition. They are all extremely weak and cannot move about. Some detainees cannot even speak audibly. It is possible that in the next few days, their lives may be sacrificed.

The LKY authorities suppress the news in the local press in order to prevent the people from knowing the true facts. We have got our lawyer to file a writ for habeas corpus; but the authorities put all sorts of obstacles in the way and have not dared to allow the detainees to appear in court to give evidence. The prison authorities forcibly pass rubber tubes into their throats causing them painful injuries in order to force-feed the detainees with milk. They also give them glucose injections. Whenever the detainees resists, they are handcuffed and legcuffed, and then brutally kicked and fisted. There are also some prison officials who take the opportunity to behave in a most disgraceful and bestial manner to molest the female detainees on hunger-strike!

In order to save the lives of detainees, we the families have requested to see LKY as many as 10 times, but we have only been accused of “disturbing the peace”, “fabricating the hunger-strike”! The LKY authorities also arrested us, assaulted us and molested us in the police station. They also prosecuted us in court in an attempt to prevent us from informing the people of the true facts of the hunger-strike and to suppress our struggle to save the lives of our children.

All this shows that the LKY authorities intend to remain obstinate to the end, that they intend to ignore the reasonable demands of the people and the political detainees, and even to cause the death of the political detainees enmasse! This is a most diabolical and fiendish plot.

Today if the lives of the political detainees should be seriously affected in any way, the LKY authorities would have to bear all the dire consequences. The LKY authorities must immediately stop all persecution and ill-treatment of political detainees, settle the reasonable demands of the detainees, unconditionally release all detainees.

In order to save the lives of political detainees, we hope that your organization/party, in the spirit of humanitarianism and justice, will stand forth and help stop the fascist persecution and ill-treatment of detainees by the Lee Kuan Yew authorities.

Signed: Families of Detainees
3rd May, 1971.

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