This is the third issue of s/pores, and we appear to be still stuck in the 1950s, and on history rather than other modes of inquiry. In the inauguration issue we did state that it is perhaps no accident that this period tends to attract most interest when it comes to attempts at reassessing Singapore history. It was a period of ‘open politics’ or to borrow the imagery from a recent publication, Michael Barr and Carl Trocki, (editors) Paths not Taken: Political pluralism in postwar Singapore (NUS Press, 2008), when numerous paths to defining the Singapore nation were being explored.
In the past few months, two individuals who explored and charted these paths have passed away. Technically they were Malaysians. While A Samad Ismail was born in Singapore, he left the scene in 1959; Dr M.K. Rajakumar was in Singapore for his tertiary education, and returned to Malaya to practice medicine and promote and nuture socialism. Nevertheless their years in Singapore were formative ones in the politics of the island.
Tan Jing Quee has sought to understand the enigma of A Samad Ismail for at least two decades, studying his writings, and visiting him when time and Samad’s health permitted. He wrote an essay in 1999 on Samad to consolidate what he had managed to grasp of him up to that point. With Samad’s passing, Tan wrote a post-script reviewing his understanding of him. Tan Jing Quee has contributed obituaries he had written previously in two issues of s/pores: for Linda Chen Mong Hock who died in 2002 (s/pores vol.1 no. 1), Usman Awang in December 2002, (s/pores vol. 1 no. 2) The death of Ho Piao in February 2007 (s/pores vol. 1 no.1) sadly proved that the obituaries indeed might well be a key element of s/pores. Only his comrades in the labour unions, and in detention would know who he was; Ho was detained at age 26, for 18 years. Tan Jing Quee’s efforts to learn all he can about his friends have meant that he is able to tell us why they should be, indeed have to be remembered. In this volume, he pays his tribute to Dr M. K. Rajakumar, a fellow member of the Socialist Club of the University of Singapore, in an essay which appeared in the publication distributed at the commemorative gathering for Dr Rajakumar at Kuala Lumpur, and also in Singapore.
The keynote speech on Dr Rajakumar for the Kuala Lumpur gathering was delivered by Dr Poh Soo Kai. It is a testimony to the strength and integrity of the former but no less also of the latter as well.
Mark Ravinder Frost has penned his reflections on the Singapore History Gallery which he played a part in putting together, revealing the processes involved and the issues debated. His essay for s/pores is a shorter version of a chapter that will be appearing in The past in the present: Histories in the making (Singapore: Singapore Heritage Board, forthcoming, 2009) He studied history at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge and is currently Research Assistant Professor at the University of Hong Kong. Between 2005 and 2007, he worked as Content Designer and Senior Scriptwriter for the National Museum of Singapore’s award-winning Singapore History Gallery. He is the author of the forthcoming books Singapore: A Living History and Enlightened Empires: New literati in the Indian Ocean world, 1870-1920.
Hong Lysa has walked through the Singapore History Gallery a good number of times. Her essay on hero-hunting exercise in Singapore, 2008 led her to the Gallery yet again. She is a s/porean, and co-author with Huang Jianli of The Scripting of National History: Singapore and its pasts (Hong Kong University Press, 2008).
Aggression in Asia (1954) M.K. Rajakumar and Poh Soo Kai
M.K. Rajakumar: A life well lived Tan Jing Quee
That He Shall Not Die a Second Death Edgar Liao
The enigma of A. Samad Ismail Tan Jing Quee
Hankering for national heroes Hong Lysa
The making of the Singapore History Gallery: Some personal reflections Mark Ravinder Frost
Articles added later:
David Marshall: A Bittersweet Remembrance Daniel PS Goh
Review: 100 Greatest: Singapore 60s Joseph Tham