17. Calibrated coercion


Who says Singaporeans aren’t creative. Check out Waylander’s LKY Hulkbuster suit here.

Lee Kuan Yew’s comment about Tiananmen to Li Peng comes from his interview with Simon Elegant and Michael Elliott in Time Asia (“The Man Who Saw it All“, 5 December 2005). His comment to Mahathir Mohamed about the Anwar Ibrahim affair is found in an interview with Brendan Pereira in The Straits Times (“Anwar Affair: ‘Some Errors in Judgment Were made’”, 18 August 2000).

Tharman Shanmugaratnam’s and Walter Woon’s doubts about Operation Spectrum were expressed in interviews with The Straits Times (“Politics Not New to Former Student Activist”, 29 October 2001, and “Stand Up and Be Quoted”, 6 July 1991 respectively).


Going deeper

  • This essay is based on my academic research on the topic, which can be read in Chapter 5 of my 2016 book, Freedom From The Press.

The crackdowns referred in this chapter are documented in the following books and articles:

  • Operation Coldstore: Historian Loh Kah Seng has produced an annotated bibliography.
  • Student politics: Huang Jianli, “Positioning the Student Political Activism of Singapore: Articulation, Contestation and Omission,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 7, no. 3 (2006): 403-430.
  • The Law Society: Francis Seow, To Catch a Tartar: A Dissident in Lee Kuan Yew’s Prison (New Haven, Connecticut: Yale Center for International and Area Studies, 1994).
  • Operation Spectrum: Chng Suan Tze, Low Yit Leng & Teo Soh Lung (editors), 1987: Singapore’s Marxist Conspiracy 30 Years On (Function 8, 2017).



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