Gopal Baratham questions the objectivity of
historical accounts of Singapores past (The
Straits Times, Forum page, May 22, 1997). He suggests
that students be given information from as many
sources as possible so they can make up their own
minds. One example: the Merger referendum of 1962. Mr
Barathams view spawns a series of exchanges
about what actually happened when the Merger
referendum was held.
HISTORY is written by
the victors and I, like others of my generation, was
taught the British Imperial story, which emphasised
the heroism of brigands like Drake, Clive and Warren
The problem with
national education is who is to recount the objective
truth. Do the defeated have a voice so that the young
can make up their own minds, or do we have to leave
it all in the hands of the powers that remain?
Few remember that the
referendum to become part of Malaysia was not a
simple yes/no alternative but one of three.
Alternative A was the
most favourable to Singapore citizens and the one the
PAP espoused. When opposers of the merger advocated
that people spoil their votes, it was declared that
all spoilt votes would be counted as votes for A.
Singaporeans voted overwhelmingly in favour of it.
The spoilt vote option was not used.
Rather than view
Singapore as a special case, I would rather our youth
find out the facts from as many sources as are
available and be given the option of making up their
own minds. This ability will, over the long haul,
serve them better than any process of indoctrination.
published in The Straits Times, May 22, 1997
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