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Success stories of the victors and cries of the victims

I refer to the success narrative in Kishore Mahbubani's "Three Stories to strengthen the Singapore Spirit" published by The Straits Times on April 12.

A nation's history has its successes and failures as he arightly pointed out. We must be humble in parading the success stories. We must also be honest enough in surfacing the failures.To sweep the faults under the carpet is not wise. We are reminded of the saying: "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it." by George Santayana.

It is necessary to exorcise our wrongdoings and do not allow them to fester within us. None of us is immune from evil. We all have our wrinkles and our warts. This is true and more so in the nation's history which cannot be so easily rewritten to cover them.

Mahbubani noted "the reluctance to touch upon some of the more sensitive chapters of Singapore's history, the Operation Coldstore in the 1960s and the Marxist arrests in the 1980s. At my age of 85 now I was able to witness those challenging and sensitive events. It is encouraging that only in recent years we able to dig into the past and uncover the dirt of history. We meet and hear some of the living participants who were able to survive detention coming out to recount their experiences without too much rancour. We are reading their own published narratives to set the historical record straight. This speaks well of a successful nation moving towards maturity.

We must be aware of others who were forced into self-imposed exile and were loyal comrades in the struggle in the past. They are still nostalgic and yearning to return also to the land of their birth and continue to identify with the country where they have made their contributions. They have not been lost and forgotten by many of us in all these many years. Some of us continue to admire and applaud them.

The success narratives need to be complemented by the failure narratives. The stories of the victors need to be heard along with the cries of the victims. Let us learn from one another and move forward to greater success in the promising future. Only then we have digested history's lessons.

Rev Dr Yap was the first Asian Bishop of The Methodist Church in Malaysian and Singapore. Subsequently he served as General Secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, an ecumenical organization of over a hundred churches and national council of churches in Asia. He holds Master of Divinity and Doctor of Theology degrees from Boston University and was honoured by them with a Distinguished Alumni Award in 1988.


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