14 December 2005

The posthumous pardon of Devan Nair

Chengara Veetil Devan Nair died in exile in Canada, aged 82.

Much has been made about Papalee's character assasination of President Nair, which continued years after the latter's forced resignation in 1985. Even more has been said about how Nair was to survive, for the next 20 years, in Canada, where he stepped up criticisms of the authoritarian rule of Papalee, his proscription of various opposition leaders, and his perversion of NTUC (whose independence was guaranteed in its founding constitution) into a branch of the Whiteshirt Party. Absent in the national propaganda press's coverage and state-coordinated posthumous pardon of Devan Nair is his outspoken support of the opposition movement in Singapore during his exile.

It amazes me that Malaysian blogs constitute the vast majority of online writing about the passing of Devan Nair, reporting with more objectivity and honesty than the Singaporean press.

Dear Reader, you can find them easily, and I shan't repeat their talking points and accurate historical narration. Instead, let's examine why the need for Papalee to invoke the vast machinery of the state to pass what is effectively a posthumous pardon for Singapore's 3rd President.

One might note that amongst Papalee's Old Guard, Devan Nair stands out as the most politically loyal (until his forced resignation). He was the only leftist member of the pre-schism Whiteshirt Party who did not cross over to Dr Lee Siew Choh's Barisan Socialis. He was the father of the national union movement that proved to be a shortcut for Papalee's control of the masses. And yet the stalwart soldier became the voice for a non-authoritarian polity, even deterring Papalee from one of his trademark suits against the Globe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, in 2002.

Despite his forced and dishonourable resignation, despite the years of character assasination that followed, Devan Nair's credentials as former Lee loyalist, patriotic anticolonialist fighter, and father of the NTUC gives him and his later criticism of the Lee regime credibility. This makes Devan Nair more dangerous in death than in life.

If Papalee could not finish his character assasination properly, the sensible action would be to pardon the former President, let the NTUC hold a memorial service for the dead hero, just in case a genuine love by the natives for Devan Nair turns him into Singapore's Hu Yaobang.

1 comment:

SJ Nair said...

Okay I agree But Devan Nair is truer than his deeds. I have blog on him and his work as well. Logon to
and can post some comments there. 
That blog deals from nair caste to nair products and Devan nair to Mira nair
every thing on nairs including the history and relevance of this warrior community. I believe in transparency and hope that will work wonders.- Regards-
S J Nair