When Devan Nair was Jedi

In Uncategorized on 26/11/2012 at 6:08 am

(And ST journalists were Jedi cadets)

Yes, t’was a long, long time ago: 1971 to be exact.

A forthcoming book (Yup this was the book I was talking about here) portrays the ex-president who resigned in disgrace as someone unhappy, underpaid and bullied workers (OK  ST journalists) could turn to for help against a management dominated by FTs (not Pinoys or Indians but ang mohs), and that he helped them get justice. The book, “The Last Great Strike” tells the story of the life and times of a ST reporter in the days leading up to a strike in 1971: a strike which had the backing of a government that had just passed new draconian laws curbing the right to strike; before recounting the strike and its aftermath.

The author is Clement Mesenas. One of the other strike leaders singled him out, praising him as the leader. I know both of them*: the tag “running dog” or “castrated” cannot be tagged on their shirt collar.

I hope younger activists buy the book. There is much they can learn from Clement’s experiences as an “angry young man”, organisationally and emotionally  Don’t worry, I’ll remind readers of the book by reviewing it one of these days, when I’m sure it is commercially available.

There are plans for a website to be set-up for the strikers and their friends to contribute their “war stories” and reminiscences; about the direction ST took after the strike; and their tots on new media especially its impact on ST. Auntie Lucia, your contributions will be welcomed. Contributions defending ST’s “constructive” role in nation building, as distinct from the ang mohs’ idea of supporting the government of the day while being editorially independent will be most welcomed. As are articles on whether there is a difference between the two approaches? To me, the result is the same, so any discussion is akin a discussion on how many angels can dance on a pinhead. But it obviously mattered to one LKY and his govt, and I think to Clement and some of the strike leaders when they reflect back.

Hopefully, I can provide details of this website when I publish my review of the said book.

As for Devan Nair, maybe he didn’t deserve what Nemesis (in the form of LKY) meted out to him. A sentence in his obituary in the NYT reads: “As a trade union leader, Nair was considered to have shaped Singaporean workers into a restrained, but economically effective force that helped the country develop one of the strongest financial positions in Asia.” What S’poreans, past and present, think about him will depend on whether they think the workers got their just rewards, or were enslaved in fetters made from their mortgage payments for their “subsidised” public housing. But even if the workers were enslaved, their fate is still better than what happened to Boxer and the other non-pig animals,  of Animal Farm.  At least the workers can read in ST how rich they are, and feel happy.


*Though I’ve not spoken to one of them for years.

  1. […] – Thoughts of a Cynical Investor: When Devan Nair was Jedi […]

  2. Sir,Sima Qian has been remembered by people since 99 B.C.,he knew the value of his life,I wish that we have more Singapore journalists who also know the value of “life”.
    Although I am a little confused with the details you mention here,but you are talking about things concerning an ex-PAP President whose intelligent son is now the leading worker of PAP latest warfare.
    I sincerely hope that I am not wrong on the details as things are really moving too fast,for me at least.

    • Maybe father and son are attracted to the Dark Side or is it White Side? They are like moths attracted to the flames of a candle? They can’t help it.

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