Beyond the Blue Gate

This book, Beyond the Blue Gate, was authored by Teo Soh Lung about her experiences of being detained by the ISA back in 1987 under Operation Spectrum, accused to be Marxists planning to “subvert” the government of Singapore. She was but one of the 22 who were interrogated, tortured, threatened, and ultimately forced to give a confession, and their accusations by the government were reported obediently as fact by the media. It was only after more than two decades that this book of experiences was published, as the political climate before then was extremely unreceptive to them.
I remember attending the book launch back in June of 2010 at The Legends Hotel at Fort Canning, and remember seeing a few prominent civil society figures there, but most significantly, waiting patiently after the launch to ask for an autograph by the author herself. I was just 16 then. To be honest, it has been in the cupboard ever since, with me giving the excuse of having “no time” to not read these books. Until now. This was one of the few books I’ve brought in with me during these 2.5 weeks of confinement.
The message Soh Lung wrote for me in the photo was flattering but completely undeserved. I have but a fraction of the bravery of the ones who were detained, having hardly enough courage to go through the first 2 days of NS without feeling utterly helpless in the process. I’ve known early on how unjust and cruel the government was in imprisoning these detainees who did nothing wrong, but I never understood as deeply as I do now on a personal level, when I started reading the book, what it meant to live like that for 2 years of your life (without things like weekly book-outs, of course). And I know I will even more as I continue reading this book for the rest of my confinement period.
To Soh Lung Teo, Vincent Cheng, Tan Tee Seng, and all the other ISA detainees, we owe you an immense dept of gratitude that society hasn’t, and yet, can never repay. You are the true brave ones, and even though not everyone may know of what you’ve been through yet, to those who do, you inspire hope and courage in us to continue the fight for justice in society. Truly, we are standing on the shoulders of giants.


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