ISA detainee Lim Hock Siew passes away aged 81

Dr Lim Hock Siew, Singapore’s second longest-held political prisoner after Chia Thye Poh, passed away Monday evening from illness at the age of 81, according to his friends.

Though the exact cause of his death is yet unknown, Yahoo! Singapore understands that Lim had been ill in recent years, and had not seen many of his friends.

Lim was one of more than 110 activists who were arrested under the Internal Security Act in “Operation Coldstore” on 2 February 1963, and was the last of his batch of detainees to be released from incarceration on 6 September 1982, after 19 years and eight months.

He was a founding member of the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), but resigned after 13 of his fellow members were dismissed from it in 1961, later joining the subsequently-formed Barisan Sosialis, led by Lim Chin Siong and Lee Siew Choh.

The son of a fishmonger, Lim, as a practicing doctor, dispensed free medication at his clinic and gave transport money to needy patients.

When he was arrested under Operation Coldstore at age 32, his son was just five months old, and by the time Lim was released, his son had entered college.

While in prison, Lim resolutely refused to sign statements admitting his wrongdoing, declaring his renouncement of politics, and support of the parliamentary system in Singapore, instead calling repeatedly for his unconditional release, as well as for his fellow detainees.

Filmmaker Martyn See, who recorded a banned video of Lim’s first public speech at a book launch in 2009, said Lim was “one of Singapore’s greatest patriots”.

“If he and his colleagues at Barisan Sosialis hadn’t been arrested and detained in 1963, Singapore would have benefited greatly from a two-party political system,” he said.

Former ISA detainee Teo Soh Lung, who was arrested under Operation Spectrum in 1987, said she was "deeply saddened" by Lim's passing.

"He was a principled, firm and decisive person, a true socialist who believed in and fought for a more equal society all his life," she said.

Senior lawyer Gopalan Raman, a longtime friend of Lim’s, said he will always remember him as one of Singapore’s fighters for freedom.

“(His passing is) a very sad event,” he told Yahoo! Singapore. “He’s considered a great hero by all of us.”

Lim’s wake will be held at 135 Joo Chiat Terrace from Tuesday. He leaves behind his wife Beatrice Chen, son Yue Wen, daughter-in-law Jenn Lui and grandson Sean Lim.