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Men In White is the inside story of one of the world’s most successful political parties that rule Singapore for the past 50 years. First time reveal of unheard stories from the leftist. The book tells of how a party founded in 1954 by a motley crew of English-educated professionals and Chinese, Malay and Indian trade unionists and activists fended off threats from pro-communist elements and made adjustments to win 12 successive general elections, becoming the longest-ruling political party in the world. It marks its 50th anniversary in power this year.
The 600+ page book also lifts the veil from some of the most dramatic events in the party's 55-year history, such as the first leftist plot to seize control in 1957 and how Mr Lee Kuan Yew's parliamentary secretary came to lead the challenge against the prime minister in 1961.
It is written by Straits Times senior journalists Sonny Yap, Richard Lim and Leong Weng Kam, who interviewed 300 people in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong and China, including leftists whose voices are not featured in existing literature on Singapore's history. They also went through 200 oral history interviews and pored over confidential documents. The result is a dramatic account of the PAP – warts, blemishes and all – and of the pivotal moments in its history which changed the course of Singapore forever. Narrated in three parts, it is oral history spun in a journalistic mode and spiced unapologetically with anecdotes, quotes and human interest to breathe life into past events.
Part One tells how a Cambridge-educated lawyer and his anglicised associates collaborated with radical Chinese-speaking trade unionists to drive out the British colonialists and how they fought each other to the bitter end.
Part Two captures the agonies of leadership renewal and charts the ascent of Goh Chok Tong who succeeded Lee as the second prime minister. It ends with Lee Hsien Loong taking over from Goh in 2004 and leading the party to victory in the 2006 polls.
Part Three wraps up the PAP story by delving into the key principles that characterise Singapore governance and concludes with the intriguing poser: Will PAP outlive LKY?
"At the time it was happening, I could only guess what my adversaries were thinking and planning to do to demolish us. Many of the accounts in the book I read for the first time. They may not have revealed everything and could have burnished their narrative for posterity. Nevertheless, their recollections added spice to the narrative. I had pointed out some factual errors but told the writers to decide who is more reliable. The final version is their book and they had to exercise their editorial right."
- Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew
"Without PAP, today's Singapore would not exist. The authors tell the story through the voices of the participants of this epic journey. They spoke to many people on both sides, the non-communists and pro-communists. They convey a vivid feel for what Singapore politics was like, how it has changed over the decades, and how the PAP itself has changed as Singapore was transformed under PAP leadership."
- Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong
"Men In White is a perceptive work based on an incredible number of interviews that reveal, clarify and breathe life into the emergence and success of the PAP. This book introduces valuable new information and perspectives, and presents the most detailed and authentic analysis to date of the PAP's origins, rise to power and governance of Singapore. For those who believe leadership decisions can provide useful insights and assist in making future decisions, this is the book to read."
- Thomas J Bellows, professor of political science, University of Texas at San Antonio, who pioneered the academic study of PAP
"This book is an apt reminder that there is always another dimension to the Singapore Story. It goes beyond the mundane stereotype in search of the true story. In some ways, it acknowledges the contributions of people who had shared a common cause and made sacrifices but were forced to depart from the scene for one reason or another. It is a timely read for all."
- Lim Chin Foo, former left-wing student activist and trade unionist, and brother of Lim Chin Siong who led Barisan Socialis in the battle against PAP in the 1960s
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