Gong Gong says

This is a posthumous blog of our father's (Lim Kok Ann) life. When our father passed away on 8 March 2003, he left behind an unpublished autobiography. We'd like to celebrate his life by sharing his autobiography through this blog.


"I have dredged these anecdotes from memory just to pass the time; if they amuse my grandchildren their purpose will have been served; if they provide any instruction, it will be a happy coincidence; that they are disjointed is probably to be expected.

Aurora was the name of my grandfather’s house in Kulangsu.   Amoy, where I spent the first five or six years of my life.   I still have vivid memories of events that took place when I was barely three years old.

Lim Kok Ann
October 1996"

Saturday, January 03, 2009

4:5 Dean of Medicine

The University Faculty comprised all the staff members of the departments serving the Faculty. As my Department served the Faculty of Dentistry as well as the Faculty of Medicine I was a member of both Faculties. Each Faculty elected one of their members for three year terms as Dean of the Faculty whose function was to chair Faculty Meetings and represent the Faculty in the University Senate, as well as to administer the Dean’s Office which took care of teaching programmes and tudent matters. The most important function of the Dean, however, was to help department heads prepare their budget for submission to the University Council. Generally, this “help” was advice on what items should be trimmed, what should be cut out so that the overall budget of the Faculty would be within what the Vice-Chancellor had told the Deans they might reasonably expect to get away with. Thus, the Deans served as the Vice-Chancellor’s advisors and as his hatchet-men.

As soon as I took office I made a familiarization tour of the Faculty, to visit all the teaching staff for whom I was the co-ordinator. They were the orchestra and I the conductor. The University did not have facilities for all disciplines in the medical syllabus and relied on government specialists as part-time teachers to teach such subjects as Psychiatry and Opthalmology. To get to know the part-time teachers I visited the Mental Diseases Hospital in Yio Chu Kang, the Skin Diseases Clinic in Middle Road and the Tan Tock Seng Hospital and the Middleton Hospital located in Moulmein Road. I also visited the Medical and Surgical Units belonging to the University and to the Government in the Singapore General Hospital, as well as our own Department of Social Medicine and Public Health in Outram Road.

The University, renamed the National University of Singapore, had moved from Bukit Timah to Kent Ridge when Dr. Toh Chin Chye was the Vice-Chancellor. The Medical Faculty proposed that an University Hospital should be built there and be managed by the University. The Singapore Government agreed because there was need for a new hospital to serve the industrial area in Jurong. It was natural that the non-clinical departments should also be relocated at Kent Ridge and co-ordinating the building plans for the Faculty of Medicine at Kent Ridge became one of my most interesting assignments as Dean of the Faculty of Medicine. The detailed plans for the Department of Bacteriology naturally concerned me most and it was with some trouble that I overcame objections to the siting of an animal house in the hospital area.
The non-clinical departments were the last of the Medical Faculty to move to Kent Ridge, and this took place after I had left the University so I never occupied the rooms that I had planned with loving care to house the Department of Microbiology, the new name for my department. The old Faculty of Medicine building in College Road was then taken over by the Ministry of Health; the student accommodation, too, was moved to Kent Ridge in a new King Edward Hall.

Meanwhile, great things were taking place around us about this time. The British had granted Malaysia independence, incorporating North Borneo and Sarawak as Eastern Malaysia. When it was proposed in 1962 that Singapore should also be part of the Federation of Malaysia some Singaporeans objected. They suggested that Singapore should first receive her independence from Britain, and then negotiate with Malaysia the terms under which Singapore should join Malaysia. I was of this opinion with which Chong Eu concurred (maybe it was the other way round).

Chong Eu encouraged us to form a new political party in Singapore, named the United Democratic Party, with aims similar to that of his party in Penang. When a referendum was held in Singapore on whether Singapore should join the Federation of Malaysia, there was some doubt whether the secrecy of the ballot would be preserved so they decided to cast blank votes, a pretty futile gesture. Our reservations were justified in 1965 when Singapore was thrust out of the Federation to find its own way as the Republic of Singapore.

One by-play in this drama was the formation of the Barisan Socialist Party, a splinter-group of the People’s Action Party that had the majority in Singapore. In 1963, the Malaysian Security forces rounded up the Barisan leaders on suspicion that they were Communists and accusing them of sedition under the Internal Security Act whereby a suspect could be detained without trial. The sweep took place in the early hours of the morning, but the leading suspects were not at home. Instead, they were found in the home of Dr. Poh Soo Kai, the husband of my sister Grace. Soo Kai was, in fact, staying in his wife’s house in River Valley Road, my former home, and he was taken in along with the Barisan leaders in his company, James Puthucheamy and Lim Hock Siew.
Soo Kai’s fault was that he was a Barisan sympathiser, but he denied persistently in the 13 years he was detained that he had ever been a member of the Communist Party. He could have been released had he “confessed” and gone abroad to study as some of those detained with him did, but Soo Kai would not confess to something he was not. In the end, when the communist threat had abated he was released, but his life had been ruined.

Grandma Yin was most agitated when she learned of the arrests and on the pretext that she feared the government would confiscate her house, she asked Sai Soo and her family to find alternative accommodation. By this time Sai Soo’s children had all grown up. My two sisters had already married and left River Valley Road, my sister Margaret had married Frank Lam who came from Vietnam, my brother Robert had also married and moved out, Edward had gone to study in England, Grace had married Soo Kai of course and both George and Lucy were also married, so Sai Soo was on her own when she moved to a HDB flat in Queenstown.

When I ceased to be Master of K.E. Hall I moved my family to the University houses in Leyden Hill, and Amak moved to one of her houses in Cairnhill Road.

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