Kennedy: Prime Minister, what do you say to the fact that some people have been detained in prison here for something like 13 years without trial. Is that true?
Lee: It is outside the laws of the courts. It's legislation which the British passed when they were faced with communist insurgency. - a revolt.
There are three of them - you are right - 13 years since 1963, really coming to 14. Two of them are doctors. I defended them for sedition when we were fighting the British together.
And the two doctors know that all they have to do is to say, "I renounce the use of arm force to overthrow the government and therefore do not support the Malayan Communist Party in their attempt to do so," and they will be released. And they refused to do that.
Kennedy: But are you saying, Prime Minister, in a strong and prosperous society that you have here now in Singapore - the last election you won the biggest victory ever, you got all the seats in Parliament - that if you release these three people, you couldn't contain them?
Lee: No, that's not the point. We can release these three people. We released one - Dr Poh Soo Kai - as a trial to see what would happen. We released him in 1972 after we won the last elections with nearly as good a majority - 69 percent of the electorate. And what did he do? He gave medicine and treated a known, wanted, injured terrorist. Now, we have to get him struck off the rolls.
Kennedy: So these other two will have to stay there, forever?
Kennedy: Until they sign your document?
Lee: No, they don't have to sign a document. All they say is: "I renounce the use of force. I do not support the Malayan Communist Party in their use of force to overthrow the government."
Kennedy: Can I go back to something that you were reported to have said in 1955 when you first entered Parliament? At that time, when your party, the People's Action Party, spoke out against arbitrary arrest, of detention without trial and you yourself are reported to have said, "We either believe in democracy or we do not. If you believe that men should be free men they should have the right of free association, of free publication. No law should permit those democratic processes to be set at naught". Prime Minister, do you believe that, today?
Lee: Yes. I believed that in the circumstances of that time. I mean, I could, you know, quote you Churchill, that "That was what I believed then."
One of the victims of Lee's mercurial principles passed away on Monday 4th June 2012, two days after the 25th anniversary of Operation Spectrum on 2nd June 2012. He was released from detention without trial only on 2nd September 1981, after spending 20 years of his life in jail, making him the second-longest serving ISA detainee in Singapore’s history. When the ISD goons in 1972 - 9 years into his long incarceration - offered to release him in exchange for a public statement of repentance, Dr Lim issued this political statement from prison:
"I am not interested in saving Lee Kuan Yew’s face. This is not a question of pride but of principle. My detention is completely unjustifiable and I will not lift a single finger to help Lee Kuan Yew to justify the unjustifiable. In the light of what you say, is it not very clear that I have lost my freedom all these long and bitter years just to save Lee Kuan Yew’s face? Therefore the PAP regime’s allegation that I am a security risk is a sham cover and a facade to detain me unjustifiably for over nine years."