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2008 O Level Paper. “Who or what was to blame for the Hock Lee Bus Riots?”. 1a) Study Source A How useful is this source as evidence about the Hock Lee Bus Riots? EYA.

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2008 O Level Paper

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2008 o level paper

2008 O Level Paper

“Who or what was to blame for the Hock Lee Bus Riots?”


1a study source a how useful is this source as evidence about the hock lee bus riots eya

1a) Study Source AHow useful is this source as evidence about the Hock Lee Bus Riots? EYA.

  • This source is useful as evidence about the Hock Lee Bus Riots as it puts the blame on anti-colonial sentiments for contributing to the riots and puts forth the view that the strikes had descended unexpectedly into violent riots.

  • It says that the strikes were “likely to have been encouraged by anti-colonial feelings” and described the leaders of the strikes as being “anti-colonial.”

  • It also quotes Fong Swee Suan that “the violence had got out of hand” and is thus useful in providing the perspective of one of the key players of the Hock Lee Bus Riots, and his view that the violent outcome was unintended. This is corroborated by Source B which says that “it was probable that even Lim and Fong were not prepared for what happened.”


Question 1a

Question 1a

  • However, it is limited in its utility as it comes across as being too sympathetic towards the anti-colonial leaders. It only looks at it from the perspective of the Union leaders, as it quotes Fong but not the British, and seems to discredit the viewpoint put forth by the authorities in saying that “the strike was rumoured to be started by pro-Communists.”

  • Although Source A says that it that “the strike was rumoured to be started by pro-Communists” and suggests that Fong was genuinely regretful when it quotes him without casting doubt on his statement that “We express our deep distress at the violence used against the buses of the Hock Lee Bus Company and the police,” this is contradicted by Source B and C, both of which pin the blame on the “Communists in the unions” (Source B) and makes Fong out to have Communist, rather than merely anti-colonial, tendencies, when Source C quotes him as saying “All workers must unite…to struggle for their own welfare” which alludes to Karl Marx’s theories in ‘The Communist Manifesto.’ Moreover, Source C quotes Fong as saying that “Workers must know there is bound to be some bloodshed in the course of a revolution…” which suggests that he went ahead with the strikes in full knowledge that it had the potential for violence. This clearly contradicts Source A which said that Fong expressed “regret for the violence which got out of hand.”


Question 1a1

Question 1a

  • Thus I conclude that despite the fact that Source A is from an online encyclopaedia, it is not very useful as evidence as it is too partial towards the Union leaders Fong and Lim, and is intended to elicit sympathy for them from the readers, and to justify their tactics as seen from “although the riots were violent, they were an opportunity to fight for independence and self-government.”


2008 o level paper

Question 1b: Study Sources B and C. How similar are these sources as evidence about the Hock Lee Bus Riots? Explain your answer.

  • They are similar in that they agree that Fong Swee Suan and the Communists were to blame for causing the Hock Lee Bus Riots.

  • Source B identifies Lim Chin Siong and Fong Swee Suan to be the leaders and chief instigators of the riots and points to the involvement of “the Communists in the unions.”

  • In addition, Source C also adds that “Mr Fong Swee Suan of the SBWU said ‘All workers must unite…to struggle for their own welfare’ and thus identifies him as a key Communist leader as he quotes Marx’s theories from the Communist Manifesto. L3/3


Question 1b

Question 1b

  • However, they disagree about the degree of culpability of the PAP in contributing to the riots.

  • While Source B implies that the PAP was not largely to blame as the violent riots were unintended, as seen from “but I did not expect an outburst of mob fury” and “but I never realised it was so intense”; Source C attributes a large proportion of blame to PAP and Lee Kuan Yew.

  • It points to Lee’s lack of efforts to prevent the situation and suggests that the May Day rally organised by the PAP where Fong had made a belligerent pro-Communist speech was instrumental in causing the outbreak of the riots. L3/4


Question 1b1

Question 1b

  • Their tones are very different, as one is defensive, while the other is accusatory.

  • The speaker of Source B tries to defend himself as seen from “I knew…but I did not expect” and “but I never knew…” Moreover, he goes so far as to say that “it was probable that even Lim and Fong” (who were even more involved in the riots) “were not prepared for what happened” (much less Lee himself, who was not as involved).

  • In contrast, Source C accusatory tone can be detected from the rhetoric questions that it asks “What did he do to prevent violence before it happened?” “What did he think was likely to happen…” and again “What did Lee Kuan Yew think that would lead to?”


Question 1b2

Question 1b

  • Finally, they are similar as evidence as they both have hidden agendas, and therefore should not be accepted at face value.

  • As source B is said by Lee Kuan Yew himself, in his auto-biography published in 1998, he was probably trying to absolve himself of blame and to convince his readers that the riots were unexpected and therefore the PAP should not be blamed for allowing it to happen, thus propagating a clean image of the PAP for posterity.

  • Similarly, Source C’s agenda is to implicate Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP in causing the Hock Lee Bus Riots. As this was said during the debate on the Hock Lee Bus Riots on 16th May 1955, it is probably that Goode made this statement to blame other parties, and thereby absolve his government partially of responsibility in its inability to prevent the riots from happening. L5/6


2008 o level paper

Question 1c: Study Sources D and E. Does Source D make you surprised by what Source E says about Marshall? EYA.

  • Source D does makes me surprised by what Source E says about Marshall, as the sources talk about how Marshall was blaming different groups for causing the Hock Lee Bus Riots. L2/2

  • While Source D says that Marshall “blamed Lee Kuan Yew and the PAP for the street violence (and) accused them of being in the communists’ hands”; Source E says that “he blamed ‘colonialism’ and ‘economic exploitation’ for the situation. This implies that instead of blaming the anti-colonialists as stated in Source D, Source E suggests that Marshall himself felt that there was a valid reason for the strikes as they were created by the unfair political system where the British interests dominate and has thus resulted in economic exploitation such as long working hours and low pay so as to generate greater profit for the company. L3/3


Question 1c

Question 1c

  • However, I am not surprised by what Source D says when it paraphrases Lee’s view that the government’s image had suffered as a result of this riot as “it was the duty of the government to keep law and order and detain the troublemakers” and they had failed to do so. Source E agrees that Marshall’s “long and unconvincing speech…was likely neither to restrain the lawless nor to re-assure the law abidding” thus suggesting that the people now had little faith in Marshall’s government. L4/4


Question 1c1

Question 1c

  • Ultimately I am not surprised by what Source D says, as both sources may differ due to the different contexts in which they were said. As source D was said in retrospect (it was published in 1992, almost 40 years after the riots), its view of the events may be influenced by the present, hence the emphasis on Lee Kuan Yew, PAP and the attributes of good governance. L5/5

  • However, as Source E was by the British governor of Singapore in 1955, he would thus be more preoccupied with the things that Marshall said that were targeted at colonialism, as opposed to the other players on the scene. L5/6


2008 o level paper

Question 1d: Study all sources. “Communists and their supporters were to blame for the Hock Lee Bus Riots in 1955.” How far do these sources support this judgement? EYA.

  • Intro: In contrast to Sources A and E, Sources B, C, D and to some extent E, support the hypothesis that the Communists and their supporters were to blame for the Hock Lee Bus Riots in 1955.

  • Source A challenges the above hypothesis, as it says that “the strike was rumoured to be started by pro-Communists (but)…was more likely to have been encouraged by anti-colonial feelings.” Moreover, it describes Fong and Lim as ‘anti-colonial leaders’ but does not talk at all about their communist inclinations. In line with its identification of anti-colonialism as the cause of the riots, it foes on to say that the riots “were an opportunity to fight for independence and self-government.”

  • Moreover, Source E also says that Marshall blames ‘colonialism’ and ‘economic exploitation’ for the riots but does not explicitly mention that the Communists and their supporters were to blame. In fact, by blaming ‘economic exploitation’ it seems to suggest that Marshall was actually sympathetic towards the demands of the workers.


Question 1d

Question 1d

  • In contrast, Sources B, C and D do support the hypothesis that the Communists and their supporters were to blame.

  • Source B points to how “the Middle School students and the Communists in the unions” had raised the anti-colonial tensions “to fever pitch” thus showing that there were Communist elements responsible for the riots.

  • Source C not only blames the Communists but also identifies Lee Kuan Yew as being a key supporter of the Communists as he was “the legal advisor to the SBWU” which was Communist in its inclinations, as seen from the pro-Communist speech made by Fong who was the secretary-general of the SBWU, where he rallies workers together to bring about a proletarian revolution (“All workers must unite …to struggle for their own welfare…” in line with Marx’s own “workers of the world unite.” This source also goes on to show clearly how Fong had intended to launch a violent riot as he said that “there is bound to be some bloodshed in the course of revolution…”


Question 1d1

Question 1d

  • Finally, although Source D does not challenge the view put forth by Marshall that the riots were Communist instigated (Marshall “accused them (PAP) of being in the Communists’ hands”), it also represents Lee’s view that “the PAP could not be held accountable for the actions of every member acting in his individual capacity.” This is the most moderate view as while it says that the Communists in the PAP were responsible, they did not carry the whole party with them.


Question 1d2

Question 1d

  • Thus in conclusion, the sources do largely support the hypothesis, as Sources B, C and D show that the Communists and their supporters were involved in instigating the riots and in heightening tensions. This is also in line with my contextual knowledge, which tells me that Fong and Lim were left-wing agitators who were interested not only in fighting for better working conditions and higher pay, but certainly held a strong regard for Communist China as being the model for a future Singapore. Moreover the historian Turnbull also says that the PAP was indeed infiltrated by the MCP who wanted to use the former as a Communist Front organization that was similar to the Malayan Democratic Union.


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