Saturday, May 23, 2015

Priest in Geylang - The untold story of the Geylang Catholic Centre by Fr. Guillaume Arotçarena

This is one really interesting book. The beginning was a little unwieldy, probably because it was translated from French, and I found myself reading long and oddly worded sentences. But that disappeared after the introductory chapter and the rest of the book was a breeze to read.

So the book tells us about a French priest, Fr. Guillaume Arotçarena, who was sent to Singapore by a missionary group from France. He was with a Toa Payoh parish, and subsequently moved to Katong. Then he felt a call to start something in Geylang and did so.

The Geylang Catholic Centre attracted many foreign workers who sought them for help and there was a team of volunteer lawyers who helped them with legal work pro bono.

Because of the attention they were attracting, the ISD (Internal Security Department) came calling. And that eventually resulted in Operation Spectrum. For those unfamiliar with Singapore history, Operation Spectrum was launched by the government accusing a bunch of people, many of whom were involved with the Catholic church, of a Marxist conspiracy. I've heard about it vaguely before, but this was the first book I've read that delved in depth into the details. It's really scary man. And I'm slightly surprised that this book's seen the light of day. But I suppose they don't censor books like they censor films here. Haha. But I suppose if it's all the truth, there's nothing to worry about.

Now of course this is a rather one-sided point of view and I've personally not investigated the other side of the coin to give a more balanced viewpoint, but this is a blog, not a history textbook, so I'll leave that for another day.

In any case, everyone would do well reading this book, Singaporean or otherwise. The Singaporean, especially the younger ones, would do well to understand how Singapore operated in the past. Those who've lived through that time might want an insider's perspective on the entire incident. The foreigner can learn about that part of Singapore history and what we are like today that the author kindly provides in the Annexes.

All in all, it's a rather interesting and different read that I highly recommend to one and all. 


Disclaimer: The publisher sent me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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