S'pore Marxist to UK slave-driver
HE WAS a Singaporean so obsessed with Marxist ideology that he left for England to set up a commune in the 1960s. In 1977, he was stripped of his Singapore citizenship for his close ties with Eurocommunists, MyPaper has learnt.
But his politics was so radical that even the Communist Party of England had to boot him out in 1974. He was convinced that China would invade and "liberate" Britain.
Almost 40 years on, Aravindan Balakrishnan, now 73, is in the headlines again. The man who spoke out against the slavery of workers is accused of enslaving three women for almost 30 years.
The women - a 69-year-old Malaysian, a 57-year-old Irish woman, and a 30-year-old Briton - were said to have been controlled by Balakrishnan and his partner, Chanda Pattni, 67, for decades.
The youngest woman is believed to have been born into Balakrishnan's "slave house" and spent her whole life there, the British media reported. She wrote to a neighbour that she felt like "a fly trapped in a spider's web".
The two older women are said to have joined Balakrishnan's commune almost 35 years back. In all those years, there was no escape.
Balakrishnan and his partner, who is of Tanzanian origin, once had around 25 followers. Most of these were students who arrived in England from Singapore, Malaysia and some developing countries, and felt lonely and disenfranchised. Balakrishnan took them under his wing in the guise of shared political ideology.
But when his thinking became too radical for even British leftists, he set out to create his own Marxist fiefdom. He set up The Workers' Institute of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Zedong Thought in London.
Some left-leaning students from Singapore who had studied in England confessed about how he had influenced them. Old clippings from The Straits Times show he was stripped of his citizenship.
But those who came under his spell could not escape it. In 1997, a Welsh woman died after falling from an upstairs window of his commune. The woman's sister, who later met Balakrishnan, said she had expected to see a charismatic leader, but saw a "real weed with his teeth missing" instead.
No action was taken then.
But recently, the Malaysian woman suffered a stroke and was denied medical assistance. The Irish woman then called a charity she had heard about on TV and the women were rescued.
The police found that they had been held against their wishes for years, and were often beaten by Balakrishnan and his partner.
The women claimed to be terrified of him and said they felt bound with "invisible handcuffs".
The Malaysian Insider reported that the Malaysian woman may be the missing leftist Siti Aishah Abdul Wahab, a brilliant student who went to London on a Colombo Plan scholarship, but came under the spell of "Comrade Bala".
She broke up with her fiance, severed ties with her family and gave most of her wages to the group, said another member of the group.
Balakrishnan, who lost his citizenship for pursuing "activities that are prejudicial to the security of Singapore", now has the British police asking: "How did this happen in London?"
Metropolitan Police Commander Steve Rodhouse said: "Brainwashing would be the simplest term, yet that belittles the years of emotional abuse these victims have had to endure."