Thursday, March 17, 2005

Japanese Occupation in Singapore

Japanese Occupation in Singapore. This is an interesting article by a student who lives in Singapore. I can locate pictures of him but his name seems to be completely missing from the site.

From the site:

Accounts of Japanese Occupation in Singapore tend to veer towards the deprivations suffered by the general population and atrocities meted out by the invaders. Rightly so too, as such a slant reflects the deep psychological and physical scars suffered by the community. For the POWs in Changi, survivors from the killing fields of Sook Chin and victims of the Kempei Tai, the Japanese occupation was a primal hell. Its brutality swamped subsequent accounts. Chen Su Lan’s Remember Pompong and Oxley Rise concentrates only on the author’s pell-mell escape to Pompong Island in the bid to escape the Japanese invaders and an interrogation by the Kempei Tai. The remaining chapters summarize Chen’s knowledge of various Sook Chin sites.[1] The biographical treatment of Elizabeth Choy by Zhou Mei is similarly vivid and graphical vis-à-vis Choy and her husband’s incarceration at Stanford Road.[2] A compilation of interviews written by Foong Choon Hon, The Price of Peace, underscores the heroism of Force 136, Chinese Volunteers, the Malay Regiment and to a lesser degree the communist MPAJA.[3]

Seen at this light, Lee Kuan Yew’s autobiography, The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew is a curious read, especially Chapter 3: The Japanese Invaders.[4] Neither heroic nor valiant, Lee’s single chapter highlights how a smart enterprising young man with instinctive entrepreneurship could survive profitably in times of war. Although, Lee acknowledged the fears generated by the Japanese Occupation and its wanton excesses, those passages seemed almost perfunctory. Peppered throughout the chapter were subtle hints of Lee’s profound respect for the invaders! For example, Lee was full of admiration for the Japanese iron fist rule: “As a result I have never believed those who advocate a soft approach to crime and punishment, claiming that punishment does not reduce crime. That was not my experience in Singapore before the war, during the Japanese Occupation or subsequently.”[5] Another alternative reading of the Japanese Occupation, Yap Pheng Geck’s Scholar, Banker Gentleman Soldier disabuses its readers from suspecting his wartime conduct. His collaboration with the Japanese was coerced. “We had to live and fend for our families,” this prominent banker eloquently rationalized. “Most of us had to be in hiding all the time because of fear of the Japanese. Those of us who were bolder took the consequences [sic] and managed to survive.”[6]

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