The latest drama of the Japanese Occupation of Singapore was replayed by a school teacher, Malcolm Tan of Chung Cheng High School. He rushed into the class in full Japanese uniform and samurai sword to a stunned class of secondary 2 students. It was a novel and interesting way of teaching history.
This was followed by a letter in the ST forum by Liew Khai Kuin asking for a more balance understanding of the goodness of the Japanese people. He was looking at the good and kind Japanese fallen victims to an act of God, the tsunami and their own nuclear bomb in the name of nuclear energy. He never suffer under the hands of Japanese beasts.
History must be told fairly, and the goodness and badness of war and the barbaric acts of human beasts must be enacted and not erased from the history books. I am not sure if Malcolm told the story of Japanese soldiers cutting sugar canes at an angle and throwing babies into the air to fall back on the sharp end of the sugar canes, like meat on skewers. The meat was live babies. This was recounted by a Filipino soldier in a documentary on the survivors of the Second World War in the Philippines. And the atrocities on women and children in all the countries the good and kind Japanese committed, gorging out unborn babies, were they fiction or unfit to be told?
And the factual accuracy of the heroism of the war was twisted by every side to glorify their own interests. In 1940s, Malaya and Singapore were not countries but colonies of the British Empire. The people did not even know that these were their countries. Can’t blame them. They were stateless, owned the British Empire. And rightly many go on as normal, nothing to defend. Singapore and Malaya were not their countries.
As for citizenships, the locals probably didn’t know what that word meant. For the Indians and Chinese, the Indians were also subjects of the British Empire, the Chinese were Chinese and their country was China, being invaded by the Japanese. It would be foolish for those without a nationality to be defending what was not theirs. At that point in time, Malaya and Singapore belonged to the British. Anyone thinking of claiming the two pieces of land as their own? If they did, why didn’t they take up arms to defend their countries? The fact was that they were in a state of limbo, stateless. Only the migrant Chinese had a country of their own in China.
It is foolish thinking expecting anyone defending British colonies other than the British themselves. But the British scooted, yes scooted, when the Japanese came. And Malaya and Singapore became Japanese territories, conquered land! No owners to defend them. What citizenship? No, Japanese subjects, all the residents became conquered people.
How to write about stories of heroism, nationalism and defending a country when there was no country to talk of and no citizenship or nationalities to be proud of? But historians bungled everything together as if there were an independent state of Malaya and Singapore and nationalities like Malayans and Singaporeans. The state of Malaya only existed in 1957, and Singapore in 1959 as a self ruled state but still under the British rule.
Who was there as citizens of Malaya and Singapore to defend these states? Or why should they be defending the land when they were not even citizens? For the residents of Malaya and Singapore in 1945, what would they be defending, their countries, their nations or the British Empire? The best thing to do is not to defend anything as there was nothing to defend. Many of the locals did that. None of their business. The British got their Empire and colonies to defend but they too chose to scoot. Funny isn’t it?
Today we have a country we called our own. We are Singaporeans and would defend this island as our own. We must not be confused by the fact that there was no country called Singapore and any misgivings about Singaporeans not defending Singapore can only come from a twisted mind. Such distorted perception of history is warped.