The National Heritage Board (NHB) said it will update the design of the World War II markers in Singapore to include the four official languages and Japanese after former foreign affairs minister George Yeo expressed dismay that a Changi Beach monument on the Sook Ching massacre is displayed only in English.
In a post on his Facebook page on 4 February, Yeo said he was walking in the previous night along Changi Beach with former Indonesian foreign minister Marty Natalegawa and wanted to show him the monument erected in 1992, on the 50th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore.
Yeo said that when the monument was erected, it was in Singapore’s four official languages with Japanese at the bottom as it was important for them to know the history too.
“I was so dismayed to find that monument had been replaced by one which is purely in English…It is denying us of a powerful capability, a precious inheritance from the past which in fact will secure our future,” he added.
A similar monument to mark the Sook Ching Inspection Centre in Chinatown is displayed in the four official languages – English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil – and Japanese.
In response to Yeo’s “feedback”, NHB acknowledged in a Facebook post that World War II is an important part of Singapore’s history and that it will update the design of the war markers to present the content in the five languages.
“Given its special significance, we agree with Mr Yeo that having these historic site markers in four official languages and Japanese will enable Singaporeans and visitors to better reflect on how our wartime history has shaped Singapore and its people,” said NHB.
The Sook Ching massacre was one of the worst atrocities committed in the war, during which the Japanese military carried out the purge of members of the Chinese community in Singapore who were perceived to be supporters of China and hostile to the Japanese Occupation.
The screening process and purge, involving mostly Chinese men, took place in several places in Singapore such as Chinatown in February and March 1942.
Tens of thousands of them were brought to various sites including at Changi Beach and executed by the Japanese. Singapore’s late prime minister Lee Kuan Yew said in an interview with National Geographic in 2009 that as many as 90,000 people in Singapore could have been killed during the purge although “verifiable numbers would be about 70,000”.