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Jan 27, 2013

Philatelic Rambling - The Japanese Occupation

Dr Tan Wee Kiat has published a small new stamp-based book with a big title "Philatelic Rambling in Singapore History: The Japanese Occupation 1942-1945" and invited the "Friends of Yesterday" (FOYers) to autograph books for us at Kreta Ayer Food Centre on Sunday 27 Jan 2013, 2.00-3.30pm

His previous books were posted on the blogs here and here .

FOYers Gathering on 27 Jan 2013

Philip Chew meeting Thimbuktu at Kreta Ayer Food Center  (Photo Credit: Lam Chun See)

James Kwok at his favorite fried pig intestine congee at Kreta Ayer Food Center
Connie Tai, President of Kreta Ayer Stamp Society with Wee Kiat's autographed book.
Thimbuktu and Wee Kiat with autographed book (Photo Credit: Lam Chun See)
Char Lee chatting with James Kwok
Philip Chew with Wee Kiat and his autographed book
Unk Dicko with free tips and lessons to Junius Soh on using his new ukele
Wee Kiat signing his new book to present to Soh Kiak's sister at the FOYers gathering
Group photo of the FOYers and friends

Japanese Occupation 

Former Prime Minister Winston Churchill of Great Britain in 1941

The Japanese Occupation, widely believed to be the darkest period of Singapore's history, was a trying time for Singaporeans and tested the people's ability to cope in times of adversity.

The Occupation highlighted their adaptability, resourcefulness and resilience, as well as the importance of positive thinking.

The people were forced to adapt quickly to new rules laid down by the Japanese and learn to accord the Japanese soldiers the respect they demanded from them. Problems like food shortages and lack of medical care also took their toll on the people. In order to overcome these problems, the people came up with creative solutions such as food substitutions and home remedies.

During this period, the people did their best to live life as they had in times of peace. Some changes were inevitable, but Singaporeans adapted to them and controlled the situation they were in instead of allowing the situation to control them.

Despite their sufferings, many people did not doubt that the Japanese would eventually be defeated by the British and Singaporeans would once again be able to regain their freedom. The possibility of a better future kept the people cheerful and gave them the determination and will to survive.

Singaporeans also witnessed human nature at its worst and best during the Japanese Occupation. The cruelty of the Japanese towards the people, and the greed of some who took to exploiting their countrymen during the Occupation showed us human nature at its worst. However, there were others who made life enjoyable for others and gave aid whenever possible, sometimes at the expense of their own lives. The POWs and other European civilian internees also showed dignity in the face of defeat, holding their heads high and never giving in to the demands of their Japanese captors.

The Japanese Occupation helped young Singaporeans to mature ahead of their time. Invaluable lessons that the survivors of the Occupation walked away with helped shape the generation of Singaporeans who developed Singapore from a Third World country during independence to become what she is today. Future generations of Singaporeans can also learn from these timeless lessons. Adaptability, resilience and resourcefulness are qualities that can help Singaporeans achieve success on the global stage today and in the future. Positive thinking will also aid the future generations in overcoming their own difficulties as they will not throw in the towel so easily and keep themselves positive in trying times.

These are the lessons that we can learn from the Japanese Occupation of Singapore. The Singapore government has also learnt from this occupation and built up the SAF, a strong defence force that will act as a deterence to any potential aggressors. In Singapore, 15 February is also Total Defence Day, when Singaporeans remember the British surrender and the importance of staying vigilant in order to prevent a repeat of the events that took place on 15 February 1942 and those that followed. (Source: River Valley High School, Singapore).

Related blog topic resources are available  here , here and here .

Former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew's Political Lessons from the Japanese Occupation of Singapore.

[Quote] In The Singapore Story, Lee Kuan Yew pointedly explains that the three and a half years of Japanese occupation were the most important of my life. They gave me vivid insights into the behaviour of human beings and human societies, their motivations and impulses. My appreciation of governments, my understanding of power as the vehicle for revolutionary change, would not have been gained without this experience.

First of all, he observed "a whole social system" built upon assumptions of British military and cultural superiority "crumble suddenly before an occupying army that was absolutely merciless. The Japanese . . . were hated by almost everyone but everyone knew their power to do harm and so everyone adjusted." People who accepted the Japanese as their new masters prospered, whereas those who did not lost money and status.

Second, he learned that fear of brutal punishment can deter crime:

The Japanese Military Administration governed by spreading fear. It put up no pretence of civilised behaviour. Punishment was so severe that crime was very rare. In the midst of deprivation after the second half of 1944, when the people half-starved, it was amazing how low the crime rate remained. . . . 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.

"I learnt more from the three and a half years of Japanese occupation," he states again a few pages later, "than any university could have taught me".

A third lesson, in particular, remained with him his entire life -- that power can make people change their ways of thinking and acting:

I had not yet read Mao's dictum that "power grows out of the barrel of a gun", but I knew that Japanese brutality, Japanese guns, Japanese bayonets and swords, and Japanese terror and torture . . . could make people change their behaviour, even their loyalties.

The Japanese not only demanded and got their obedience; they forced them to adjust to a long-term prospect of Japanese rule, so that they had their children educated to fit the new system, its language, its habits and its values, in order to be useful and make a living.(References Lee Kuan Yew. The Singapore Story: Memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew. Singapore: Times, 1998). [Unquote]

Lessons from the Japanese Conquest - "Fall of the Fortress" at ThinkQuest, Projects by Students for Students:

[Quote] The sufferings that the people went through during the Japanese occupation also taught the people to see the need to get rid of their foreign masters. In the words of Lee Kuan Yew, who later became the first Prime Minister of Singapore,

"My colleages and I are of that generation of young men who went through the Second World War and the Japanese Occupation and became determined that no one - neither the Japanese nor the British - had the right to push and kick us around. We were determined that we could govern ourselves and bring up our children in a country where we can be a self-respecting people." [Unquote]

SBC 1988 - Diary Of A Nation (Episode 25 - The Japanese Surrender)



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