Landmarks marking historic events to get prime locations

AS SINGAPORE heads towards its 50th year of independence, two landmarks to commemorate historic events in its turbulent past will be set up in bustling areas in the heart of the country.

A memorial to the victims of Konfrontasi will stand on Dhoby Ghaut Lawn opposite MacDonald House in Orchard Road.

Similarly, a marker to honour those who fought the Communists in Singapore's early years will be placed in Esplanade Park along Queen Elizabeth Walk.

The central and prominent location of the marker in the Civic District, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, means it will be near the Cenotaph, the Lim Bo Seng Memorial and the Tan Kim Seng Fountain, which have collectively been gazetted as a national monument. "By putting these markers and memorials together, we create a larger sense of Singapore's history and the context of our early years," he told Parliament yesterday.

Former president S R Nathan, who dealt with pro-Communist activists in the trade unions in the 1960s, will be the guest of honour at the unveiling of the marker on Dec 8.

December marks the 25th anniversary of the signing of the 1989 Haadyai Peace Agreements between the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) and the governments of Malaysia and Thailand.

The agreements marked the end of the CPM's four-decade campaign of violence and subversion.

The Konfrontasi memorial is expected to be completed next year.

Mr Wong said it would be a reminder of the events that unfolded on March 10, 1965 - "a date remembered by many as the darkest day of Konfrontasi". Two Indonesian marines bombed MacDonald House that day, killing three people and injuring more than 30.

Mr Wong gave details of these commemorative efforts in his reply to Nominated MP Tan Tai Yong, on behalf of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who had announced the plans at a National University of Singapore Society event last month.

Professor Tan, a historian, also asked if they were a community effort or a government decision.

Replying, Mr Wong said both the community and the Government strongly support them.

The marker on the fight against Communism came from feedback that the Home Team received in recent months from retired police officers.

Recalling the incidents of Communist violence, assassinations, student demonstrations and labour strikes, they asked for recognition for the people who stood up to the Communists.

The Konfrontasi memorial was an idea the Singapore Armed Forces Veterans' League came up with earlier this year.

But, even before this, members of the public sent letters suggesting various ways to commemorate the MacDonald House bombing, said Mr Wong.

Both events not only claimed lives, "but fundamentally threatened Singapore's sovereignty and security", he said. "Had the Communist side won, we would be living in a totally different Singapore today. Likewise, if Sukarno's campaign to 'crush Malaysia' had succeeded."

He added: "Therefore, it is important to have tangible landmarks to help younger and future generations of Singaporeans understand how we got here, and why it was critical that our forefathers supported and fought for the security and future of Singapore."

These landmarks, he added, will also remind Singaporeans to remain vigilant in safeguarding the country's peace and security.

Communist threat: A 40-year-long battle

SINGAPORE battled the violence and subversion waged by the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) for 40 years, from 1948 to 1989.

In June 1948, a state of emergency was declared when the CPM launched an armed insurrection to try to capture Malaya and Singapore and install a communist regime.

Thousands of civilians and security personnel were killed and injured on both sides of the Causeway, with at least 28 deaths in Singapore.

Konfrontasi: Armed conflict over Malaysia

THE Indonesia-Malaysia confrontation - known as Konfrontasi - spanned three years, from 1963 to 1966.

It was an armed conflict started by Indonesian President Sukarno to oppose the formation of Malaysia. Singapore then had only two regular army units and they were deployed in Malaysia.

The defence of Singapore was entrusted to the Singapore Volunteer Corps and the Vigilante Corps, established in 1964.

In two months, more than 10,000 people volunteered.


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