Mailbox: Commemorate Sook Ching too

Mailbox: Commemorate Sook Ching too
Dr J.C. Chen's wallet was found in the Siglap area along what was formerly known as Jalan Puay Poon, together with items from other victims of the infamous Sook Ching massacre.

The Singapore Armed Forces Veterans' League (SAFVL) deserves thanks for organising a memorial for victims of the MacDonald House bombing ("250 mark MacDonald House tragedy"; March 11).

They also did a good job of helping Singaporeans recall other incidents at risk of falling into oblivion, such as the Battle of Pasir Panjang ("Veterans relive Battle of Pasir Panjang"; March 7).

But the darkest incident in Singapore history has to be Sook Ching - a Japanese military operation intended to eliminate anti-Japanese elements among the Chinese during World War II.

From Feb 20 to March 4, 1942, Chinese men between the ages of 18 and 50 were subjected to mass screening by the Japanese military police.

Thousands of men suspected to be anti-Japanese elements failed the screening.

They were bundled into lorries and taken to remote areas of Changi, Punggol and Bedok, where they were gunned down and their bodies thrown into the sea.

Former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, in a 2009 interview with the National Geographic, recounted: "I was a Chinese male, tall, and the Japanese were going for people like me because Singapore had been the centre for the collection of ethnic Chinese donations to Chongqing to fight the Japanese. So they were out to punish us.

"They slaughtered 70,000 - perhaps as high as 90,000 but verifiable numbers would be about 70,000. But for a stroke of fortune, I would have been one of them."

After the Japanese surrendered, seven Japanese officers were tried for war crimes for their participation in Sook Ching.

All were found guilty.

Two were sentenced to death and the rest given life sentences.

The SAFVL and the relevant authorities may wish to consider commemorating the first day of Sook Ching as well in order to remind Singaporeans of their ancestors' sacrifices.

Lakshmi Penna (Professor)


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