NHB to update World War II historic site markers to include 4 official languages, Japanese

NHB to update World War II historic site markers to include 4 official languages, Japanese

File photo Changi Beach park
Screengrab from Google Maps showing Changi Beach Park.

SINGAPORE: The National Heritage Board (NHB) will refresh the design of its World War II markers to include the four official languages and Japanese, the board said in a Facebook post on Friday (Feb 22).

This comes after former foreign affairs minister George Yeo raised the matter on his Facebook page earlier this month.

Mr Yeo had said in his Feb 4 post that he was "dismayed" to discover that the Sook Ching monument on Changi Beach was no longer in the four official languages and Japanese, but only in English.

"Last night Pak Marty (former Indonesian foreign minister Marty) Natalegawa and I had a leisurely stroll along Changi Beach, and I wanted to show him a monument we erected in 1992, the 50th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, to mark Sook Ching, the killings on Changi Beach," said Mr Yeo.

The original monument "deliberately" had Singapore's four official languages and Japanese at the bottom, said Mr Yeo, "because it is important for the Japanese to know this history too".

"I was so dismayed to find that the monument had been replaced by one which is purely in English," he said.

The move is "deliberately reducing our cultural genome", added Mr Yeo.

"It is denying us of a powerful capability, a precious inheritance from the past which in fact will secure our future."

Thanking Mr Yeo for his feedback, NHB said that it would refresh the design of the wartime markers.

"World War II is an important part of Singapore’s history," said the board. "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."

The board added that it aims to strike a balance between presenting meaningul content to the reader and "practical considerations" such as readability.

It said it would explore ways - such as by using technology - to make more information on Singapore's historic sites available to visitors.

Separately, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said she supported NHB's decision to update the site markers.

"This will enable more Singaporeans and overseas visitors to gain a better understanding of our wartime past, as well as the lessons to be learned from this poignant chapter in our history," she said.

READ: 'They didn’t even have coffins': The man who dug up the remains of World War II victims in Singapore

Operation Sook Ching was a Japanese military operation aimed at purging anti-Japanese elements from the Chinese community in Singapore.

From Feb 21 to Mar 4, 1942, Chinese males aged between 18 and 50 were summoned to mass screening centres, and those suspected of being anti-Japanese were executed.

Known massacre sites include beaches at Punggol, Changi, Katong, Tanah Merah and Blakang Mati (now Sentosa island), according to the National Library Board's website.

Massacres were also said to have occurred at Hougang, Thomson Road, Changi Road, Siglap, Bedok and East Coast.

Source: CNA/nc(aj)