Thursday, 13 July 2006

Quick recce in the morning

I rode up to Kent Ridge Park to survey the place in order confirm the routes for the Pasir Panjang Heritage Trail on Sun 23rd July 2006. Site visits are always necessary and biking up made it all that more enjoyable.

SACA is having the competition rather soon after prepping the trail and I decided to make things easier by minimising the crossings with the new mountain bike trail.

Next year we can plan better. For now, if both walkers and riders are alert on the trails, we'll manage.

A section of the forest was stripped, possibly for the plantings NUS will be doing, as its next to our plot. Looked scary though, whole place stripped down like that. Better find out as our visitors are sure to ask. But at least I got to take some profile pictures on Adinandra dumosa.

My bag was laden with computer, camera, documents and spare clothes and this was heavier than I thought! The blazing sun didn't help. Though I survived, my poor shape made competing with the bus out of the question this year.

First posted on Otterman speaks, 13 Jul 2006.

Wednesday, 28 June 2006

Gap on the map

The Gap on Pasir Panjang/ Kent Ridge, on a map. This was commonly called the Gap before the 80's and some herbarium records even list "The Gap". This was mysterious to us biology students until someone must have told us, likely D H Murphy.

Pity the Gap is right where the rather brittle GSGS 4923 Series (1: 63,360) map is torn. This Edition 2-GSGS map was published in 1964 by the "D Survey War Office and Air Ministry."

Must pass to the Herpnet team to catalogue tomorrow. I suspect I need to figure out map citations too.

Originally posted at Otterman speaks, 28 Jun 2006.

Monday, 12 June 2006

The MIA Night Tour reviewed

On the 26th of May 2006, the Raffles Museum's Pasir Panjang (PP) guides, in collaboration with the National Heritage Board's National Archives of Singapore, conducted the MIA Night Tour. What is MIA? It represents both Museums In Action and Missing In Action! This activity involves a trip to three members of the Musum Roundtable: The Public Gallery of the Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research (RMBR), Reflections at Bukit Chandu (RBC) and the recently opened Memories at Old Ford Factory. "In Action" aptly describes the turnout by staff and volunteers of NAS and RMBR that night for event. As for other dual meaning, Missing In Action is the theme of this event, that was revealed along the way.

We started the trip at 2 timings: 6pm and 7pm. Late night explorations always fascinates people and it added a veil of mystique to our MIA content. The trip began with RMBR where the PP guides introduced the public to the interesting specimens of the museum. Many of the specimens showcased were once commonly sighted in the Singapore of the past, but in recent times, they are all effectively MIA. While not extinct but with habitat loss and mindless poaching, their numbers are steadily dwindling.

The next stop was supposed to be Kent Ridge Park, but a thunderstorm left some of us wet and most of us in awe of the spectacular lightning show! It was thus decided to go directly to Reflections at Bukit Chandu. It was disappointing for participants and even more so for the guides - we knew they were missing the interesting sights and animals that was only possible at night. For instance, the night view of the Harbor from Kent Ridge Park is beautiful, and the bountiful fruit bats feeding at the Broadwalk is a sight few people have seen! Still it was important to be safe.

When the first group arrived at Reflections at Bukit Chandu, the rain had stopped but the lightning threat was still significant - the guides witnessed streaks of blue lightning arc across the sky, starting from a spot in the clouds which did not seem too far away!

Reflections at Bukit Chandu (RBC) was a good spot to hold up at. Fully air conditioned and filled with interactive and static information about the invasion of Singapore, RBC is a good spot to learn about the war history of Singapore as well as the relatively unknown Battle of Pasir Panjang. The story of this Battle is hardly known so the PP guides always bring participants to RBC. The trip there was enjoyable as the staff were friendly and the interactive shows were engaging and informative. Unfortunately the participants missed out an interesting show as the interactive show "Sounds of Battle" was under maintenance.

The final stop was Memories at the Old Ford Factory. This new heritage site showcases exhibits about the Japanese Occupation of Singapore. The participants were treated to a documentary on the Japanese Occupation, which started from the Invasion of Singapore to the surrender of the Japanese in 1945. They were then brought around the Ford Factory by the friendly staff of NAS, who also introduced them to their Wartime Garden. This is where NAS staff have meticulously planted and maintained a number of crops grown by people during the Occupation. Their effort is truly commendable as they have even managed to grow and harvest two batches of Padi Rice!

The MIA participants were very pleased with the whole trip. Some even wanted to tip the guides for their good performance when they realised that we were volunteers!

Some suggestions for improvement were raised during the debrief at the Raffles Museum:

- Some participants had difficulty locating the guides at the meeting point. This will be rectified by the confirmation email which will include advise to look for someone wearing a luminous pink cap!! This is more proactive than simply using a banner which is a waste of money and an additional item to fetch and carry.

- Guides had difficulty identifying the participants after they made contact (meeting point was a public bus stop). This will be solved by giving participants a sticker like they do in a some tours!

- Although Kent Ridge Park had to be skipped due to the lighting threat, the tour bus could have made a detour there just to get a glimpse of the beautiful night view.

- Some participants indicated that the RBC stop was too long. This was due in part to the fact this section was largely unguided as is our usual procedure after a long walk in the park. In this scenario, more guiding should have ben carried out. Also since we spent more time there waiting out the schedule, the guides could have gathered smal groups for more stories in the canteen at the rear of RBC.

- The long break could be scheduled as a rest and snack point as it is a long journey.

- PP guides should be co-opted as RBC guides and know the existing resources. It was later learned that it was possible to view other documentaries in the AV room where the Sounds of Battle is usually shown.

- The tour was about 6 hours in duration. Some participants were unprepared for this despite being provided with the itinerary beforehand. Also, it was conducted on a Friday evening, and participants who came from work were very tired. Hence the MIA tour should be conducted on a Saturday in the future, with emphasised instructions for participants to bring food which can be consumed at the RBC stop.

See also Raffles Museum News

Tuesday, 6 June 2006

Penrod Vance Dean, R. I. P.

Penrod Vance Dean, R. I. P.

We were lucky to have the accounts of Penrod Dean - most recently, National Archives put together a documentary you can see at Memories at Old Ford Factory. There he gives an account of "The Malays" in the hours leading to the Battle of Pasir Panjang.

"The Malays started to fight the Japanese on Reformatory Road," said Lt. Penrod V. Dean of the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion. "They had dug slit trenches but they didn't have a lot of weapons. They started fighting the Japanese just with rifles virtually. And when the Japanese broke through them, the Malays took to them with bayonets, they put bayonets on the rifles and with a bayonet charge they drove the Japanese back across Reformatory Road."

"They were very brave people. They fought very hard, but for every Malay soldier there was about 10 or 12 Japanese soldiers. So it was inevitable what was going to happen."

- Transcript by Trey tm at Mind's Eye.

The Pasir Panjang Guides were just informed by Kenneth that Penrod Dean has passed away. RIP.

"Changi conquered on courage." By Mark E. Dean. The Australian, 06 Jun 2006.

Penrod Vance Dean
Farmer, soldier and writer.
Born Perth, November 19, 1914.
Died Melbourne, May 16, 2006, aged 91.

PENROD Dean was a survivor of the Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore, where he learned Japanese and later had the satisfaction of giving evidence against his captors at the war crimes tribunal in Tokyo.

Dean was the fourth of five sons born to Edward and Alice Dean. His father was the chief draftsman for Perth and laid out several of the early suburbs there. Alice Dean was known as a woman of strong disposition and drove the streets of Perth in an aging, open-top V8 Fiat purchased at a bond warehouse sale.

Dean was educated at Hale School in Perth but following the early death of his father in 1930, during the Great Depression, was forced to leave school early to work and help support the family. In his late teens he worked as a stockman on Roy Hill station in Western Australia.

His early years are evocatively described in Singapore Samurai, an autobiographical account written of his extraordinary experiences in World War II. He describes waiting at his post above the Straits of Johor for the arrival of the Japanese army, reflecting on his days as a child playing on the banks of the Swan River, sailing his skiff and catching abundant blue manna crabs.

In 1937 he met Mabel Molloy and they were married shortly afterwards. Nellie Melba had coined the name Bunny for Mabel in 1927 and it stuck. Bunny's uncle, Thomas Molloy owned and operated His Majesty's Theatre in Perth and a number of nearby hotels.

In 1941 Dean joined the AIF, completed officer training at Randwick in Sydney and was commissioned lieutenant. He left for Singapore later that year and following the surrender of the allies in February 1942 became a prisoner of war in Changi prison.

Shortly before his capture he was involved in an intense battle at the village of Bukit Chandu on the coast of Singapore. The battle was fought in and around a rubber plantation and plantation house. In 2002 he was invited by the Singaporean government to the opening of a war museum established in the plantation house. The museum contains interviews with Penrod and excerpts from Singapore Samurai reproduced in an audio-visual installation. During this visit he also attended services to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the fall of Singapore at Changi and the Kranji War Cemetery.

The story of his years as a prisoner of war are an extraordinary tale of courage and the will to survive. On March 12, 1942, he escaped from Changi with another prisoner John MacGregor. They were captured after living in the jungle for three months and tried before a Japanese military tribunal in the High Court building in Singapore. Both were sentenced to two years solitary confinement in a military prison. They escaped the death sentence because the Red Cross was in Singapore at the time and was investigating allegations of war crimes and atrocities committed by the Japanese on allied prisoners of war.

During his two years in solitary he was taught Japanese by one of his guards.

He and MacGregor were among a small number of survivors who completed their sentences before being returned to Changi, where they remained until the surrender of the Japanese in 1945. Prior to returning to Australia he assisted in the surrender by working as an interpreter.

Following the war he was one of 12 Australians, including nurse Vivian Bullwinkle and Brigadier Arthur Blackburn VC, to give evidence to the war crimes trials in Tokyo. His affidavit is held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

The family lived on a farm at Roleystone in the Darling Ranges near Perth, where they grazed cattle and grew oranges. They moved to Victoria in 1953.

In Victoria Dean pursued a career in business and was a director of a number of private companies and ran his own importing business for many years. Golf became a passion and he won the annual handicap at Greenacres golf club in 1955. Between 1962 and 1968 he was a director of Moomba.

In 1971 he and Bunny moved to Sorrento and more recently they lived in Mount Martha, returning to Melbourne in 2005.

Simon and Schuster published Singapore Samurai in 1998. Writing in The Weekend Australian on July 5, 1998, Red Harrison described the story as one of extraordinary courage, resilience and comradeship.

In November 2005 Bunny died with Penrod by her side. Over the next six months he adapted to life without her and lived happily at Waverley Valley, where he was cared for with great concern and good humour.

Dean was a voracious and wide reader; he borrowed five books every week from the Hawthorn library. He also continued to write and was completing a work of fiction when he died.

During his long and eventful life Dean displayed many fine qualities but his enormous courage was always at the fore and he will be deeply missed by his five children, younger brother Kerry, 14 grandchildren and seven great grandchildren.

© The Australian

Monday, 27 March 2006

Night tour of the galleries [origins of the MIA trail]

I met up with Stella Wee and Amy Marlina (both early wakers) from Museum Roundtable for breakfast in Holland Village last Saturday. SW and I decided we'd better finalise our plans for the week of the International Museum Day and AM popped down to surprise SW; just as well, else we'd never have finished talking about cats (SW has more fascinating stories than I do).

After s short discussion, we fixed on a tour for 80 people to Reflections at Bukit Chandu, Kent Ridge Park, Raffles Museum's Public Gallery and Memories at Old Ford Factory. That oughta last 'em until midnight when we send them back to town to catch a Night Owl or Night Rider bus, or simply to Bukit Timah to catch a late night dinner at Al-Ameen or Al-Azhar!

Enough of the Pasir Panjang guides confirmed right away! Amazing how it all fell into place when we simply met up.

Ironically I won't go but the guides are going to have fun. Surprisingly, TSH remarked it would be scary! Guess with my focus on nocturnal flora and fauna, I don't think of much else. However, this sort of angle might satisfy MC who needs something 'edgy' to talk about; sigh, marketting people...

Suspect the places will be snapped up quite quickly; we can only take 80 - about as far as we can stretch our guide and building capacities.

Firs posted to Otterman speaks, 27 Mar 2006.

Thursday, 23 February 2006

Pasir Panjang - "splendid scenic views"

"Pasir Panjang means "the sandy stretch, long beach". It became a popular resort like Tanjong Katong towards the end of the last century, which accounts for the many seaside residences,notably Haw-Par Villa and Labrador Villa. What DIsneyland is to the Occidentals, Haw-Par Villa is to the Orientals. It is a special tourist attraction, like its Hong Kong counterpart."

"Parts of Pasir Panjang give splendid scenic views of the adjacent islands and back country. The Gap is one and named Marina Hill after the late Duchess of Kent when she visited it [Singapore] with her son, some years ago. Also Kent Ridge. Bouna Vista Roads (North and South) were so named because of the views they offer (bona vista means good view)."

- S. Ramachandra, 1969: p36. "Singapore Landmark."

Thanks to Timothy Pwee (National Library) who transcribed part of the text and emailed me a photo of the page this afternoon, in response to my urgent SMS! This was referenced by "Toponymics. A study of Singapore Street names." By Victor R Savage & Brenda S A Yeoh, 2004 (2nd edition). Eastern Universities Press, Singapore. 436pp.

See also Oi Yee on the Ridge, and the Kent Ridge Commemorative Plaque.

Monday, 20 February 2006

"I never knew that the ridge was formerly known as 'Pasir Panjang Ridge'."

"Footnotes in Life" reflects on our 2006 Commemorative Walk for the Battle of Pasir Panjang (not the fall of Singapore). Seems incomplete but the fact he learnt abut the Ridge's original name is reassuring for us guides!

"Toddycats." By Footnotes in Life, 20 Feb 2006.

The walk started at a quarter past 7am or something like that, and it started with a briefing telling us what we were going to see and the historical background of the ridge. I never knew that the ridge was formerly known as 'Pasir Panjang Ridge'. The fact that it was a ridge never crossed my mind too. I just thought that NUS was in a strange part of Singapore which was still hilly and haven't been leveled to reclaim more land.

Tuesday, 14 February 2006

Penrod V. Dean on the Malay Regiment

Trey tm at Mind's Eye has a photoblog and on 13 Feb 2006 he remembered the "Malay Regiment - The Last Stand"

Australian troops fighting nearby looked on with horror at what happened next. "The Malays started to fight the Japanese on Reformatory Road," said Lt. Penrod V. Dean of the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion. "They had dug slit trenches but they didn't have a lot of weapons. They started fighting the Japanese just with rifles virtually. And when the Japanese broke through them, the Malays took to them with bayonets, they put bayonets on the rifles and with a bayonet charge they drove the Japanese back across Reformatory Road."

"They were very brave people. They fought very hard, but for every Malay soldier there was about 10 or 12 Japanese soldiers. So it was inevitable what was going to happen."

Source not stated; but is sounds almost exactly what Penrod said in the documentary by National Archives called "The Malay Regiment"which is showing at "Memories at Old Ford Factory".

Thursday, 9 February 2006

RSI interview with NYP animators of the Battle of Bukit Chandu

The Battle of Bukit Chandu
By Justin Teo, Radio Singapore International
First published 09 February 2006

If you take a trip up Singapore’s Pasir Panjang Hill, you’ll find the Reflections of Bukit Chandu Museum which is dedicated to the soldiers of the 1st and 2nd Battalion Malay Regiment who defended the western sector of Singapore during World War Two.

The museum has now added a new animated short film that captures the final moments of the Battle of Bukit Chandu.

I’m Justin Teo and this week in Undertones, I speak to Charles Lee, part of the Nanyang Polytechnic team which created the animation, to find out about their inspiration for this project.

For most students studying digital media or animation, the final-year project will usually result in some Japanese anime-inspired production or maybe a music video.

But for Charles Lee and his friends at Nanyang Polytechnic, it meant getting inspiration from a bit of local history.

CL: For our final-year project, we’re suppose to do an animated clip, so I gathered six of my classmates and we had an idea of doing a short film but we didn’t know on what topic. So previously before I started school, I was actually working for the National Archives where I did a few projects. I found out about the war memorial up on Pasir Panjang. All of us decided to go up and take a look. They were actually screening live-footage to show the battles. We though it’d be better to use animation instead of live-footage to show the battle. This was because there are many school excursions to the museum and we wondered if animation would be a better medium to tell students about the story behind Bukit Chandu; we figured kids would appreciate animation better. So we approached the National Archives and asked them if they’d be interested in doing something like that.

With the Singapore government pushing the creative industry to come up with more 3D animation and high-technology productions, it’s refreshing to see students who understand the value of 2D animation.

Charles and his team had decided to combine 2D and 3D animation in the Battle of Bukit Chandu.

CL: Most of the animation is hand-drawn. Only the guns, equipment and background are in 3D models. Other than that, all the humans are hand-drawn. We felt that 2D animation expresses the characters of the soldiers much better; 3D would have made the characters too stiff. We also wanted a very rough look for the soldiers and 3D would have made them look too polished and clean. We were going for a different feel. That’s why we used 2D for the characters.

Pencil drawings and 2D interpretations of animation are not common these days, where did Charles and his team get inspiration for the short film?

CL: We were actually inspired by Animatrix. They have a lot of experimental films using different types of techniques to do the animation. They had a few short films done by Japanese companies and they have a lot of different styles in their animation.

Since the animation is based on a factual event in Singapore’s history, a lot of research was needed to retain the accuracy and feel of the Battle.

CL: The research part took us about two to three months. We went down to the National Archives and they supported us with all the necessary information. They actually guided us through the park where the battle took place. We walked through the trail and studied the different kinds of vegetation. We also studied all the weapons and how the mechanisms work. A lot of detail involved. We even noted the slope of the land since the battle was up-hill; these were the considerations that had to be researched on.

Due to the nature of the event, the Battle of Bukit Chandu animation is voiced in Malay and Japanese.

How difficult was it to do the dialogue for this short film?

CL: We got a few of our friends to translate the dialogue. The script was actually added into the story and it wasn’t provided for, so some of the dialogue was actually made-up. We wrote the script and passed it to our friends who translated and did the voice-overs.

This short film won awards at Comgraph and Crowbar, two events that recognize the achievements of animation talent here and internationally.- RSI

Wednesday, 8 February 2006

The Battle of Pasir Panjang Revisited by Lim Choo Hoon

During my efforts to secure a copy of Dol Ramli's History of the Malay Regiment 1933-1942, I found this resource:

Lim, Choo Hoon. The Battle of Pasir Panjang Revisited. Pointer: Journal of the Singapore Armed Forces, 28(1): 2002. [Originally accessed on 8 February 2006.]

"Historians in this region ... felt that it was one of the fiercest battles fought before Singapore fell and the great sacrifices by officers and men of the Malay Regiment to fight to the last marked the highest form of "honour, duty, and courage" for the professional armed forces."

"The 48-hour Battle of Pasir Panjang put up by men and officers of the Malay Regiment exemplified the highest form of "duty, honour and country" that soldiers can show in war. The courage, bravery, and sacrifice to defend Singapore island despite the foregone defeat of British forces will always remain one of the highlights in the story of the Battle of Singapore." - Lim Choo Hoon. [The Battle of Pasir Panjang Revisited. Pointer, Journal of the Singapore Armed Forces, 28(1): 2002.]

The Malay Regiment "showed what esprit de corps and discipline can achieve. Garrisons of posts held their ground and many of them were wiped out almost to a man." - A.E. Percival. [The War in Malaya, New Delhi: Sagar Publications, 1971, p. 291.]"

I have archived this in pdf, just in case the website becomes unavailable.

Thursday, 12 January 2006

Pasir Panjang Heritage Trail: Guide recruitment

Training Course 2006 (before Heritage Fest)

1. Sat 20 May: 2pm - 5pm (route and orientation)
2. Thu 08 Jun (plants).
3. Thu 15 Jun (war, BPP)
4. Thu 29 Jun (coastal history, southern islands, life in 60's)
5. Sat 01 Jul (dry run)

Thursday, 5 January 2006

The world remembers ... but when will Japan?

"The world remembers ... but when will Japan?" By Dr Takamitsu Muraoka. TODAYonline, Monday, 24 Oct 2005. The writer is retired. This is an abridged version of a speech delivered at the Trinity Theological College.

SOME years ago, a South Korean businessman was sent by his company to Kyushu, Japan. His son attended a local primary school and the teacher announced that on sports day, the flags of the world would be put up in the playground. Later, the boy was shocked not to see a single South Korean flag.

This still is, to a large extent, typical of the attitude of the average Japanese towards its Asian neighbours.

About 150 years ago Japan was determined to catch up with the west. In Japan, there are far more universities and colleges which offer courses in English, French, and German, than those where you can learn Korean or Chinese as a modern living language.

The average Japanese suffers from an inferiority complex towards the West — but has a strong sense of superiority and contempt towards Japan's Asian neighbours. This is truly amazing considering how deeply Japan is indebted to them. One of the two major religions of Japan, Buddhism, reached Japan in the sixth century via Korea. Until that time, Japan had no means of committing its own language to writing — the the entire Chinese writing system was adopted.

In 1964, I left Japan at age 26 to study at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Later, I taught for 10 years at Manchester University in the United Kingdom.

Every year, on Remembrance Sunday, when the British soldiers fallen in the two world wars are honoured — we were treated, courtesy of the BBC, to the film The Bridge over the River Kwai, about the building of the Death Railway through the jungles of Thailand and Burma.

We also witnessed ugly scenes when the Emperor Hirohito came to England on a state visit.

Subsequently, when we were in Melbourne, the Emperor died, which occasioned a heated debate about who, if anyone, was to represent Australia at his funeral.

In the summer of 1991, when I arrived in the Netherlands to take up the Hebrew chair at Leiden University, a wreath of flowers laid by the Japanese Prime Minister at the Indisch Monument in The Hague, found its way into the waters nearby. I was annoyed when I could not locate a single mention of the incident in two leading Japanese dailies.

Each of these three countries, my wife and I were to discover, retains bitter memories of what many of its nationals went through during the Pacific War at the hands of Japanese military.

In 2000, my wife, myself and Dutch and Japanese friends organised a conference to which we invited about 60 Dutch returnees from Indonesia, their relatives and friends, and about 20 Japanese residents of Holland to face our shared history.

What happened in Indonesia and during the laying of the Death Railway was news to Japanese like us. We were taught about such things at school — though we learned about the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and civilian casualties of the carpet-bombing of Japanese cities towards the end of the war.

Some years ago, it dawned on us that there are some important aspects of our recent national history that call for our attention. As my wife and I prepared for our visit to Singapore this month, I studied several books and articles on the three-and-a-half year Japanese occupation of Singapore and its neighbouring lands.

One was by a Japanese historian on the trials of war criminals. I will mention just one case, brought before a court held in Ipoh. It concerned a Eurasian woman arrested by the Japanese kempeitai (military police) on the suspicion that she had been offering medical assistance to local anti-Japanese resistance fighters.

I cannot bear to describe here in detail what revolting and protracted tortures she was subjected to. When they could not get out of her what they wanted to hear, they brought in her seven-year-old daughter, hanging her from a wooden post with a fire under her. The mother was tied to another post and whipped.

The girl tried to comfort her mother by shouting: "Mum, I'm okay. Don't you worry about me."

A total of 304 cases involving 919 witnesses were brought before the British war-crimes courts in South-east Asia. It is generally agreed, however, that these figures represent only the tip of the iceberg.

Confronted with this history, we asked ourselves: Where do we stand as Japanese nationals and Japanese Christians?

In his famous speech to the German Parliament on the 40th anniversary of Germany's defeat on May 8, 1945, the then Federal President, Mr Richard von Weizsacker, said: "Most of our German citizens today were either children or not yet born during the war.

They cannot confess sins they did not commit personally. Nobody with an ordinary human sensibility could expect you to wear tattered sackcloth and sit in ashes just because you happen to be German."

I agree. When the Pacific War ended, I was seven years old. Even if I had waved a Japanese flag to men departing for the frontline, it would be unfair for me to be accused of complicity in our war of aggression.

The former German president went on to say: "Our forefathers left us a stupendous legacy. Guilty or not guilty, young or old, we all Germans must accept this past history. We are responsible for what we make of this legacy and how we relate to it ... He who refuses to register in memory past acts of inhumanity run the risk of becoming infected again by the same disease."

Here, also, I concur. History, even painful history, needs to be remembered, not only by those who caused such pain, but also by those who suffered it.

It is human nature for us to want to sweep our past failures and hardships under the carpet and forget.

It is no easy task for me, the son of an officer of the Imperial Army, to speak critically and in public of the Pacific War.

It must be awfully painful to admit that your husband, father, brother or son died in a war that cannot be ethically defended.

However, unless we learn, and have the courage to distinguish between persons and deeds, we will not be free of the delusion that those war dead are beckoning us to pay our respect at the Yasukuni Shrine — which is how Japan's Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi justifies his visits to the shrine.

And we will keep justifying our military aggression.

As a Japanese virtually of the post-war generation, I admit that during the first half of the last century, my country inflicted an inestimable amount of loss, destruction and suffering, not only on the allied forces but also on the lands and peoples of Asia.

I am deeply concerned that my country, its successive postwar leaders and the great majority of the population, have not yet faced the modern history of Japan honestly. I feel responsible for this situation.

And I shall not sit idle on the sidelines.

There is a Dutch foundation called "Penance and Reconciliation" that aims to repair relationships with those wronged by Dutch Christians throughout the centuries: Jews, Muslims, peoples of their former colonies. I find the name of the foundation instructive — not just reconciliation but penance first.

In March 2003, I retired from Leiden University. My wife and I decided to spend five weeks every year, as long as I am mentally and physically fit, sharing my knowledge with scholars and students of Asian countries that suffered under Japanese imperialism, and teaching those subjects at universities and theological seminaries as a volunteer, without honorarium.

In 2003, I taught for five weeks in South Korea. Last year, we were in Indonesia. This year, I have come to Singapore.

We have lived abroad for over 41 years. We are sometimes asked whether we have Dutch citizenship. Until a while ago, I would routinely reply that I wouldn't do that so long as my parents are alive.

Now, I have an added argument: I am determined to remain Japanese until my country resolves squarely to face this past legacy of ours and begins to translate this resolution into tangible deeds.

I hope the day will come, in my lifetime, when I can produce my Japanese passport and wave it proudly.

The writer is retired. This is an abridged version of a speech delivered at the Trinity Theological College.

Copyright MediaCorp Press Ltd. All rights reserved.

An account of the background to the Opium factory at Pepys Road (Bukit Chandu)

From: Singapore: A Country Study
Published by the Federal Research Division of the Library of Congress as part of the Country Studies/Area Handbook Series sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Army between 1986 and 1998.

"At the turn of the century, social advancement lagged far behind economic development in Singapore. While the wealthy enjoyed their social clubs, sports facilities, mansions, and suburban estates, the lower classes endured a grim existence marked by poverty, overcrowding, malnutrition, and disease.

Malaria, cholera, and opium addiction were chiefly responsible for Singapore's mortality rate, which in 1896 was higher than that of Hong Kong, Ceylon, or India.

A 1907 government commission to investigate the opium problem found that the majority of opium deaths were among the poor, who were reduced to smoking the dregs of used opium.

Campaigns by missionaries and European-educated Chinese to ban opium use were successfully opposed by tax farmers and businessmen. By 1900 the opium tax provided one-half of the revenue of the colonial government, and both Asian and European businessmen resisted its replacement with an income tax.

As an alternative, the government in 1910 took over all manufacture and sale of opium, setting up a factory at Pasir Panjang. Opium sales continued to constitute half of the government's revenue, but the most dangerous use of the drug had been curtailed."

An account of the The Alexandra Massacre

"The Alexandra Massacre." By Jeff Partridge. Nesa feature, 08 Mar 2001.

WWII shell unearthed at West Coast Road

"WWII shell unearthed." The Straits Times, 04 Jan 2006.

An old artillery shell was discovered at a West Coast Road construction site yesterday, but was found to be harmless and not likely to explode.

Workers at the site found the shell, about 10cm in diameter and 30cm long, at about 10am yesterday. Police and the Singapore Armed Forces bomb disposal squad were called to the scene. Fortunately, the World War II shell was found to be inactive. The site was cordoned off and the shell was removed at about 2.45pm and taken away for disposal.

Copyright © 2005 Singapore Press Holdings. All rights reserved.