Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Total Defence Day

Sirens rang islandwide at 12 pm sharp yesterday while many Singaporeans were still busy visiting their relatives and friends. I believe many Singaporeans do not understand the significance of the siren. Worst, they might not have heard the shrill of the siren while enjoying the festive mood and food of Chinese New Year.

Similar to other years, yesterday 15 Feb is Total Defence Day. 58 years ago, Singapore was invaded by the Japanese and was occupied for a total of 3 years and 8 months. Under the Japanese rule, Singaporeans led a life of hell. Thousands of men were massacred, thousands of women were raped with many being shot in their vaginas after being raped, children were not spared as the Japanese soldiers flung infants high up towards the skies, only to have them dropped to the heart of their bayonets, with their blood smeared across the faces of their Japanese devils. I have heard somewhere that these Japanese soldiers believed the blood of infants smeared across their faces was auspicious for them.

That fateful day 58 years ago was also Chinese New Year! In 1942, there were two lunar months in the Chinese calendar and urban legend has it that if there are any two lunar months in the Chinese calendar, there will be war!

Chaos and fear reigned during the Japanese Occupation. Untold and unbelievably cruel stories were too many to be told. It was such a grave period for Singapore and I believe older surviving Singaporeans who have been through the world would bear compelling testimonials of what happened during the dark 3 years and 8 months.

My late grandmother who survived the Japanese Occupation had told me how she has to dress like a man to prevent being picked up by the Japanese soldiers. My late grandfather also led an uneasy life during the Japanese Occupation bringing up the family.

Fast forward to today, Singaporeans seem to have lost touch with history. How many younger Singaporeans know the significance of the ringing of the siren and the significance of Total Defence Day?

Possibility of war aside, the prospect of our society breaking up into chaos is always present. The recent case of Pastor Rony Tan and the posting of racist comments by 3 youths underscored how easy it is for an individual or two to spread racial and religiously insensitive remarks to the masses under the cloak of anonymity afforded by the internet. The government has acted fast to contain and mitigate the negative effects of their acts. The episodes also once again reminded Singaporeans the importance of religious and racial harmony.

Countries elsewhere are also in turmoil. In Thailand, what used to be a peaceful country has now become restive after the former Premier Thaksin was ousted of government. In Malaysia, churches were set ablaze after the court’s ruling of the use of the word ‘Allah’.

Hence as Singaporeans live peacefully in our little country, we still need to note how social turbulences can be easily sparked and that it is still an existential threat, no matter how small the threat can be.

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