All That and The Empire of Japan - Aug 21 2007
In 1994, Bapak received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Journalism, Literature and Creative Communication Arts.
There are parts, in a citation for him, that I would like to highlight. I am reminded of stories that he told us of the Japanese occupation.
"Meanwhile, the political balance of power in Asia was changing rapidly.
By July 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army had entered French Indochina (with the acquiescence of French colonial officials) and from there began its conquest of the rest of Southeast Asia.
Britain's colonies fell quickly, as Japan's forces advanced through the region after 7 December 1941. Singapore was thought to have been impregnable, but Britain surrendered it to Japan on 15 February 1942. Suddenly, Singapore had new masters.
As a cub reporter at Utusan Melayu, Samad still lived at home with his family in Kampung Melayu.
The neighborhood lay athwart the route of Japan's advance into the city and fighting raged in the vicinity for three days. Samad's family huddled in trenches during the fighting; their house was damaged.
Soon afterwards, a trusted messenger arrived from Utusan Melayu with an official letter from the Japanese Imperial Army summoning Samad to work.
He was given a white armband with an inscription in Japanese, so that he could walk safely to the office.
As he did so, he saw the dead bodies of British and Indian soldiers and common people strewn about the streets and thousands of British soldiers waiting aimlessly to be processed as prisoners of war.
He witnessed Chinese men, women, and children bound with barbed wire, being led away by Japanese soldiers.
He saw, mounted on Kallang Bridge, the severed heads of Malay youths said to have killed a Japanese soldier.
At the newspaper office, he helped locate the men who could operate the printing presses and assisted in publishing the first public announcements of the Japanese Occupation in Malay: "Be calm. Do not loot or steal. Give your full cooperation to the Empire of Japan."
Samad was prepared to cooperate. He had not suffered personally under the British, he says. He had not even experienced racial discrimination.
His father, as a school headmaster, was an employee of the colonial government and, moreover, Kesatuan Melayu, the organization with which he was affiliated, was not overtly anti-British.
Nevertheless, Samad and his family circle were acutely aware that the British were foreign occupiers-foreign masters.
When the British were driven out in 1942, he remembers thinking, "OK, they're gone and we have got new masters. We'll try our best to survive."
Singapore's prewar newspapers were now reorganized to meet Japanese needs.
In 1943, Utusan Melayu and Warta Melayu were amalgamated into Berita Malai (Malay News) and moved to share offices with the island's new English-language newspaper, Syonam Shimbun, which replaced the prewar Straits Times.
For Samad and the staff of Berita Malai, this meant using modern Linotype machines for the first time and converting from the Arabic to the Roman alphabet.
This dramatic shift brought Singapore's Malay-language press in line with the larger press of the Dutch East Indies, which had long since adopted Roman letters.
The Indies, soon to be Indonesia, was also part of Japan's Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere, and Singapore was ruled as part of a unit that included both Malaya and Sumatra.
This fact drew many Indonesians to the island during the war and quite a few of them found work at Berita Malai-where young Samad found them very good company."
Just a little bit of history as we prepare to celebrate our 50 years of Merdeka. I'm getting all sentimental, reflective and melancholic...
I know I am early but here's to all blog sisters and brothers and peace-loving Malaysians, and oh, also to those cowards and monkeys who find pleasure in calling people cowards and monkeys -- Have a happy Merdeka Day.