A Memorial for civilian victims killed during the Japanese occupation of Singapore (Syonan) 15 February 1942 to 18 August 1945 A grim reminder to Singaporeans of what can happen to a conquered people

In 1962 some of the remains of Chinese massacred by the Japanese soon after their conquest of Singapore were exhumed in various parts of Singapore. These included Pasir Putih, Changi, Yio Chu Kang, Jalan Kayu, Jurong, Telok Ayer, Kranji and Siglap. Official figures give the number of victims to 6,000 but the estimated number could have been between 25,000 to 50,000.

On 21 February 1942 the Japanese Army carried out an identification and interrogation of Chinese youth (ages between 18 and 50)-an Operation 'Sook Cheng' (to purge or eliminate).

Chinese youths were dragged out of their homes and ordered to register at 'Sook Cheng' Centres, in Jalan Besar, Arab Street, Tanjong Pagar, Geylang and Paya Lebar. At these centres which were in open spaces with no water, masked men identified those whom they regarded were anti Japanese.

Chinese youths had joined the British to fight the Japanese in the Battle for Singapore. Under Tan Kah Kee, the Chinese National Council for Mobilisation (Chung Kuo Council) was formed and hundreds of fight the Japanese; also hundreds of youths suspected of being communists in Changi Gaol wer released by the Governor for the same purpose. These youths joined Colonel Dally's Force 136. At Kranji and Kent Ridge they fought ferocious battles including hand to hand combat against the invading Japanese. Many died heroic deaths and many escaped to join Force 136 in Malaya to continue their struggle against the Japanese as guerillas during the Japanese occupation years.

Many Chinese donated money to the China War Relief Fund operated by the Kuomintang government for its war against the Japanese in China; these donors were to be identified as well. There were other categories of Chinese whom the Japanese agents in Singapore under British rule maintained a book containing the names of anti-Japanese Chinese.

All those identified as 'undesirable' by the Japanese at Sook Cheng centre were loaded on military truck and driven away to be massacred. Others not under this classification were stamped on their clothing or body as 'cleared' and allowed to return home. Many were rearrested and executed.

The Japanese exacted $50 million from the Chinese in Singapore, Penang, Malacca and the Malay States as a 'token of atonement' for supporting the Kuomintang with funds to fight the Japanese and for their 'pas hostility to Japan.' The $50 million were apportioned between Singapore and Malaya. Many Chinese had to sell their property and others had to use their savings to meet the demand of the Japanese. Singapore Chinese raised $10 million, the other $40 million was borne by Malayan Chinese. Singapore raised its $10 million but the Malayan Chinese managed to raise only $18 millions. The Japanese authorities ordered that the rest of $22 million be met by a loan repayable within a year from the Yokohama Specie Bank. The cheque for $ 50 million was handed to Lieutenant-General Yamashita by Dr Lim Boon Keng Chairman, Overseas Chinese Association, at a ceremony in Fullerton Building.

After the Japanese Surrender the Japanese government gave the Singapore government a grant of $25 million and a loan of $25 million, repayable on liberal term as 'atonement for atrocities' committed by the Japanese during their occupation of Singapore.

It was decided to build a memorial to remember the civilians killed by the Japanese during the occupation. The Singapore government offered 41/2 acres of land and met half of the cost of $ 750,000 to erect the memorial. The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and the people of Singapore contributed the rest.

The Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, turned the sod on the site on 15 June 1963 witnessed by members of the diplomatic corps and community leaders.

The Memorial is 222 feet high. On 15 February 1967 the Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew officially unveiled the Memorial.

This Memorial is a grim reminder to Singapore of what can happen to a conquered people. Total Defence becomes meaningful to Singaporeans.