Beyond 49 Years: A Young Nation With an Old History


Epoch Times, Singapore Edition (Issue 492, August 8 – August 21, 2014)

By Jade Pearce
By Epoch Times Staff

This August 9, Singapore will celebrate its 49th year since its independence in 1965. Compared to many countries, 49 years is still considered “young” for a nation—some foreigners may even consider our nation “immature”.

But the history and culture that has shaped Singapore today extends far beyond these 49 years. It extends beyond the two World Wars, before the time our forefathers landed in Singapore a hundred years ago, and even before the time before Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles founded modern Singapore.

This issue, we journey back in time to glimpse the rich, extended history that this country has, and some of the people who played a role in it.

Before Raffles: Pots, Lions, and Empires
The earliest written records of Singapore date back to the 2nd century, with some evidence that the island was already playing its role as a trading post.

Excavations of ancient artefacts in Singapore support these findings—in Fort Canning, 14th century artefacts such as Yuan Dynasty ceramics (1260-1370 AD), Indian glass beads, and copper coins have been uncovered. And from our Padang, archaeologists have unearthed coins from the Jin Dynasty (265-420 AD) and Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD).

It wasn’t until hundreds of years later that the legendary Sang Nila Utama landed on the island in the 13th century. A prince of Srivijaya, an ancient city in Sumatra, Sang Nila Utama named the island “Singapura”, or Sanskrit for Lion City, after an animal he spotted on the island.

Singapore was controlled by the Srivijaya empire for about 600 years, until the last Srivijaya prince Parameswara was forced to move to Malacca due to attacks by Siam and the Majapahit empire in Java. Singapore came under the Sultanate of Malacca, until Portugese raiders burnt down the settlement in 1613. From there, the island sank into obscurity.

Trade, War, and Independence
Singapore’s modern history is said to have begun when the Englishman Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles established a British trading post on the island in 1819.

The island’s policy of free trade attracted merchants across Asia, as well as far-flung places such as the Middle East and the US. By the year 1860, Singapore’s population had grown from 150 in 1819 to approximately 81,000, comprising mainly Chinese, Indians and Malays.

But peace and prosperity in the region came to a halt during World War II, when the Japanese attacked Singapore on 8 December 1941. Despite the British’s fortification of the island’s defences and valiant resistance by both local and British-led forces, Singapore fell to the Japanese on 15 February 1942.

The Japanese occupied Singapore for over three years until their surrender in 1945, returning Singapore to the British Military Administration. Over the next two decades, the British gradually withdrew their colonial rule over Singapore, culminating in Singapore’s self-governance in 1959.

After a brief merger with Malaysia that fell through, Singapore became an independent republic on 9 August 1965.

Heroes of Our Past
The second World War brought to the forefront a number of local heroes, who stepped up to defend Singapore against the Japanese forces.

One of them was 2nd Lieutenant Adnan bin Saidi, a Malayan who led a 42-strong Malay Regiment platoon in the Battle of Pasir Panjang. Stationed at Bukit Chandu, Adnan and his men bore the brunt of the Japanese’s assault.

The Malay platoon held off the Japanese for two days, until the Japanese launched an all-out charge in huge numbers. Grossly outnumbered and short of supplies, the Malay platoon’s defences broke, yet Adnan refused to surrender and urged his men to fight until the end.

Adnan was seriously wounded, but carried on fighting until he succumbed to his injury. After the battle was lost, the Japanese soldiers tied him to a tree and repeatedly bayoneted him to death. His surviving men were also massacred.

Another well-known war hero is Lim Bo Seng, a Singaporean Hokkien businessman-turned-resistance fighter.

Shortly before Singapore fell to the Japanese, Lim left his family for India. There, Lim helped set up Force 136, a Sino-British resistance group and guerilla task force to support the eventual British invasion of Malaya.

Lim recruited and trained hundreds of secret agents in China and India, before returning to Malaya with a group of Force 136 members. Together, they set up an intelligence network in the urban areas of Pangkor, Lumut, Tapah and Ipoh, to gather information to aid the British invasion.

But Lim and his fellow agents were betrayed and captured by the Japanese. Lim was taken to the Kempeitai headquarters, where the Japanese tortured him to make him reveal information about Force 136. Lim refused to divulge anything, and instead protested against the ill-treatment of his fellow men in prison.

A few months later, the torture and malnutrition eventually caused Lim to fall ill with dysentery, and he died in prison at the age of 35. In his final letter to his wife, he wrote, “Don’t grieve for me, but take pride in my sacrifice. Devote yourself to the bringing up of the children.”

Today, these patriots are remembered for their courage and loyalty through memorials such as the Lim Bo Seng Memorial in Esplanade Park, and Reflections at Bukit Chandu along Pepys Road. Like historical heroes such as Joan of Arc and Yue Fei, they serve as exemplars of true patriotism and loyalty to one’s country.

From – (Pg 1), (Pg 2)

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