Friday, March 30, 2007

Going back to hometown Ipoh tomorrow for Qingming on Sunday to pay respect to great grandparents, grandparents, father and all other ancestors and to clean up the places where they rest in lasting peace.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Re-reading Laurence Rees' Horror in the East

Jack from New Zealand's Christchurch would like to humbly request Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso to read Laurence Rees' Horror in the East ( London, BBC Worldwide, 2001 ) and give his opinion and assessment, especially on the shocking findings of Professor Yuki Tanaka in Australian military's declassified WWII files. In the hardcover copy I have perused again in the last three days, the issue Jack refers to appears in pp. 92-96.

'Comfort' house 'manager' enshrined in Yasukuni

Historian documents Japan's role in sex slavery

Japanese gov't behind enshrining war criminals

Fukuyama on Shinzo Abe's Japanese nationalism

Deniers of history rapped by Japan's own media

Japanese FM Aso raps ‘blond’ envoys in Mideast

Mr. Nakasone's WWII ' Rest & Recreation Centre '

Muruyama warns Japan against 'militarist' revival
My old friend in Melbourne Mark has drawn my attention to this recent BBC feature report on Australia's new Opposition Leader and Labour Party chief Kevin Rudd who, according to Mark, shares some nearly unbelieveable and very striking similarities with me in terms of multicultural outlook, language skills and interests in the history of other societies in the region although Rudd is " white " and I am " yellow ".

Well, there are certainly many similarities among individuals in different societies all over the world but very often only the supposedly characteristic differences of our groups are exaggerated and even fantasised in negative light in political rabble-rousing.

General Pace visits Sun Yat Sen's Mausoleum

Visiting a graveyard during Chinese New Year

A multiethnic, multinational campus in China

In memory of my Jewish teacher Herb Feith

Overcoming cultural barriers in Down Under

As teachers' 'good boy' in Monash High School

Monday, March 26, 2007

Taking a break for a while to read up some thick books in the library. Meanwhile, I hope you would enjoy reading Old Friends 21, a Mandarin website narrating and discoursing some aspects of the alternative history of Malaya/Malaysia from veterans' perspectives.

General Pace visits Sun Yat Sen's Mausoleum

The United States' Department of Defense (DoD) has created a special site to report on its Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine General Peter Pace's four-day tour to China. General Pace and his delegation reportedly visited, among other places, Dr. Sun Yat-Sen's Mausoleum in Nanjing as a mark of respect for the Father of Modern China.

New China's gratitute to Dr. Norman Bethune

Re-reading Edgar Snow's Red Star Over China

Epoch-making Long March's 70th anniversary

On top of Yellow Flower Mound in Guangzhou

Visiting site of First Opium War (1840 -1842)

Meeting USA National War College delegation

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Taro Aso's gaffe dossier grows longer, thicker

Just when I thought of shifting the focus away from Japanese politics and politicians, my friend Mark from Melbourne emailed me this news report from United Kingdom's Guardian newspaper which publishes a longer list of Japanese Foreign Minister Taro Aso's very race-centric and class-conscious remarks made in the public in the past few years. I am sure not all Japanese share this sort of very chauvinistic worldview but the fact that Aso has been elected for a number of terms suggests that there is indeed a legitimate cause for concern for creeping resurgence of ethno-nationalist sentiment in Japan.

Shinzo Abe: history denier or visionary leader ?

Ex-PM warns Japan against ' militarist ' revival

Nakasone's WWII ' Rest & Recreation Centre '

An ex-PM of Japan Yasuhiro Nakasone (pix) was quoted earlier as 'denying setting up a military brothel staffed by sex slaves during World War II, despite writing a memoir that critics say shows he did so while in the navy'. All Japanese governments until the 1990s, denied any official involvement with the wartime brothels.

Japanese military's WWII sex slaves in its occupied territories which were officially advertised as 'Great East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere' and which spanned from the Korean Peninsula to China (including 'Manchuria' and 'Formosa'), the Philippines, Indonchina, Burma, Malaysia and Indonesia, are also euphemistically called 'comfort women' by rightwing Japanese. Now, the new foreign policy of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe's ideologically controversial administration is being publicised and promoted as an 'Arc of Freedom and Prosperity'.

Shinzo Abe: history denier or visionary leader?

Japan's FM Aso raps ‘blond’ envoys in Mideast

WWII 'comfort' women stage protest in Taipei

Canada criticises PM Abe's sex slavery stance

Ex-PM warns Japan against 'militarist' revival

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Bush ' threatens ' to veto Quit Iraq resolution

According to The Guardian, President Bush has 'threatened' to veto a resolution just passed by the House of Representative requiring all US combat troops to be pulled out from Iraq by 1 September next year. If that happens, it would set in motion a monumental political struggle between the Executive and Legislative in the United States as well as very emotional split in the American society between the supporters of the House resolution and those of President Bush.

Bush: 'Iraq withdrawal may spark 9/11 repeat'

Howard warns against 'premature' Iraq pullout

M'sia : US troops must be pulled out from Iraq

JCS Chair General Peter Pace's visit to China

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Peter Pace's four-day visit to China has been widely reported not only in the Western media but also China's own news providers like Xinhua Online, People's Daily, China Daily, China Gateway and China Radio International which can serve to provide balanced understanding of issues and situations.

Pace calls for closer military ties between China, U.S.

Chinese leaders welcome Marine Gen. Pace to Beijing

Friday, March 23, 2007

Japan's FM Aso raps ‘blond’ envoys in Mideast

Reuters, Associated Press and Japan's own newspaper Mainichi Daily News yesterday reported Japan's gaffe-prone and rather ethno-nationalistic foreign minister Taro Aso as saying that 'blond, blue-eyed Westerners probably can’t be as successful at Middle East diplomacy as Japanese with their yellow faces' and "Japan is doing what Americans can’t do". The Japanese government, which is now being encircled by an arc of Japan's WWII sex slaves from China to the Korean Peninsula, Taiwan, the Phillipines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia and Australia seeking for justice, has reportedly come to Aso's defence. Aso's capability assessment on the 'black-skinned' human beings is, however, not immediately known.

Japan's minister of health rapped on women

Japan's defence minister wants to visit Iraq

Japan to extend air support for U.S. in Iraq

Japan's sentiment against Iraq War growing

Hundreds in central Tokyo protest Iraq war

Bush administration's 'Israelization' of Japan

Thursday, March 22, 2007

WWII 'comfort' women stage protest in Taipei

Taiwan's China Post reported three surviving 'comfort' women in the former Japanese colony staged a public protest yesterday in Taipei. Meanwhile, Laban! Fight for 'Comfort' Women set up and being operated by author and Fulbright Senior Research Scholar, M. Evelina Galang (pix left) has been updated with new voices seeking for justice and solidarity in the Phillipines.

Canada criticises PM Abe's sex slavery stance

Radio Netherlands reported on 19 March that Dutch PM Jan Peter Balkenende (pix) said he was shocked by the Japanese government statement that there is no evidence of its military forcing women to work as prostitutes in brothels during WWII. Imperial Japan's forces defeated the Dutch in Indonesia (then called Dutch East Indies) in the Pacific War.

Meanwhile, Canadian FM Peter MacKay has also reportedly added Canada's name to the list of countries that have criticized Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe for denying that Japan forced foreign women into military brothels during the Second World War.

ROK MP: PM Abe defamed sex slaves as "liars"

Global solidarity with Japan's WWII sex slaves

Japan's sex slavery row spreads to Netherlands

'Comfort women' in Japanese-occupied Malaya

Grandmother Lu Chai Ping salutes 9/1 martyrs

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

ROK MP: PM Abe defamed sex slaves as "liars"

South Korean newspaper Chosunilbo today quoted a Korean legislator Yoo Ki-hong as revealing that Japanese PM Shinzo Abe once effectively defaming Japan's WWII sex slaves as "liars". Earlier, International Herald Tribute reported on 6 March that nearly two dozen elderly Filipino women called Japan's prime minister "a liar" after he said there was no evidence that women were forced into front-line brothels by Japanese troops during World War II.

South Korean activist enters Japanese embassy to protest

PM Abe's sex-slavery comments marginalize Japan at talks

Ex-PM says Japan ' morally responsible ' for WWII sex slavery

Dutch FM calls Japan's envoy to account for WWII sex slavery

WWII 'comfort' women were 'raped': U.S. ambassador to Japan

M'sia : US troops must be pulled out from Iraq

US troops must leave to restore peace in Iraq - Syed Hamid

KUALA LUMPUR, March 20 (Bernama) -- Malaysia today renewed its call to the United States to pull out from war-torn Iraq to give a chance to Iraqis to solve their internal woes by themselves without any foreign meddling.

Foreign Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar told the Dewan Rakyat that as along as foreign troops were still in that country, there would be unhappiness among Iraqis and lead to more violence, thus jeopardising efforts to restore peace in the oil-rich nation.

"What's important now is that Iraqis must think as Iraqis and not on ethnic lines. As long as there is foreign occupation, there'll be no peace in Iraq.

"Hence, the United States must withdraw its troops from Iraq. Iraq's domestic problems must be resolved by Iraqis themselves," he told Datuk Ronald Kiandee (BN-Beluran) during question time.

Kiandee had asked for Malaysia's views to resolve the Iraqi conflict with the continued presence of US forces in Iraq. Today marked the fourth anniversary of the US attack on Iraq.

Earlier, replying to Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah (BN-Gua Musang), Syed Hamid said Malaysia held to its stand that foreign troops' presence in Iraq and Afghanistan did not help end the conflict there but made it worse instead.

"We feel stationing foreign troops has worsened the situation as no solution is in sight to end the dispute in Afghanistan.

"Increasing foreign troops in Iraq also does not solve the problem either," he said.

As Chair of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), Malaysia hoped the international community would take a new approach to find a lasting solution to resolve the Afghanistan conflict, he added.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Ex-PM warns Japan against 'militarist' revival

Reuters yesterday reported from Tokyo that a former prime minister of Japan, Tomiichi Murayama (村山富市) said his own country " was morally responsible for forcing women to work in wartime brothels " and " efforts by politicians to justify World War Two were making Asian neighbors worry Tokyo was returning to its militarist past ". Tomiichi Murayama was Japan's first Socialist prime minister in 40 years when he was elected in 1994.

Japan needs a conscience, not more evidence

Bush administration's 'Israelization' of Japan

Rise of thought ' police ', extremists in Japan

Japan's rightwing nationalists recruiting youth

Yasukuni Shrine visit and Japan's history test

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Global solidarity with Japan's WWII sex slaves

This blogger has signed with his real name a global petition addressed to Speaker of the House of the United States Nancy Pelosi to give support to House Resolution 121-1H on Japan's WWII sex slavery. I would also like to draw your attention to author and Fulbright Senior Research Scholar in the Philippines M. Evelina Galang's blog Laban! Fight for 'Comfort' Women to hear the voices of still surviving 'comfort women' in the Philippines seeking for justice.

Japanese-occupied Malaya's ' comfort women '

Support for House Resolution 121-1H growing

Australia must still urge Japan to face history

North Korea to attend sex slavery conference

Asian sex slavery row spreads to Netherlands

Coercion of sex slaves again denied by Japan

An Indonesian criticism of Japan's immaturity

Ponnusamy remembers Japan's Death Railway

Grandmother Lu Chai Ping salutes 9/1 martyrs

Children & Families of Far East Prisoners of War

Chinese PM Wen Jiabao to shorten Japan trip

South Korea's Yonhap today reported that China's premier Wen Jiaobao has decided to shorten his planned trip to Tokyo in response to Japan's denial that its government and military forced Asian women into sexual servitude during World War II. This year also marks the 70th anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge or July 7 'Incident' which saw the full-scale invasion of mainland China by Japanese forces as well as the beginning of the Nanjing Massacre.

South Korea urges Japan to address colonial past

Thousands of North Koreans rally in Tokyo protest

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Asian sex slavery row spreads to Netherlands

According to a news report in the Netherlands, Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen yesterday called the Japanese ambassador in The Hague to account on his government's position that there is no evidence that Asian women were forced to be sex slaves during the Second World War. Soon after the fall of Singapore on 15 Feb, 1942, Imperial Japan's forces defeated the Dutch in Indonesia (then called Dutch East Indies) during the Pacific War.

Japanese professor calls Abe’s historical stance ‘bizarre’

ROK: Japan must 'face up to history' on sex slave coercion

Friday, March 16, 2007

Coercion of sex slaves again denied by Japan

BBC reported today that "the Japanese government has stirred further controversy by again saying it had found no evidence that Asian women were forced to be wartime sex slaves". Internatinonal Herald Tribute also reported the latest denial. Last Sunday, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has reportedly "expressed unfeigned apology to 'comfort women' who were forced by Japan's then military government into sex slavery during World War II" in a TV program.

Burden of accepting historical responsibility

Rise of thought 'police', extremists in Japan

Yasukuni Shrine visit and Japan's history test

As China rises, so does Japanese nationalism

US perspectives on rise of Japan's nationalism

Japan's rightwing nationalists recruiting youth

Thursday, March 15, 2007

China explains its 17.8% military budget hike

China Daily today published a very articulate article penned by a council member of China Arms Control and Disarmament Association Xu Guangyu explaining rationally why China's recently announced 17.8% increase in its defence budget is justified in view of its own legitimate security needs as the most populous nation in the world with a size more or less comparable to that of the United States.

Defence budget rise: China's own view

U.S. doesn't see China as strategic foe

M'sia: China poses no threat to region

Cheney criticizes China's arms buildup

Brighter side of Sino-Japan bilateral relations

According to a Xinhua news report, a group of over 200 Chinese high school students were welcomed Wednesday in Tokyo by Japanese government officials and friendship organizations, before they begin a week-long exchange tour in Japan. This year marks the 35th anniversary of the normalization of China-Japan diplomatic relations. Reality in international relations is always more complex and nuanced than one headline-grabbing issue in the mass media suggests.

Sino-Japan youth concert held in Beijing

Chinese Culture Festival opens in Japan

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Japanese PM apologizes for WW II sex slavery

According to China's official news agency Xinhua, Japanese PM Shinzo Abe has "expressed unfeigned apology to 'comfort women' who were forced by Japan's then military government into sex slavery during World War II" in a TV program of NHK earlier this morning.

ROK media : Japan also had M'sian sex slaves

Ponnusamy remembers Japan's Death Railway

Salute anti-fascist martyrs, patriots of all races

Recognise CPM's contributions, sack Zainuddin

PAS: Communist party helped secure Merdeka

British Army WWII veteran defends Chin Peng

Grandmother Lu Chai Ping salutes 9/1 martyrs

Saturday, March 10, 2007

China-led multinational naval fleet drill ends

China Radio International (CRI) today reported that a China-led multinational fleet successfully carried out a search and rescue drill yesterday in the Arabian Sea off the Pakistani coast. Navies from Malaysia and the U.S. also joined the drill.

Scientific, futuristic dimension of New China

U.S. doesn't see China as strategic adversary

M'sia understands China's military budget rise

2 stone-age views on women in 21st century

While Australia's Sheikh Hilali compared "immodestly dressed" women to "uncovered meat", Japan's Hakuo Yanagisawa called women "child-giving machine". It is bizarre and pathetic that there are still powerful and influential men living in modern societies in the 21st century who think of women in such de-humanised mental images.

Visiting a graveyard during Chinese New Year

Suriani's Malay memoirs now out in Mandarin

Communist Eng Ming Ching memoirs out now

Abu Samah, Minah at the Great Wall of China

Malayan women in anti-colonial armed struggle

Grandmother Lu Chai Ping salutes 9/1 martyrs

Friday, March 09, 2007

Scientific, futuristic dimension of New China

U.S. doesn't see China as strategic adversary

Voice of America , an official organ of the U.S. Federal Government, yesterday reported Secretary of Defense Robert Gates as saying that he does not view China as a strategic adversary of the United States "at this point" despite Beijing's growing military budget.

China calls for enhanced co-operation

Defence budget rise: China's own view

M'sia: China poses no threat to region

Howard on practical Chinese relations

Cheney criticizes China's arms buildup

Thursday, March 08, 2007

M'sia understands China's military budget rise

Quoting Bernama, China Radio International (CRI) reported Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Dato' Seri Najib Tun Razak as saying in Tokyo that China's military expenditure increase is in concert with its economic growth and the 17 percent increase in China's military budget this year will not have a negative effect on the stability or the balance of power in the region. Earlier, People's Daily also reported Australian military leaders as "expressing their understanding of China's military buildup".

China joins 26 countries for naval war games

China's defence budget set to unnerve West

Australia, China enhance confidence building

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Japan reiterates apology to former sex slaves

After being bombarded by international public opinion and diplomatic pressures, Japan has reportedly reaffirmed its 1993 apology to its military's WWII sex slaves which numbered about 200,000 in China, the Korean Peninsula, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaya (including Singapore) and Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia)

ROK media : Japan also had M'sian sex slaves

Ponnusamy remembers Japan's Death Railway

Visiting a graveyard during Chinese New Year

Salute anti-fascist martyrs, patriots of all races !

60th Anniversary of Anti-Fascist War's Victory

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

ROK media : Japan also had M'sian sex slaves

According to a news report in today's Yonhap News in the Republic of Korea (ROK) or South Korea, historians have now confirmed that there were 'comfort women' and 'military brothels' in Malaysia, besides China, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia. A 1993 signed commentary in the Internatinal Herald Tribute exposed that "Kuala Lumpur alone had about 20 military brothels" while Cambridge historians Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper reveals in their book, Forgotten Armies - The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945 (London, Penguin, 2004), that in 1995, some 3,500 letters were received by “a Malaysian political party” alleging the extensive existence of comfort women but “none has been published”.

An Indonesian criticism of Japan's immaturity

Philippines' ex-sex slaves call Japanese PM 'liar'

Abe's denial upsets Australian 'comfort woman'

An Indonesian criticism of Japan's immaturity

Today, Indonesia's mainstream newspaper Jakarta Post editorialises critically against Japan's "immaturity" and "childish attitude" in atempting to deny its wartime atrocities against the people of Asia, including Indonesia which was then known as 'Dutch East Indies'.

Japan's immaturity

In his campaign before taking office in September, prime minister candidate Shinzo Abe promised to create a "beautiful Japan". Many Japanese voters and the international community hoped that Abe, the first Japanese prime minister born after World War II, would not follow his predecessor Junichiro Koizuimi's lead and continue visiting the Yasukuni war shrine, which honors the country's war dead, including some war criminals. Koizumi's insistence on carrying out the controversial visits damaged Japan's relations with its neighbors, especially China and South Korea.

Japan has repeatedly apologized for its actions during World War II, including a formal apology on the issue of sex slaves issued by Cabinet Secretary Yohei Kono in 1993. And Japan has done a lot since the war to ease concerns that it would again embark on the dangerous path of its past military adventures. The country has consistently shown its sense of international responsibility to build a better world, especially in the economic field.

But from time to time, Japanese leaders have continued to tarnish the country's image with irresponsible statements about Japan's role in World War II.

Expectations were high that a younger Japanese leader like Abe would be able to lead the country to an acceptance of its history. But it took only six months for Prime Minister Abe to show the world he is no better, if not worse, than Koizumi in confronting the country's wartime history.

Abe's statements Thursday and Monday, which belittled the accuracy of historical facts, including Japan's own military documents, that Japan did not force thousands of women during World War II to serve as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers came as a shock for the international community.

"There is no evidence to prove there was coercion, nothing to support it," Abe told reporters Thursday. In parliament on Monday, Abe again spoke about the issue of sex slaves (Japan prefers the relatively softer term "comfort women"). "There was no coercion such as kidnappings by the Japanese authorities. There is no reliable testimony that proves kidnapping," Abe said, as quoted by international news agencies.

About 200,000 young women, mainly in China, Korea, the Philippines and Indonesia, were forced by the Japanese military during World War II to sexually serve Japanese soldiers.

Abe was apparently irritated by the U.S. Congress, which issued a non-binding resolution demanding an apology from Japan and recognition of its wartime involvement in sexual slavery.

Japan is still the world's second most powerful economy, however, in about a decade China is likely to pass its neighbor. Many Japanese still do not believe that China will surpass Japan's economy, but this should not be used as an excuse for denying its past.

It is difficult for people around the world to understand why, nearly 62 years after the end of World War II, Japan still cannot honestly accept its wartime record and continues to maintain this "childish" attitude whenever it is asked to examine its past. The self-denial is so acute that no one can cure it except Japan itself.

After its defeat in World War II, Japan quickly regained its economic power. Now Japan is the world's second most powerful economy after the United States and the world's largest creditor in terms of official development assistance.

The world needs a prosperous, strong and peaceful Japan. Continuing moves to corner the country over its wartime past could backfire by triggering a new nationalist movement in the country. Indeed, there are already worrying signs of this happening.

But Japan should also help itself. If after 62 years, Japanese leaders are still trying to deny history, we should feel pity for the country. Japan has played a major role in the global economy, but why is it still unable to accept the realty of its past? Others can only help when Japan itself is willing to stand up and take an honest look at itself and its wartime actions.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Japanese-occupied Malaya's 'comfort women'

A 1993 commentary in the International Herald Tribute revealed that KL " alone had about 20 military brothels" during WWII although the Japanese government asserted that there was none.

Meanwhile, Cambridge historians Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper write in their book Forgotten Armies - The Fall of British Asia, 1941-1945 (London, Penguin, 2004) that in 1995, some 3,500 letters were received by “a Malaysian political party” alleging the extensive existence of comfort women but “none has been published”.

According to an estimate cited in a memorial service by the Chinese community in Kuala Lumpur in 2003, during the Occupation, about 70,000 people of all ethnic communities were killed, while another 80,000 perished as the result of tortures and imprisonments and also an additional 300,000 died because of malnutrition and physical exhaustion in performing forced hard labour.

In the total number of those who perished, an estimate of 300,000 were Chinese. That figure represented 17 percent of the then entire Chinese population in Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore.

Also, in an estimate presented by Professor P. Ramasamy in a 1984 study of Indian Malaysians' socio-political development from a historical perspective, " 60,000 Malayan Indians died while working for the Japanese on the Siamese 'Death Railway' ".

In addition, after the fall of Singapore, thousands of British, Australian, Indian and other soldiers and commanders were interned as imperial Japan's prisoners of war in, among other places, Kuala Lumpur's Pudu Prison, Singapore's Changi Prison as well as POW camps in Northeastern China (formerly known as Manchuria).

Picture of Japan's WW II sex slaves in Malaya

Ponnusamy remembers Japan's Death Railway

Visiting a graveyard during Chinese New Year

Salute anti-fascist martyrs, patriots of all races !

Recognise CPM's contributions, sack Zainuddin !

Children & Families of Far East Prisoners of War

Chin Peng's case postponed again to 30 April

Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) veteran Chin Peng's homecoming application scheduled to be formally heard this morning at the Kuala Lumpur High Court has been postponed again to 30 April because the new presiding judge K.P. Gengadharan has reportedly been admitted into Institut Jantung Negara (IJN) due to heart problems.

1989 Malaysia-CPM Peace Accords in letters

Picture of Japan's WW II sex slaves in Malaya

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Ponnusamy remembers Japan's Death Railway

By MUTHAMMAL PALANISAMY, originally published in The Star on 26 Feb 2007 as Unsung Heroes; the above picture of the Bridge Over the River Kwai is taken from a 2002 BBC programme on WWII

No one has recognised the sacrifice of the people in the Death Railway of Siam. Did they not die for their country?

IT WAS World War II and the year was 1942. The people of Malaya were going through a living nightmare. The promise of freedom came from every possible quarter.

M. Ponnusamy and his friends, all young men working as labourers in Cashwood Estate, a small rubber estate in the outskirts of Ayer Tawar, a small town in Perak, were enraptured with the tale of the great Indian freedom fighter, Nethaji Subash Chandra Bose.

“Haji needs young boys like you. Together we will fight with the Japanese to free our motherland, India, from the clutches of the British! When India is free, you will be free, too. You will all be heroes and your future would just be wonderful in this country!”

The recruiting agents talks convinced these simple boys who were looking for a way out of their dreaded existence. They immediately volunteered to join the fight for freedom.

Initially many young men volunteered, mesmerised by the sweet talk of the recruiting agents, but later many were taken by force to work for the Japanese, in the name of freedom.

These “volunteers” were loaded into lorries and taken to the Taiping railway station with no idea as to where they were being taken. Once in the train, fear and doubt set in. All the people in command were Japanese and the majority of the recruits were Indians with some European soldiers, engineers and estate managers. All the recruits were treated like animals. Each coach was packed with hundreds of them and they kept pushing in more.

The coach Ponnusamy was in stank of vomit and faeces. People around him were fainting. They were not given any food and anyone who asked for food was severely beaten.

In the same coach was another Ponnusamy, a close friend of the young M. Ponnusamy. He, too, was young and had left behind a young wife and an ailing mother. Together the two Ponnusamys were headed for a future and destination which neither knew.

Ponnusamy could not remember the names of any of the towns that they passed but after what seemed like ages, they came to their final stop. Someone told Ponnusamy that this was Siam (now known as Thailand). He could not remember the name of the place they were in.

The Japanese soldiers told them to start work immediately. They were going to build a railway line all the way from Siam to Burma. The Japanese would then use it to conquer Burma which was still under British rule and then enter India to liberate her from colonial rule.

Ponnusamy and his friends were too exhausted and sick to comprehend all these. All they knew was they had to work almost non-stop for the Japanese to achieve their noble mission of liberating Asia. Food was just some soup with bamboo shoots. Anyone who stopped work from sheer exhaustion was beaten. Many fell ill, and they were either left behind or killed. No medical attention was given to them.

Ponnusamy’s job ranged from that of a scavenger to an undertaker. He remembers seeing European prisoners naked and begging for food and cigarettes from the Japanese bosses. He saw many people lying around, groaning in pain from open sores and wounds crawling with maggots. Sometimes he would be so exhausted that he would just collapse anywhere he was, to sleep for the night. He had even slept with corpses, some of them decapitated, using their headless bodies as pillows. Exhaustion overcame fear!

The workers often suffered from diarrhoea. To treat them, a “doctor” came with a bamboo stick and a bottle of medicine. The doctor dipped the stick into the bottle and inserted the medicated end of the stick into the anus of the patient, or rather, the victim. It was to stop him from purging but instead he stopped breathing. Ponnusamy felt sorry for them. Then one day his friend, the married Ponnusamy, died!

Torture, hunger and continuous work had taken a toll on him. He had left behind a young wife and a mother in Perak. Just before he died, he begged his good friend to take care of his wife and mother as he knew that he was not going to survive. The living Ponnusamy was not married. Out of love for his dying friend he promised him that he would fulfil his dying wish if he got out alive. What a great heart he had! Tears welled up in Ponnusamy’s eyes as he recalled this event which took place more than 60 years ago.

Miraculous escape

So this Ponnusamy decided that he had to live and go back to keep his words. From that very day, he planned his escape but it was not going to be easy. He planned for a few months, getting weaker by the day from the beatings by the Japanese. His body was weak but his spirit was strong.

One day the opportunity he was waiting for came. He had stolen a pair of trousers and a shirt from the Japanese and was ready to escape. He had a piece of bread and a tin of water to last him in his mission (im)possible as no one escaped the Death Railway, as it later came to be known.

He got up early one day and hid in an abandoned coach, waiting for all the people to start work and to see if he was being missed. He sat inside the coach for hours, fearing for his life. Until then, Ponnusamy had never prayed. But on that day he wanted to pray. He lifted his eyes to the sky to pray but the sky was full of fighter planes zooming about. He was in a dungeon, and he didn’t know how to pray and whom to pray to.

All of a sudden, a little sparrow flew into his coach and fell half-dead on his lap. He took the bird in his hands and, looking into its half-closed eyes, said, “Little bird, it looks like both of us are in the same situation and death is staring in our faces. I’ll help you live and you see if you can do something for me.” Saying this, he fed the bird some breadcrumbs and water. After some time, the bird flew off into the sky.

Ponnusamy said that the bird was like a messenger sent by God and he knew then that he was going to make it back home. The bird surviving and flying off free was a good omen. Later in the evening he got out of the coach and started moving on the railroad, southbound. During the day he hid in the jungle and at night he moved. All the time he felt that the bird was guiding him.

He made it home sick and half-dead. The people he had left behind in the estate were no better off. He saw some women wearing big yam leaves around their waists and bodies. Some stayed indoors most of the time as they had no decent clothes to cover their bodies with.

As Ponnusamy related this story to me, he insisted that the bird was sent by God to help him. “I prayed. But my prayer was not a selfish one. It was sincere and selfless. I wanted to escape to fulfil the promise to my friend. So God came in the form of a bird and helped me. God will come in any form to help the destitute if the prayer is sincere”, he said.

This great man married his friend’s wife and looked after his mother, thus fulfilling his friend’s dying wish. He now has a large family, and is surrounded by his children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, most of whom are Muslims. There is no question of Hindu or Muslim in his family. They are a model family in our society. He is a great man. One does not have to go anywhere to learn tolerance, honesty, determination, generosity and open-mindedness. We can see all that in the lives of people like Ponnusamy and learn what life is all about.

Today Ponnusamy leads a happy life but he is sore that, till today, no one has recognised the sacrifice of the people in the Death Railway of Siam. His friends have all died in vain. Did they not die for their country? Have they all become a chapter in history never to be written but forgotten?

As he said: “Who were we working for? Who is responsible for all these atrocities? Will I ever know the answers? My friends died without knowing why or what they were dying for. Young sons snatched from their mothers, husbands separated from their wives, and young children deprived of their fathers. Dreams and hopes smashed. Future denied. All for what and for whom? Can anyone tell me please?”

I can only write this man’s story. That much I can do for him.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Film banned in M'sia to be screened in S'pore

March 02, 2007 19:25 PM

Film Banned In Malaysia To Be Screened At Singapore Film Festival

SINGAPORE, March 2 (Bernama) Apa Khabar Orang Kampung, a documentary by Malaysian filmmaker Amir Muhammad banned in Malaysia, will be among films to be screened at the 20th Singapore International Film Festival (SIFF) in April.

According to the organiser, the 75-minute documentary which carries the English title Village People Radio Show was among the films confirmed for the festival which runs from April 18 to 30.

The film features interviews with dozens of members of the banned Communist Party of Malaya (CPM). Living in exile as farmers in southern Thailand, the men recount the days of military struggle in candid interviews.

The sequel to Amir's Lelaki Komunis 'Terakhir' (The 'Last' Communist) was premiered at the Berlin Film Festival earlier last month, about a week before the Malaysian Film Censorship Board announced that it has banned the documentary.

The board cited seven reasons for the ban, including one about the film showing "blatant" criticism against the Malaysian government for offering rehabilitation terms which the CPM members could not accept.

The board also said that the film distorts historical facts and tries to belittle Malaysia's first prime minister, Tunku Abdul Rahman, for the failed Baling Talks with the CPM in 1955.

Amir had appealed to lift the ban and the result will be known by next week.

Besides Amir's film, the festival would also screen two films by another Malaysian filmmaker, James Lee, entitled Things We Do When We Fall In Love and Before We Fall In Love Again.

Some 160 films from 40 countries will be featured at the annual festival.

Let us not erase our past

Public calls to lift ban on Amir's documentary

Director Amir seeks to lift ban on history film

Dr. Abraham's new book impresses Chin Peng

Visiting graveyard during Chinese New Year

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Public calls to lift ban on Amir's documentary

Following the revelation by USM hisrory professor Dr. Cheah Boon Kheng that even first prime minister Tunku Abdul Rahman recognised the communists' role in fighting for independence, a top Penang National Front leader and State EXCO, Dr. Toh Kin Woon also joins the call for the ban on Apa Khabar Orang Kampung to be lifted. Writing in his Malay-language column in malaysiakini, veteran Chinese educationist Lee Ban Chen opines that the people has the right to listen to different interpretations of the nation's history.

Director Amir seeks to lift ban on history film

Film on Malay Reds now screened in Germany

Amir to produce another ' Red ' documentary

I have seen Amir's Chin Peng film. Have you ?

Another " half-past-six " statement on history

Amir to speak in S'gor Chinese Assembly Hall

British Army WWII veteran defends Chin Peng

Forty six years after "defeating" Chin Peng ...

In search of more dimensions of true history

Rounding up reactions to Chin Peng film ban

Real public has not seen Chin Peng film yet

Approved film on Chin Peng is now banned

Looking forward to watching Chin Peng film

Makcik Suriani Abdullah's memoirs out soon
I am very glad and honoured to have received an e-invitation from old and dear friends to attend DAP's 2007 Chinese New Year Gathering to be held on 3 March (Sat) from 11.00 a.m to 2.00 p.m at the opposition party's National Headquarters at No 24, Jalan 20/9, Paramount Garden,46300, Petaling Jaya, Selangor. Wishing everyone over there Xin Nian Jin Bu and Wan Shi Ru Yi.