SR Nathan: A Survivor During The Japanese Occupation

When the Memorial to the Civilian Victims of the Japanese Occupation (“The Cenotaph”) was spray painted with graffiti, many were howling and baying for blood about the sacrilege of the war dead. Some of those outraged may be blissfully unaware of two living individuals who used to cosy up to the Japanese occupiers of World War II.

One answered an advertisement in the Synonan Shimbun and went to work for the Japanese propaganda department called theHodobu. His job, deciphering intercepted cables from Reuters, UP, AP, Central News Agency of China and TASS, may have contributed to the capture, torture and death of many a freedom fighter. One of the editors, George Takemura, was pal enough to drop in in the evening and give him a packet of Japanese cigarettes from his own rations.(“The Singapore Story”, pg 63,64)

The other met his Jap buddy by helping him to buy fish and vegetable at the market. Soon he became errant boy of second lieutenant “Amaya-san” for pineapples and papayas (no mangoes, this was way before Michael Palmer’s time). Amaya’s boss, lieutenant Kokubu, treated him to miso soup and Japanese pickles. He even helped them build the Bakri memorial for Japense soldiers who died fighting there, the last major stand of British and Allied troops. Before long he was made an inspector in the Japanese police department, who hunted down the Malayan People’s Anti-Japanese Army (MPAJA).

No wonder, after the Japs were finally kicked out, and he was looking for a new job, one Major McLean made clear he disapproved of the fact he was an interpreter during the Occupation and accused him of being a collaborator. McLean explained that the MPAJA had fought side-by-side with the British, fought many running battles against the Japanese throughout the Occupation. In SR Nathan’s mind, the MPAJA were the bad guys, and the Japs the nice fellows. Worse, he told McLean he would carry a gun for the Eskimo rather than carry anything for the British.



*Extracted from “An Unexpected Journey, Path To The Presidency”, SR Nathan, page 122)


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