Singapore exhumed the remains of the Jewish cemetery for the Novena MRT in the early 1980s. The city-state has cleared out the Biddarri cemetery for the building of public housing. And recently removed traces of Bukit Brown cemetery for a flyover, over the din of remonstrations despite, well-documented archival evidence that both the Jewish and Bukit Brown resting places entomb the remains of some of Singapore’s finest and most notable of historic individuals.
Yet something that had been well-documented and perhaps concealed is the presence of the Japanese cemetery in Singapore’s Hougang district.
The unmistakable fact of the burial ground is that it is the largest resting place, with close to 1,000 graves of Japanese civilians. That therefore makes it the largest burial ground of departed Japanese in South-East Asia in a nation strapped for space.
Nothing is more salubrious than to acknowledge that the cemetery was founded by brothel-keepers in 1891 as a burial ground for karayuki-san, or Japanese women brought here for prostitution, many of whom died poor and destitute.
What is galling however, is that the cemetery according to records and news reports, is also home to thousands of Japanese soldiers, marines and airmen killed during World War II.
The most infamous of all is that it holds the remains of some 135 war criminals who were executed in Changi Prison, purportedly for crimes against Singaporeans during their occupation of the city-state between 1942 and 1945. Most of the crimes had involved garroting people, unjustified massacres, brutal rape attacks and starvation that by today’s standards would have meant dispensing the kind of justice meted out to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
Again in a nemcon, most reports also say that is the infamous Hisaichi Terauchi, Supreme Commander of Japanese Expeditionary Forces in the Southern Region and Terengganu-born Tani Yutaka who was a secret agent for the Japanese military depicted in Japanese novels and films, are buried there.
The Independent does understand the Japanese government is paying for the upkeep and maintenance of the cemetery. But just what is inexplicable are the names and crimes of the executed war criminals.
Their names have never been made known or even of their ghastly exploits.
Just what is even more perplexing is why their names have been kept away from the public and why these perpetrators of some of the most bestial of violent acts remain entombed and honoured and given homage?
Bukit Brown which has some of the most ‘sanitized’ of the departed, had its cadavers exhumed. Yet quite inexplicably we have left these war criminals intact.
Isn’t it time to exhume the remains of these war criminals and have them interred somewhere in Japan or some other part of the world?