Monday, February 3, 2014

A big blank in my memory: the racial riots.

Nearly 50 years ago, post-colonial Singapore experienced its first racial riots in July 1964. I was 13 years old then, living in Pulau Bukom and taking the ferry to Jardine Steps (probably where the Keppel By The Bay condominium now stands) to get to my secondary school, Gan Eng Seng School, in the Anson Road area.

Strangely, I do not personally recall anything at all about those tumultuous days. I must assume all schools would have had to close for a period of time -- no homework! -- and that I would have been happily spending my time cycling round the island, catching spiders and going to the swimming pool. I vaguely recall that my late father had been visiting my elder sister and her family in Geylang -- that area was right smack in the maelstrom -- and that he had a harrowing taxi ride to get back to the ferry at Jardine Steps (that he could get a taxi was a miracle).

Last Sunday, I watched keenly the 1964 race-riots episode in MediaCorp's "Days of Rage" documentary TV series. Some three minutes of that episode -- the unfolding rioting -- may be viewed on this YouTube clip:

Thankfully, the excellent blogsite Remember Singapore has documented not just the 1964 riots but also the 1969 racial riots as well as other chaotic events in Singapore's modern history. That post is titled "A Forgotten Past -- Two Decades of Chaos":

I have another problem. As with 1964's, I do not also recall much about the 1969 riots even though I was older: 18 years old, living in the potentially volatile Geylang/Guillemard area, and on the cusp of doing my national service stint.

Today's younger generation would do well to find out more about such days of rage. It only takes a spark. That is why the knave who wanted to burn an effigy of the Transport Minister ought to have his head examined.

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