Parts of Changi Prison gazetted as national monument

Gazetting Changi Prison's remaining structure reflects its importance in commemorating war heritage, say history lovers.
Gazetting Changi Prison's remaining structure reflects its importance in commemorating war heritage, say history lovers.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

The entrance gate, wall and turrets of Changi Prison, where about 76,000 prisoners of war were marched through for their internment, have been gazetted as Singapore's 72nd national monument.

This was announced by the National Heritage Board's Preservation of Sites and Monuments division yesterday, on the 74th anniversary of the fall of Singapore. The monument serves as a reminder to treasure the peace and harmony we have today, said the board.

Two days after the fall of Singapore on Feb 15, 1942, European civilians were rounded up and marched to Changi. Inmates there suffered from diseases such as malaria, with many malnourished and emaciated at the end of the war.

The old Changi Prison was torn down in 2004 for a new prison. Australian leaders had called for it to be saved as about 15,000 Australian soldiers had been detained there.

While heritage lovers lamented the loss of the old Changi Prison, they said the gazetting reflects how important the remaining structure is in commemorating war heritage.

Dr Kevin Tan, president of the International Council on Monuments and Sites Singapore, said the structure represents how Singapore was an important centre in Japan's battle for Asia.

It is also linked to events in Singapore's political history, such as how People's Action Party members were detained in Changi for their role in labour strikes in the late 1950s. Dr Tan said: "We should preserve aspects of our past which are not always good and great."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 16, 2016, with the headline 'Parts of Changi Prison gazetted as national monument'. Print Edition | Subscribe