War teaches that one foreign coloniser is no better than another

Many reports and letters have appeared over the week, on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore.

One important lesson to be learnt is that foreign colonisers have scant regard for their subjects.

The Japanese Occupation was a dark chapter, but it would be folly to assume that the British had a more benign attitude.

When the fall of Singapore was imminent, then British Prime Minister Winston Churchill instructed his commanders to fight to save the prestige of the British Empire, and stated that no thought should be given to sparing the local population.

A prolonged battle would only have added to more suffering.

Though the Japanese Occupation was a harrowing experience, it changed the rules of the society.

After the Japanese defeat, the returning European colonisers were no longer treated with awe and respect, as the locals had learnt that one coloniser was not much better than another.

This was the start of the crumbling of the European empires.

Gopinath Menon

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'War teaches that one foreign coloniser is no better than another'. Print Edition | Subscribe