Sharing stories of the war and racial riots with the younger generation

Ahmad bin Saman (left), 87, and Vincent Gabriel (right), 77, share their memories of World War II and the 1964 race riots at Reflections at Bukit Chandu museum on Feb 24, 2018.
Ahmad bin Saman (left), 87, and Vincent Gabriel (right), 77, share their memories of World War II and the 1964 race riots at Reflections at Bukit Chandu museum on Feb 24, 2018.ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG

SINGAPORE - When the racial riots broke out in Singapore in 1964, Mr Vincent Gabriel, 77, was rushing back home to seek refuge.

Along the way, he was stopped up a group of Malay boys.

They strode up to him and asked him point-blank: "Are you Chinese?"

Mr Gabriel answered them in fluent Malay: "I am a Eurasian.''

Impressed by his command of the Malay language, they did not cause trouble for him and let him go on his way after making him promise that he would stop and help any Malays who were injured if he were to see them.

Mr Gabriel shared this anecdote with some 100 Woodlands residents at Reflections at Bukit Chandu museum on Saturday evening (Feb 24).

"Different races have their differences but we need to find common ground to live in unity," Mr Gabriel told the crowd of mostly young people.

The Woodlands Malay Activity Executive Committee had invited Mr Gabriel and Mr Ahmad Saman, 87, to share their memories of the war and the 1964 race riots with Woodlands residents to mark Total Defence Day, which falls on Feb 15.

The committee's volunteers also familiarised themselves with the historical significance of Bukit Chandu -where Lieutenant Adnan Saidi and the Malay Regiment made their last stand against the Japanese invasion against overwhelming odds - and conducted a guided tour around the museum for their fellow residents.

After that, residents penned their reflections on the past and wishes for the future that will be displayed at Woodlands Community Club .

Mr Muhammad Asyraaf, 20, who was part of the team that organised the event, said: "I think the residents not only learnt about historical facts, but they also got a glimpse of the values and wisdom of the fallen soldiers and older generation."