The recording of history across whole swathes of Asia has been haphazard at best since the Japanese Imperial Army galloped down the Malay Peninsula to subdue Singapore. Whether historians were prevented in their aims by political furore, economic strife, racial distrust or just a plain lack of interest, the outcome remains that incomprehensively large incidents slipped through the net of time. Yet for those with an interest, a treasure trove of seldom noted, opaque events shrouded in mystery and surrounded by silence awaits discovery.
When observed retrospectively from today’s sanitised world, who would believe that Royal Dutch Shell dismantled an entire refinery in Borneo, sending it to Singapore to keep it out of the clutches of the Japanese war machine? Yet more amazing was the silent elimination of three thousand Javanese labourers, worked to death by the Japanese whilst rebuilding the refinery. Only idle chit-chat with those who lived through those traumatic times uncovered what had not been written down.
Apparently catastrophic events in the course of World War Two were brought into sharp focus by personal tragedies as it was revealed that a town’s favourite restaurant had been a Japanese brothel, and how the smiling old Chinese lady cooking suppertime’s char kway teow had been conscripted to work there as a Comfort Woman.
Google “Malayan Interregnum” and you will return barely a result. Amongst the sparse articles penned by Academia suggesting further study, you will find the occasional wispy paragraph or two. A murky period, this though was the time when a slothful British return to post-war Malaya allowed Chinese communists to run wild. Aggressive and cruel, their kangaroo courts incited racial hatred as they made a grab for a country, leaving behind them a taint on a nation that until today remains barely submerged.
Incredible as it may seem to consider relocating six hundred thousand people into new homes and townships, at a time when the post-war world economy was in tatters, this is what the British did to defeat communism in 1950’s Malaya. When viewed now, the courage and intelligence applied in Malaya make the West’s attempts in Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria appear small and half-hearted. Yet it remains untaught and unknown.
Set amongst tumultuous times and incidents as nations formed, governments clashed and disparate races tore at each other’s throats, the greatest surprise throughout the writing of An Asian Saga is that these events remain hazy as they lurk only in people’s memories.
Into these incredible, virtually unknown occurrences are woven fictional characters to produce An Asian Saga; a story that grips from 1937 to the present day.