LETTER : Japanese crimes in a colonial context

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The Independent Online
From Ms Cecilia Packiam-Todd

Sir: The debate about VJ Day, an apology and compensation has set me thinking. As the daughter of one of the first non-white administrators after colonialism, I would like to put a few points forward.

The debate points out the barbarism of the Japanese - I found to my cost that this was also my mother's perception. When I started college in Singapore in the Sixties, I shared an apartment with a Japanese woman who was older than me. When I went home, I blithely mentioned this to my mother, a dignified woman, whose reaction was terrible to behold! She told me about atrocities committed by the Japanese in Malaysia and intimated that my flatmate, too, was capable of dark and murderous acts of cruelty. I never mentioned Haruko again, and Mother did not mention the subject, either.

I do not want to negate or demean the suffering of the PoWs but this constant harking back 50 years to the barbarism of the Japanese needs balancing: what about the atrocities committed on Amritsar Bridge by British soldiers when they shot Gandhi's peace marchers? What about the emergency in Malaysia in the Fifties, when whole villages were wiped out because they would not talk about the Communists who were hiding among them? What about Hiroshima and Nagasaki? What about the newest colonial power, the Americans, and the atrocity committed at My Lai in Vietnam? What about the pending act of barbarism of that other colonial power, the French in the Pacific?

Yours faithfully,

Cecilia Packiam-Todd

Portsmouth, Hampshire

15 August

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