March 6, 2004
SINGAPORE said Saturday, March 6, it will preserve a symbolic part of Changi prison to honour the memory of World War II veterans, many of them Australians, detained there by Japanese occupation troops.
The government will proceed with plans to tear down the facility in the middle of this year to make way for a modern prison complex, but would leave a 180-metre (594-foot) stretch of the prison wall which includes two corner turrets.
Singapore has "has decided to preserve a symbolic part of the Changi Prison which has historical significance and heritage," a government statement said.
"Given its historical significance and heritage value, we are carrying out the redevelopment sensitively to maintain our links with the past."
The main gate of the prison will be relocated to the wall as well.
The preserved structure will be gazetted as a "national monument" while selected artefacts from the prison have been offered to the National Heritage Board, the Singapore Tourism Board, and the Australian, British and New Zealand High Commissions.
Built in 1936, Changi prison holds special memories for many civilians and war veterans incarcerated there during the brutal Japanese occupation between 1942 and 1945.
The Japanese kept thousands of Australian, British and other Allied soldiers, as well as huge numbers of local Chinese, in terrible conditions in and around the prison, which was originally designed to house just 600 inmates.
Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer welcomed Singapore's announcement, saying the prison "is of immense historic and emotional value to many Australians", particularly those who were detained there during the war and their families.
"The Singapore government has shown sympathetic understanding of Australian interests in ensuring that part of the old prison is preserved," said Downer, whose father was a prisoner of war (POW) in Changi prison.
Australian politicians had lobbied hard to save the prison, one of the many notorious POW camps the Japanese ran at the time.