Malac­can mem­o­ries

WW2 sur­vivor An­drew Car­valho had many close shaves with the Ja­panese.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - R. AGE - By NAtASHA VEN­NEr- PACK allther­age@ thes­tar. com. my

WATCH­ING wildlife doc­u­men­taries in his son’s house, An­drew Car­valho looked like any other el­derly man en­joy­ing his twi­light years.

But his mem­o­ries of the Ja­panese oc­cu­pa­tion of Malaya, and the hard­ships his fam­ily faced dur­ing those dark days, have been seared into his mem­ory.

“We went to sleep hun­gry many times,” said the for­mer civil ser­vant. “I had to shoot birds with my cat­a­pult for food. To­day, if you give me any­thing that crawls, I will eat it. The Ja­panese time taught me to do so.”

Car­valho was about 12 or 13 when the Ja­panese ar­rived in Malacca.

An­tic­i­pat­ing their ar­rival, his father evac­u­ated the fam­ily to a rubber es­tate called Kun­dang, deep in the jun­gles of Jo­hor.

“He was hop­ing the jun­gles would be safer,” he said.

Un­for­tu­nately, it wasn’t. The Ja­panese were de­ter­mined to erad­i­cate all white peo­ple, there­fore “free­ing” Malaya from colo­nial pow­ers.

They soon reached the es­tate, where the Car­valho fam­ily had sought refuge in the Euro­pean es­tate man­ager’s bun­ga­low with other refugee fam­i­lies.

“We were hud­dled in the hall when they burst in,” he re­called. “The of­fi­cer un­sheathed his sword and wanted to be­head an Eurasian boy about my age.”

His father’s quick think­ing saved the boy, when he opened his purse and pulled out a pic­ture of Em­peror Hiro­hito, who was revered by the Ja­panese.

“The of­fi­cer shouted, and gave a great bow,” he said. “They then re­turned half the food they had stolen from us, and wrote a note on white pa­per to say we were poor Ja­panese.”

That was just the first of many har­row­ing in­ci­dents for the fam­ily dur­ing the oc­cu­pa­tion.

An­other nar­row es­cape hap- pened when Car­valho’s mother saved the young girls liv­ing in the es­tate.

“An of­fi­cer had been in­formed that our es­tate had eight or nine young girls,” he said. The Ja­panese were known to take girls as “com­fort women”.

“My mother cov­ered the girls’ bod­ies in char­coal, so they looked like they were cov­ered in sores.”

Luck­ily, the Ja­panese were re­pulsed, and left.

Three or four months later, the fam­ily fled back to Malacca, si­phon­ing petrol from the Ja­panese cars left in the es­tate.

“It was so fright­en­ing, si­phon­ing petrol at 2am. If the Ja­panese knew it they would have shot us dead, but we man­aged to get enough to re­turn to Malacca,” said Car­valho.

When they re­turned, their house had been looted and the Ja­panese were search­ing for com­mu­nists.

Food was hard to come by. Tapi­oca and sweet pota­toes be­came their sta­ple diet, with rice be­com­ing a lux­ury.

It was this lack of food that mo­ti­vated him to leave St. Fran­cis In­sti­tu­tion, his school, and work in a pa­per mill along with two of his older brothers.

They were paid only in tapi­oca, sweet pota­toes, cig­a­rettes and around two kilo­grams of rice.

“It was more like play than work,” he said with a smile. “I would also steal some tapi­oca and sweet pota­toes.”

The pa­per printed in the pa­per mill was used to print pro­pa­ganda, and make “ba­nana money”. That was what lo­cals to call the Ja­panese cur­rency, be­cause the ten dol­lar note had a pic­ture of a ba­nana tree.

The pa­per mill is now a school hos­tel. There’s hardly a trace of its WWII his­tory.

But the build­ing that holds the dark­est mem­o­ries for Car­valho is the Meng Seng build­ing, a char­ity hall con­verted into a tor­ture cham­ber.

Car­valho’s un­cle was tor­tured there for lis­ten­ing to the ra­dio, which was out­lawed by the Ja­panese. He was only re­leased when the war ended in late 1945.

Af­ter the war, the Ja­panese be­came pris­on­ers of war, and were held at the Malacca High School build­ing, which still stands to­day.

Car­valho was there when the Ja­panese were marched into the school to await de­por­ta­tion.

“The peo­ple pelted them with stones,” he re­called. “One Chris­tian brother was shout­ing ‘ kill them!’ be­cause his father was killed by the Ja­panese.”

But the worst of the vit­riol was re­served for the lo­cals who worked as in­for­mants for the Ja­panese.

Car­valho said they were tied in pig bas­kets and hacked to death on the school field.

On Feb 22, 1946, a fi­nal sign­ing cer­e­mony took place in Kuala Lumpur, con­firm­ing the Ja­panese sur­ren­der.

Seventy years on, Car­valho hopes the lessons of the war will never be for­got­ten. “The word ‘ war’ is a ter­ri­ble word,” he said. “The re­sult of war is al­ways painful, and hurt­ful.”

Watch the full episode on rage. com. my/ last­sur­vivors.

Watch ep. 2 of

which is out to­day on rage. com. my last­sur­vivors.

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