ALOR SETAR: A translation error at the new monument marking the graves of fallen Japanese soldiers has made them look like heroes.
State Tourism Committee chairman Mohd Asmirul Anuar Aris said the error occurred when a Japanese officer tried to communicate with a local contractor here commissioned to build the signboard at the graves.
“They were like chicken and duck, trying to communicate with each other. That was the issue. It was the error in translation,” he said.
He said he had spoken to the Consulate-General of Japan on the words used.
Mohd Asmirul apologised to Malaysians on behalf of Kedah History Society for the error, stressing the monument was only about three Japanese soldiers and not their heroic act.
These three soldiers were killed when they tried to blow up Alor Setar Bridge to cut off Allied forces during World War II.
On whether the state government would demolish the new monument, Mohd Asmirul said the state regarded it as a historical site and would preserve it.
Prior to the new monument being erected, there used to be square rocks at the site, covered in overgrowth, which locals called kubur Jepun (Japanese graves).
About 10 years ago, it was learned the remains of the Japanese soldiers were exhumed and taken back to Japan.
Kedah History Society, the state Museum’s Board and the Consulate-General of Japan in Penang had jointly rebuilt the monument at the site and invited Mohd Asmirul to cut the ribbon to unveil it last Thursday.
“Historical artefacts such as these must be preserved for the younger generation to see that the world must never again be at war.
“The old monument was here for a long time. They only made it look good again. It is history. Whatever had happened, happened,” he said.
He said if this monument was to be demolished, then other monuments such as A’Famosa, built by the Portuguese in Melaka after they conquered the state in 1511, must also be demolished.
Mohd Asmirul said even the pyramids built by cruel pharaohs in ancient Egypt were preserved to keep history alive.
He expressed regret that Kedah MCA Youth put up new banners around the monument on Sunday evening.
Mohd Asmirul said the state would lodge a police report against Kedah MCA Youth.
“The MCA Youth chief should have come and hear us out, instead of manipulating the issue,” he said.
Party members covered the granite monument with a black banner bearing the Chinese words and Bahasa Malaysia translation that meant: “Fighters of Japanese Heroes Monument”.
They added more banners describing the atrocities of the Imperial Japanese Army of WWII.
Kedah MCA Youth, in a statement, urged the state to demolish the new monument and create a new one to remember those who fought the Japanese.
Alor Setar MCA Youth chief Phee Kuan Joo said he acknowledged Mohd Asmirul’s public apology but could not accept the views that MCA Youth was stirring up racial sentiments by putting those banners around the monument.
“We will take action against him (Mohd Asmirul) for accusing us of being racist. If he wants to lodge a police report against us, he can do whatever he wants,” Phee said.
Phee said in a statement the party had put up the banners on the monument as a reminder of how much suffering took place during the Japanese Occupation.
Meanwhile, Tourism, Arts and Culture Minister Datuk Mohamaddin Ketapi said the monument did not fall under the purview of his ministry.
“It (monument) is (built) on the neighbouring side to our compound. It is not in our (Tourism ministry) side.
“So, this should be a state matter, not under our (Federal) purview. Sorry, I can’t answer you on that. Federal ministers cannot comment on state matters,” he said.
The monument is next to his ministry’s Kedah office.
Meanwhile, NGO Pertubuhan Sahabat Erat Dan Amanat Rakyat Malaysia (Sedar) has joined the chorus of other parties in demanding for the new monument to be demolished.
Its president Nazrin Norani also called for the resignation of those who took part in the restoration and the official unveiling of the monument last Thursday.
Aside from starting a petition, Sedar has also submitted a memorandum to the Japanese Embassy yesterday.
“There has never been a monument built solely and exclusively dedicated to honour fallen Japanese soldiers in countries which had suffered cruelty and devastation in the hands of these soldiers during the Japanese occupation,” he said in a statement.