Clerical officer Simon Barter was making his way home on the afternoon of Oct 30, 1951 — a time when the island was grappling with a communist insurgency — when a gunman tried to shoot him twice, unsuccessfully.
Mr Barter, then 24, knew why he had been marked for death — the communists were out to get him for helping the police to arrest their comrade, who had set a vehicle ablaze less than a year earlier. The arsonist was later jailed for five years.
Mr Barter, now 86, said his close brush with death forced him to be on his guard. “Previously … I was simple and easy, no problems.” Yesterday, Mr Barter and several other fellow Singaporeans who had lived through the insurgency, which began in 1948 and officially ended in 1989, attended a ceremony to unveil a marker commemorating the struggles of Singaporeans against the violence committed by the Communist Party of Malaya (CPM).
The marker, located at Esplanade Park, was unveiled by former President S R Nathan. The 3m-by-2m granite and stainless steel structure stands as a tribute to those who were killed or injured during the insurgency, as well as the police officers who protected their fellow citizens.
“It (the marker) is a timely reminder of those who perished and suffered as a result of communist violence. Their fight against the communists was an indispensable part of our nation’s road to independence,” said Mr Nathan, who witnessed the violence first-hand.
Also at the unveiling ceremony were Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong and Senior Minister of State (Home Affairs and Foreign Affairs) Masagos Zulkifli — along with the survivors, family members of the insurgency victims, as well as those who had lived through the tumultuous period.
One of the victims was Ms Norain Abdul Wahid’s father, who was a 22-year-old police constable when he was shot by communist gunmen in Geylang in 1950. The shooting left Abdul Wahid Baba paralysed from the waist down, but it did not break his spirit, Ms Norain told reporters.
Abdul Wahid, who died in 2011, later competed in the Paralympics. He also represented Singapore at the 1962 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games and won a Merit award for javelin.
Mr Bill Teoh Kah Chay, who was with the police’s Special Branch from 1955 to 1970, said the marker was important because many young Singaporeans are not aware of the insurgency.
“They were born in an era when we were already peaceful. They didn’t realise that we had to go through such difficult times to be where we are today,” said the 79-year-old.