In Malaysia there is no let-up in the people's interest on the World War II. The ghosts (read: memories) of the war are very much alive. Suffering, hardships, resistance, torture, horror and terror — these are the evergreen memories that the war calls up in the public imagination. But this is in sharp contrast to the official view, which emphasizes remembering only the positive rather than the negative aspects of the war. In fact, the Malaysian government is determined to exorcise the ghosts of the war, especially the dark and ugly aspects within the public consciousness relating to the anti-Japanese movement, the inter-racial clashes and the massacres and atrocities committed by Japanese troops during the Japanese Occupation. One Malay historian has detected what he calls a “black-out” syndrome relating to the war. This chapter examines the psychological dimensions of the war. This is important to the understanding of why the war has still left such deep psychological scars in the public mind, after having ended sixty years ago.
While every ethnic community in Malaysia suffered during the war, none would deny that the war was Japan's greatest hour. It militarily defeated a European imperial power, Britain, conquered and occupied Britain's colonial territories of Malaya, Sarawak and Sabah for three-anda-half years. In its immediate impact, the war triggered off a series of events and changes. It represented an important turning point in Malaysia's postwar social and political history. It exacerbated inter-ethnic tensions and conflicts, awakened the peoples' national consciousness, and expedited their struggle and march towards self-government and national independence.
OFFICIAL POLICY TOWARDS THE WAR
Local views on the war within popular culture differ, however, from that of the official history of the war, which is tied up with Malaysia's internal and international politics. The Malaysian government's present policy of “Looking East” is to be friendly with Japan and with other East Asian countries like China, Taiwan and North and South Korea.