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No lock-up for Changi Prison's historic 'face'

'ENDURING SYMBOL': Changi Prison's entrance gate, wall and turrets were gazetted by the National Heritage Board as a national monument yesterday. The 180m stretch of prison wall that goes back to 1936 is now hidden by a tall fence. The area in front of the monument will be redeveloped to give the public a better view from the road.


    Feb 16, 2016

    No lock-up for Changi Prison's historic 'face'


    THE Singapore Prison Service will redevelop the area in front of the historic Changi Prison entrance gate and wall over the next few years to make it more visible to the public.

    The newly minted national monument, gazetted by the Preservation of Monuments Board yesterday, is now hidden by a tall fence and barely visible from the road.

    A carpark for the modern Changi Prison Complex lies in between the fence and the structure.

    It is understood the redevelopment could include lowering the height of the fence.

    Heritage experts said the existing layout is not befitting of a structure that is now a national monument.

    Singapore Heritage Society's Yeo Kang Shua said: "We need to give Singaporeans a chance to know the national monument.

    "The wall, gate and turrets have strong visual imageability. But why are they hidden behind a fence?"

    Agreeing, Kevin Tan, president of the International Council on Monuments and Sites Singapore, said: "Once you preserve it, you must make it accessible. You must showcase it sufficiently so people can understand the value of what has been preserved."

    Some 76,000 allied soldiers had been marched through the former prison's gates during World War II for internment as prisoners of war.

    Thousands of prisoners were packed into the facility designed to hold only 600.

    The now demolished Changi Prison was originally designed by the Public Works Department as part of a maximum security prison. The facility was originally built within a 6m-tall perimeter wall.

    What is left standing today is the 180m stretch of prison wall that goes back to 1936.

    It was saved following intensive lobbying by Australian politicians in 2003 after they learnt of Singapore's plans to raze it for a new $1 billion prison complex.

    A compromise was reached in March the following year when the Singapore authorities said they would preserve the wall and its two corner turrets facing Upper Changi Road North.

    The turrets had once served as watchtowers.

    The entrance gate at an adjacent boundary wall was moved and fitted into the retained wall.

    The old prison, which had two four-storey blocks of prison cells, was torn down in 2004. In its place is Changi Prison Complex, which was completed the same year.

    Jean Wee, director of the National Heritage Board's Preservation of Sites & Monuments division, said the new monument stands as an "enduring symbol of the suffering of those who defended Singapore during the tumultuous war years".

    "We hope that this monument will serve as an important reminder to all Singaporeans of the tremendous sacrifice by POWs and to treasure the peace and harmony we have today," she added.