A Forgotten Past – ‘Prison on Fire’ at Pulau Senang

Remember Singapore

Many movie fans are familiar with Chow Yun-Fat’s blockbuster “Prison on Fire”, a 1987 Hong Kong classic that featured inmates rioting against the prison authorities. Few, however, are aware that a similar incident had happened in Singapore in the early sixties.

A Turbulent Period

It was 1963, a year of turbulence and instability in Singapore. In January that year, Indonesia President Sukarno had declared Konfrontasi against the new Federation of Malaysia, in which the Malaya Peninsula was joined by Sabah, Sarawak and Singapore. Domestically, some 100 demonstrators marched their way to City Hall in April to protest against the arrests of left-wing activists and trade unionists. In August, a 100,000-strong “blood debt” mass rally took place at the Padang, demanding Japan to pay a $50-million compensation for their war atrocities in Singapore.

The violent Pulau Senang riot on 12th of July added further shocks to an already unstable Singapore society.

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