Singapore

'Syonan' dropped as gallery gets new name

MCI Minister changes name of Japanese Occupation gallery, says sorry after public outcry

The word "Syonan" has been dropped from the name of the revamped World War II gallery at the Former Ford Factory.

It will now be known as Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies.

When the National Archives showcase was named Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies, it sparked public outcry over the use of "Syonan".

Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said in a statement yesterday evening that he had read comments made on the issue over the past two days and received many letters from Singaporeans of all races.

"While they agreed we need to teach Singaporeans about the Japanese Occupation, they also shared that the words 'Syonan Gallery' had evoked deep hurt in them, as well as their parents and grandparents," he said.

"This was never our intention, and I am sorry for the pain the name has caused.

"I have reflected deeply on what I heard. We must honour and respect the feelings of those who suffered terribly and lost family members during the Japanese Occupation."

Dr Yaacob said he then decided to remove the words "Syonan Gallery" from the name of the exhibition.

...our intention was to remember what our forefathers went through... Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim

Singapore was renamed Syonan-to by the Japanese in 1942 after the British surrender. It means "Light of the South".

The museum was previously called Memories at Old Ford Factory.

Dr Yaacob said that when he opened the exhibition on Wednesday, he had explained that it was designed "to capture the dark days of the Japanese Occupation, and remind ourselves never to take for granted our peace, harmony and sovereignty".

"Far from expressing approval of the Japanese Occupation, our intention was to remember what our forefathers went through, commemorate the generation of Singaporeans who experienced the Japanese Occupation and reaffirm our collective commitment never to let this happen again," he said.

FULL SUPPORT

In a statement last night, Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said he deeply appreciated and fully supported Dr Yaacob's decision.

Calling the exhibition an important reminder for Singapore to never take peace and sovereignty for granted, he said: "It is a good exhibition, and I will be visiting it with my Sembawang residents."

Some of them had parents or grandparents who were killed during those dark days, Mr Khaw added.

"My own maternal grandfather died of starvation and for lack of medical care while in hiding," he said, reasoning this was why the name "Syonan" had provoked such a strong reaction among a segment of the population.

"It does not mean that we should strike 'Syonan' out of our vocabulary, but using it to name the gallery can unintentionally cause hurt."

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