Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim announced on Friday to change the name of newly-launched World War II exhibition “Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies” to “Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies.”
In a statement released on Friday evening, Yaacob Ibrahim said this particular exhibition name “Syonan Gallery” provoked a strong reaction over the past two days.
He has read comments made on this issue, and received many letters from Singaporeans of all races, which mentioned that the words “Syonan Gallery” had evoked deep hurt in them, as well as their parents and grandparents.
The minister said he has reflected deeply on what he heard, and decided to remove the words “Syonan Gallery” from the name of the exhibition.
“We must honor and respect the feelings of those who suffered terribly and lost family members during the Japanese Occupation,” said Yaacob Ibrahim, adding that he is “sorry for the pain the name has caused.”
Singapore was renamed Syonan-to, meaning Light of the South in Japanese, during the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945. Using the word “Syonan Gallery” to name the exhibition has aroused active debate as some thought it seems to glorify the Japanese occupation of Singapore during WWII.
The exhibition was launched on Wednesday, Singapore’s Total Defence Day. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Yaacob Ibrahim noted the name of the exhibition does not express approval of the Japanese occupation.
In the statement on Friday, the minister said the contents of the exhibition remain unchanged. They capture a painful and tragic period in Singapore’s history.
75 years ago, the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese invaders at the Former Ford Factory on Feb. 15, 1942. The Japanese occupied Singapore for over three and a half years. According to incomplete statistics, at least 50,000 Singaporeans were killed. Enditem