Problematic new name for Changi Naval Base

Names and labels have been under scrutiny lately. While the Syonan Gallery has been hotly debated, one other name change has escaped attention: RSS Singapura - Changi Naval Base ("Changi Naval Base's new name to hark back to beginnings"; Feb 10).

It is problematic in two aspects.

First, is the new name supposed to shift the emphasis away from "Changi" as the base onto the ship "Singapura"?

If so, this will force a contest between two historically powerful words, and not everyone will agree that the ship triumphs over the base.

Most people - visitors and taxi drivers included - will pick either RSS Singapura or Changi Naval Base. No one is going to blurt out the entire mouthful in everyday situations.

Second, how is the ship related to the base?

The RSS Singapura was a former Japanese minelayer that was berthed at Telok Ayer Basin and was used by the then Singapore Naval Volunteer Force as its headquarters from 1966 to 1968, while the base was officially opened only in 2004, almost 40 years later.

Most people - visitors and taxi drivers included - will pick either RSS Singapura or Changi Naval Base. No one is going to blurt out the entire mouthful in everyday situations.

Those at the Republic of Singapore Navy must be able to account for this, if foreign dignitaries were to ask them about the name.

From a practical point of view, there is another problem.

Over time, an abbreviation for the name will probably emerge - the same that has taken place for the Goh Keng Swee Command and Staff College (GKS CSC).

But having seven letters, such as RSSSCNB, is itself unwieldy.

All of this begs the question: If the original name wasn't broken, why fix it?

Sunny Goh (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 18, 2017, with the headline 'Problematic new name for Changi Naval Base'. Print Edition | Subscribe