Syonan Gallery exhibition at the Former Ford Factory is a reminder of a traumatic period in Singapore history: PM Lee

The Syonan Gallery: War and its Legacies exhibition which opened at the former Ford Factory on Feb 15, 2017.
The Syonan Gallery: War and its Legacies exhibition which opened at the former Ford Factory on Feb 15, 2017.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has expressed his support of naming an exhibition about the Japanese Occupation "Syonan Gallery".

Critics have questioned the use of "Syonan", which some have said glorifies the occupiers of Singapore and is "insensitive".

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

While the name has roused some objection, Mr Lee said in a post on Facebook on Wednesday (Feb 15) night that it was part of Singapore's past.

"The name of the exhibition, 'Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies', at the Former Ford Factory in Upper Bukit Timah Road has understandably caused strong reactions. We cannot erase our history or bury the past," he said.

"The exhibition is a reminder of a traumatic period in our history and the suffering our pioneers experienced when Singapore lost its freedom and even its name."

 

The exhibition was launched on Wednesday, the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore in 1942.

"Every year, we observe Total Defence Day on this day, so that we will never forget that darkest time of our history," Mr Lee wrote.

The National Library Board had responded to the debate by saying that after consulting historians and its advisory panel, it "decided that no other name captured the time and all that it stood for".