A reminder to protect sovereignty

The renaming of Memories at Old Ford Factory to Syonan Gallery is a well-timed change ("Revamped war museum's name sparks questions"; Feb 10).

The former name did not adequately represent the pain and bitterness that the people experienced, the disintegration, self-survival and lack of sovereignty, and which is showcased in the museum.

It is precisely this period of war that Singapore and the South-east Asian region must etch into our shared history.

World War II put into motion the birth of modern nations in South-east Asia. For Singapore, it was the ultimate realisation that a colonial immigrant plural society would never be considered first by a distant government.

"Syonan Gallery" will always bear immediate reference to "Syonan-to" and the fact that the Japanese Occupation represented the darkest moment of Singapore history.

As the site of the surrender of the British, the gallery should serve not only as a physical historical space, but also a reminder to Singaporeans that becoming a subject of another country must never happen again, even in neo-colonial times as a nation-state enmeshed in the globalised space of advanced economies.

Rather than glorify the brutalities of the war, the gallery's new name reminds a generation of Singaporeans to always reflect on our unique physical geography in South-east Asia and our ties to the region, and to be a united nation of our own making.

Madeline Chen Zhaoyan (Madam)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 14, 2017, with the headline 'A reminder to protect sovereignty'. Print Edition | Subscribe