PM Lee thanks all who shared views on Syonan Gallery, says such conversations bring S'poreans closer

The World War II gallery entrance has been cleaned of the original signs. The exhibition is now called Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies. ST PHOTO: WONG KWAI CHOW

SINGAPORE - Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has thanked those who shared their thoughts on the name "Syonan Gallery" and said such conversations bring Singaporeans closer together.

An exhibition on World War II at the Former Ford Factory building was initially named Syonan Gallery: War and its Legacies. It was changed to Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies on Friday, after a public outcry.

Syonan or "Light of the South" was the name Japanese occupiers gave Singapore during the war.

In a Facebook post on Saturday (Feb 18), PM Lee said many Singaporeans have spoken up in recent days about the exhibition.

"The name 'Syonan' was meant to evoke that dark and traumatic period in Singapore's history," he said. "But quite a few felt that the name itself, used like this, caused them pain. Many Singaporeans of all races suffered terrible atrocities during the Japanese Occupation, or had family members who did," he said.

"My colleagues and I honour and respect these deep feelings. So we have renamed the exhibition to bear witness to these painful memories."

He added: "Thank you all who shared your thoughts and views. Such conversations bring us closer together."

He also hoped that Singaporeans will visit the exhibition and added "we must never forget the events that so profoundly impacted our lives and shaped our society".

On Friday, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim had said that people shared with him how they were hurt by the words Syonan Gallery.

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

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