SINGAPORE: The name of the permanent World War II exhibition, Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies, does not express approval of the Japanese Occupation, said Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim on Wednesday (Feb 15).
Speaking at the official opening of the gallery at the historic Old Ford Factory at Upper Bukit Timah, where the British formally surrendered to the Japanese 75 years ago, Dr Yaacob said the exhibition remembers what the pioneer generation went through, commemorates the generation of Singaporeans who experienced the Occupation and reaffirms the nation's collective commitment “never to let this happen again”.
“The name ‘Syonan Gallery’ has evoked some strong reactions in our community, and quite understandably,” noted Dr Yaacob. “Some among older Singaporeans who lived through that dark period feel that the name legitimises the Occupation. Others among them say that Syonan was a painful fact of history, and we should call it what it was.”
“The reactions show us how indelible an imprint those three-and-a-half years had left on their lives and on Singapore,” added Dr Yaacob. “Younger Singaporeans did not have the same indelible life experience as their parents and grandparents. But I hope this gallery will give them a sense of what it was like to live through that dark period, and inspire all of us to build and defend our nation.”
Dr Yaacob also said the exhibition, which captures the dark and painful years after Singapore fell, reminds Singaporeans to "never again take our peace, harmony and sovereignty for granted".
The minister added that terrorism continues to be a significant threat facing the world today, as he cited incidents in Orlando, Paris, Nice, Sydney and Jakarta that occurred last year.
“Today, threats and challenges to our way of life continue to come in all shapes and sizes, and in increasingly diverse forms,” he said. “The true test of having remembered and learnt the lessons of war is that we live lives of courage and of resilience, every day, today. Far beyond having a strong defence force, we need to all do our part to build community, and to build harmony."
A traditional weapon presentation ceremony was also held for the Singapore Armed Forces recruits from the 2nd Battalion, Singapore Infantry Regiment at the Former Ford Factory to “demonstrate the young soldiers’ commitment to defence”, the Ministry of Defence said.
The building was gazetted as a national monument in 2006.
SYONAN GALLERY DOCUMENTS "HORROR, VICIOUSNESS OF JAPANESE OCCUPATION": PM LEE
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said the Syonan Gallery "documents the horror and viciousness of the Japanese Occupation, and the suffering and bravery of our pioneers".
"They know what it means for Singapore to lose its freedom and even its name. They emerged from that period determined never to let this happen again," he said.
"Every year, we observe Total Defence Day on this day, so that we will never forget that darkest time of our history," said the Prime Minister. "We now have the SAF and Home Team, but Singapore will always be small and vulnerable. No one owes us our sovereignty or security. These are truths we must never forget."