Someone once said that “a week is a long time in politics”.
Yaacob Ibrahim apologises
At the launch of the revamped museum on Wednesday (Feb 15), Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, said it was understandable that the name Syonan Gallery has “evoked some strong reactions in the community”.
Two days later, Yaacob made a U-turn: he “reflected deeply” on these reactions and apologised “for the pain the name has caused instead”.
Yaacob added that it was never the government’s intention for the words “Syonan Gallery” to cause such deep hurt in Singaporeans, as well as their parents and grandparents.
“Syonan Gallery” renamed
Hence, the Minister decided to remove the words “Syonan Gallery” from the name of the exhibition, and name it “Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies”.
Khaw Boon Wan: “I deeply appreciate Min Yaacob’s decision”
To close the loop, Khaw Boon Wan, Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Minister said in a statement shared with Mothership.sg that he fully supports Yaacob’s decision to drop Syonan from the name.
Khaw said that the personal sufferings and losses from the Japanese Occupation “form deep scars in us” and said that was the reason why “the initial naming of the Exhibition Gallery provoked such a strong reaction among a segment of the population”.
He added that “it does not mean that we should strike ‘Syonan’ out of our vocabulary but using it to name the Gallery can unintentionally cause hurt”.
The initial reactions to the change seem positive, with NCMP Daniel Goh calling it an “excellent resolution to the controversy” as both “the inappropriate ‘Syonan’ and the pretentious ‘Gallery’ were dropped.
Moral of the story?
Politicians don’t do TGIF.
And the National Library Board, which “decided that no other name captured the time and all that it stood for” needs to find out why its historians and its advisory panel members decided not to just ask their parents or their grandparents for advice.
Top photo from National Library Board.