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WWII exhibition a reminder of traumatic period in Singapore’s history: PM

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By Philippine News Agency

The permanent World War II exhibition “Syonan Gallery: War and its Legacies” was officially launched on Wednesday in Singapore, while Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said it is a reminder of a traumatic period in the country’s history.

Facade of the old Ford Factory on Upper Bukit Timah Road. Now converted into the Syonan Gallery. Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore./ nlb.gov.sg / Manila Bulletin

Facade of the old Ford Factory on Upper Bukit Timah Road. Now converted into the Syonan Gallery. Courtesy of National Archives of Singapore./ nlb.gov.sg/ Manila Bulletin

The exhibition covers pre-war Singapore, the Japanese occupation and the aftermath of war.

There has been a public outcry in the past few days over the appropriateness of the name of the exhibition.

Singapore was renamed Syonan-to during the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945. Using the word “Syonan Gallery” to name the exhibition has aroused active debate as some thought it seems to honor the Japanese occupation of Singapore during World War II.

“We cannot erase our history or bury the past. 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,” said PM Lee in a Facebook post.

Speaking at the official launch, Singapore’s Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said the name of the exhibition does not express approval of the Japanese occupation.

The minister said the exhibition remembers what the pioneer generation went through, commemorates the generation of Singaporeans who experienced the occupation, and reaffirms Singapore’s collective commitment “never to let this happen again.”

75 years ago, the British surrendered Singapore to the Japanese invaders at the Former Ford Factory on Feb. 15, 1942. The Japanese occupied Singapore for over three and a half years. According to incomplete statistics, at least 50,000 Singaporeans were killed.

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