On 15 February 1942, the Japanese renamed Singapore Syonan-to after the British did their first Brexit from Singapore. Syonan-to means “Light of the South”.
Three years and more than an estimated 50,000 deaths later, Singapore finally shook off its slave name when the Japanese finally surrendered.
The Singapore Government, always as pragmatic and straightforward, decided to officially launch a revamped museum last Wednesday on the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore to the Japanese, naming it Syonan Gallery, well because it literally showcases the painful memories of Singapore during its time as Syonan-to.
Now usually when a name is given, especially to an important place or exhibit, it’s to commemorate something which happened, or a respectful reminder of the past.
Another perspective is that naming bestows an honour unto the person or occasion involved.
But there’s no honour in killing and torturing civilians. Then again, in war, no one wins except the hands pulling the strings.
After three days of grief and mass feedback from the ground, the Singapore government realised it cannot address an emotional argument with a rational one (as always).
With an apology, it decided to respect the wishes of the people, and rename the Syonan Gallery to “Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and its Legacies”.
But the war Singapore faces isn’t between the people and Government, although various government agencies and town councils have been getting some serious brickbats recently for bad news.
The thing we must remember as Singaporeans, is that no one cares for us except ourselves.
Why would any other nation help save us from future invaders, or cocking up our future, unless they have their own agenda to upkeep?
No matter how successful we think we are (and like to boast about our powderful exchange rates, CMI politicians in neighbouring countries and superior whatever), it is when we think we are safe, that we are most at risk of crashing because we stopped being watchful and mindful about the dangers around us.
The world sees Singapore as a jewel, and some wonder if they can capture the jewel.
After all, it’s only been less than 52 years since this rock had its own passport.