Sunday, 26 January 2014

Big bash 'for all' as little red dot turns 50

Public's ideas sought on how Singapore can mark event, with emphasis on inclusiveness
By Goh Chin Lian, The Straits Times, 25 Jan 2014

SINGAPORE turns 50 next year and the chief party planner, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat, yesterday invited all Singaporeans to pitch in with their ideas on how best to celebrate the occasion, with an emphasis on including everyone.

He made special mention of the pioneer generation, who played a key role in helping the nation overcome tough odds in the early years of independence.

The first major SG50 event will be a tribute to these pioneers that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong will host at the Istana next month.

But the year-long birthday bash and series of activities tied to it are for people of all ages and walks of life.

Mr Heng and the members of the SG50 Steering Committee he chairs stressed inclusiveness, and urged everyone to share their celebration ideas and favourite local icons, sights, sounds and flavours.

"If it is what you love about Singapore, we want to celebrate it," Mr Heng said. "Singapore's 50th birthday belongs to all Singaporeans."

Agreeing, SG50 committee member and former nominated MP Kanwaljit Soin said it was a celebration for all, regardless of "colour, age and political ideology". Singapore National Olympic Council vice-president Annabel Pennefather said that while not all is perfect, "there are good times that people can remember, having family and friends around them".

Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said the SG50 Programme Office hopes to support individuals or groups who are "passionate about showing their love for Singapore and who want to inspire others to do the same".

To give the two-month call for celebration ideas a boost, each idea approved by an evaluation panel can receive up to $50,000 in funding. More information is available at

The committee is looking for ideas that inspire a sense of community or belonging. These could range from celebrations of food, such as getting neighbours to share family recipes; or heritage, such as apps about historic milestones; to events with a heart, such as a festival for the elderly.

The SG50 logo, launched yesterday, is a little red dot that symbolises Singapore's ability to punch above its weight. People can customise it with their own colours or motifs, and logo designer Jackson Tan said it can even be turned into an art installation, a football or a pattern to decorate buildings.

As Mr Heng reflected on what it is this city state has to celebrate at this juncture and why, he said that at 50, nations and people "come closer to wisdom about the people and things that are truly important to us".

That includes appreciating the older generation, he said, who passed with "grace and resilience... through the same stages in life we undertake today, only under far more challenging conditions".

Recalling the trials - which he likened to "Goliath" - that this David of a nation has had to overcome, he said: "Resource scarcity, health epidemics, economic crises, the fracturing forces of globalisation - there has been no shortage of challenges to test our resolve.

"But through the hard work of our pioneer generation, with the stewardship of committed leaders, and with the cohesiveness and togetherness of Singaporeans to strive and stand as one people, we have made great progress and beat stiff odds to get to today."

Singaporeans, he said, have built a jewel of a city and a home founded on both diversity and the unity of shared values.

And he hopes Singaporeans also look ahead with a sense of promise and possibility, and build on the shared aspirations "that will keep us one people tomorrow".

Ideas sought to inspire sense of belonging
SG50 team wants celebrations to be inclusive, reflecting nation's history
By Charissa Yong, The Straits Times, 25 Jan 2014

SINGAPORE turns 50 next year but business partners Evelyn Lau, 40, and Philip Wu, 46, already have a vision of how they want to celebrate the historic milestone.

They want to champion and help disabled people by training them to run small businesses to earn a living.

Said Ms Lau, co-partner in a media production business called Grid Synergy: "We believe that regardless of race, language or religion, we can all contribute in building our country. So, what we want to do is something that will leave a legacy."

It is a goal that dovetails with Education Minister Heng Swee Keat's plan for Singapore's golden jubilee celebrations to be inclusive and meaningful, as the country was built "through the collective effort of everyone".

Yesterday, he launched the celebration on a modest note at the National Library building, with a small exhibition of typical daily items found in Singapore: bird cages, chicken rice and the ez-link card for public transport.

He also announced a government fund to support approved celebratory projects and indicated what he hoped Singaporeans would come up with.

"We are looking for ideas that will inspire a sense of community or belonging to Singapore, and that will encourage Singaporeans to celebrate as one people."

Some ideas have already trickled in and Mr Heng, who chairs the main SG50 committee that is in overall charge of the national celebrations, thanked the early-bird Singaporeans.

One of them is playwright Jonathan Lim, 39, who wants theatre groups to stage plays in the heartland, and create a round-the-island treasure hunt to historical sites. "I want to give local history a sense of mystery," he said.

Singaporeans can send their ideas online to by March 23. They can also drop them into collection boxes at community centres, public libraries and museums.

"Good ideas may be taken up by the SG50 committees," said Mr Heng.

But Singaporeans who want to get their ideas off the ground on their own can ask the Government for a grant.

An approved project may receive up to 90 per cent of its cost, capped at $50,000.

Groups of individuals with at least one Singapore citizen, and non-profit organisations, societies and companies registered in Singapore, can all apply.

For now, the committee has not decided on the number of projects to accept.

Mr Heng also launched the official logo, a circle with the text "SG50" against a red background.

The logo is one of 50 "little red dots" that depict a slice of life in Singapore, such as food like durian and laksa, and icons like orang utan Ah Meng.

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