Sunday, 10 August 2014

National Day 2014: Singapore celebrates 49th birthday at Marina Bay

They came to party at Marina Bay
49th National Day Parade spectacle celebrates people from all walks of life
By Royston Sim, The Sunday Times, 10 Aug 2014

A dazzling display of fireworks across the Marina Bay skyline capped Singapore's 49th birthday bash yesterday, marking what may be the last National Day Parade held at the bayside floating platform.

Next year's 50th jubilee parade will be at the Padang, and after that the celebration will have another venue at the new National Stadium at the Sports Hub. It has been held at Marina Bay since 2007.

Yesterday's parade, themed "Our People, Our Home", celebrated people from all walks of life, from the pioneer generation to workers in different jobs as well as the disabled.

In a first, performers from the Movement for the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (MINDS) took part, drumming and marching, reinforcing a message of inclusiveness.

A slice of history was made at the start, when Third Warrant Officer Shirley Ng became the first female Red Lion parachutist to jump at a National Day Parade.

After a combined band and silent precision drill squad performance, some 2,000 participants from 35 marching contingents took to the stage to showcase the Republic's military might.

The 27,000 spectators leapt to their feet and erupted in the loudest applause when former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew, 90, appeared and made his way to his seat, assisted by aides. People left their seats to catch a glimpse of him or snap a photo of Singapore's founding father, who has not missed a parade since the first in 1966.

As the sky darkened, a blaze of pyrotechnics, visual effects and performers in bright costumes ushered in the show segment - a spectacle of lights and colours and upbeat music.

In a Facebook post after the parade, President Tony Tan Keng Yam said the show highlighted how Singapore's progress is built on each person doing his part to care for one another.

"The passion for Singapore displayed at the parade was stirring and infectious," he said.

Housewife Siti Zainah Sumadi, 60, who was there with her grandson and nephew, said: "I'm so happy to see people dancing, singing, enjoying."

Pioneers enjoy VIP treatment
The Sunday Times, 10 Aug 2014

Some 200 pioneers who toiled to build Singapore were feted at the nation's 49th birthday celebration yesterday.

The group, made up of pioneers in fields such as finance, nursing and the military, were specially invited to watch yesterday's National Day Parade (NDP) in recognition of their contributions to Total Defence.

Some, like 65-year-old Azizah Mohamed Yusoff who has been a nurse for 43 years, even proudly donned badges displaying the Singapore flag.

"It's my second time at the NDP since the 90s. Things have changed tremendously since then," she said, gesturing at a group of pioneers around her who were taking selfies.

Retired POSB bank manager Ng Kim Soon, 73, who was there to catch the parade live for the first time, said: "I'm most looking forward to the portion where they show us how Singapore has progressed."

Another pioneer, retired army regular Kang Lye Take, 65, recalled marching through a relentless thunderstorm for two hours from the Padang to Queenstown in 1968.

"It was so exciting. We just kept going despite the pouring rain. No such thing as stopping," he said.

A video montage of pioneers was screened during the parade and ceremony segment - a first at the NDP - as a tribute.

Away from Marina Bay, Singaporeans also headed to SAFRA clubhouses and shopping malls such as Lot One to celebrate the occasion.

But for paradegoer and digital marketing consultant Husain Rashid, 30, seeing the fireworks live is an experience like no other. "You can't just get that feeling or (photo) shot anywhere else."

Chua Thian Poh tops list of 3,354 recipients at the 2014 National Day Awards
By Olivia Siong, Channel NewsAsia, 9 Aug 2014

A total of 3,354 awards were handed out at the 2014 National Day Awards on Aug 9.

The highest award - the Distinguished Service Order - was given to Mr Chua Thian Poh, the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Ho Bee Land.

Mr Chua is the President of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations; Honorary President of the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry; as well as Chairman of the Ren Ci Hospital, Business China, and the Board of Trustees of the Chinese Development Assistance Council.

As the President of the Singapore Federation of Chinese Clan Associations, he supported the Government's call for clan associations to take greater initiative in integrating new immigrants.

"Singapore is an immigrant society since day one, and clans have been very actively involved in engaging new immigrants. I think it's important that we integrate new immigrants into society as soon as possible. We would like to see Singapore have a harmonious society - that's important to the whole country," Mr Chua said.

He is also Chairman of Ren Ci Hospital, and said the hospital has been "growing rapidly". With the new nursing home in operations by beginning of 2015, which will have 260 beds, Ren Ci will have a total of 820 beds - an increase from its initial 174 beds, he stated.

The six recipients of the Meritorious Service Medal were:

Mr Lam Chuan Leong, the Chairman of the Competition Commission of Singapore

Mrs Theresa Foo-Yo Mie Yoen, Chairman of the Esplanade

Prof Satkunanantham Kandiah, former Director of Medical Services at the Ministry of Health

Mr Lee Tzu Yang, a member of the Legal Service Commission

Ms Jennie Chua, Immediate Past Chairman of Community Chest and Chairman of Alexandra Health System

Mr Po’ad Shaik Abu Bakar Mattar, a member of the Council of Presidential Advisers.

For Prof Satku, his contribution to the development of the national mental health blueprint for Singapore in 2006 was considered as one of his biggest achievements. The programme addressed the mental health of all sectors of the population - including workers and school children - with initiatives looking at prevention, early intervention as well as moving the care of mental illnesses away from institutions to the community.

"You can be assured that going to see a GP in the community is much easier than going back to IMH (Institute of Mental Health)," he said.

"Something like 16 per cent to 20 per cent of the population will, at one time or another, be affected by mental health. That is one in five people. That means each of us either will be, or will have someone close to us, affected and I think it was a worthwhile investment."

There were 12 recipients of the Public Service Star (Bar), while a further 55 individuals received the Public Service Star.

Also given out on National Day were the Public Administration Medal, Commendation Medal, Public Service Medal, Efficiency Medal and Long Service Medal, spanning civilian, military and police sectors. In all, a total of 3,354 awards were handed out.


Among the recipients of the Commendation Medal were 10 Home Team frontline officers from the Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Civil Defence Force, who were among the first to respond to the Little India riot on Dec 8 last year.

"Despite the dangers and challenges they faced, the officers were calm and steadfast in carrying out their duties, working together to extricate the body of the deceased foreign worker, and brought the bus driver and time keeper to safety. They displayed dedication to duty and courage, and showed outstanding leadership and resolve," the Ministry of Home Affairs said.

A total of 424 Home Team officers, NSmen and Home Team volunteers were honoured at the National Day Awards.

A full list of this year's National Day Award recipients is available at the website for the Prime Minister's Office.

Dick Lee to write 'the next Home' for S'pore's 50th NDP
By Jermyn Chow, The Straits Times, 11 Aug 2014

AFTER being lauded for staging an engaging National Day Parade (NDP) this year, Dick Lee will return to helm next year's golden jubilee show; and he has been tasked to write the next big National Day song.

The 57-year-old singer-songwriter, who was also creative director of the 2002 and 2010 shows, said next year's parade organisers have asked him to compose a theme song for Singapore's 50th birthday, which will be celebrated at the Padang.

The new song will hopefully surpass the popularity of his iconic Home, which has become one of the best-loved NDP songs, and is sung at every parade.

"The expectations on me to produce an anthem as memorable as Home are quite daunting, but I've already started doing some research to get inspiration," Lee told The Straits Times. "It is not just an NDP song but a song that reflects and celebrates Singapore's 50 years of independence."

There was no NDP theme song this year, after organisers decided to break tradition and not introduce a new song. This, after most of the new tunes in recent years attracted criticism.

This year, familiar National Day songs such as One People, One Nation, One Singapore were refreshed and given a new spin.

While he is brainstorming ideas for the next big song, Lee also hopes to showcase new original songs from other home-grown songwriters or bands next year.

He will be roping in the same creative team who worked with him on this year's NDP. They include music director Sydney Tan and film-maker Boo Junfeng.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen posted on Facebook that "many people came up to me to say how they were moved by this year's show and for some, it was their best NDP yet". He added: "I'm confident they can make next year's NDP a really special one."

The SAF's Guards Formation, led by Brigadier-General Melvyn Ong Su Kiat, will coordinate next year's show, which will likely feature the mobile column, comprising battle tanks, armoured personnel carriers and other vehicles.

Organisers have already started work, with some heading to Nanjing, China, this week for the Youth Olympic Games opening ceremony to take notes.

With 2015 being a "landmark year", Lee, who is also providing the creative direction for the upcoming year-end SG50 countdown show at The Float@Marina Bay, has promised a show that will be "grand, epic, yet intimate".

Of everyday heroes and a nation that can embrace all
S'poreans celebrate those in their midst who are imperfect and vulnerable
By Lydia Lim, The Sunday Times, 17 Aug 2014

Near the end of this year's National Day Parade, a former convict, a navy serviceman with only one limb, a champion wakeboarder, a man born without a left foot and a dancer once detained under the Internal Security Act were among those who shared the stage with Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew - not physically but in videos that drew the nation's 49th birthday celebration to an emotional close.

Each spoke in turn about being Singaporean.

Mr Sarbir Singh, 25, who was jailed twice for fighting but has since turned his life around and completed a law and management course at Temasek Polytechnic, said he believes everyone in this country matters and each is talented in his own way.

Mr Jason Chee, 31, who lost three limbs in a work accident, said that as a navy serviceman, he was taught determination and fighting sprit and it is his duty to help protect the country.

Wakeboarder Sasha Christian, 21, wants to make Singapore proud by winning as many medals as she can.

Mr Shariff Abdullah, 45, now a "blade runner" of marathons, said Singaporeans are like brothers and sisters, regardless of race or religion.

Dancer Goh Lay Kuan, 75, said something similar in Mandarin: "As long as we are united, cohesive and help each other, I believe peace and happiness will be with us always."

She spoke just before an old black and white clip of a youthful Mr Lee came on screen, showing him rallying Singaporeans to work together for the nation's future: "Every year, on this ninth of August, we will dedicate ourselves anew, to consolidate ourselves to survive, and most important of all, to find an enduring future for what we have built."

The video was a moving tribute to Singapore's "everyday heroes", the stars of this year's parade, and gave people who do not ordinarily weigh in on matters of national importance a chance to have their say.

But why zoom in on everyday heroes?

Why shine the spotlight on individuals who have not achieved success the conventional way, who in times past would have been the subject of pity rather than praise?

And what does it say about Singapore as a nation that its citizens now choose to celebrate those in their midst who are imperfect and vulnerable?

I think it speaks of a Singapore that though still small in size, is big enough to embrace each and every one of her sons and daughters, regardless not only of race, language and religion but also of status, income, education and politics.

It broadens the definition of heroism to include those whose lives have been transfigured by setback, loss and struggle.

And this process of enlargement is key to building the ties that bind Singaporeans to one another and to this island nation.

For nations are what their citizens imagine them to be; they are, as political scientist Benedict Anderson observed, "imagined political communities".

A nation is imagined because "the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them", he wrote, "yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion".

A nation is a community because "regardless of the actual inequality and exploitation that may prevail in each, the nation is always conceived as a deep, horizontal comradeship". And ultimately, it is this fraternity, he said, that makes it possible for people "not so much to kill, as willingly die" for the nations they feel they belong to.

Another insight of Professor Anderson is that nationalism is not an ideology as are other "isms" such as Marxism, capitalism or liberalism.

Rather, he said, nationalism belongs to the category of words that includes terms such as kinship and religion.

Ideologies are systems of ideas and ideals; they are matters of the head. But nationalism is a matter of the heart.

Why is nationalism like religion? Because it is about a people's shared faith in something larger than themselves - the nation, and in Singapore's case, the little red dot that people are willing to fight for and give their lives to.

As for kinship, the link becomes clear when one reflects on how the ordinary tastes, sounds and habits of everyday life, and the closeness of family, friends and neighbours are the substance of people's love for their nation.

This year's National Day Parade tapped those sentiments and, as a result, resonated with those who watched it, some of whom later described it as the best parade in years.

The people behind it understood that beyond planning, development and growth, nation building is also about feeding a people's imagination, through speech, story, song and symbol.

So right at the very end, when the television cameras had stopped broadcasting and the guests were making their way home, the organisers thanked the hundreds of nameless participants who had spent thousands of hours preparing for the big show.

And then they arranged for a second round of fireworks to fill the night sky at Marina Bay, so the performers who always missed the first round as they had to face the crowd while singing and dancing, could also enjoy one of the evening's highlights.

It was a small gesture but one that was big in meaning.

In her 49th year, Singapore is on the way to becoming, in the words of Dick Lee's song, a "big island - bigger, bigger than it can be".

NDP 2014 to honour pioneers and other Singaporeans
National Day Parade to celebrate Singaporeans with heart

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