Saturday 30 April 2016

Rally speeches, govt records now on National Archives portal

By Melody Zaccheus, The Straits Times, 29 Apr 2016

Addressing the young nation at the 1968 National Day Rally, then Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew said it had been a "splendid year" for the country.

With determination and confidence written on his face, he said "the figures sparkle" and the next step was to chart out the course for the year ahead.

That stirring speech and others that listed the key developments and challenges of the Republic, as captured in the annual National Day messages and rally speeches by Singapore prime ministers over the decades, are now available to the public on the National Archives of Singapore's (NAS) online portal

They include Mr Lee's early rally speeches, which were also delivered in Hokkien, from 1966 to 1979.

The recent addition of these audiovisual recordings to the NAS portal was announced by Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim at his ministry's work plan seminar yesterday.

The clips were assembled over the past year by NAS' audiovisual team, which worked to sync silent film footage with sound tapes.

Dr Yaacob said these speeches give an insight into the outlook of the nation's leaders at each stage of the country's development.

He said: "These National Day speeches will help us gain a better understanding of the challenges that Singapore faced, the aspirations that our leaders shared with our fellow citizens and the policies that have shaped Singapore and made it what it is today."

NAS has also uploaded on its portal papers presented by various ministries, state organisations and institutions, including government white papers and annual reports of statutory boards, starting from 2011. More papers from 1955 to 2010 will be added to the portal over the next two years.

Established in 1968 with just 15,000 records, the NAS has since seen its repository grow to more than 10 million records. It became an institution under the National Library Board in 2012. Its portal gets about 400,000 page views a month.

NAS director Eric Chin said it is good to put the information about Singapore into the hands of Singaporeans themselves. He said: "These are materials which somebody might have found in different places, but we have brought them all together to make them accessible and searchable on one platform.

"We hope these new initiatives will be a wonderful new resource for Singaporeans, whether they are researchers or just Singaporeans interested in the history of Singapore."

NAS will also launch the MCI Singapore Policy History Project in July. This will present the various policies undertaken by the Ministry of Communications and Information and are substantiated by a stable of content including declassified government files, photographs and oral history recordings.

One set of files from the 1950s and 1960s focuses on Singapore's war against communism. They show how the communists channelled propaganda into Singapore.

The records include the "soft-selling" of the propaganda through cultural performances, cartoons and songs such as The Fisherman's Song At Sea - a Teochew number, in which an old fisherman and his daughter sing about the "happy life of fishermen after the (communist) liberation" and "the beautiful and expansive seas of the motherland".

Dr Yaacob said the National Library and the National Archives will be working in the next few years to improve the collection of government records, as well as works which were published in Singapore or about the country. They will also provide greater access to archival records and enhance the preservation of at-risk records.

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