Thursday, 10 August 2017

NDP 2017: Singapore celebrates 52nd National Day

National Day Parade 2017: One heart, one nation, one Singapore
Drone display dazzles crowd at Marina Bay as Singapore turns 52
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2017

With the Marina Bay skyline serving as a backdrop, Singaporeans celebrated the nation's 52nd birthday and cheered the return of crowd favourites such as the Red Lions skydivers.

The Marina Bay floating platform proved to be a hit for the tens of thousands of people clad in red and white, returning as a National Day Parade (NDP) venue for the first time since 2014.

Last year, the NDP was held at the new National Stadium, while the SG50 bash was held at the Padang.

Always intended to be an interim venue while the new National Stadium was being built, the floating platform has become a popular choice for NDP due to its location.

Attendees said the whole area is an embodiment of what Singapore was, is, and will be.

Teacher Kathiravan Bhupathy, 32, said: "This is the venue for NDP. At one look here, you can see how far Singapore has come."

The theme of this year's parade - #OneNationTogether - is a "call-to-action for all Singaporeans to take pride in our achievements, and to be confident in our collective future as we overcome all odds together".

There were hints of the future and the Smart Nation ambition, with Edgar the robot co-hosting, and a light show put on by 300 drones taking to the skies at the same time. Pre-programmed using sophisticated algorithms, the drones winked and danced against the Marina Bay skyline.

After a two-year hiatus - due to the weather one year and logistics the next - the nine-member Singapore Armed Forces Parachute Team, or Red Lions, returned to rapturous applause from the 25,000- strong crowd as they glided effortlessly onto the floating platform.

The audience was in awe of the dynamic defence display, showcasing Singapore's military assets on land, air and sea, back also after a two-year break.

There was also a reminder of challenges and the ability to overcome them. For the first time, yesterday's defence display included a demonstration of the Republic's capabilities in the event of a terrorist attack. Performers fired blanks while in the seating gallery to add to the realism.

The show ended revealing Singaporeans who had scaled their own peaks.

Swimmer Joseph Schooling, who clinched Singapore's first Olympic gold, and Paralympic champion Yip Pin Xiu stood on the summit of a replica of a mountain.

They were accompanied by others such as top female police officer Zuraidah Abdullah, 55, and skills upgrader Rama Kerisna, 70.

Yesterday's celebrations also took on a sentimental note as President Tony Tan Keng Yam witnessed his last parade as head of state.

Speaking to the media after the parade, he said: "I'm touched by the affection which was displayed to me tonight... I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve as President and also to reach out to Singaporeans. My wife and I believe Singapore will continue to progress and I think that we'll have a marvellous future together. But we have to strive to work on, there is no end to our journey."

A nation united in the Singapore spirit: President Tony Tan
Singaporeans can work to overcome challenges as one, Dr Tony Tan says at his last NDP as President
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2017

The National Day Parade (NDP) is more than "just a marvellous show", said President Tony Tan Keng Yam at the end of the nation's 52nd birthday bash.

"It is an expression of the Singapore spirit, and the way we must continue to strive for progress, because the work never ends," said Dr Tan, adding that the nation faces many challenges, such as terrorism and economic issues.

"But if we work together... we can overcome all of these challenges," he stressed, addressing the media after the parade. "Each milestone is just a step on our forward progress."

This year marks the last that Dr Tan, 77, attended the parade as its reviewing officer, with the job going to the new president after the next presidential election to be held next month.

It will be the nation's first reserved election - for Malay candidates - following changes to the elected presidency scheme.

As Singapore's seventh president, Dr Tan presided over his first parade in 2012, having assumed office in September 2011.

After the parade at The Float @ Marina Bay yesterday which was attended by about 25,000 people, Dr Tan said he spent "a little more time than usual thanking all the participants". He told reporters later that he was "extremely touched" by the people's good wishes and their affection.

He said that every parade he has attended as president has been special and he is grateful for the chance to serve the nation. He added that the NDP "is an occasion for Singaporeans to come together to celebrate our achievements, our independence, our progress".

"Working as one nation together, we have shown how we can build a harmonious, cohesive society, everybody pitching in and looking out for each other... This reflects the spirit which is shown in the parade," he added.

The parade this year was also important as it commemorates 50 years of national service, said Dr Tan.

"NSmen have contributed tremendously to Singapore. Without their commitment, their sacrifices, and the support of their families, we will not be able to defend ourselves and Singapore will not be where we are today," he said.

"I think it's appropriate that we take this occasion to thank all our NSmen... and their commitment to Singapore."

Dr Tan also commended the NDP performers - of whom the oldest is 81 and the youngest is four. "It shows the Singapore spirit, that we can come together... (and) express togetherness as Singaporeans - that we share each others' destinies."

Spectators at the parade told The Straits Times they were thankful for Dr Tan's service as head of state.

Retiree Soh Cheow Hwee, 62, said Dr Tan has done "a great job for the nation".

Temasek Laboratories deputy director Yeo Siew Yam, 53, said: "I'm thankful for his time as President, and I also want to say thanks to Mrs Mary Tan for all the support she's given to her husband.

"It is sad that this is his last time as President at the parade, but I hope to see him contributing to Singapore in other ways in the future.

"I wish Dr Tony Tan all the best after his presidency."

Ms Lynn Yeow-De Vito, 37, director of a public relations agency, also said: "He has done his best for our nation, like the other presidents before him, and I think it's always good to have fresh leadership after he has completed his term."

NS50@NDP 2017: Singapore pays tribute to nation's defenders
The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2017

National servicemen past and present were in the limelight at the National Day Parade yesterday, as the nation paid tribute to the men defending Singapore.

Men of all generations were invited to stand up in recognition of their contributions after the screening of a video to mark the 50th year of national service in Singapore.

The video, with the theme From My Generation To Yours, featured various milestones of national service, from recruits receiving haircuts to soldiers undergoing training.

This critical pillar in nation-building was celebrated in other elements of yesterday's parade at the Marina Bay floating platform.

For example, the first round of the Presidential Gun Salute from each of the four guns on board an M3G raft was fired by operationally ready national servicemen. The rest were fired by full-time national servicemen.

Pilot Julian Quek, 38, who was there with his wife and two children, said: "It's a good form of recognition for what we have done all these years.

"It's also good for the young ones to see what their fathers and forefathers have done for the country, and it's a good example for them to carry on with this tradition to defend the country."

Dynamic Defence Display: Bigger, better display
SAF's popular defence display makes a much-awaited comeback
The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2017

After a two-year absence, the crowd-favourite Dynamic Defence Display (D3) returned to the National Day Parade yesterday with a bang.

The audience was in awe during the two-part display, which featured an array of over 50 high-tech assets from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the Republic of Singapore Air Force, the Republic of Singapore Navy and the Home Team.

Two 20-tonne Belrex Protected Combat Support Vehicles, two 17.5-tonne Peacekeeper Protected Response Vehicles and a Heron 1 unmanned aerial vehicle were among those making a first appearance at the parade.

The audience was also treated to several simulated sequences, including a high-speed chase sequence by the navy's rigid-hulled inflatable boats and an aerial display by three F-15SG fighter jets.

The Terrex Infantry Carrier Vehicle returned to the NDP stage with three of the vehicles providing fire for troopers in a simulated combat sequence.

Lance Corporal Tan Jun Lin said he would never have imagined he would be driving the Terrex in front of more than 20,000 people. He started serving his national service only last year.

While operating the Terrex is a "big jump" from the smaller Belrex and five-tonner trucks he had previously learnt to drive, Lance Cpl Tan said he had "a lot of preparation and training time" to learn to navigate the 24-tonne vehicle, which requires the use of numerous cameras that are mounted on it.

Lieutenant-Colonel Law Wei Shing, 36, chairman of the management for the D3 committee, said he was excited when he found out that he would be choreographing the D3 segment - one of his favourite parts of the parade - this year.

The display aimed to inspire "the confidence of the people" in Singapore's military forces as the "cornerstone of the sovereignty of the country", said LTC Law, who is the commanding officer of the 30th Battalion, Singapore Combat Engineers.

'Attacks' leave many on the edge of their seats
By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2017

The sound of gunshots pierce the air and the crowd scatters as gunmen storm in. Moments later, the gunmen are swiftly subdued by the Army Deployment Force and elite commandos.

But multiple "terror threats" continue to appear islandwide, including a truck weaving through traffic in the Central Business District.

These were scenes that unfolded as part of a counter-terrorism exercise staged for the first time at the NDP yesterday, leaving many parade-goers on the edge of their seats and also having a deeper impression of the impact of terrorism.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Home Team had joined forces to showcase Singapore's coordinated response to new security threats, even as they underscored the need to build trust and vigilance in the community. The 10-minute showcase was part of the parade's Dynamic Defence Display (D3) segment, which traditionally focused only on military might.

Said Lieutenant-Colonel Law Wei Shing, 36, who led the D3 segment: "If terror attacks were to hit our shores, we want to show that our security agencies are ready to counter them and bring normalcy back."

Members of the police's Emergency Response Teams and Rapid Deployment Troops brought the action to the audience in the stands. LTC Law said the use of gunshots, pyrotechnics and troopers in the seating gallery was to"give the audience a more immersive experience overall".

Said accountant James Chin, 62: "It was impressive. The speed at which they reacted and moved really showed that we are well-prepared ."

As paramedics tended to "casualties" and recovery efforts kicked in, the segment wrapped up with a united show of support in the aftermath of the attacks. A video recording also showed citizens turning up at blood donation drives, while others stepped up as volunteers.

Said Mr Michael James Parks, 22, who played the role of a gunman in the segment: "Working together is the best thing we can do as a nation. We cannot let any acts of terror break us apart."

Never too old to rock
Four seniors bring the house down in energetic arts showcase
The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2017

When radio deejay Brian Richmond first told his family and friends that he had to rap - and in Malay, no less - at the National Day Parade this year, they were shocked.

The 70-year-old, who is a grandfather of one, also found it a challenge as his forte is in hosting.

But he agreed when he was approached by the show organisers.

"I agreed to give it a try because that is my philosophy in life... Hopefully the young ones will look upon us kindly to see how sporting our seniors can be," he added.

He was among four senior performers in an energetic showcase of dance and music at the NDP last night, who were at least 60 and positive examples of active ageing.

The others included Mrs Santha Bhaskar, 77, the artistic director of Bhaskar's Arts Academy who performed a traditional Indian dance piece; and veteran singer Rahimah Rahim, 61, who sang an excerpt from the 2008 National Day song Shine For Singapore in Mandarin.

Rounding off the quartet was the NDP's oldest performer, 81-year-old Mary Ho - popularly known as Grandma Mary - who drew cheers for her electric guitar solo in the same segment.

This year's show is not the first time that Mrs Bhaskar has performed at the parade.

But what made this year's show especially memorable was the chance to meet other entertainers whom she had not interacted with before, particularly Madam Rahimah, whose music she has been a fan of since her teens. "It's quite special that I could perform alongside her," said Mrs Bhaskar.

Madam Rahimah said performing in Mandarin was not a challenge at all, given her ample experience singing in Mandarin.

"As Singaporeans, we have to learn from each other, including new languages," she added.

Mrs Bhaskar hopes more people will participate in the arts, regardless of age. "Practising the arts - music, dance, or visual art - is good for the spirit and it keeps us healthy."

Madam Ho, who picked up the electric guitar in her 60s as she was drawn to rock and blues music, said: "If you love something, you just keep going on. You need to keep learning new things."

Pioneers soak in parade spirit live, some for first time
By Tiffany Fumiko Tay, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2017

Members of the pioneer generation turned up for yesterday's National Day Parade (NDP), some for the first time.

Retiree Edwin Koh, 69, who carried the Singapore flag as a schoolboy in the first NDP in 1966, was thrilled to be able to attend the parade for the first time since then.

After his children had balloted for tickets for several years without luck, the Bukit Panjang resident decided to approach his MP. "I'd like to thank Dr Vivian Balakrishnan. I told him I haven't been (to the parade) all these years. This is like winning the lottery."

He and his wife Theresa Ng, 70, queued from 2pm yesterday, more than three hours before the parade began, to get good seats.

He said: "I'm very happy. This will be my first and last chance to see it in person. Being here is nothing like watching it on TV."

Another retiree, Madam Tay Ah Hiang, was at the NDP for the first time in decades - and is now hoping to see another parade live.

"I wish for peace for the country in the coming years, that all of us will live in harmony and that my grandchildren will grow up strong and healthy," said the 80-year-old.

Uber driver Md Rosli, 60, said he was "very excited" to be attending his first NDP with his family. "We got lucky this year," said Mr Rosli.

"I used to live in a small kampung in the 1970s - Singapore has come a long way since then... I hope for my kids that it stays peaceful, prosperous and united."

Spot yourself at the National Day Parade
The Sunday Times, 13 Aug 2017

The Straits Times has produced a high-resolution panorama of the National Day Parade crowd at the floating platform, where each face in the photo can be zoomed into.

The gigapixel consists of 752 images shot with a 500mm lens. The panorama required special equipment, including a robotic camera mount called a gigapan, several dry runs and even certification to work from heights.

To capture the shot, a camera with a telephoto lens was placed onto the mount, which moved the camera in precise movements to make successive overlapping photos that were stitched together later.

Straits Times executive photographers Ong Wee Jin and Mark Cheong spent months preparing for the crucial moment on Aug 9.

Mr Ong first approached the NDP executive committee with the idea in May, while Mr Cheong went on a course and was certified to work at heights. To get the shot, he climbed a 23m-tall tower, one of four that support the LED screens on the main stage at The Float @ Marina Bay.

"Numerous tests were done with the camera and gigapan, both at the office and the platform, to make sure all would pan out smoothly," said Mr Cheong.

The gigapan took over an hour to shoot from 5.30pm to 6.50pm, and there was the challenge of varying light levels due to the setting sun.

ST picture editor Stephanie Yeow and Mr Ong spent two days stitching the photos together.

The ST Digital team, including senior creative director Rodolfo Pazos and journalist Rebecca Pazos, created the interface that allowed users to zoom in.

Ms Yeow said: "It was a very intense last few weeks but it has been exhilarating seeing the result."

Said ST digital editor Ong Hwee Hwee: "Readers wrote to us, saying they really appreciated the time and effort we took to recreate this giant family portrait of each and everyone who turned up for Singapore's birthday bash."

Security stepped up in Marina Bay, nearby areas
By Ng Huiwen, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2017

Security was tightened at this year's National Day Parade (NDP), with large concrete blocks set up to guard against vehicle attacks.

They were placed along the Marina Bay and surrounding areas, including the Merlion Park, The Promontory @ Marina Bay and in front of Marina Bay Sands, where hundreds had gathered from about 4pm for a spot to view the fireworks during the finale. These measures were previously applied only near the parade grounds.

With the parade gazetted as a "special event" under the Public Order Act, police also applied stricter enforcement against the use of unmanned aerial vehicles, such as drones. Yesterday, police arrested a 53-year-old man at 3.01pm after he flew his drone at Marina Barrage, within the restricted area.

Investigations are ongoing.

Many of the 25,000 attendees decided to turn up early for the NDP. Though checks were stringent, and queues long, they remained in high spirits.

Marine operations executive Khairul Azhar Rosawi, 29, was in line just before 3pm near Marina Square, one of the four entry points. Gates were opened only at 3.30pm and the parade started just after 5pm.

He said of the security screening and bag checks: "I feel that it's necessary, especially with all the attacks around the world. It can be a bit of a hassle since we came here early and now have to wait in the hot sun.

"But we wanted to beat the long queue later and get a seat up front."

Freelance accountant Tay Hui Cheng, 34, who was at the parade at 3.30pm, said the NDP organisers provided coolers at the security stations and even guided her 61-year- old mother Molly Quah to a separate queue, when they noticed she was walking with some difficulty.

Officers from the Emergency Response Teams and Special Operations Command patrolled in teams as a deterrence. These officers are also trained to respond to emergency situations, including potential terrorist attacks.

Former sales promoter Linda Lee, 52, who was at the Merlion Park with a friend, said: "I've come to watch NDP here every year since 2012. I have seen more police officers this year - it's good, we feel safer in the crowd."

PM Lee Hsien Loong's 2017 National Day Message

3 issues Singapore needs to tackle to thrive in the future
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 9 Aug 2017

• Improving pre-school, nurturing kids for a new world

• Fighting diabetes, keeping Singaporeans healthy

• Embracing technology, building a Smart Nation

Recalling the forward planning of Singapore's pioneer leaders, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday set out his vision of what will help prepare Singapore to thrive in the future.

He boiled it down to three things: improving pre-school education, preventing diabetes and embracing technology in the country's drive to be a Smart Nation.

To underscore the point of building ahead for the next generation, Mr Lee delivered his annual National Day message from the eastern section of Gardens by the Bay - the site of the proposed Founders' Memorial to honour the first-generation leaders of modern Singapore.

Framed by such landmarks as the Marina Bay Sands and Gardens by the Bay, he noted that Singapore is now enjoying the rewards of their foresight and vision.

But even as the leaders developed Marina Bay, the country had to deal with many pressing issues: from building an army to housing its population, and educating its young to creating jobs for its adults.

Today, Singapore is also grappling with urgent concerns, from upgrading the economy to tackling terrorism and trade protectionism.

The Government is working with Singaporeans on the issues, and progress is being made, he said.

For instance, it is partnering businesses and workers to transform industries. The economy is expected to grow by about 2.5 per cent this year, higher than last year's 2 per cent, he added.

But at the heart of his speech are the three longer-term issues, about which he will say more in his National Day Rally speech on Aug 20.

First, the Government will create more pre-school places, raise the quality of education and improve the skills of pre-school teachers.

"We want every child to have a good start in life, and a bright future," Mr Lee said.

Better pre-schools will also give parents peace of mind when they are working, he said, adding: "We want to... encourage them to start a family."

Second, he singled out diabetes as one big reason for poor health among the elderly.

Almost one-third of those older than 60 have diabetes, which can result in ailments ranging from heart disease to kidney failure, he said.

"This is why we must go all out to fight diabetes," he said, urging each Singaporean to take responsibility for his own health by eating right and exercising regularly.

Third, he said Singapore needs to harness technology to create opportunities and jobs for the people.

Singapore has a natural advantage as it aims to be a Smart Nation, he added, noting that it is a highly connected and digitally literate society.

Pointing out that other countries are going cashless and analysing big data to improve public services, he said Singapore has to learn, catch up and overtake them.

This, he added, is the spirit of Singapore: to look, plan and stay ahead so that when the future arrives, "we are prepared for it, to ride it and to grow with it".

"That is how we got here," he said.

The same message was delivered in Mandarin, Malay and Tamil by Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Chan Chun Sing, Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim and Trade and Industry Minister (Industry) S. Iswaran.

Founders' Memorial: Govt gives nod for Bay East Garden site
By Royston Sim, Assistant Political Editor, The Straits Times, 9 Aug 2017

A memorial to commemorate Singapore's pioneer leaders will be located at the eastern section of Gardens by the Bay.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday that the Government has accepted the recommendation of the Founders' Memorial Committee for the memorial to be located in the garden.

In his annual National Day Message, Mr Lee noted that a clear majority of people who responded to the committee's calls for views had supported having the site at Bay East Garden. The other option was Fort Canning Park.

"This is a wise choice," said Mr Lee, who delivered his message at Bay East Garden. "Here, looking across the bay and beyond, we can remember the values of our founding leaders, see what they have built and commit ourselves to continue building Singapore."

The 15-member committee in charge of conceptualising the memorial submitted its report to the Government last week. More than 32,000 people had given their views on the memorial over a period of two years.

The report, which was made public on Monday, recommended that the memorial sit by the waterfront, in a family-friendly park with a view of the city skyline showcasing Singapore's progress.

The memorial could be completed by 2025, in time to "capture public enthusiasm and hopes for the memorial" when Singapore's 60th year of independence comes around.

The committee suggested that the memorial have an indoor gallery with space for permanent and temporary sections. It could also house artefacts, said the panel, which proposed that the memorial's programming calendar dovetail with important events like National Day and climax in a Founders' Day or Week.

With the Government having given the green light, the project will now go into the implementation phase.

Professor Lily Kong, a committee member and cultural geographer, told The Straits Times that the committee is "very gratified that the Government has accepted the proposal, which reflects the desires of a lot of Singaporeans".

She said another committee will be formed to oversee the project. This new team, which would include some existing members of the current committee for continuity, will have to hold further consultations when conceptualising the memorial, she added.

Some things it will consider are the memorial's design features, its cost and funding, how to make the site accessible to visitors, and what other facilities could be built in the surrounding area, Prof Kong said.

In its report, the committee had noted that some visitors to an earlier showcase at Bay East Garden had highlighted the site's inaccessibility by public transport.

National Day Awards 2017: PSC chairman Eddie Teo tops list of 4,323 being honoured
He pays tribute to his 'greatest mentor', the late former president S R Nathan, with whom he worked in the 1970s
By Calvin Yang, The Straits Times, 9 Aug 2017

The man who tops the list of recipients of this year's National Day Awards says he owes a lot to his main mentor - a former president.

The mentor is the late former president S R Nathan. And the man getting the top award is Public Service Commission (PSC) chairman Eddie Teo.

Mr Teo, 70, was given the Order of Nila Utama (First Class) - one of Singapore's top national honours. He is the only recipient of the award this year.

A total of 4,323 individuals, including public servants, community and grassroots leaders and educators, will receive National Day honours this year. Each year, the awards recognise individuals for their contributions to Singapore.

Two people were awarded the Distinguished Service Order: former ambassador to Japan Chin Siat Yoon and the Singapore Management University board of trustees' chairman Ho Kwon Ping.

Seven others received the Meritorious Service Medal.

Mr Teo said in a statement yesterday that he is "deeply honoured and truly grateful" for the award.

He is a President's Scholar who started his public service career with the Security and Intelligence Division (SID) in 1970.

His public service career spanned some 35 years before his retirement in 2005. It included permanent secretary appointments at the Ministry of Defence and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).

However, it was his early years in the SID working with his "greatest mentor", Mr Nathan, that left a deep imprint on him. Mr Nathan was director of the SID from 1971 to 1979.

"He taught me the values, discipline and instincts required for public service," said Mr Teo, who later became director of the SID in 1979 and held that post until 1994.

He was appointed permanent secretary for defence from 1994 to 2000 and also held the same position in the PMO from 1998 to 2005.

After retiring, he was appointed Singapore's high commissioner to Australia, before returning to become PSC chairman in 2008.

As chairman of the PSC, Mr Teo has championed recruiting students from diverse backgrounds as scholarship holders.

"I would like to thank my fellow PSC members, who are all busy people with important jobs or big organisations to run, who nevertheless are willing to volunteer their time and energy to contribute to the public good," he said.

"I thank them for being willing to challenge my views and for disagreeing with me, in order that I can make better decisions."

Mr Teo also helmed the Presidential Elections Committee that vetted potential candidates in 2011, and was a member of the Constitutional Commission on the elected presidency last year.

Yesterday, he thanked his wife Antonia for her support. They have two sons, Paul and John.

Mr Teo joins a small group of individuals who have been conferred the Order of Nila Utama. The others include former deputy prime minister Toh Chin Chye, Ambassador-at- Large Tommy Koh and Mr J.Y. Pillay, chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers.

Mr Teo was also awarded the Distinguished Service Order in 2006.

He acknowledged the dedicated public servants he has worked with, saying: "Without them, things would not work, and the Singapore Public Service would not be so highly regarded by so many countries in the world."

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