Friday, 10 August 2018

NDP 2018: Happy 53rd Birthday Singapore!

Celebrating a shared Singapore
25,000 spectators celebrate diversity and shared Singaporean past at 53rd birthday bash
By Tan Tam Mei, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2018

Lifting their heads to the sky, the 25,000 people at Singapore's 53rd birthday bash raised their voices to sing Majulah Singapura as fireworks in the formation of five stars shot up into the night sky.

The triumphant pyrotechnic show that ends every National Day Parade was an emotional coda to a day when Singaporeans celebrated their unity in diversity, their home and country, and felt like the sky, indeed, was the limit.

The ninth parade to be held at the Marina Bay floating platform stoked the exhilaration, utilising the elements that have made it a crowd favourite - of sky, sea and that gleaming downtown backdrop.

Making their aerial debut were divers from the Republic of Singapore Navy, who drew thunderous applause as they jumped out of a plane in freefall, opening their chutes to land in the calm waters with their operational gear and fins on.

The cheers got even wilder with the act that followed them, the skydiving Red Lions, who landed gracefully on the platform.

Sports instructor Debbie Poh was thrilled to see the Red Lions and divers together at the show.

"This couldn't have been done elsewhere because the floating platform is right next to the water," said Ms Poh, 30. "It's the perfect venue."

President Halimah Yacob attended the parade for the first time as Singapore's head of state. The crowd rose to its feet as one, cheering and waving flags at her arrival.

Singapore's first female president, with her trademark warmth, stayed after the parade was over to mingle with fellow Singaporeans.

At home, Singaporeans watching the sundown parade on TV got the best view when spectators in the stands held up red and white placards from their funpacks, to form the sentence "WE (heart) SG".

It was a smart idea, said student Jasdev Singh, 14. "The coordination required is really cool and the results turned out awesome... It shows how each one of us can play our part and contribute."

Also contributing were more than 3,000 participants, who performed in the spectacular mass displays of song and dance that showcased home-grown creativity.

We are Singapore, said the 2018 National Day Parade. It was also the year's theme song - a 1987 classic by Hugh Harrison made new by musician Charlie Lim, but still familiar and beloved.

Ms Doris Lim, 40, who works in the IT industry, said the remade version was refreshing. Of the new lyrics, she said: "They are as meaningful as the old ones."

The affection for a shared Singaporean past was palpable, as the audience sang heartily along with the combined schools choir - back after five years - to National Day favourites such as Chan Mali Chan and Munnaeru Vaalibaa.

Like the parades of previous years, this one melded people's favourite things about Singapore into a satisfying whole.

The past was very much with the present, when Singaporeans planted their feet and stood together, and looked to the future.

NDP stories that moved a nation
The Straits Times, 15 Aug 2018

The National Day Parade (NDP) is the spectacular highlight of the Singapore year. However, as this year's NDP showed, it fulfils a deeper purpose as well. The moving use of personal stories to weave together Singapore's national story is a reminder that for all their differences of race, religion and class, Singaporeans remain creations of a single nation that rises above the fitful lives of the day.

A few stories stood out for many watching the parade - whether live at Marina Bay, or on television and online. Primary school teacher Chee Siew Chuan, now 75, got her class to put together a set of stationery and a school bag for her pupil Veera Sekaran when she found out that he could not afford even a pen. Mr Veera went on to study botany at the National University of Singapore, where he experienced another act of kindness, when a lawyer offered to pay his tuition fees because he did not have the money. Today, Mr Veera is the founder of a company providing horticultural consultancy services.

Former samsui woman Woo Yun Sum, now 88, did manual labour throughout her life, from age 15. She took pride in the fact that Singapore - a country she helped build with her sweat and physical strain - is now "a good place to stay, with plenty of food to eat" and "kids are able to go to school". She showed resilience and contentment with her memorable line: "If you have rice, eat rice. If you have porridge, eat porridge."

NDP creative director Boo Junfeng deserves credit for having come up with the idea of using the touching stories of individuals to tell the story of Singapore. He said in a media interview that he wanted each person to take away a message that resonates with him, "whether it's the message of hopes and dreams being attainable, whether it's about being strong and resilient in your life or whether it is about being there with your loved ones as they go through their challenges".

The stories moved Singaporeans because they were real, but also because they were a reminder of what patriotism ought to be. Patriotism is about love for country, but not just at an abstract level. It manifests itself in a sense of altruism towards fellow citizens. So when we see other Singaporeans striving and overcoming adversity in their lives, patriotism drives us to be emotionally invested in their success, to cheer them on, and to see our own struggles in theirs. This same altruistic patriotism drives people to charity and volunteer work, giving of their time, money and effort to uplift the lives of others. It drives people to vote, and to chart a better future for their fellow citizens by making political choices. It drives people to small acts of kindness, from giving up a seat on a train to picking up litter, as well as nudging others to step forward to serve. Hopefully this year's NDP will remind Singaporeans about the many things to love about their country.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's 2018 National Day Message

Bold, creative planning key to reimagining the future: PM Lee
He points to Kampung Admiralty, where Govt has transformed delivery of key public services
By Tham Yuen-C, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 9 Aug 2018

The work of building Singapore is not done, and in reimagining the future, bold, creative planning is paramount, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Giving an example of this innovative vision, PM Lee cited Kampung Admiralty, the site he chose to deliver his message for National Day this year.

The estate in Woodlands is Singapore's first retirement community, and is also where the Government has transformed the way it delivers education, healthcare and housing to improve lives, he said, adding that these are the three key concerns of Singaporeans when they fret about the cost of living.

"In Singapore, we ensure these key public services are both of high quality and affordable for all Singaporeans, rich or poor. This is how we have helped families to manage their cost of living and given an extra hand to those who need it. For more than five decades, this approach has worked well," he said.

"We are not done building Singapore yet. By planning boldly and creatively, we can reimagine Singapore, remake our heartlands and rejuvenate our communities."

The 11-storey Kampung Admiralty complex took in its first residents last August, and comprises public housing integrated with healthcare, wellness and eldercare facilities plus a childcare centre.

PM Lee described it as a "high-rise kampung where residents are out and about, socialising with family, friends and neighbours, and yet never too far from home".

It is where education, healthcare and housing policies come together for the residents in a "tangible and holistic way", he said, adding that it is a model for future public housing.

Similarly, across Singapore, childcare centres have been opened to ensure all children can have a good start in life, and community healthcare facilities are in the works to bring quality care to people where they live, he added.

"These services will always be affordable," he said.

As for existing public housing estates, the Housing Board will continue to maintain and upgrade them, he said.

Alluding to the hotly discussed issue of the fate of HDB flats when their 99-year leases run out, he added: "Though the leases still have many years to run, we should think ahead about how we can keep older estates in good living condition, and also start to redevelop them, in order to build new homes and towns for future generations."

Unlike in previous National Day messages, PM Lee did not mention the economy's forecast growth figures for the year. But he noted that the economy has continued to grow steadily, around 3 per cent to 3.5 per cent in recent years.

He cautioned, though, that worsening trade tensions between major economies could have repercussions for Singapore, and may even affect international security.

Though tensions in the Korean peninsula had eased after Singapore successfully hosted the summit between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un two months ago, PM Lee said, there are many more challenges to overcome before denuclearisation and peace can be achieved.

Closer to home, PM Lee said Singapore will "strive for good relations with Malaysia, based on mutual benefit and respect" and "continue to work with Indonesia to further our wide-ranging cooperation".

Wrapping up, he said that building Singapore for the next 50 years will be a massive undertaking that will last more than a generation.

"To sustain this project, we will need a strong economy and sound government finances. Most importantly, we need social cohesion, political stability and good government for many years... to carry out and realise our vision."

Former president Tony Tan tops National Day 2018 awards list
By Elgin Toh, Deputy Political Editor, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2018

Former president Tony Tan Keng Yam, 78, has been conferred the nation's highest civilian honour, the Order of Temasek (First Class). He tops this year's National Day awards list of 4,041 civilian and 583 military recipients.

Dr Tan, whose public service career spanned nearly four decades, said he was "deeply humbled and greatly honoured" by the award.

In a statement, he said: "Together with many of my generation, I was privileged to serve my country, to see it grow and thrive. It has been truly rewarding to work for, and alongside, so many Singaporeans who envisioned a better future for their children and grandchildren."

Dr Tan is the ninth Singaporean in history to receive the Order of Temasek (First Class). The last to be given the honour was former minister S. Dhanabalan, in 2015. Other recipients were: former presidents S R Nathan and Wee Kim Wee, former ministers Goh Keng Swee, S. Rajaratnam, Hon Sui Sen and Lim Kim San, and former chief justice Yong Pung How.

Dr Tan earned a first-class honours degree in physics from the University of Singapore. He also has a master's degree in operations research from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and a PhD in applied mathematics from the University of Adelaide.

In 1979, he left his job as general manager of OCBC Bank to enter politics, winning a by-election for the Sembawang seat. He was MP for Sembawang for the next 27 years.

In his ministerial career, he helmed five ministries, starting with education. He was credited for expanding vocational and technical training opportunities and setting up Singapore's third university, the Singapore Management University.

Dr Tan also helmed the finance, health, trade and industry and defence ministries. In 1995, he became deputy prime minister, a role he stayed in for a decade. He left politics in 2006. He was founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew's first choice to be Singapore's second prime minister, but he declined the post. Mr Lee once praised him for his quick mind and decisiveness. "He would say 'yes or no' and he would stick to it," said Mr Lee. Dr Tan, who is married and has four children, was elected Singapore's seventh president, and served one term from 2011 to 2017.

Mr Dhanabalan paid tribute to his former Cabinet colleague, noting his significant contribution in running for the presidency. The other candidates in the 2011 election made promises beyond the constitutional role of the president, said Mr Dhanabalan, noting: "Dr Tony Tan entered the fray and brought sanity to the whole process."

Coming after Dr Tan in the awards list are two recipients of the Distinguished Service Order: Singapore University of Technology and Design's former chairman Philip Ng Chee Tat, and National University of Singapore Board of Trustees' former chairman Wong Ngit Liong.

Mr Ng, 59, is chief executive of property giant Far East Organization while Mr Wong, 77, founded and heads Venture Corporation.

Besides recognising individuals who have served the nation, this year's National Day awards also paid tribute to two groups which worked on the Pedra Branca case and the Trump-Kim Summit. Formed from various ministries and agencies, the groups received the President's Certificate of Commendation.

As Singaporeans prepare to celebrate National Day today, Dr Tan called on one and all to continue the task of nation-building, saying: "Our nation remains a work in progress, and Singapore needs the service of men and women from all walks of life to build on our strong foundations to ensure an even brighter future for our nation."

Tony Tan heads list of National Day Award 2018 winners
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 29 Oct 2018

Nearly 10 years before the National Gallery Singapore opened its doors to the public in 2015, then chief executive of the Singapore Exchange Hsieh Fu Hua was asked to join a committee in charge of shaping it.

It turned out to be one of his longest engagements. This year, Mr Hsieh, 68, marks his fifth year as chairman of the iconic gallery, which houses the largest public collection of modern art in South-east Asia.

For his contributions, Mr Hsieh received a Meritorious Service Medal yesterday.

He was one of 518 recipients conferred awards by President Halimah Yacob, with former president Tony Tan Keng Yam heading the list. The ceremony was held at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College Central.

Mr Hsieh's citation says he "rallied corporates and philanthropists to support the gallery's permanent galleries, exhibitions and programmes".

Speaking to The Straits Times, Mr Hsieh said: "The building of a museum is a very long journey. You only have to look around the world to realise that good or great museums come about over decades, and with the work of generations of people."

Yesterday, Dr Tan, 78, the Republic's former president, became the ninth Singaporean to receive the nation's highest civilian honour - the Order of Temasek (First Class) - "for his lifetime dedication to public service and his stellar service to his people and country".

Dr Tan, whose public service career spanned nearly four decades, helped transform Singapore's education system, armed forces, reserve management, and research and development efforts.

"The breadth and sweep of his service have been equalled by few," his citation reads.

He left his job as OCBC Bank's general manager in 1979 to enter politics and went on to helm five ministries. He has been credited with revamping the school system as education minister, championing the development of higher education, as well as laying the basis for Singapore's universities to raise their international standing. He was elected Singapore's seventh president, serving from 2011 to last year. The last to be conferred the Order of Temasek (First Class) was former minister S. Dhanabalan, in 2015.

The next highest award given out yesterday was the Distinguished Service Order, conferred to the Singapore University of Technology and Design's former chairman Philip Ng Chee Tat, and National University of Singapore Board of Trustees' former chairman Wong Ngit Liong.

Mr Ng, 59, is chief executive of property giant Far East Organization while Mr Wong, 77, founded and heads electronics manufacturer Venture Corporation.

There were five other Meritorious Service Medal recipients besides Mr Hsieh this year.

They are: Co-chairmen of the Religious Rehabilitation Group, Ustaz Ali Haji Mohamed and Ustaz Mohamad Hasbi Hassan; Permanent Secretary for Finance, and Permanent Secretary (special duties) in the Prime Minister's Office, Mrs Tan Ching Yee; Head of Civil Service Leo Yip Seng Cheong; and Centre for Liveable Cities executive director Khoo Teng Chye.

Mrs Tan helped enhance the accessibility, affordability and quality of the country's healthcare system and played a role in developing multiple pathways for students, among other things.

Mr Yip, similarly, made "distinguished contributions to Singapore in his 33 years of public service", and held a series of appointments in the police force before becoming principal private secretary to Mr Lee Kuan Yew when he was the Republic's Senior Minister.

Mr Khoo contributed to making Singapore's urban planning and regulatory regime more transparent and responsive during a 20-year career in the Urban Redevelopment Authority. The 66-year-old held key leadership positions in the Public Utilities Board and Ministry of National Development as well.

Former chief of defence force Perry Lim Cheng Yeow, 46, received the Meritorious Service Medal (Military).

The 2018 National Day Awards also paid tribute to two groups which had separately worked on the recent Trump-Kim Summit, as well as the Pedra Branca case - which saw the International Court of Justice award sovereignty to Singapore in 2008.

A birthday special at Istana for inspiring Singaporeans
They were among 1,300 guests at National Day reception hosted by President Halimah Yacob
By Sue-Ann Tan, The Straits Times, 11 Aug 2018

They went from busking at Tampines MRT station to performing at the floating platform at Marina Bay for the National Day Parade (NDP) this year.

Now, Mr Mashruddin Saharuddin, 64, and his son Nizaruddin Mashruddin, 27, have also been to the Istana to meet President Halimah Yacob.

They were among some 1,300 guests at the National Day reception hosted by Madam Halimah at the Istana yesterday. They were there along with other inspiring Singaporeans featured at the parade on Thursday. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and their wives also attended the reception.

The guests, who included ministers, MPs, senior civil servants, grassroots leaders and representatives from volunteer groups and arts and culture groups, were treated to singer-songwriter Charlie Lim's performance of this year's National Day song, an updated version of the 1987 classic We Are Singapore.

Mr Mashruddin said: "I am happy to be here. I came here a few times in the past, but so much has changed now. I wonder if there are still butterflies outside."

He had been to the Istana when he was 15, as part of a Boy Scouts co-curricular activity where participants did some form of voluntary work for a week. He cleaned and polished brassware at the Istana.

Mr Mashruddin, who was born blind, said that even though he could not see the huge crowds at the NDP, he could feel their energy.

"It is my biggest task, and yet it also feels the same as my regular busking. I am always nervous, and I don't like crowds," he said with a laugh.

For Mr Nizaruddin, it was his first time visiting the Istana and meeting a president. "I never thought I would be here. I never even thought I would make it on television," said Mr Nizaruddin, who started performing with his father when he was 13. Their rendition of the well-loved song, Home, at the NDP went viral online, and many gave them the thumbs up on social media, saying that the performance had touched them deeply.

Mr Nizaruddin said: "I went to sleep after the parade and woke up with so many messages from people who said they teared up because of our performance. People congratulated me and wanted to follow me on Instagram or be my friend on Facebook."

He added that people recognise him in public now, and they wave and want to take pictures.

But what makes him happiest are the messages from people who have supported him for more than a decade and followed the performances of him and his father at Tampines MRT station, where they busk nearly every day. "They have known me since I was a boy. This whole thing is new and unexpected for me, but it is such a good feeling."

Former Olympic sprinter Mary Klass, 83, said it was also her first time meeting Madam Halimah. "I feel so honoured to be here. After yesterday, a lot of people said they were inspired by my story. I stood there watching the parade, and I say it is the best one I have seen."

Mr Veera Sekaran, 56, founder of green design firm Greenology, said he was overwhelmed by being featured at the parade and then being invited to the reception. "I had mixed feelings yesterday. I was happy to tell my story, but also sad because it reminded me of my struggles. I cried," said Mr Veera, who overcame childhood poverty to do well in school.

"But I also think this narrative is important to us as Singaporeans because society often looks down on people's failures. We are 'kiasu' and embarrassed to share such stories, but we need to overcome stigmas."

* NDP will return to the Padang in 2019 as Singapore commemorates bicentennial: Ng Eng Hen
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 18 Aug 2018

Singapore's annual birthday bash will return to the Padang next year as the country commemorates its bicentennial, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday.

The recreational field near City Hall was chosen for the National Day Parade 2019 as the site "has been witness to so many key events in Singapore's history", he said.

Dr Ng revealed the venue in a speech at a Gardens by the Bay event to thank participating organisations, sponsors and key appointment holders of the organising committee for this year's National Day Parade (NDP), which was held at the Marina Bay floating platform last week.

Dr Ng said next year's parade will be another special one, as it will reflect how far Singapore has come 200 years after Sir Stamford Raffles landed here in 1819.

The Padang was where the first NDP was held in 1966, after independence. It also witnessed the declarations of self-government in 1959 and the union with Malaysia in 1963.

Assistant Professor Yeo Kang Shua of the Singapore University of Technology and Design, an architectural conservation specialist, said it was fitting that the Padang was chosen for a year when Singapore is looking back on its pre-independence past.

"The Padang was first planned in 1822 as a civic space, around which politically and culturally significant landmarks were later built, such as the Victoria Concert Hall and Theatre as well as the old Supreme Court.

"It is not a surprise to me that NDP is going back to a place with such historic civic presence," he said.

Parades held at the Padang do not feature a sea display as they do at the floating platform. However, the Red Lions skydivers, who are crowd favourites, can still perform a parachute display there - something they could not do at the National Stadium in 2016 due to safety reasons.

Since 1995, the annual parade has been held at the Padang every five years, the last time being the SG50 bash in 2015, which included highlights such as F-16 fighter jets forming the number "50" and a tribute to the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.

The last parade at the old National Stadium was held in 2006, and since then, the Aug 9 celebration has been held nine times at the floating platform, twice at the Padang and once at the new National Stadium.

In his speech, Dr Ng paid tribute to the 15,000 people from the Singapore Armed Forces, Home Team, and the public and private sectors who made this year's NDP a success.

"(NDP 2018) succeeded because it gave expression to what Singapore is and wants to become," he said. "This year's NDP was a superb storytelling exercise, and it reflected Singapore's story through the lives of ordinary Singaporeans who performed extraordinary acts."

He also emphasised the purpose of the annual bash.

"Because we can forget what it is about. We can think it is just a parade, a show... But as a relatively young and independent country, each NDP that we hold every year is about a nation still establishing itself, and not least through a common identity."

Ms Christine Chua, 31, a service administrator, has been to parades held at the Padang, the National Stadium and the floating platform, but she likes the Padang best.

"The floating platform is better than the stadium because we can see the parachutists, state flag flypast and outdoor fireworks. But the Padang is even better because of the military mobile column, which was last seen at the SG50 parade," she said.

NDP 2018 Theme Song: We Are Singapore

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