Saturday 10 August 2019

NDP 2019: Singapore celebrates its 54th birthday at the Padang

Stand up, stand up for Singapore
27,000 spectators mark nation's 54th birthday with moving celebration at NDP
By Kor Kian Beng, Defence & Security Editor, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2019

The lyrics "Stand up for Singapore" took a literal turn last evening when spectators at the Padang spontaneously rose to their feet, time and again, moved by the emotion of marking the nation's 54th birthday.

The National Day Parade (NDP), which also marked the bicentennial of an event that changed Singapore's history, turned out to be an occasion to express gratitude and respect. The mood seemed to wash over the 27,000-strong audience at the Padang, where Singapore held its first NDP in 1966.

Like every year, the crowd stood up solemnly when President Halimah Yacob arrived, when the National Anthem was played and when the Pledge was recited.

Gratitude for the Merdeka Generation - those born in the 1950s and who comprised the earliest batches of national servicemen - was particularly evident when 39 of them appeared as part of a mobile column.

As the 171 vehicles from the Singapore Armed Forces and the Home Team drove past, the masters of ceremonies asked spectators from the Merdeka Generation to stand up so that others in the crowd could acknowledge them. This they did with roaring applause, and some felt moved to stand up as well.

Many in the crowd also rose to their feet when sound engineer and music producer Danial Bawthan - who has muscular dystrophy and goes by the moniker Wheelsmith - came on stage with other performers and rapped "Stand up, Lion City, stand up" - from a wheelchair.

Retiree Alvin Lim, 62, said watching fellow servicemen reminded him of his national service years as a signaller. "Seeing how we have progressed from those days makes me proud," he told The Straits Times.

This year's Parade was the first held at the Padang since 2015, with previous years' NDPs held at the Marina Bay Floating Platform and the National Stadium.

The venue was apt, given the bicentennial. The Padang, which has served as a gathering spot for many since the 1880s and has witnessed several historical milestones, was picked to show how far the country has progressed since Sir Stamford Raffles arrived in 1819.

Together with Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad attending at the invitation of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, spectators and those watching the telecast were shown glimpses of Singapore's history since then.

These included eight floats honouring organisations that have existed since the 19th century and contributed to Singapore's progress. Among them were Singapore Post, Singapore General Hospital and The Straits Times.

At one point, screens played a video showing Singapore's first mobile column in 1969, which featured only 18 AMX-13 tanks. Pride must have swelled in the hearts of many as they looked on at the size of the mobile column last night.

During the show segment, tribute was paid to Singaporeans who have made a difference, such as retired healthcare adviser Iris Verghese, who had reached out to Singapore's first Aids patient in 1985 amid a climate of fear.

The Parade ended on a soulful note with a unique rendition of Majulah Singapura by 66-year-old rock pioneer Ramli Sarip. Right behind him was 25-year-old Wheelsmith.

Amid uncertainties about the global economy and friction between major powers, the image of a young man in a wheelchair and a seasoned senior singing the National Anthem sent a powerful message about Singaporeans' commitment to unity and harmony.

Right after, Stand Up For Singapore blasted through the speakers again as part of a medley, and the crowd was back on its feet, united in song.

Additional reporting by Jolene Ang

Leaders from neighbouring countries join NDP celebrations
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reaffirms deep ties with Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2019

The leaders of Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia yesterday attended the bicentennial edition of the National Day Parade (NDP) at the Padang.

Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Indonesian President Joko Widodo and Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, and their spouses, were seated among Singapore's leaders in the VIP stand.

They were in Singapore at the invitation of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to attend the Parade, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said in a statement yesterday.

Before the Parade, the foreign leaders met PM Lee and Mrs Lee at the National Gallery Singapore.

MFA said that PM Lee expressed appreciation for them attending the celebrations, and reaffirmed the deep historical ties and friendship that Singapore has with Brunei, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Tun Dr Mahathir also put up a post on his Facebook page last night about attending the Parade and meeting the other leaders.

Earlier in the day, Sultan Bolkiah paid a courtesy call on President Halimah Yacob.

During the meeting, both leaders reaffirmed the close ties and special friendship between Singapore and Brunei, underpinned by strong historical bonds and frequent high-level exchanges, said MFA.

They welcomed the robust cooperation across various sectors, including defence and finance, and agreed to continue to build on the momentum of exchanges and explore new avenues of bilateral cooperation, the ministry added.

Madam Halimah said in a Facebook post: "We had a fruitful discussion while reaffirming our close ties and special friendship between Singapore and Brunei.

"We look forward to more robust partnership across various sectors and exploring new avenues of bilateral cooperation."

In a Facebook post after the Parade, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean said: "Honoured to have the leaders from our neighbouring countries here at NDP. These are precious relationships."


Celebrating the past, looking to the future
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2019

One might think that a National Day Parade (NDP) held in the year of Singapore's Bicentennial would focus more on celebrating the nation's past achievements.

But for the 27,000 spectators at the Padang yesterday, the parade was equally about Singapore's aspirations for the future.

It began with eight bicentennial floats of organisations that have grown with Singapore since the 19th century and honoured Merdeka Generation servicemen for their contributions.

Towards the end, the parade featured a futuristic lights and laser display, a giant lion prop, and clips of youth sharing their wishes for the country.

The finale of National Anthem and Pledge involved a cast ranging from veteran singers like Ramli Sarip to others as young as 11, which symbolised the passing of the torch from one generation to the next.

The NDP was a fitting lesson from the organisers, performers and crew on the importance of remembering our past so as to anchor ourselves for the future.

Show of strength
Military drive-past makes parade comeback with 171 vehicles
By Lester Wong, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2019

Their arrival was heralded by the telltale roar of high-tech machinery which only rose in volume as the 171 vehicles of the mobile column rolled past the Padang yesterday.

The military drive-past was making its return to the National Day Parade (NDP) for the first time since 2015, and comprised vehicles from the Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team.

Altogether, 79 types of equipment featured in the display.

It was the first appearance at the NDP for the Singapore Army's Hunter armoured fighting vehicle, the Republic's first fully digital military vehicle. The Hunter was commissioned in June and will progressively replace the army's fleet of Ultra M113 armoured fighting vehicles, which have been in service since the 1970s.

Also making their debut were the Republic of Singapore Air Force's surface-to-air Aster-30 missile system and the army's new recovery truck, the WRV or wheeled recovery vehicle.

With this year being the 50th anniversary of the mobile column, it was also fitting that Merdeka Generation servicemen were part of yesterday's display.

Among the Merdeka Generation participants were old friends Raymond Tan, 68, and Jeffie Koh, 60, who served together as officer commanding and driver respectively, in an armoured company in 1977.

"Jeffie was my driver and runner but we could talk about anything. We treated each other as brothers," said Lieutenant-Colonel (Ret) Tan.

More than 60 of the mobile column vehicles will be out and about again today. They will gather at the F1 Pit Building before fanning out on four different routes to five heartland areas across Singapore.

The vehicles will reach the five destination points - near Junction 8 in Bishan; Wisma Geylang Serai; Jurong East, near Westgate; Punggol, near Waterway Point; and Woodlands, near Causeway Point - by about 6.40pm today.

Showing Singapore spirit through resilience
Ordinary Singaporeans celebrated at NDP in series of short films
By Sue-Ann Tan, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2019

Madam Helen Joseph, 90, still has a scar on her leg from the time she got hurt trying to push food parcels to starving prisoners of war through barbed-wire fences during the Japanese Occupation.

She is one of the ordinary Singaporeans featured at the National Day Parade (NDP) yesterday in a series of short films.

The grandmother of seven was only about 12 during the war years, but what she remembers most vividly is the kindness of Singaporeans in helping one another stay alive.

She said: "I could see the ribs of the prisoners of war as they worked. I would secretly kick the food parcels under the wire for them while playing. "

Her family lived in the basement unit of a compound and neighbours would shelter in their home during air raids. They also shared food rations.

Another ordinary Singaporean celebrated for her resilience and courage in the short film is Mrs Iris Verghese, 73, a healthcare worker who dedicated her life to helping Aids patients and their families.

She had to walk the red-light district to trace transmissions, dealing first with cases of sexually transmitted diseases when she joined in 1974. She dealt with the first case of HIV in 1985.

"The patient was devastated and threw himself on me. My first thought was that I needed to help him, rather than that I might be infected."

She folded a paper star for every patient who died. She had over 1,000 stars in a heart-shaped box by the time she retired at 68, after which she burned the box.

"When I see the stars in the sky, I still think, these are my patients."

Her National Day wish is that Singaporeans will open their hearts and minds to reduce the stigma of Aids. "I hope people will love one another and care for each other."

And Madam Joseph's thoughts on National Day? "I wish for Singapore to be peaceful, with no fights or riots. We are blessed."

Riot of colours - as 6 metre lion steals the show
Art director opts for 'futuristic vibe' with NDP costume design
The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2019

Cyan, magenta, lime green and orange - these are colours that, besides red and white, featured strongly in this year's National Day Parade (NDP).

Singapore fashion designer Yang Derong, art director of this year's parade, said he was going for a "futuristic vibe" with the costume design this year.

"Instead of looking to the past at history or archives, in our bicentennial year, this year's NDP is all about looking to the future and what it holds," said Mr Yang, who had also worked on the art direction for the NDP shows in 2010, 2014 and 2015.

"The funky colours work together with the dance choreography, lighting and music to give a whole new vibe," he added.

One of the performances was a multicultural segment by the People's Association bringing together dancers from the four major races - Chinese (orange), Malay (green), Indian (pink) and Eurasian (cyan).

Dancer Celestine Eu, 27, who is taking part in the NDP for the eighth year, described this year's costumes as vibrant and colourful. The costumes in her segment feature different ethnic groups and symbolises multiracial harmony, she added.

But all eyes were on a 6m-tall steel lion - the largest-ever NDP prop - that made its appearance in Act Five last night. With its reflective surface, the lion appeared iridescent under the Padang's stage lights.

Ten performers were needed to control the massive prop that is 8m in length and 4m in width. Six men steered it onto the stage, while four others controlled the movement of its legs.

Colonel Lim Han Yong, chairman of the NDP 2019 show committee, said they had decided to "revisit our roots" in this bicentennial year.

"The lion is not just representative of our beginning (when Sang Nila Utama saw what he thought was a lion upon landing on the shores of Temasek), it is also a symbol of our courage and strength."

Raw, gripping rendition of Majulah Singapura
The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2019

His visceral and raw rendition of the National Anthem gripped the hearts of many who heard him sing during yesterday's National Day Parade.

And well it should have, for local rock icon Ramli Sarip was trying to tell his story of a nation in song.

"When I first sang Majulah Singapura (in 1959), I was seven years old and it was without understanding so many things," said Mr Ramli, 66.

"But so much has changed since then for me and Singapore. Now when I sing, the whole journey I am going through is Singapore's past, present and future."

Mr Ramli is a bona fide member of the Merdeka Generation, who with members of his former band Sweet Charity were pioneers of the Malay rock scene in the 1970s and 1980s.

"I remember I saw this Sarawak dance by the Dayak people at the celebration parade when Singapore joined Malaysia in 1963. It stuck in my mind," said Mr Ramli.

"We sang Majulah Singapura then too. And to have the opportunity to sing it at this year's parade, it's a golden moment."

National Day Awards 2019: Top honours for J.Y. Pillay who built up SIA, led GIC, MAS
J.Y. Pillay among 4,985 receiving National Day honours for their service to the nation
By Grace Ho, Senior Political Correspondent, The Straits Times, 9 Aug 2019

Mr J.Y. Pillay, 85, the longest-serving chairman of the Council of Presidential Advisers (CPA), has been awarded Singapore's highest civilian honour. He is the 11th Singaporean to receive the Order of Temasek (With Distinction).

A veteran civil servant whom founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew said was "equal to the best brains in America", Mr Pillay was permanent secretary in the finance, defence and national development ministries.

Other positions he held previously included chairman of the Singapore Exchange and DBS Bank, as well as managing director of GIC and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS). He chaired the CPA from 2005 until January this year.

He continues to be a member of the Presidential Council for Minority Rights. He is also rector of the College of Alice & Peter Tan at the National University of Singapore, and a board member of the Vatican's Financial Information Authority.

In addition to overseeing the formation of the Singapore Exchange in 1999, Mr Pillay was founding chairman of Singapore Airlines. From a small fleet of 12 aircraft when he took over in 1972, SIA had grown to become one of the world's top airlines by the time he stepped down in 1996.

"I have very satisfying memories of my career in the civil service. If asked to cite the most traumatic event, I would say it was the so-called Pan-Electric crisis in the November of 1985, not long after I was posted to the MAS," said Mr Pillay, referring to the collapse of Singapore-based company Pan-Electric Industries that led to a three-day shutdown of the Singapore and Kuala Lumpur stock exchanges in 1985. "It was a kind of baptism of fire for me. Although the shock waves it created carried the moniker of 'Pan-Electric' (a rather insignificant manufacturing company in Jurong), it was a crisis of the stockbroking industry, which at that time was a mutualised entity.

"The industry recovered, but it took another 15 years for it to be demutualised and modernised."

His best memories, he said, were working with his colleagues and superiors to try to achieve mutually agreed goals. "The two outstanding mentors I have had the privilege of serving were Hon Sui Sen and Goh Keng Swee. Not at all identical in personality and behaviour, but both driven by the common desire to make our world a better place.

"And both great human beings. I am greatly indebted to them."

The late Mr Hon and Mr Goh were both finance ministers, among their many other roles in public service.

The next highest award this year, the Order of Nila Utama (With High Distinction) goes to former minister and newly minted Singapore Management University chancellor Lim Chee Onn.

Mr Lim, 75, chairs the Singapore-Suzhou Township Development and is an honorary chairman of the National Heritage Board as well as a CPA member. He was executive chairman of Keppel Corporation from 2000 to 2008.

He served as a board member of MAS and as MP from 1977 to 1992. He was also secretary-general of the National Trades Union Congress from 1979 to 1983 and minister without portfolio in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) from 1980 to 1983.

Both the Order of Temasek and Order of Nila Utama are conferred by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister.

Mr Pillay and Mr Lim are among 4,985 individuals receiving National Day honours this year for their service to the nation.

Three individuals received the Distinguished Service Order, the third-highest award to be given this year. Among them is charity sector veteran Gerard Ee, 69, chairman of the Charity Council and Agency for Integrated Care (AIC).

He told The Straits Times that in his more than 30 years of social service work, his favourite "child" is the Council for Third Age (C3A), an agency promoting active ageing in Singapore through public education, outreach and partnerships.

"It took me two years to promote the idea (of C3A)," he said.

When the then Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports gave Mr Ee's brainchild the nod in 2007, "I could not wait any longer and took it upon myself to submit the registration papers", he said.

"C3A took over the annual Senior Citizens' Week, reformatted and relaunched it as an active ageing event. Today, active ageing is very much a part of the local vocabulary, and C3A is thriving under new leadership."

For his contributions, Mr Ee, a retired chartered accountant, is receiving the Distinguished Service Order from the Government.

His citation notes his "significant contributions in setting the direction for the Charity Council, strengthening governance and building public trust in the sector".

"With the AIC, he provided strong leadership in moving care beyond hospitals to the community and integrating health and social care to better meet the needs of Singapore's ageing population."

Mr Ee said the award holds special meaning for him as his late father had received the same award. Businessman and philanthropist Ee Peng Liang was conferred the Distinguished Service Order in 1985.

Besides Mr Ee, the two other recipients of the Distinguished Service Order this year are the chairman of Sembcorp Industries as well as GIC, Mr Ang Kong Hua; and Central Provident Fund Board and PUB chairman Chiang Chie Foo.

Receiving the Meritorious Service Medal are adviser and former director-general of education Ho Peng and chairman of the Malay Language Council board of advisers and former senior parliamentary secretary Yatiman Yusof.

Mr Yatiman's citation says: "He has been an active champion of the Malay language and culture over many years, and has worked tirelessly with multiple public agencies and partners to not only preserve, but also elevate the awareness and practice of the language and culture in Singapore. He is also a diplomat and ambassador for Singapore."

A full list of this year's National Day Award recipients is available at the PMO website:

National Day Message 2019: Singapore must prepare for a very different future, says PM Lee Hsien Loong

NDP 2019 theme song: Our Singapore

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