Friday, 22 May 2020

NDP 2020: Together, A Stronger Singapore

National Day Parade 2020: Focus on celebrating at home, many segments moved to the heartland and smaller-scale evening show

It will have no central location, fewer participants and be split into two shows

NDP exco to produce packs for 80% of households; those who want one can collect them from CCs
By Lim Min Zhang, The Straits Times, 21 May 2020

In a nod to these sombre times, this year's National Day Parade (NDP) will do away with large crowds and a central location - for the first time - and drastically reduce participant numbers to stick with COVID-19 guidelines.

But NDP 2020 plans to involve more Singaporeans than ever before by shifting many parade segments into the heartland and handing out about 1.2 million funpacks to all local households.

Brigadier-General Frederick Choo, chairman of this year's NDP executive committee, said during a virtual media briefing yesterday: "This year's NDP will be the first of its kind, in a format that Singaporeans have never seen before. For the first time, we will be bringing NDP across the island into every Singaporean home. NDP will look, sound and feel very different from what we are used to."

For the first time, for example, the parade is being split into morning and evening shows and held across multiple locations instead of a central one such as the floating platform in Marina Bay.

Singapore's 55th birthday bash on Aug 9 will be streamed live over television and Internet platforms.

The morning show will start with a nationwide broadcast of the Prime Minister's National Day Message and a "dignified and compact parade" at the Padang, reviewed by the President.

Around 200 participants will be involved in the parade - compared with about 1,800 people last year.

To bring the NDP "into every Singaporean home", the state flag and F-15SG fighter jets will be flown around the island.

The Red Lions free-fall jump will also take place in different locations, paying tribute to front-line workers against COVID-19. Meanwhile, the mobile column will travel through neighbourhoods.

The morning proceedings will be accompanied by flag-raising ceremonies across Singapore during the singing of the National Anthem.

An evening show at The Star Performing Arts Centre in Buona Vista will feature films and performances by Singaporeans, culminating in a fireworks display at over 10 sites across the country. Only 80 to 100 performers will take part - down from 2,600 last year - with safe distancing measures in place.

In between the morning and evening segments, Singaporeans will be able to participate in various virtual and home activities, such as an NDP-themed workout and a family cooking activity.

"Like the past 54 NDPs, NDP 2020 will be an unyielding reminder that Singapore will keep going on. COVID-19 will not deter us, we will continue to celebrate, but differently," said BG Choo, who is commander of the Singapore Army's 3rd Singapore Division.

He added that the health and welfare of participants are of the utmost importance.

No rehearsals have been held so far, though they typically start in March. Rehearsals will begin only after the circuit breaker period ends on June 1.

There will also not be any national education or preview shows this year, BG Choo said.

At the moment, there are no plans to allow spectators to attend either the parade or the evening show. The committee also aims to ensure crowds do not form to watch highlights such as the mobile column.

Unlike previous years, there will not be large numbers of people from the Singapore Soka Association, People's Association or Ministry of Education taking part.

Performers will largely be from the Home Team, Singapore Armed Forces, and Music and Drama Company, and include some local artists.

Asked if there could be a scenario in which this year's NDP would be scrapped, BG Choo said that since the committee started work in July last year, and with the situation developing, its members were determined to have an NDP on Aug 9 "come what may".

"We believe that as long as there is a Singapore, there will be an NDP," he said.

*  Parliament: NDP 2020 a rallying point for Singaporeans in challenging times, says Ng Eng Hen
By Cara Wong, The Straits Times, 6 Jun 2020

Just as Singapore's founding generations held the National Day Parade (NDP) to signify the collective confidence in the future, Singaporeans should celebrate National Day this year precisely because the country faces even more challenging times ahead, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday.

Singaporeans have traditionally rallied together and chosen to hold the NDP even in tough times, and the country has emerged stronger because of this hope and optimism, he said.

Dr Ng highlighted in Parliament the merits of an NDP when he explained the decision to hold the celebrations this year.

Some had called the celebrations "wasteful", arguing that the resources ought to be spent elsewhere, especially given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy and jobs.

He said he appreciated the views and acknowledged the need to be prudent in the celebrations, adding that the budget for them will be at least one-third less than the usual allocation.

This is possible because of savings from not holding a large-scale NDP at the Padang or The Float @ Marina Bay. This year's parade will be held in smaller segments at multiple locations, including at the Padang.

But Dr Ng cautioned that Singapore should guard against being overcome by a mood of despondency, and not allow individual preferences to divide the country.

"If we allow despair to prevail in our national psyche, particularly in this COVID-19 pandemic, then I say that will be the greatest harm to the future of Singapore, much more devastating than the economic impact, the loss of jobs and businesses."

The NDP has always taken centre stage in Singapore's relatively short history as a nation, he said.

In its first year of independence, Singapore held an "extraordinary" NDP, with fireworks, a marching contingent and a big display, even as the fledgling nation faced a host of problems such as high unemployment and inadequate medical care, the minister noted.

The decision was made because the unity and collective confidence for the future that the NDP engendered for Singaporeans were priceless, he said. The parade showed the rest of the world that despite great difficulties, Singapore was a country that would not be beaten down and its people would rise up and overcome the obstacles.

Thus, at every subsequent NDP, Singapore has made a conscious effort to celebrate the occasion with that same indomitable spirit, Dr Ng said.

Even in difficult periods, such as during the British withdrawal in 1971, the Asian financial crisis in 1998 and the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003, Singaporeans have rallied together and chosen to hold the NDP.

"Because of that hope and optimism, Singapore emerged stronger," the minister said.

This year's NDP executive committee has stayed true to the parade's roots, but adapted the format to reduce the risk of COVID-19 infection, Dr Ng said.

The usual parade will still be held at the Padang, but will be scaled down, with contingents only from the Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team. It will be telecast live.

Other elements will be brought closer to Singaporeans in the heartland and fighter jets will be flown around the island. The mobile column will travel through parts of the island, along with the front-line heroes and heroines fighting the pandemic, said Dr Ng.

"We may be physically apart but we want to join in spirit as one people, with that same confidence and optimism, and unity that the founding generation fostered despite harsher and grim circumstances.

"The months ahead will be trying and the difficulties ahead will test our resolve and cohesion.

"Despite all of this, Singaporeans can, and Singapore will, celebrate NDP 2020 with confidence and hope for a brighter future."

Parliament: NDP exco to produce packs for 80% of households; those who want one can collect them from CCs
By Cara Wong, The Straits Times, 5 Jun 2020

The National Day Parade (NDP) executive committee will produce packs for about 80 per cent of all Singaporean and permanent resident households, after taking into account those who said they do not need one.

From prior experience, this should be adequate, and people who want the packs can collect them from community centres for National Day, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen told Parliament on Friday (June 5).

The plan to distribute funpacks to every Singaporean and permanent resident household for National Day sparked a debate and an online petition that has garnered some 110,000 signatures so far. Some argued that resources could be better diverted to other causes - especially in the light of the coronavirus pandemic.

Dr Ng noted that the NDP executive committee aims to be inclusive for every NDP, and will take in views and accommodate different interests where possible.

But he cautioned that "if every interest group pushes for its own agenda, especially during NDP, then our common ground to celebrate this national event shrinks because the exco will simply never be able to satisfy every request adequately".

Responding to Workers' Party Non-constituency MP Leon Perera, Ms Cheng Li Hui (Tampines GRC) and Ms Denise Phua (Jalan Besar GRC), Dr Ng acknowledged that there were some who felt the celebrations were wasteful and that the resources ought to be spent elsewhere, especially given the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and jobs.

"I appreciate their point of view and agree fully with them that we ought to be prudent," he said, adding that this year's NDP should cost at least a third less than usual, with savings from infrastructure costs had the parade been held at the Padang or The Float @ Marina Bay.

However, Singapore should guard against a mood of despondency and not allow individual preferences to divide the country, said Dr Ng.

"If we allow despair to prevail in our national psyche, particularly during this COVID-19 pandemic, then I say that will be the greatest harm to the future of Singapore - much more devastating than the economic impact, the loss of jobs and businesses."

He made the point that Singaporeans have always chosen to celebrate NDP and rally together, even in troubled periods of the nation's history, such as the British withdrawal in 1971, the recession of 1985, the Asian financial crisis in 1998, Sars in 2003, the global financial crisis in 2008 and the H1N1 epidemic in 2009.

"Because of that hope and optimism, Singapore emerged stronger," he said.

"So I say, despite the difficulties, and indeed because of the more challenging times that are ahead, we should celebrate this year's NDP as we have done before and just as our founding generation did during the first NDP."

Replying to Ms Cheng, Dr Ng said the 80 per cent target for the packs is less than the usual volume, which caters to about 90 to 95 per cent of Singapore households.

“Those who said they don’t need one, I would like to believe they feel that we are confident enough to celebrate and to join other Singaporeans (in celebrations) without all these facilitative things.”

Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) proposed consulting all households on whether they wanted a pack, to get an accurate estimate of the number of funpacks needed. 

Dr Ng replied that those who lead organisations or businesses will know there is a limit between analysis and paralysis.

The NDP exco, in a separate statement, said they had consulted various green advocacy and community groups since November 2019. It also took into account public feedback received in past years for the planning of this year’s funpacks.

The "Singapore Together Pack" has 12 items, down from the usual 20 to 25. The items include hand sanitisers, face masks and thermometers as well as such celebratory items as a full-sized national flag, iron-on patches for masks, face tattoos and a pledge card.

There will also be red filters that can be fixed onto phone torches, for a special “light-up” segment on National Day, said the exco statement.

The bag itself is a foldable and reusable grocery bag, designed by primary school students or artists with disabilities.

Dr Ng said there will be no single-use water bottles, plastic clappers or packaging in the pack, as families will be at home.

Each pack will cost about $2.40 to produce, and companies will contribute other items such as snacks and drinks, he said in his reply to Non-constituency MP Leon Perera. The usual discount booklets will come in the form of e-booklets, he added.

He assured the House that any extra packs will not go to waste as there will be no shortage of means to distribute them to homes or institutions.

Collection of the packs will start from July 20 at community clubs and residents’ committee (RCs) centres. The exercise is expected to be completed by Aug 2. Volunteers will distribute the packs to vulnerable groups.

Dr Ng said the NDP exco team will facilitate requests for more bags.

“For many heartlanders, these are physical touch points, commonalities... Never dismiss these symbols even though the cost is little,” he added.

**  NDP2020 packs ready for collection from 20 July at CCs and RCs
Every Singaporean, PR household can get a pack - with items like sanitiser, masks
By Sue-Ann Tan, The Straits Times, 20 Jul 2020

Singapore residents will be able to collect the National Day Parade 2020 packs at community centres or clubs (CCs) and residents' committee (RC) centres from today, the People's Association (PA) said last Saturday.

As part of this year's concept to bring the National Day Parade (NDP) into homes amid the coronavirus pandemic, the NDP2020 executive committee will be giving a Singapore Together Pack to every Singaporean and permanent resident (PR) household. Each household can collect one pack.

The packs can be collected at all CCs from today to Aug 2. They are also available at all RC centres from today to July 26.

Collection times are from 10am to 6pm, excluding public holidays. Residents must present their NRIC at the collection counter for verification.

The PA advised that only one member from each household should collect the pack to avoid crowding at the collection points.

Safe distancing measures and temperature taking will also be implemented at the collection centres to ensure the safety and well-being of the public.

It added: "In line with the NDP2020 theme 'Together, A Stronger Singapore', the Singapore Together Pack demonstrates our solidarity as a united, inclusive and resilient nation amidst Covid-19, and presents Singaporeans with a physical connection to the NDP experience."

The pack will include items such as hand sanitiser, a thermometer and face masks, besides snacks and canned drinks. Residents can go to to find the nearest centres to collect their packs.

This year's packs feature 10 designs on the bags by aspiring artists with disabilities from seven organisations, in collaboration with SG Enable, as well as 10 designs by Primary 5 pupils, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education.

President Halimah Yacob met some of these artists at the Enabling Village near Redhill last Saturday.

She said: "Despite Covid-19, I am glad that artists with disabilities and P5 students have a platform to showcase their talents and aspirations at this year's parade.

"They are all extremely happy that through their artworks, they are able to share their love and wishes for our nation with all fellow Singaporeans."

She added that involving artists with disabilities in this year's NDP is in line with the focus of the President's Challenge 2020 on empowering persons with disabilities.

She said: "I call upon Singaporeans to continue supporting persons with disabilities through (the President's Challenge).

"Through our collective effort, we can build a more caring and inclusive Singapore that embraces different abilities."

The pack also comes with a printed QR code that leads to information on how Singaporeans can contribute to the social service agencies of the artists with disabilities, as well as an online collection of stories on the inspiration behind each of the designs.

As part of her visit, Madam Halimah also penned her aspirations for Singapore on an "Our Heart for Singapore" card, which is found in every pack.

The cards encourage Singaporeans to share their reflections and gratitude, and to pledge themselves to worthy causes.

The cards come in 55 designs done by various artists with disabilities and students.

The PA also encouraged households to display the state flag outside their homes in the lead-up to National Day. Those who need a flag may ask for one at the collection centres.



NDP 2020: Red Lions take on new challenge with jump into the heartland
By Choo Yun Ting, The Straits Times, 3 Aug 2020

Major Neo Choon Chea will be making his debut with the Red Lions skydivers on National Day this year.

He will be part of a six-person team landing near Sengkang General Hospital (SKGH). After being part of the ground coordinating party in two previous National Day Parades (NDPs), the 40-year-old said he was honoured to get his turn as a parachutist this year.

The Red Lions will land in heartland fields near SKGH and Ng Teng Fong General Hospital (NTFGH), which means smaller crowds on the ground but also a different set of challenges. This year's jump is a 1,525m plunge from a Republic of Singapore Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft, about half of the typical free-fall distance at NDPs.

Back in 2018, the Red Lions jumped from a height of 3,810m.

Jumping at a lower altitude reduces wind drift, and with high-rise buildings and expressways in the vicinity, the parachutists need to be very precise about where they drop, Maj Neo told the media last Friday.

It also means that the Red Lions will not be getting into their usual ring formation, as they need to deploy their parachutes soon after they jump from the aircraft.

"But this year... we will be flying with the state flag and NDP banners bearing the theme of unity," added Maj Neo, who has 350 jumps under his belt.

As part of the preparation before the jump, the parachutists do a mental rehearsal on board the aircraft, he said, by visualising what they have to do: the leap from the C-130, opening the parachute, deploying the banner and flag, and landing.

Besides Maj Neo, First Warrant Officer Chew Eng Seng, 45, is also participating in the NDP as a Red Lion for the first time this year, as part of a six-person team landing near NTFGH.

One of the parachutists landing at Sengkang this year is Second Warrant Officer (2WO) Shirley Ng, 42.

She is the only woman in the Red Lions and made her first parade appearance in 2014.

While she was also part of the Red Lions team in 2013, that year's jump did not happen due to poor weather.

Although the rehearsals started a month later this year, in July, the parachutists used a parachute flight simulator to prepare prior to rehearsals on-site.

Comparing the landing experience this year to a previous jump at the Marina Bay floating platform, 2WO Ng said: "In the heartland, even though it's not as rah-rah as usual... this jump is more for the front-line medical staff.

"It's about putting up a good show to give them moral support."

But this does not mean that it is a quiet affair for the Red Lions, she added. "It has been a surprise that the residents over here, as we land, they are cheering for us, waving to us from their windows and balconies - it's heartwarming (to see)."

Maj Neo, who is married with three daughters, said that his family came to watch one of the rehearsals in the middle of last month.

But while having them witness his parachute feat is a nice bonus, "this jump is (really) for the country and for the front-line fighters".

Referring to a banner put up by residents at the open field near SKGH, he said: "(They) put up a very lovely message for us, and we are really touched and encouraged by all these gestures."

The Red Lions will be landing at open fields near SKGH and NTFGH, in Sengkang East Road and Toh Guan Road respectively, on National Day morning.

NDP 2020: Fighter jets to soar over hospitals, heartland in tribute to front-line, essential workers
By Goh Yan Han, The Straits Times, 3 Aug 2020

To pay tribute to front-line and essential workers giving their all amid the Covid-19 pandemic, six F-15 fighter jets will be soaring over the heartland as part of this year's National Day Parade (NDP).

The fighter jets will be performing the Roar Of Unity, a 30-minute segment that will see the planes cover the island, so that the public will be able to see and hear them from their homes.

The well-loved aerial display will make its entrance at 10.45am this Sunday at the Padang, where the morning parade will take place.

Flying in a tight Delta formation, which is shaped like an arrowhead, they will fly past eight hospitals - Tan Tock Seng Hospital, Sengkang General Hospital, Changi General Hospital, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, Ng Teng Fong General Hospital, National University Hospital, Alexandra Hospital and Singapore General Hospital. They will then make three passes around the heartland before returning to Paya Lebar Air Base at around 11.15am.

"The Roar Of Unity signifies the nation is remaining united as we celebrate National Day," said Lieutenant-Colonel Tan Boon Hong, 46, who is deputy chairman of air participation and flying display marshal. "We want to give tribute to our front-line fighters and essential workers that keep us going during this period and we salute them for their resilience, dedication and sacrifice."

At 170 nautical miles, this will be the longest route ever for a fighter jet segment during a National Day celebration, as the fly-past is usually localised to where the parade is, such as the Padang.

It is a special segment for Lieutenant Shidan Swah Yepeng, 26, who is taking part in his first NDP and is the youngest pilot in the formation.

He will be paying particular tribute to his parents, both 58 and stalwarts in the healthcare industry for more than 30 years each.

His father is a senior consultant at a polyclinic, while his mother is seconded from the National Healthcare Group to the Singapore Nursing Board as an executive secretary. They were also involved in the fight against severe acute respiratory syndrome in 2003.

"It's quite meaningful to me that I'm able to overfly (Tan Tock Seng Hospital)," said Lt Swah, who has fond childhood memories of accompanying his mother to the hospital where she spent much of her career.

It will also be the first time in an NDP for weapon systems officer (fighter) Adam Eng Jun Chao, 29.

One of the challenges of this year's route is its length, said Captain Eng, as it requires a lot of concentration and finesse to be manoeuvring at such fast speeds and in close proximity to the other planes.

There is about a 2m to 3m gap between the wingtips of each plane in the Delta formation as they fly at close to 600kmh.

Another challenge is bad weather. Cpt Eng said: "Weather will compromise the integrity of the six-ship Delta formation... (it) kind of plays with your senses because you are then not able to visually see where the horizon is."

The jets will be flying at a height of 457m to 610m, though there is a buffer of 152m to 762m in case of adverse weather.

Maintaining smooth control of the airspace above Singapore is also key, as the fighter jets will be sharing the airspace with the six helicopters that will be flying the state flag around.

Captain Daniel Heng Jing Xing, 26, will be in the team helping with control of the airspace as an air traffic controller.

He said: "Our role as the main controller is to obtain the airspaces (in a timely manner) so that once we have the airspace, our fighters can operate safely throughout."

NDP 2020: State flag to be flown across Singapore via two routes
Flight paths to cover heartland areas such as Ang Mo Kio, Jurong East, Bedok and Punggol
By Dominic Low, The Straits Times, 3 Aug 2020

For the first time, Singaporeans will be able to see from their homes the state flag fly-past during this year's National Day Parade (NDP).

Two Chinook helicopters, each carrying the Singapore flag at about 305m in the air, will fly across the island on two separate routes in the east and the west.

Each helicopter will be escorted by two Apache helicopters during this segment titled "Fly Our Flag".

The east route will take the flag - measuring 30m by 20m - past housing estates such as Bedok and Punggol, while the helicopters on the west route will fly past residences in places such as Jurong East, Choa Chu Kang and Ang Mo Kio.

Both routes will begin in the south of Singapore and end at Sembawang Air Base in the north. The flights are slated to start at 10.30am and will each take 55 minutes.

In previous years, the fly-past took place at a single location where the NDP was held, such as the floating platform at Marina Bay, and lasted only 10 minutes.

With the focus on celebrating the nation's 55th birthday at home, this year's NDP will be split into morning and evening portions, with many segments taking place in different locations across the island.

The morning portion of the Aug 9 celebrations will include a nationwide broadcast of the Prime Minister's National Day Message and a parade at the Padang.

The evening show will take place at The Star Performing Arts Centre in Buona Vista. It will feature films and performances and culminate in a coordinated fireworks display at different sites across the country.

All the action will be shown live on TV and streamed on Internet platforms.

Captain Eugene Chua, who is involved in the planning and coordination of the fly-past routes, said the routes and the flight height of the helicopters were designed for maximum exposure of the flag to residents in the heartland areas.

"Throughout the various rehearsals that we had, we have actually sent spotters out to different HDB (Housing Board) blocks and open areas," added the 32-year-old Apache helicopter pilot.

Capt Chua, who is the deputy flying display marshal, also said the safety of the residents on the ground as well as the helicopter crew was a priority when planning the routes.

Military Expert 2 Sukhdesh Singh, who will be on the Chinook helicopter taking the east route, said he will be ensuring the three helicopters on his route remain in close formation but at a proper distance from one another.

"I will also be looking out for any unmanned flying aircraft such as drones, and birds that might come into the flight path," said the 35-year-old flight engineer.

He will also be watching out for any flight obstacles such as construction cranes and high-rise buildings that the helicopters will have to avoid, he added.

There are contingency plans in place in the event of any complications, such as unfavourable weather conditions or if the flags fail to unfurl fully.

These include 14 back-up flags at multiple airbases across Singapore, such as Changi Air Base.

In the light of the ongoing Covid-19 situation, the team preparing and rigging the flags will be split into two sections, with each stationed at a different location.

First Sergeant Daniel Ho, 31, who is part of the team, said this would not affect the time taken for each flag to be prepared. It takes 45 minutes to two hours for 25 men to prepare a flag.

However, the reduced manpower from splitting the team would make carrying the flags out more taxing, said the operationally ready national serviceman.

This year's NDP will also mark the first time a female pilot will be flying a Chinook helicopter in the state flag fly-past.

Captain Trixie Tang, 31, who is also the Republic of Singapore Air Force's first female Chinook helicopter pilot, will be flying on the east route.

"I feel very honoured and grateful to be given this opportunity," she said.

NDP 2020 Theme Song: Everything I Am

Singapore National Day 2020

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