Updated: Aug 11, 2021
At 10 am on the morning of 9th August, 1965, an announcer at what was then Radio Singapore made public Singapore’s separation from Malaysia by reading out Singapore’s Proclamation of Independence, a typewritten document spanning two pages. The Proclamation closed with this paragraph:
Now I LEE KUAN YEW Prime Minister of Singapore, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM AND DECLARE on behalf of the people and the Government of Singapore that as from today the ninth day of August in the year one thousand nine hundred and sixty-five Singapore shall be forever a sovereign democratic and independent nation, founded upon the principles of liberty and justice and ever seeking the welfare and happiness of her people in a more just and equal society. (signed) Lee Kuan Yew Dated the 9th day of August, 1965.
During that separation time, the late Mr Lee did not have the time to read the proclamation out in public. He finally made an audio recording of that reading just a few years before his death in 2015. His reading of the proclamation was broadcasted at 9am on 9th August 2015 as part of the country’s golden jubilee celebrations. Listen to the late Mr Lee Kuan Yew read Singapore’s Proclamation of Independence here.
Every year following its independence, the young Singapore marked the 9th of August officially as the National Day of Singapore with a public holiday that features a parade, an address by the Prime Minister known, and fireworks celebrations.
Always a happy and thrilling event, tickets for the annual National Day Parade (NDP) are highly coveted. Unfortunately, during this pandemic, the Parade has been postponed to the later date of 21st August, after the scheduled end of Singapore’s measures to contain the growing COVID-19 clusters linked to a local fishery port and to drive up vaccination of individuals, particularly among the elderly.
“Since 1966, the NDP has been held every year to mark Singapore’s independence,” read a statement by the NDP 2021 Executive Committee. “This national event brings together Singaporeans from all walks of life, as one united people to affirm our unity and nationhood. The changes this year will enable NDP 2021 to be held in safer conditions while maintaining that cherished tradition.”
Show of Pride
Since the 1980s, residents had taken to displaying the flag of Singapore outside their flats in the month of August. What began enthusiastically in the 80s has since waned over the years.
“I was feeling that many of us – the middle-aged Singaporeans – have grown cynical about many things in this country,” said Josef Lee, artist, animator, and illustrator in Singapore. “Complaints, rather than congratulations, tend to be the norms in recent times. But deep down inside, I believe that we are a people who care very much for our nation."
“My comic, The Flag, searches into our hearts and souls, bringing back memories of the excitement, joy, and pride in being the chosen one to raise the Singapore flag in front of the entire school,” added Josef Lee.
This flag display tradition picked up enthusiasm in 2020 when the pandemic broke out and people wanted to fly the flag at their flats as a demonstration of unity and solidarity with the front-liners.
Reproduced in Brilliant magazine with permission, this image of the many Singapore flags hung by residents at a block of public housing flats along Selegie Road is taken by Javan Ng, a photographer based in Singapore. Javan’s captures of cityscapes and street views of cities around the world have earned him accolades and admiration. Check out his works at www.javanng.com.
A Different Celebration for the Everyday Heroes
The country has been battling a recent spike of COVID-19 cases and has had to limit social gatherings to just two persons and ban dining-in among several other measures. As such, this year’s National Day celebrations have been scaled back.
Crowd-pleasers such as fireworks and free-fall jumps by the Singapore Armed Forces Red Lions Parachute Display Team in various public housing estates across the island have been cancelled. Even dates and times for rehearsals for the National Day Parade were not announced so as to “discourage crowds” especially photography enthusiasts from gathering near the parade venue known as Float@Marina Bay.
Ordinary Singaporeans have not been offered the chance to ballot for the coveted on-site tickets for the parade. Instead, attendance at this year’s parade is by-invite only to fully-vaccinated “everyday heroes” who have contributed directly at the frontlines fighting COVID-19, served in essential roles, or are community volunteers who have stepped up to help fellow Singaporeans amid the pandemic.
And in characteristic Singapore fashion, all parade attendees and performers on-site will have to undergo pre-event testing and will need to comply with safe management measures.
Using technology, this year’s parade will enable groups of people to participate virtually in different segments of the event. Yes, the parade is coming into our homes, virtually.
This comic, The Flag, is the first in a series of three comics that Josef Lee, artist, animator, and illustrator, had planned to uplift and unite the Singapore spirit amidst the COVID-19 disruptions.