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Published: September 14th 2014
National Day I
The stage in Marina Bay, the grand stand, and in the background the Singapore Flyer.
The 9th of August is National Day in Singapore. Modern Singapore was founded by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 as a trading post for the East India Company. That is why so many objects and roads are named “Raffles”. Our office is at Raffles Place, but when we tell a taxi driver where to go we usually say 6 Battery Road which is just across the road from our office building. When you tell him to go to Raffles Place he will usually not know because of the many streets, squares, and buildings named after Sir Stamford Raffles.
Singapore declared independence from the United Kingdom in 1963, 49 years ago. When Singaporeans celebrate National Day, this is what they celebrate. Singapore has become one of the Asian Tigers since, with a rapidly growing economy and many companies from all over the world here. It has one of the five biggest ports in the world and is one of the four major financial centres. The population is very diverse, with around 75 percent being Chinese, the rest Malay, Indian, European, or other cultures. In terms of area, Singapore is about as big as Hamburg, but has three times as many inhabitants,
National Day II
Helicopter carrying the Singaporean flag flying over the stage.
just over five million.
Singapore is a multiparty parliamentary republic, however, it is classified as a semi-authoritarian system because, as I read, there is limited freedom of the press and also suppressed civil and political rights. The country has death penalty, for example for murder or drug-related offenses, and also caning, for example for robbery, but even for certain immigration offenses (!!!). As long as you do not get in conflict with the law, though, Singapore is a pretty good place to live, I have to say. But let’s get back to the parliamentary system.
Singaporean parliament has one chamber. Members of Parliament are either elected or non-constituency (whatever that means) or nominated. The party that has been ruling the country since self-government began is the People’s Action Party (PAP). The opposition party is the Worker’s Party. Parliament represents Singapore’s constituencies, or electoral divisions. As already mentioned, Singapore is very multi-cultural, therefore it is mandatory for each constituency to send at least one member of parliament from a minority, either Malay, or Indian, or Other.
The executive power is the Cabinet of Singapore, presided by the Prime Minister. Currently this is Lee Hsien Loong. The President (Tony
National Day III
Fireworks at the end of the Parade.
Tan Keng Yam) is also part of the executive. He is elected by the people, but has, like in many other countries, mainly the function of representing the country.
Now, back to National Day. Hetty and I had spent the early afternoon in MacRitchie Nature Reserve (I will write some more about Singapore and what I have seen and done here so far sometime soon). The National Day Parade was to begin at 6 p.m., with fireworks starting at 8 p.m. The parade was going to take place on the football field in the Marina Bay, which had been turned into a stage (and that had taken a few weeks) and also the fireworks would be launched from the Marina Bay. We were super lucky because our office is on the 30th floor of Singapore Land Tower and overlooks Marina Bay. Hetty and I bought ourselves a nice picnic with bread, cheese, dried fruit and nuts, and wine, and went to the office to watch the parade. The topic of the parade was “Our people, our home”.
It started perfectly on time with paratroopers landing on the tiny piece of land right between stage and grand stand. The spectators were dressed in red and white, the Singaporean national colours. The parade continued with different divisions of the military marching in and lining up on stage. Then the Prime Minister and afterwards the President arrived by car in front of the stage and were welcomed by the spectators and by gun salutes. There was a helicopter that flew over the stage carrying a huge Singaporean flag. And there were five fighter jets flying past. There was a ship with tanks on it that drove into Marina Bay and stopped not far from it. Throughout the show, they presented the rise of the city state and how its people had contributed to this. Afterwards they showed scenes from daily life, particularly people and their families. Of course food had to be mentioned. The other day, I talked to a taxi driver, and he told me that in his view Singaporeans are good at three things: work, because they work hard; food, because they have so many different kinds of food and eating plays an important part in their lives; and complaining (well, in that sense they might be similar to Germans). In the end there was a big show, where there were songs specifically composed for Singapore and Singaporeans, and dancing on stage. Then the wonderful fireworks started and Hetty and I had the feeling that we had the prime seats because everything was happening just in front of our window. Awesome! All in all I would say it was a pretty patriotic show, but well, what can you expect on a National Day. It was definitely interesting to see.
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