The National Symbols Act and its Regulations will come into effect on 1 August 2023.
31 July 2023 (Singapore) – The National Symbols Act (“the Act”) and its Regulations (“the Regulations”) will come into effect tomorrow (1 August 2023), and will replace the existing Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem (SAFNA) Act and Rules. The Act, which was passed by Parliament in September 2022, provides a framework to promote appropriate use of the National Symbols and Presidential Symbols (collectively referred to as “the Symbols”) while allowing for wider use of some of the Symbols by Singaporeans to express national pride and solidarity.
2. The Regulations lay out the details of how the Symbols – including Symbols that are newly recognised by the Act, such as the National Pledge, Presidential Symbols and Public Seal – may be used. The key changes that have been made under the Regulations include easing of rules governing the use of the National Flag, stronger safeguards to protect against misuse, and greater clarity on respectful use of the Symbols. The accompanying guidelines and examples of respectful uses of the Symbols have also been updated.
Highlights of Subsidiary Legislation
Encouraging Use Through Greater Flexibility
3. To encourage Singaporeans to use the National Flag to express national pride, rules on the usage of the National Flag have been eased – Singaporeans and businesses do not need to seek approval from the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth in the following instances, as long as the National Flag is used respectfully:
(a) Using the National Flag or its image for commercial or decorative use during the National Day period (1 July to 30 September);
(b) Applying the National Flag or its image on attire for non-commercial purposes all year round.
4. The Minister may also allow the National Flag to be displayed outside the National Day period without a flagpole and illumination at night (e.g. displayed on HDB flats). Under the SAFNA Act and Rules, any changes to the display period required the legislation to be amended. This change is in response to calls from Singaporeans to fly the National Flag from their homes on occasions of national significance beyond National Day, as an expression of national pride and solidarity.
Strengthening Safeguards to Protect against Misuse
5. Recent technological advances have facilitated the usage of digital copies of the National Symbols. To enhance safeguards against misuse of the National Symbols, the new Regulations will broaden the scope to cover digital and other types of reproduction of the National Symbols, and to provide guidance on their respectful usage:
(a) The production and display of flags with modified or distorted design of the National Flag will be prohibited. Similarly, distortion or modification of the design of the State Crest and Presidential Crest will not be allowed.
(b) The Regulations on the National Anthem have been updated to include other means of producing musical records, such as digitally created covers. Persons who wish to use the National Anthem for commercial purposes will have to seek the Minister’s approval.
6. The Regulations further calibrate the maximum penalties for various categories of offences based on their severity. As previously announced during the introduction of the Act, the Act provides that a penalty of maximum $30,000 and a six-month imprisonment term may be prescribed for offences under the Regulations. The detailed categories and their prescribed maximum penalty can be found in Annex A.
Greater Clarity on Appropriate Use of National Symbols
7. A stop order mechanism, which allows stop orders to be served to individuals who have used the National Flag, National Anthem or National Pledge disrespectfully, is introduced. Failure to comply with a stop order will constitute an offence. This mechanism will provide clarity on what is disrespectful use and will give users a chance to correct their actions before further action is taken. Individuals served with the stop order may appeal to the Minister.
8. The appropriate uses of the newly recognised Symbols - the National Pledge, Presidential Symbols and Public Seal – have also been set out in the Regulations. A list of the key changes in the Regulations can be found in Annex B.
9. Alongside the legislative changes, MCCY has updated the guidelines on the use of the National Symbols and published examples of disrespectful use of the National Flag (Annex C). The public can visit the National Heritage Board’s website at go.gov.sg/nationalsymbols to refer to these guidelines and contact go.gov.sg/nationalsymbolsqueries for any queries relating to the use of the Symbols.
10. The legislative changes were informed by a series of public engagements that sought public views on the governance and use of the National Symbols. MCCY thanks all participants in these engagements for sharing their suggestions and feedback throughout the review. The full list of engagements and how the views have shaped the Act and Regulations can be found in Annex D.
11. MCCY will continue to explore the suggestions and feedback gathered during the multiple public engagements, including providing clear guidance on appropriate use and accessible feedback channels. While the legislative review has concluded, the work to promote public education on respectful usage of the Symbols through our regulatory and promotional programmes will remain important going forward.
Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth
31 July 2023
Annex B – Key changes in the Regulations