The Citizens’ Workgroup for National Symbols brought together 47 Singaporeans from all walks of life to review the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem (SAFNA) legislation and guidelines governing the use of the National Flag, Anthem and State Crest. The Workgroup also looked into other Symbols that represent Singapore and explored the need for new National Symbols.
Over four months, the Workgroup members met online to discuss, deliberate and build consensus on the use of our Symbols. They also conducted their own surveys, interviews and focus group discussions to better understand the views of different groups of Singaporeans on the Symbols we have today.
The Workgroup has submitted their recommendations to MCCY in a report covering 1) the history of the National Symbols; 2) what the National Symbols mean to the present generation of Singaporeans; and 3) recommendations for the future of the National Symbols.
The National Flag and National Anthem, together with other Symbols like the National Pledge, feature prominently in our shared experiences as citizens, and have an enduring place in our hearts. The SAFNA Act and Rules are reviewed periodically to strengthen Singaporeans’ connection to our National Symbols. In this latest review, 47 passionate Singaporeans came together to explore how we can allow for greater flexibility in the use of our National Symbols, while ensuring they are treated with dignity and respect. It was an opportunity to look back on what the Symbols have meant to past generations and what they represent for future Singaporeans.
“The Citizens’ Workgroup for National Symbols explores how we can create better connections with the National Symbols by ensuring their relevance and allowing room for artistic expression, within proposed guidelines so that we can show our pride and love for the nation,” said Mr Michael Lim, one of the Workgroup members.
The Workgroup members were provided with background information on the National Symbols and the legislative process. Facilitators supported the members in generating and refining ideas, as well as finding common ground when there were divergent views. The members organised themselves into six groups to delve into the significance of the National Symbols, develop recommendations on their use, and consider possibilities for new symbols today.
Meet the participants
Ms Brenda De Silva, a mother of four and a preschool principal, shared how she found the Citizens’ Workgroup a useful platform to hear from other Singaporeans. “I learnt that everyone has a different view, which may spark new avenues to convey the values and the stories behind the National Symbols.”
The Flag is Brenda’s favourite symbol. “I love the meaning behind the crescent and five stars. The crescent standing out as a young nation on the ascendant and the five stars bear the heartiest depiction of democracy, peace in our country and among all man, progress in the development and growth of the country, justice and equality for all. Every part of the flag proves to me that Singapore is truly peaceful, secure and that all of us here are very important. It also depicts that the country honours peace, equality and justice for everyone even if the person is new to Singapore.”
Another Workgroup member, Mr Mohamed Firdaus Anwar, feels a strong sense of belonging through the National Pledge. “I believe that every word in the National Pledge carries deep meaning in our daily lives. In particular, ‘regardless of race, language or religion’ are especially significant to me because it emphasises the importance of bridging individuals from all walks of life so that the spirit of one community can be achieved.”
The National Flag, Anthem and State Crest were first introduced to Singaporeans on 3 Dec 1959, at the same ceremony that inaugurated our first head of state, Yusof bin Ishak. It marked the first time Singaporeans had official National Symbols to call our own, embodying our aspirations towards self-determination and sovereignty and uniting our people from different backgrounds, races and religions.
Shortly after the Symbols were introduced, the Legislative Assembly passed legislation governing the use of the Symbols. Over the years, the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem (SAFNA) Act and Rules have undergone several reviews to give Singaporeans greater scope to express their national pride and identity through the Symbols and to guard against misuse.
Today, our Symbols continue to play an important role in rallying Singaporeans from all walks of life, and affirming our sense of belonging in Singapore. The current review will seek to refresh the rules to reflect how Singaporeans today feel the Symbols should be treated. It is an opportunity to look back on what the Symbols have meant to past generations and what they represent for future Singaporeans.
The SAFNA Act and Rules are available for viewing at www.go.gov.sg/safnaact.
1. How will the Citizens’ Workgroup for National Symbols contribute to the National Symbols Review process?
The recommendations from the Citizens' Workgroup serve as a key set of input to the government’s legislative review of the SAFNA Act and Rules, as well as for non-legislative measures such as improvements to regulatory processes, and better public education on using the National Symbols respectfully.
2. Who are these members of the Citizens’ Workgroup?
Singapore Citizens aged 15 and above were invited to sign up for the Workgroup. The Workgroup comprised 47 individuals from diverse backgrounds.
3. How were the Workgroup members involved in the review?
The Workgroup members discussed, deliberated, and built consensus on the central questions – “What do our National Symbols mean to Singaporeans?” and “How can we better use these Symbols to strengthen their meaning for Singaporeans while guarding against misuse?” – over the course of six half-day sessions.
After the final session of the Workgroup, members submitted a report on their findings to MCCY. The Workgroup’s recommendations will be incorporated in the legislative and guidelines review.
4. Will all the recommendations of the Citizens’ Workgroup be implemented eventually?
All recommendations will be taken into consideration for the amendments to the SAFNA Act and Rules and improvement of other non-legislative measures such as streamlining regulatory processes. MCCY will keep the Workgroup members updated on the developments of the review.
5. How long will the National Symbols review take?
The intent is for the review to culminate in an Amendment Bill to Parliament with regard to SAFNA, as well as corresponding revisions to the regulatory processes. In addition to the Citizens’ Workgroup sessions, which will end in June 2021, MCCY will also consult stakeholders in different sectors and other government agencies on the proposed changes to the SAFNA Act and Rules. As it is important to MCCY to listen to and consider views from a wide range of citizens and stakeholders, the full review may take until 2022.
6. I have more questions and views to contribute! Whom do I contact about the Citizens' Workgroup or National Symbols review?
Please email us at RED@mccy.gov.sg and we will get back to you. You can keep an eye on MCCY’s and OurSG’s social media platforms for more opportunities to contribute.