NDP translation fiasco: Netizens pick Defense Minister apart for “pushing responsibilities”


The Singapore National Day Parade’s organising committee came under fire in early July for butchering the Tamil version of this year’s slogan, #OneNationTogether, in parade pamphlets disseminated to primary school students at the National Education shows.

The grossly misspelled Tamil translation saw many characters switched around that ultimately resulted in a ‘gibberish’ word that has no meaning whatsoever.

In a written parliamentary reply released yesterday, Minister for Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen explained the translation fail and claimed that the original Tamil translation submitted to the printers had been correct, but that the error occurred as the pamphlets were not proofread after they were printed.

Implying that the majority of the fault lies with the printing company for allegedly messing up the original translation that had been correct, Dr Ng added that the NDP executive committee will ensure that the publishing companies it engages in future are equipped with reliable computer software, so the different languages used will be printed accurately and that proofreading printed pamphlets has been “incorporated as standard procedure for all translated texts in NDP distribution.”

NDP executive committee chairman Colonel Ong Yoke Lam Melvin apologised earlier without pointing any fingers: “Such typographical errors are avoidable and should not have happened. We apologise to all Singaporeans for our oversight, in particular to our Tamil community, for the unhappiness this error has caused.”

Netizens responding to Channel News Asia’s coverage of Dr Ng’s response weren’t pleased with his comments, flaming him online for “pushing responsibilities” adding that the minister cannot “fool everyone.”

Some netizens also pointed out that the Malay and Mandarin translations may not be totally accurate either:


This incorrect Tamil translation in NDP pamphlets joined a plethora of inaccurate translations made by public institutions in recent years. Following major translation misfires in government materials, an official 11-member Review Panel for Government Tamil Translations convened last year to put an end to such mistakes.

In unveiling a series of measures aimed to eradicate inaccurate translations, Minister of State for Communications and Information and Health Chee Hong Tat said in January 2017 that the priority is to tighten vetting procedures: “We will require all government agencies to adopt a more rigorous process to vet and check their translated materials before they are made public.”

He had earlier said that such mistakes are “avoidable errors [that] should not have been made in the first place,” during budget deliberations in Parliament last year.

Some inaccurate Tamil translations in recent years include:

  • Senior Citizen Concession Card was wrongly translated to “expired senior kissing generation concession card” in Tamil
  • Downtown Line station Tan Kah Kee was inaccurately translated as “paan kah kee”

  • Lau Pah Sat, on a street sign, was translated to “lau pah sani.” Sani is a word that can be used to curse others in Tamil.

  • Tamil translations for Pioneer Generation Package letters to seniors failed when words were found to be ‘gibberish’
  • Almost all Gardens by the Bay signages were reported to be wrongly translated in Tamil.


  1. His response is not surprising. PAP does not, do not and will never ever make mistakes! They are omni-correct in whatever they do, whatever they say. They are infallible, in case you lesser mortals have not realise till today.

  2. Michelle Chong’s remarks that we do not take pride in our work was most appropriate n exemplified in this incident. Everyone, from d top guns to d printers fall into this category…..so sad for our nation…

  3. Min Gan said in parliament “no shame culture” adopted by his ministry. Hence every ministry takes on “no take responsibilties culture” Khaw is number 1 with high frequency of break down of trains n so thick skinned smilingly n happily eating durings at jb. Worst he blames the press for reporting disruptions n break downs. Spore is on the cliff edge if this is attitude of ministers!

  4. Surprisingly it mentioned that proof reading was not done. Shouldn’t this be part of the due diligence? Should the person in charge be held responsible for such mistake which is not only on a national level but are seen by the world.

  5. We pay millions of dollars to our Ministers and they can’t think intelligently when the flak and heat is on them? Blaming the printers must be the most idiotic response ever! One would expect the Minister of Defence no less to demonstrate accountable leadership and take responsibility for what is clearly the sloppiness and failings of his underlings. Imagine if we had a security lapse resulting in loss of lives? Who is he going to blame and hold accountable? Any wonder why our Ministers are the highest paid in the world per square kilometre. The buck must surely stop at the top? SINGAPOREANS are clearly getting a bad deal for their tax dollars!

  6. ‘No Blame Culture’ forgotten?

    ‘Butchered’ the Tamil, an Indian, language!

    Then emasculate the Indian parentage of a lackey to qualify her to run for EP!

  7. Recently this Hen made commitment to the Philippines to aid in the fight against their “Terrorists”….. so what’s gonna happen when our Men get into trouble or when casualties occurs?

    Why don’t this Hen & his Generals take the lead instead! Don’t send other men & women to the war zone! They are not your Children….. Send your Own instead and see if you are still able to speak like noble!

    These Scums are getting from bad to worse and deteriorating ever faster!!!!!

    Even if Terror don’t strike here….. it’s already on a Self-Destructing Course!

  8. PAP never never never never make mistakes. PAP never never never wrong, PAP always always they swear to God, swear to the pillar, swear to the running dogs always always very right. So you dumb Singaporeans always like to complain. You voted for clowns and you get clowns

  9. Whenever something went wrong somewhere within the kingdom, no one in the whitish cult would be responsible for those things went wrong. It is because they simply follow their leeder who had proclaimed brotherhood within is special and so they have been accorded the right to ownself clear ownself and whitewash themselves.

  10. The Organising committee must proof read the wordings before sending for production. So who’s fault? The printer company. As a Organising committee there shall not be pushing responsibilities to the third party. After all even u put the words correctly in submission to the printers, it is your responsibilities to get it right.

  11. One of the ministers favourite answer whenever they fumble is “this is a learning experience”. Another way to avoid taking responsibility is to find a scapegoat.

  12. I left the army (reservists) about 18years back but I, being Tamil, thank and salute you Colonel Ong Yoke Lam Melvin, Sir, for your sincere apology and compassion for the Tamil community, without pointing any fingers and admitting that such typographical errors are AVOIDABLE AND SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED.

  13. Our G Ministers mostly know how to find all sorts of excuses when faults arise. Slogan spelling wrong ..before flag upside down all these indication of disrespectful of country and simply don’t care if not why all these are happenings within the same year.

  14. What’s new and this is absolutely unacceptable. Your speech are just arrogant and sucks. Is taking responsibility so hard? I highly doubt printers will change or edit without getting the sample approval. Stop fooling us. We may be born in the night but not last night. We are watching you.

  15. GOD ( PAP ) don’t do mistakes you mar mortals dare to question As Great PAP GOD. I will release the TAX monster & up the water & electric Bill monster on you , you irreverent little people. Do remember to vote for PAP in 2019 a vote for PAP is a Vote for SLAVERY….HAHAHA

  16. Under LKY time, we got lots of SMART ministers and now under LHL we got lots of ACT SMART ministers, YES MAN ministers , BACK DOOR ministers, CARRY BALL ministers , DOG , PIG ministers……..

  17. The printer will print whatever is “signed off” by the client, and will not make changes on its own. This is basic printing protocol. The spelling mistake doesn’t cause detrimental demand to anyone (cause shit happens), but the attitude and practice of denial and shoving away responsibilities is poisonous! If for a small matter like this a Minister can behave this way, what about much bigger issues?! Please change your attitude!!

  18. In the old days… the whole lot would have committed harakiri becoz they know what is shame. nowsadays is 人不要脸,天下无敌。Surprisingly.. 70% believe in them..

  19. Why they themselves don’t check first and when it been point out is always not their fault and start pushing to other and is not the first and only that go wrong

  20. Most of them doesn’t hv much responsibility…
    Only Lips services…
    Printing company Will usually send the printed copies for u to check before printing…


  21. Pap always practises the art of taiji, cover own asses a.k.a ownself check ownself, sweeping things under the carpet , taking credits where it is NOT due and being super think skin .. no wonder our society is degrading

    **haf u seen ANY pap ministers taking responsibilities for any blunders and step down like those ministers in Japan n Korea? Not taking into consideration scandals like M Palmer who also was obviously forced to step down..

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