Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Dr Chee Soon Juan has questioned whether the Government amended the rules on the display of the flag to “hijack nationalism for political-partisan purposes,” in a recent social media post.
Earlier this year, President Halimah Yacob allowed the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem (SAFNA) Rules to be amended to permit the display of the national flag from 25 April to 30 June. In late April, the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) extended the period in which the flag can be displayed and allowed all organisations and households to display the flag until the end of September.
The Government ministry said that the SAFNA Rules were amended because it received a number of requests from members of the public who were keen to display the National Flag “as a demonstration of unity and solidarity with others in society, even as we may be physically apart” during the COVID-19 crisis.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said then: “It is heartening to know that Singaporeans want to rally around the National Flag – an emblem of our shared values, identity and future. It is also a call for us to work together and stand resilient in the face of a crisis like this. This exemplifies the Singapore Together spirit.”
President Halimah added that she was also “heartened by the desire of Singaporeans to show our solidarity.”
In a Facebook post published on Saturday (30 May), Dr Chee shared photos of residential blocks that do not have any flags out on display and said that he has “no idea what Ms Fu and Mdm Halimah are heartened by.”
Questioning the motives behind the SAFNA amendments, Dr Chee asked: “Was this flag-rule change another attempt to wrap the cloak of nationalism around the power elite and further mask the divide between party and state? If it is and you hijack nationalism for political-partisan purposes, you force the question of what patriotism is about.”
Asserting that patriotism is more than displaying flags, singing national songs or receiving National Day Parade funpacks, the opposition politician said, “These are contrived acts driven by thought manipulators that, in the absence of real freedom and democracy, conjure only cosmetic emotions of national pride.
“For patriotism is not merely the ostentatious act of flag-display. It is a devotion that flows from the inner wells of the heart, an unpretentious fondness of a culture that doesn’t need announcement.”
He added: “Patriotism is not about a hashtag and the guileful call for unity and solidarity. (Solidarity against what? Bats?) It is encouraging the people to look out for one another especially the vulnerable among us – local or foreign.
“Patriotism is not the cultivation of arrogance and avarice. It is the humility of spirit and the rejection of greed especially in public service. Patriotism is not the opportunistic grab of power. It is to serve rather than dominate, persuade rather than proscribe, inspire rather than manipulate.
“Patriotism is not the hijacking of national symbols by the ruling clique. It is forged from the courage and sacrifice of citizens who dissent in order to pull closer to the ideals and virtues that our nation promises.”
Advising the people to display the flag if their heart tells them to do so, Dr Chee asserted that “a true patriot saluting the flag also salutes democracy, justice and equality – ideals we have long neglected.” He urged: “May the fire of patriotism burn ever so brightly in our hearts.”
“It is heartening to know that Singaporeans want to rally around the National Flag,” Minister Grace Fu tells us….
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