The here and now and a bit of way back then

I relived my journey to 40 and found there's so much more to say

SG50 – Singapore’s Golden Jubilee

on August 9, 2015

Today is National Day. Celebrating Singapore’s 50th Birthday. 

But of course Singapore is much older than that. It has risen and fallen in importance during the early centuries eventually rediscovered by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 and established as a trading port to create modern Singapore under British colonial rule until 1963. 

It then merged with the Federation of Malaya to form Malaysia but this was a short lived union and less than two years later Singapore was unceremoniously dumped to become a sovereign, independent state. 

And this is why every 9 August is an incredibly important date in the Singapore calendar. 

As sad as it may seem that Singapore’s founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, passed away in March to miss out on today’s celebrations, his passing brought to the surface just how far Singapore has risen since those early dark days. 

In time’s of prosperity it can be difficult to appreciate there once was adversity. I certainly never thought about it and arrived in Singapore to appreciate all that its growth and development have to offer. We wouldn’t be here otherwise.

Until this year, I often wondered why there was no uproar about the money spent on National Day rehearsals that would start on the first Saturday in June and continue every weekend until National Day. I thought about the outcry there would be in the UK and calls to sack the government at the huge expense that could be best spent elsewhere more meaningful.

This year, I feel differently because after living in Singapore for almost seven years, I have finally learnt something about its history. My own lack of knowledge has led me to make assumptions without knowing any of the facts.

  
It is hard to imagine right now amongst all the shine and wealth that you see that a mere 50 years ago this was a nation debilitated by racial tensions, mistrust and fear. The separation from Singapore came at a time of huge social unrest amongst the Chinese and Malays in Singapore. Fights led to curfews being imposed. And the situation led to other tragic incidents occuring instigated by groups outside of Singapore. 

This was not a happy time and certainly not a time to be leading an independent city state. If you watch the video of Lee Kuan Yew announcing the separation of Singapore from Malaysia, you can see the struggle within him. It is a very personal moment to bear witness to.

Regardless of political beliefs or whether his way was the right and only way, you have to admire the commitment he made. He and his wife were a couple of years older than I am now when this happened. If you think about it yourself, can you really imagine the energy needed in taking on this mammoth task. To build a nation that was to be self reliant, educated, living in good housing, brought out of high unemployment. To unify communities of people when there was no common language between them and to thrive and work in partnership with the countries nearby who ejected you and caused loss and suffering. 

 
What I find interesting is I wonder how much Singapore would have grown without the enforced growing up it had to do. Even its water supply came from Malaysia, understandably this was one of the first issues to address to make a nation less vulnerable. 

The build up to SG50 has been going on for some time. Not just in the branding, which is everywhere  from banners outside buildings, at exhibitions and on endless merchandise (SG50 dried beef? Though what I really want is an SG50 tea towel). 

Special events have been held leading up to today showcasing the strength and magnitude of the Singapore Army, Navy and Airforce to community projects of how to make bricks by hand back in the kampung days. Lots of attractions have had special rates to celebrate like getting a year’s annual pass to the Jurong Bird Park for the price of a one time admission fee and many are even free this weekend.

There has been plenty of media coverage showing past and present photographs of Singapore. In many ways, I’m also sad that a lot of historical character has been lost in the rush to galvanise a nation to greater things. In saying that I love the Singapore skyline overlooking Marina Bay Sands and the amazing sunrise and sunset I’ve seen on my many runs in the area. 

Every year, Singaporeans gather together for the pomp and circumstance on National Day. The streets are awash with people wearing red and white. (And you know how I feel about people wearing matching clothing). In the beginning I admittedly found it all a bit too much. This annual celebration of Singapore’s Birthday. But now I know differently and I think Singapore is entitled to this day of glory and reflection to be proud of what has been achieved.

Every year we’ve enjoyed watching the firework displays and looking out for the jets overhead. This year we saw the Black Knights perform an amazing display and the airforce fly in a stunning 50 formation. This evening I saw it fly right over our condo before breaking up and zooming off elsewhere. 

  

It seems the world is also speculating on what Singapore will do next. Or should do next. It’s been a meteoric rise for the Little Red Dot. One that can only be sustained with changes moving forward to address what could hinder growth and development in the next fifty years. 

Singapore is by no means perfect and I could reel off a list of quirks that could do with a shake up. But I rather feel that times are a-changing again and a new generation of Singaporeans will bring the personality to keep Singapore a relevant nation. I hope so.

In the meantime, may Singapore enjoy its Golden Jubilee long weekend and continue to live by the pledge that was renewed today:

“We, the citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves as one united people, regardless of race, language, or religion to build a democratic society based on justice and equality so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and progress for our nation.”
One people. One nation. One Singapore.

Taking into account what is happening elsewhere around the world, this reminder for racial harmony and joining together, even to just 5.5million people, will make a difference. 

Majulah Singapura and Happy Birthday to a place we call home. I feel I know you a little bit better now. 

   

 

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