Leaders mark National Day islandwide

President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reciting the pledge with other staff from the President's Office and Prime Minister's Office. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN
President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reciting the pledge with other staff from the President's Office and Prime Minister's Office. -- ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

SINGAPORE - Ministers turned out in force on Friday, the eve of Singapore's 49th birthday, to celebrate the occasion with their staff and residents.

From the grounds of the Istana to the Ministry of Defence, they attended events across the island to mark National Day.

President Tony Tan Keng Yam and Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recited the pledge with other staff from the President's Office and Prime Minister's Office at the Istana on Friday morning.

At The Treasury in High Street, more than 1,000 public servants celebrated the nation's 49th year of independence with a colourful ceremony of songs and band performances.

Guests included Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Cabinet ministers and senior government officials from various ministries. All were in red and white.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen led more than 2,000 staff from his ministry and the Singapore Armed Forces in reciting the pledge and singing the National Anthem at Gombak Drive.

In addition, about 150 pioneers from the media, infocomm, library and design sectors were recognised for contributions to their industries on Friday.

At an event to observe National Day and pay tribute to the pioneer generation, Communications and Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim said that as the country turns 50 next year, "we must remember the people who rose to the challenge of nation building at a time of great uncertainty".

Dr Yaacob said it is up to the next generation to carry on the legacy of the pioneers. He presented them with framed front pages of the Jan 1 edition of The Straits Times from their birth years.

Mr Eng Siak Loy, 73, who headed the graphic arts team at the National Parks Board until he retired in 2009, was among those feted.

He has designed about 60 sets of Singapore stamps and the currency notes released in 1999. He advised young people who want to go into art and design to start from the basics. He said: "Young people may not have the patience but no matter what kind of artist you want to be, you need to have a strong foundation."

On Friday night, Manpower Minister Tan Chuan-Jin and guests from the business community attended a National Day dinner organised by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry.