'Majulah' clip draws strong criticism... but praise too

Mr Nair is the creative director for the We Are Majulah campaign and was featured in the video, which is titled I Will Not Die For Singapore. In it, the 28-year-old discusses why he and many others are not willing to die for Singapore, and how a more
Mr Nair is the creative director for the We Are Majulah campaign and was featured in the video, which is titled I Will Not Die For Singapore. In it, the 28-year-old discusses why he and many others are not willing to die for Singapore, and how a more united front would protect all families.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Group's provocative work aimed at bonding Singaporeans together with new buzzword

The group of six behind a provocatively titled video about national identity was prepared for a worse reception than their efforts being labelled "propaganda".

"The worst-case scenario for me was that no one would even care about the message we were trying to deliver," said Mr Muhammad Hafiz, 27, the technical director for the We Are Majulah campaign.

But far from being ignored, the video titled I Will Not Die For Singapore has been shared more than 12,100 times on Facebook since its launch on Feb 15. In the first two days alone, it received 48,000 views, over half of which lasted the full length of the eight-minute clip, said 28-year-old Divian Nair, who fronted the video and is the campaign's creative director.

In the video, Mr Nair discusses why he and many others are not willing to die for Singapore, and how a more united front will protect all families. He suggests "Majulah" as a word to bond Singaporeans.

"We want people to take ownership of the idea that Singapore is defined by more than just a government, political party or corporation. It's defined by the people," he said. The former 987FM DJ, who is also a TV show host and runs a video production company, hopes this will take off as a civic movement.

Opinions about the video flew in fast, with some lambasting or parodying it. Popular blogger Mr Brown parodied the video, suggesting "basket" as the word to choose.

The strongest criticisms have been that the movement is a "nationalistic propaganda tool" that will harm society, said Mr Nair.

"We understand how it might be perceived that way but our only intention is to offer what we feel is a viable option, one that we feel could strengthen the social fabric of our civic society on the most basic level, on the premise that we survive better together," he said.

But many netizens commended the effort, with some saying they would die for their loved ones.

The other members of the We Are Majulah team are executive producer Leon Kleinman, 28, operations manager Samantha Gabrielle De Mello, 24, copywriter Arun Karthik Visvalingam, 28, and finance director Lee Yao Cheng, 28.

The team spent several months delving into the meaning and history of the word "majulah", talking to historians and the College of Arms in London, which granted Singapore's Coat of Arms that include the words "Majulah Singapura". The project has cost around $20,000, most of which has come from Mr Nair's savings and with support from his production firm.

Former Nominated MP Eugene Tan said that, judging from the response to the video, there is potential for an engaged conversation among Singaporeans on national identity. "A strong national identity does not come about by chance. It's hard work, simply put," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 21, 2016, with the headline ''Majulah' clip draws strong criticism... but praise too'. Print Edition | Subscribe