NDP crowd in high spirits despite tighter security measures

Members of the public having their bags checked by security personnel at the Esplanade, ahead of the National Day Parade on Aug 9, 2017.
Members of the public having their bags checked by security personnel at the Esplanade, ahead of the National Day Parade on Aug 9, 2017.ST PHOTO: AUDREY TAN
Security officers standing guard at Merlion Park, ahead of the National Day Parade on Aug 9, 2017.
Security officers standing guard at Merlion Park, ahead of the National Day Parade on Aug 9, 2017. ST PHOTO: YUEN SIN
A sign warning members of the public not to fly UAVs or drones in the area, on Aug 9, 2017.
A sign warning members of the public not to fly UAVs or drones in the area, on Aug 9, 2017.ST PHOTO: YUEN SIN

SINGAPORE - Despite tighter security measures at this year's National Day Parade, many attendees were in high spirits though some turned up as early as 2pm to queue up and enter The Float @ Marina Bay.

Marine operations executive Khairul Azhar Rosawi, 29, turned up just before 3pm at Marina Square when gates to enter the floating platform opened. The parade began around 5.30pm.

He said of the security checks: "I feel that it's necessary, especially with all the attacks around the world. It can be a bit of a hassle since we came here early and now have to wait in the hot sun.

"But we wanted to beat the long queue later on and also get the chance to get a seat near the front."

Retiree Edwin Koh, 69, and his wife Theresa Ng, 70, started queuing at 2pm to get a third-row seat.

Mr Koh, who took part in the first National Day Parade in 1966 as a schoolboy, said he was thrilled to be able to attend the parade for the first time since.

"I'm very happy - this will be my first and last chance to see it in person. Being here is nothing like watching it on TV," he said.

With the parade gazetted as a "special event" under the Public Order Act, security was beefed up along the Marina Bay and surrounding areas.

There were four entry points into floating platform, where attendees had to walk through metal detectors and place their items through x-ray screening. Those carrying containers with 100ml of liquid and above also went through additional checks.

This includes the Merlion Park, The Promontory @ Marina Bay and in front of Marina Bay Sands, where hundreds gathered since 4pm for a spot to view the finale fireworks.

To guard against vehicle attacks, large concrete blocks were set up in the areas. These measures were previously seen only near the parade grounds.

 
 

The police also conducted checks on vehicles entering the restricted areas.

Police officers, including those from the elite Emergency Response Teams and Special Operations Command, patrolled in teams as a deterrence. They are also trained to respond to emergency situations, including potential terrorist attacks.

Ex-sales promoter Linda Lee, 52, was at the Merlion Park with her friend and welcomed the police patrols.

"I've come to watch NDP here every year since 2012. I've seen more police officers this year - it's good, we feel safer in the crowd. It's important because of what has been happening in the world recently. There are more police and they are also more alert this year," she added.

Mr Melvin Gomez, 33, operations executive in the security line, said that despite the tighter measures, the security was well-organised and it only took him a few minutes to go through the security screenings.

Freelance accountant Tay Hui Cheng, 34, who was at the parade at 3.30pm with her mother 61-year-old Molly Quah, also applauded the NDP organisers for providing coolers and guiding them to a separate queue when they saw that the latter couldn't walk properly.

She was also unfazed at having to wait to go through security screening and bag checks.

"I'm very happy to be here! I decided to come early to avoid the crowds so my mother wouldn't have to be stuck in the human traffic. We got tickets to NDP last year, but prefer the floating platform to National Stadium because we can see the Red Lions skydivers, and the military displays on the water," she added.

This year, the police have also imposed stricter enforcement against the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), such as drones, in the interest of public safety.

Those who do so may be arrested on the spot and if convicted, face a fine of up to $20,000 or a jail term of up to 12 months, or both. The items will also be seized.

Besides unauthorised UAVs, items such as flares, explosives, paint, arms, aerosol paint, flammable material and loudhailers are also prohibited.