Hurt by threat of fine over Singapore flag, but aim is to protect dignity
ST Facebook users expressed their hurt and confusion over a possible fine for residents who display the Singapore flag beyond Sept 30, especially since it is seen as a rallying symbol amid the Covid-19 crisis. These posts overshadowed those of people explaining that the fine helps to safeguard the dignity of the flag.
Michelle Loh said: "I think the warning of a $1,000 fine really leaves a bad taste (in everyone's mouth), especially after what the Government has done during the Covid-19 period, reminding all Singaporeans to keep united, stay safe. It's really sad. It breaks all the trust we have built earlier."
Jack Chan said: "Much before our National Day this year, we were told to put up the flag in support of Covid-19. Then came our National Day. Now that our National Day is over, are we no longer talking about solidarity to contain the Covid-19 until maybe, say, Phase 3?
"I don't see consistency here. Showing patriotism should be at one's will and should not be dictated. We should be proud to see more signs of 'loving Singapore' from our own citizens."
These posts overshadowed those of people gently explaining the purpose of the fine is to help safeguard the dignity of the flag.
DUST AND DIGNITY
The rule is not new, as some ST Facebook users pointed out. Josephine Simon Dorai said: "As far as I know, this ruling has been around for as long as I remember."
Every year, the flag can be displayed outside a building or in an open space without a flagpole between July 1 and Sept 30. Earlier this year, the timeframe was extended to allow the flag to be put up in such a manner from April 25 to Sept 30 as a rallying symbol amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
After last Wednesday, those who continue to display the flag will risk being fined up to $1,000 under the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem (Safna) rules.
When HerMan GonMez wrote, "Why discourage such showing of affection towards our own country", reader Daniel Tan Boon Huat replied: "HerMan GonMez, it's going to be faded if you hang too long."
It is actually about protecting the flag and what it stands for.
The senior director of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth's (MCCY) resilience and engagement division, Mr Letchumanan Narayanan, noted in an ST report on Sept 27: "One consideration for allowing the display of the flag will be whether we can safeguard the dignity of the flag, including how it could be subject to wear and tear resulting from extended display or neglect."
ST Facebook reader Ron Wang wrote of the fine: "Okay, at first, I thought it's kinda stupid. But after reading, it's to prevent people from damaging it due to neglecting. In a way, it's to protect the image of our country flag. Then I think it's reasonable."
John Tang said: "I agree with the 'fine' rule. The domestic national flag made of cotton material must be kept clean and dignified with bright colour. Putting it out at the window for too long would allow it to gather dust and make it look like a piece of rag hanging for sunshine.
"However, most of our flags are hung at the parapet, out of sight and being forgotten by the owners."
NOT FINE WITH IT
Some people think gentle reminders are good enough.
SIA TO LAUNCH RESTAURANT, NOT FLIGHTS TO NOWHERE: Singapore Airlines will be offering lunch deals to members of the public in a parked Airbus A-380 jumbo jet, among other initiatives. ST Facebook users reacted with "likes" by the thousands. Aiwee Lau said: "As a mum of three, I was looking for a long-haul flight without going anywhere out of the plane - without the family. However, I am glad SIA ditched that environmentally unfriendly plan."
STA TRAVEL TO WIND UP: The tour agency is winding up, affecting as many as 680 customers listed as creditors for sums possibly going up to $84,000. ST Facebook user Popu Kanu said: "My goodness, thank God I collected back my money before the circuit breaker. Really dangerous, that is a lot of hard-earned money."
Rachel Rox said: "Just change to a new flag when the existing one looks old. Simple. Why still need to fine citizens? What kind of draconian ruling is this and for what, display of patriotism in the very country we are in? Weird."
Sandy Ser said: "Can't they just get the RC people to walk around and help keep the flag for the resident or remind them to keep? Rather than broadcast the consequences of not keeping the flag. Everything also fine, even showing patriotism also kena fine. Sigh."
Loh Chee Hwa wrote: "Wah. I used my three extra flags to hang for my neighbours. $3,000 fine for showing my patriotism if I'm forgetful." And Michelle Ng concluded: "Then better don't hang forever, just in case forget to remove and get fine."
Well, no one has been fined for displaying the national flag beyond the time period allowed under the Safna rules, and the authorities do not plan to start doing so. This was revealed by MCCY Minister Edwin Tong in a Facebook post last Wednesday.
"Let me assure you: As far as I know, no one has ever been fined for this, nor do we plan to do so," he wrote.
"There is no reason to 'punish' those who treat it with respect and dignity, and are proud to showcase the Singapore spirit."
Mr Tong also said that his ministry had initiated a review of Safna rules before the recent report about the fine. The amendments may allow for more occasions on which the flag can be displayed, while protecting it from extended display or neglect.
He wrote: "Patriotism is not just a right, it's simply right."
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 04, 2020, with the headline 'Hurt by threat of fine over Singapore flag, but aim is to protect dignity'. Subscribe
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