National Day 2020

Apart, but in one voice for Anthem Moment

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo leading the Anthem Moment at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar yesterday. Healthcare workers and guests at the flag-raising ceremony at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases. Health Minister Gan Kim Y
President Halimah Yacob at the National Day Parade held at the Padang yesterday. She led the nation in the solemn Anthem Moment.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo leading the Anthem Moment at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar yesterday. Healthcare workers and guests at the flag-raising ceremony at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases. Health Minister Gan Kim Y
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo leading the Anthem Moment at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar yesterday. ST PHOTO: JOEL CHAN
Manpower Minister Josephine Teo leading the Anthem Moment at the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar yesterday. Healthcare workers and guests at the flag-raising ceremony at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases. Health Minister Gan Kim Y
Healthcare workers and guests at the flag-raising ceremony at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases. Health Minister Gan Kim Yong thanked the staff. ST PHOTO: SHINTARO TAY

For 1½ minutes yesterday morning, Singaporeans at different locations across the island came together to sing Majulah Singapura in unison.

Apart yet one, the nation was led in the solemn Anthem Moment by President Halimah Yacob from the Padang, in a collective voice echoed at seven other places, shortly after 10.30am.

Ministers at these locations, each representing a key sector, spoke of how the pandemic had changed the tenor of this year's National Day.

But they said the sacrifices and resilience shown in the fight against Covid-19 have made the nation's 55th birthday more meaningful.

Also at the Padang were Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat, Senior Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and a number of MPs, including Workers' Party (WP) chief and Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh.

Other ministers and MPs were split up between the Padang and the seven locations.

At Kampung Admiralty, a venue representing housing and the community, National Development Minister Desmond Lee said the Anthem Moment itself reflects a "new normal".

"Despite the restrictions that we have had to put in place for everyone's health and safety, which keep us physically apart, we will continue to find ways to come together as one united people," he said.

Also present was Culture, Community and Youth Minister Edwin Tong, who said National Day this year was no less meaningful for being held in a decentralised manner.

Mr Tong said: "It represents a community, how we live together, how we play together, and the vision that we have for the future, the community we want to build, and how we want to age together as well."

Leaders at other locations echoed their sentiments. At North Vista Secondary School, Education Minister Lawrence Wong thanked all educators at a ceremony also attended by Sengkang GRC MPs Jamus Lim and Louis Chua, both from the WP.

 
 
 
 

Mr Wong, who also co-chairs the multi-ministry Covid-19 task force, said while "Singapore Together" is a common refrain, the pandemic has made it more meaningful.

He said: "We have been tested in the crucible but we have not failed. We have prevailed, and we have emerged stronger as a nation."

At the NTUC FairPrice Hub in Joo Koon, Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing said this year's National Day is a very special one for all Singaporeans. He paid tribute to essential service workers who have "worked quietly behind the scenes to allow us to live life as normally as possible".

"Together with other logistic and supply chain players, they have helped to keep our supply chains going, providing us with food and essential services and items."

Transport Minister Ong Ye Kung, who visited Changi Airport's air control tower and spoke to staff, said "air traffic may be low, but spirits are high".

"We spent more than 40 years building up Singapore as an air hub, and Covid-19 decimated aviation... We hope that in the months, weeks ahead, we will start the process of regaining and reviving our air hub status," he told reporters.

At the National Centre for Infectious Diseases, a critical facility in Singapore's Covid-19 fight, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong thanked healthcare workers.

"The road to recovery will be long and tough. But I am confident the Covid-19 virus will not break our Singapore spirit of grit, resilience, determination and unity," he said.

At the Enabling Village, Social and Family Development Minister Masagos Zulkifli said the venue for persons with disabilities represented "the ethos of our social services sector" where beneficiaries are always placed at the centre.

He added that he was heartened by how people have stepped forward to help the vulnerable and support front-line and migrant workers.

"Crisis often brings out the best in us. Even as this pandemic has caused major disruptions to our lives, I am glad that the community has stepped up to support our fellow Singaporeans."

At the Lifelong Learning Institute in Paya Lebar, leaders from business, the labour movement and the Government represented Singapore's unique tripartite relationship supporting its workforce.

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said there was still much to be grateful for, including Singapore's low Covid-19 fatalities and the resilience of Singapore's people, businesses and civil service.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Mrs Teo said Singapore's diverse workforce will continue to face challenges, but she is confident of its ability to weather the crisis.

She noted that younger workers are willing to adapt to the labour market and are creative in contributing to the workforce digitally.

For middle-aged workers, the focus is on helping avoid permanent damage to careers based on current temporary setbacks, she said.

Reflecting on the past few months, including recent inroads in the Covid-19 situation at the migrant workers' dormitories, Mrs Teo said "every small win" is celebrated during such a difficult journey, while staying vigilant against unexpected challenges.

"Our ability to quickly assess the situation and organise ourselves in order to mount as best a response as we can - that must remain part of the Singapore DNA," she said.

Additional reporting by Lim Min Zhang, Dominic Low and Clara Chong

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 10, 2020, with the headline 'Apart, but in one voice for Anthem Moment'. Print Edition | Subscribe