By The Way

National day looks and a history-making collaboration: What politicians are talking about

The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series. PHOTOS: CHENG LI HUI/FACEBOOK, LEE HSIEN LOONG/FACEBOOK, LEONG MUN WAI/FACEBOOK, TAN CHUAN-JIN/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE - The Straits Times looks at what politicians, and the politically related, are up to in this weekly series.

In this edition, we take a closer look at what some politicians wore to the National Day Parade (NDP) and check out how Singapore's 57th birthday was celebrated at the Istana, as well as thousands of kilometers away in London.

Look out for the latest edition of the series every Friday, and check out past ones here.

Who are you wearing?

Besides the music and dance performances, military demonstrations and fireworks, the televised National Day Parade has traditionally been a chance for local politicians to wear their red and white best.

Quite a few took to social media to show off the local designers they were wearing, in a slew of outfit-of-the-day (OOTD) posts uploaded on Facebook on Tuesday ( Aug 9) and Wednesday.

Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Transport, and Sustainability and the Environment Baey Yam Keng said he was happy to show up for the NDP in a top by fashion designer and LaSalle College of the Arts graduate Serina Lee that "masterfully blended modernity with traditional strokes".

"The Chinese knot with a metal chain added another dash of fusion. The cutting is inspired by the Korean hanbok. Can you spot the resemblance of the red lines to our MRT map?," asked Mr Baey, who is also an MP for Tampines GRC.

His fellow GRC MP Cheng Li Hui also posted a picture of her outfit - a red one-shoulder top paired with baggy white trousers custom made by fashion designer Max Tan.

Ms Cheng was not the only one to wear a creation by Mr Tan: she said in her post that Jurong GRC MP Xie Yao Quan was also dressed by him, in a practical polo-and-blazer ensemble that also works for official visits.

Some, like Mr Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) and Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Health and Law Rahayu Mahzam (Jurong GRC), decided to re-wear some of their past outfits.

In her Facebook post, Ms Rahayu said that her outfit was the same as one she had worn "a few years back".

It consists of a blouse with beautiful material from the late batik artist Sarkasi Said, that was lovingly sewn by kebaya maker Ratianah Tahir, she said.

As for Mr Ng, he not only reprised a red polo tee from NDP 2020 but had brought along a dinged up but still reliable water bottle to this year's parade in the spirit of reduce and reuse.

"Same old centre parting too," he quipped about his signature hairstyle.

Istana Reception

The NDP might be the most-talked about event every year during Singapore's birthday season, but there are other events traditionally held during this period, including the annual National Day Reception at the Istana.

For the first time in three years, the reception was fully held in-person on Wednesday (Aug 10) at the Istana, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

"The Istana is where we hold many state events and formal receptions, but the National Day Reception is always special and meaningful, as we gather with fellow Singaporeans to celebrate our nation's birthday," said PM Lee.

"Glad we were able to hold the reception yesterday fully in-person and on-site again after the pandemic."

The National Day Reception is a tradition that harks back to 1966, when then-President Yusof Ishak and his wife Puan Noor Aishah hosted a reception for 1,000 guests at the Istana on National Day evening.

In a photo he uploaded together with the post, PM Lee is seen in front of a big cake with the words "Happy 57th Birthday Singapore". He is pictured with his wife Madam Ho Ching, President Halimah Yacob and her husband Mr Mohamed Abdullah Alhabshee and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong and his wife Madam Tan Choo Leng.

Also at the reception was Non-Constituency MP Leong Mun Wai from the Progress Singapore Party, who said in a Facebook post on Thursday that it was his first time being invited.

"It was a great opportunity to meet many people who have made significant contributions to Singapore. Besides grassroots leaders, there are also union leaders, sports and arts talents, academics and government-linked company's managers. It was really exciting talking to and taking photos with some of them," said Mr Leong.

He attached some of these photos to his post, and they included former Nominated MP Walter Theseira, Ambassador-at-Large Chan Heng Chee and the first Singapore Idol Taufik Batisah, who performed the NDP 2022 theme song Stronger Together at the event.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong attended the event as well, and shared photos with Taufik, singer Rahimah Rahim and athlete and former NMP Yip Pin Xiu.

Celebration Singapore's birthday overseas

Not all of Singapore's politicians were at the parade this year. Speaker of the House Tan Chuan-Jin, who is also president of the Singapore National Olympic Council, spent the nation's birthday overseas cheering on local athletes at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.

But the National Day spirit was still roaring strong there, and Mr Tan posted about how he joined over a hundred Singaporeans who had gathered at Westminster Abbey for the Singapore Evening Prayers. This, he said, was apparently a practice to celebrate national days for various commonwealth countries.

"We adjourned to a nearby room for a makan session….not Singaporeans if we don't have food!! We had a very good mixed in our turnout and it was fascinating to hear everyone's roles and stories," he said.

During his time overseas, Mr Tan found time to also wear his hat as chairman of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum's Advisory Committee, at an event that he posted about on Thursday.

"Our very own Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) and the NHM (in London) launched a ground-breaking project, SIGNIFY: A Digital Archive of Singapore's Historical Biodiversity," he said.

Together, the two museums will digitise and document some 10,000 key natural specimens found in Singapore in the past two centuries, said Mr Tan.

The project marks the first attempt globally at making a country's biodiversity data freely available online to the world.

Mr Tan explained that the project will make Singapore's biodiversity historical data accessible online, and its success will pave the way for similar collaborations across institutions around the world.

"The people-to-people link between our two institutions, especially for our young team, will also enable further effective collaborations in this field," he said, followed by emojis of the Singapore flag and the Union Jack.

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