SINGAPORE - Singapore's annual birthday bash will return to the Padang next year as the country commemorates its bicentennial, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen revealed on Friday (Aug 17).
The recreational field near City Hall was chosen for National Day Parade 2019 as the site "has been witness to so many key events in Singapore's history", he said.
Dr Ng revealed the venue in a speech at a Gardens by the Bay event to thank participating organisations, sponsors and key appointment holders of the organising committee for this year's National Day Parade (NDP), which was held at the Marina Bay floating platform last week (Aug 9).
Dr Ng said next year's parade will be another special one, as it will reflect how far Singapore has come 200 years after Stamford Raffles landed here in 1819.
The Padang was where the first post-independence NDP was held in 1966. It also witnessed the declarations of self-government in 1959 and the union with Malaysia in 1963.
Assistant Professor Yeo Kang Shua of the Singapore University of Technology and Design, an architectural conservation specialist, said it was fitting that the Padang would be chosen for a year when Singapore will look back on its pre-independence past.
"The Padang was first planned in 1822 as a civic space, around which politically and culturally significant landmarks were later built, such as the Victoria Concert Hall and Theatre as well as the old Supreme Court," he said. "It's not a surprise to me that NDP is going back to a place with such historic civic presence."
Parades held at the Padang do not feature a sea display as they do at the floating platform. However, crowd favourites the Red Lions skydivers can still perform a parachute display there - something they could not do at the National Stadium in 2016, due to safety reasons.
Since 1995, the annual parade has been held at the Padang every five years, the last time being the SG50 bash in 2015, which included highlights such as F-16 fighter jets forming the number "50", and a tribute to the late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew.
The last parade at the old National Stadium was held in 2006, and since then the Aug 9 celebration has been held nine times at the floating platform, twice at the Padang and once at the National Stadium.
In his speech, Dr Ng paid tribute to the 15,000 people from the SAF, Home Team, and the public and private sectors who made this year's NDP a success.
"(NDP 18) succeeded because it gave expression to what Singapore is and wants to become," he said. "This year's NDP was a superb storytelling exercise, and it reflected Singapore's story through the lives of ordinary Singaporeans who performed extraordinary acts."
He also emphasised the purpose of the annual bash. "Because we can forget what it's about. We can think it's just a parade, a show... But as a relatively young and independent country, each NDP that we hold every year is about a nation still establishing itself, and not least through a common identity."
Ms Christine Chua, 31, a service administrator, has been to parades held at the Padang, the National Stadium and the floating platform, but likes the Padang best of the three.
"The floating platform is better than the stadium because we can see the parachutists, state flag flypast, and outdoor fireworks. But the Padang is even better because of the military mobile column, which was last seen at the SG50 parade," she said.