SINGAPORE - The Singapore flag may soon be displayed more often instead of just during the National Day period, under proposed changes to the law tabled in Parliament on Tuesday (Aug 2).
Meanwhile, the maximum penalties for misuse of national symbols may also be increased - from the current $1,000 to $30,000, and six months' jail - to safeguard against disrespectful use.
The National Symbols Bill introduced on Tuesday by Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth Low Yen Ling will, if passed into law, replace the existing Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem (Safna) Act.
The Safna Act currently covers only the state crest, national flag and national anthem, while the new Bill will give formal statutory recognition to national symbols introduced after 1959: the pledge, public seal, lion head symbol and national flower.
Under the proposed law, the presidential crest, presidential standard and presidential seal will be formally recognised as presidential symbols.
The Bill also provides for a prescribed person - such as the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth - to permit or prohibit the use of national symbols under the regulations.
For example, the minister can make an exception to allow the display of the national flag outside the usual National Day period of July to September.
Under the existing Safna Act and its rules, any changes to the display period requires the law to be amended.
This change is in response to growing calls from the public to allow the flying of the national flag outside the National Day period during significant occasions such as the Olympics as a way to express national pride and solidarity, said the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).
This was echoed by the Citizens' Workgroup for National Symbols, an engagement exercise convened by the ministry from January to April 2021.
The workgroup, which comprised of 47 Singaporeans, discussed how to strengthen Singaporeans' connections with their national symbols and also explored the possibility of new national symbols.
MCCY had also conducted a public consultation through government feedback unit Reach from June 13 to July 8 this year on the proposed National Symbols Regulations to replace Safna. Feedback and suggestions were taken into consideration for the Bill.
In parallel with moves to provide more flexibility in the use of national symbols, the Bill also provides for harsher penalties for their misuse.
Under the Bill, offenders may be fined up to $30,000 or jailed for up to six months, or both.
Under the Safna Act, the current penalty is a fine of up to $1,000 - set in 1959 when the first national symbols were introduced.
MCCY added that the new penalty is similar to existing penalties for defacing a national monument under the Preservation of Monuments Act 2009.
The ministry said it will continue to raise public awareness of appropriate use, including issuing clear guidelines on usage of the symbols.