Singapore Budget 2015: Identify what defines Singaporeans and deserves to be celebrated

SINGAPORE - As Singapore celebrates its 50th year of independence, it is important to identify what defines its people as Singaporeans, said Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) on Wednesday.

"What reaches and touches the mind, heart and soul of Singaporeans and binds Singaporeans to Singapore? It cannot be something we do or evoke a celebratory mood every 50 years, or even every year during National Day," he said as he kicked off the debate on the budget of the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth.

Noting that it was natural for Singaporeans to be swept up in the mood of SG50 celebrations, Mr Baey said that it was important to channel these positive energies into building a stronger, more united Singapore for the next five decades.

"What we do today on the occasion of SG50 will define the future of Singapore," said Mr Baey, who chairs the government parliamentary committee for culture, community and youth.

In his speech, he highlighted "uniquely Singaporean" cultural traits which have slowly gained recognition only recently, such as Singlish and local hawker foods.

Mr Baey singled out other facets that he said deserved to be celebrated.

The xinyao genre of Singapore Chinese songs, for example, exemplifies a ground-up "passion and pursuit of people with ideas and creativity who took it upon themselves to write the songs they want to sing, the voice they want to have", he said.

Similarly, the preservation of the iconic dragon-shaped playground in Toa Payoh was cheered by "the children of yesteryears who celebrate the retention of their past in physical form, and not just in memories", he said.

Also, getai performances represent "street life, coffee shop talk, what an average Singaporean does every day", he said.

"They used to be known only as the loud and crass roadside stage shows, frequented by uncles and aunties. This is really uniquely Singaporean - I am referring to the getais, some would say our uncles and aunties are included too," he said with a laugh.

Today's getai have kept up with the times, he added, citing the use of big electronic display screens, Facebook pages and YouTube channels as well as having young fans.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.