Opinion: I am patriotic but as a woman, I will not watch the National Day Parade

  • A National Day Parade is very important to boost the morale of Singaporeans and display a strong and united front as a country.
  • If viewership goes down yearly, does it mean Singaporeans are becoming less patriotic?
  • And are the bulk of them found among those who called for its cancellation? Things are not so clear cut, and patriotism is more than just blind support and love for a nation.
(Photo source: The Pride)
(Photo source: The Pride)

“Social [gatherings] restricted to 2, no dining in, but thousands can gather for NDP, where is the logic of their stupid decision??”

– Adrian He

“I would urge [the] Government to reconsider [the cancellation of] the NDP for this year. It’s unthinkable to hold [the] NDP just for the sake of it and really hate the idea of postponing [the] National Day date!”

– Audrey Teo

“I too support that the NDP should be cancelled altogether, this year. We are still in a pandemic. Singaporeans had taken pay cuts or lost jobs. It would be good if the ‘G’ can take the hint that most of us are just not in a celebratory mood. 

[The] expenditures for parades and fireworks could be channelled to providing more household support. [That] would be more significant and useful than those unnecessary ‘goodie bags’ which they give at the NDPs.”

– Dahlia Naqiah

“These front [line workers]: do they prefer to waste their precious time watching the NDP and expose themselves to hidden C-19 in the crowd?”

– Rick Tan

“Stop wasting taxpayer’s money. Achieve your target of getting 80% of our population vaccinated by National Day, so our people can have more liberation of movement and dining – in [food courts], hawker centres & [coffee shops]. Dear Leadership, get your priorities correct!”

– Kaldip Singh

These are some of the comments taken off the Workers’ Party Member of Parliament for Aljunied electoral division Gerald Giam’s Facebook post on 22 July. In it, he shared the Parliamentary Question he filed to the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) in regard to the National Day Parade (NDP) being held in the midst of a pandemic. 

If I was to share my opinion, this is what I would say:

“I don’t feel the Government has the right to hold an NDP because they have not done enough for us.”

Fervid noise and ardent voices ascended from the ground in hopes it would reach the ears of the Government. The NDP was first postponed to 21 August but calls were made for it to be cancelled altogether. Some even appealed to MINDEF’s sensibility by signing a petition.

The National Day Parade has always been a display of national pride for its citizens as much as it is a military flex for Singapore’s neighbours. (Photo source: CNA)

The more empathetic and staunchly patriotic Singaporeans supported the Government’s decision to postpone it as a compromise under a volatile Covid-19 climate.

“Since 1966, the NDP has been held every year to mark Singapore’s independence. This national event brings together Singaporeans from all walks of life, as one united people to affirm our unity and nationhood,” said MINDEF on 22 July. 

It continues that: “The changes this year will enable NDP 2021 to be held in safer conditions, while maintaining that cherished tradition.”

The National Day Parade is a good show but…

Though I harbour a love for Singapore, I have not watched the parade for about 20 years – and I am a Millennial.

What started as mere boredom of a spectacle that was not to my taste turned into disgruntlement of the policies and governance. It eventually led to my citizen posture and stance today: I don’t think the Government deserves to throw a splashy parade for Singaporeans.

Singapore women are not protected enough from sexual harassment and assault here. (Photo source: Florin|Roebig)

One of the things I have the most gripe with the Government is the way women are not protected enough from sexual harassment and assault in Singapore.

Women face a lot of sexual harassment in our daily lives. And at other times, it is not even if we have been sexually assaulted before – but how many times have we been sexually assaulted in our lives. 

Once when I was stalked by a man, I took pictures of him and filed a police report. I detailed the whole incident with places and times thoroughly. I even told the police officer where the multiple closed-circuit television cameras were that they could get the footage from. 

I had to speak to a female investigative officer over the phone as there were only male officers at the neighbourhood police post. During the call, I received a mini ‘lecture’ on why I did not protect myself and speak up to confront the man for staring, before being told ‘staring is not a crime’. I believe stalking is though, under Singapore’s Protection from Harassment Act, unless, it’s not.

Having said that, please do not reprimand and victim-blame a sexual offence survivor because that is the last thing we need or want to hear.

A month later, I took the initiative to call the police division that was handling my case to follow up on the investigations. I was told that the case has already been shut because they “could not find the man”. 

But in this case of armed robbery on 8 July 2021, the Singapore Police Force released a statement headlined “Swift Arrest of Armed Robber Within 11 Hours” where they managed to arrest a suspect “through extensive investigations and aided by footage from Police cameras, officers from the Jurong Police Division, Criminal Investigation Department, Police Intelligence Department, Police Operations and Command Centre, and Public Transport Security Command”.

Singapore aims to have more than 200,000 police cameras by 2030, an increase from the current 90,000 around the country. (Photo source: Singapore Police Force)

The statement also shows the Commander of the Jurong Police Division giving a press conference on this speedy arrest.  

In another press statement, “Swift Arrest of Four Indonesian Men For Unlawful Entry into Singapore”, published on 13 October 2020, it said that the Police apprehended the men within five hours of detection. 

On 4 July 2019 titled “Swift Arrest of Man For Outrage of Modesty”, a 65-year-old culprit was arrested within the same day after he allegedly molested a woman at Clementi.

Minister for Home Affairs K Shanmugam announced in Parliament on 3 August that Singapore aims to have more than 200,000 police cameras by 2030. Presently, the nation of 700 square kilometres (270 square miles) has more than 90,000 police cameras around the country to enhance surveillance for Singaporeans’ safety. 

It got me wondering: Is it because mine is a mere case of harassment so the man ‘cannot be found’? And is it because the amount of harassment, alarm and distress caused is meagre and cannot be quantified substantially? Maybe it is not worth the time of ‘bigger’ crimes. 

Or is it because I only reported it three months later? So it comes across to the authorities like it did not affect me much when it was the other way around? Therefore the report was swept under the rug like dust that should have settled but did not?

Monica Baey’s attacker, Nicholas Lim, was given a 12-month conditional warning for filming her showering in the university campus bathroom while she also got a warning for exposing his identity. (Photo source: Monica Baey/Instagram)

I have seen the trend of how sexual offences have been dealt with in Singapore, publicised and otherwise. A case of sexual voyeurism, where Nicholas Lim filmed a female student showering in a hostel bathroom at the National University of Singapore, only saw a 12-month conditional warning meted out, while the victim Monica Baey also got a warning but for exposing who her offender was. What would I expect from a stalking case like mine? 

That was what held me back from reporting for months. I did not want to be angry at one more person – this time the police – for not doing their job. In addition, it is also traumatising relieving every past sexual harassment or assault incident. There are times survivors do not report because it is just too difficult to talk about it. 

But even for something like this, we can be ‘punished’. According to the court, one of the reasons they doubted the testimony of a female patient, who alleged a doctor had molested her at his Bedok clinic in November 2015, was because of the ‘delay in 36 days’ in reporting. 

Many of my female friends and I have discussed this issue. We all have stories, of ourselves or people we know, where reports of sexual offences ended up in the shredder. Some of us do not even bother to report now because we would rather save ourselves the trouble and resentment. 

Take for example a notorious case that was reported last year. A serial sexual offender who filmed upskirt videos of women was arrested six times in over five years. However, he was released on bail each time, and during which he reoffended again. Still, he was not charged or sentenced for any of those offences. 

Tham Heng Yew, 27, was finally jailed for 44 weeks on 4 Mar 2020 for 30 charges, with another 138 charges taken into consideration for sentencing.

Without the legalisation of women carrying weapons in Singapore for protection, it seems the only fallback is knowing self-defence. (Photo source: Marie France Asia)

Despite all of this, even though we may have lost faith in the law and justice system, we females still need to protect ourselves. But that is the other issue – I feel women are left to their own wits when it comes to self-defence in Singapore. Here, we are not allowed to carry weapons for the purpose of self-defence. It is an offence to even carry pepper spray without a licence. We are also not permitted to have a survival knife on us unless it is at a location that warrants its use, like camping. So that means women’s only defences in Singapore against sexual predators are a black belt in martial arts or the Holy Spirit as our bodyguard. 

However, by law the excessive use of force is a chargeable offence. I have replayed in my head umpteen times what I can and should only do if I was sexually assaulted. So while I am being stalked or violated, part of my mind in that frenzied state needs to be calibrating the appropriate amount of force to use which must be just enough to subdue him, in a way that is not overpowering but prevents him from fleeing as well. 

To me, I do not feel the Government has done right by me as a female citizen. 

So the National Day Parade is a good show but what is the Government trying to show? That they have done a good job in governing its citizens, or to over-compensate because they have not?

The National Day Parade is about patriotism but…

Usually flags would be hung by at least 3 weeks before the National Day around this estate. This year, there was hardly any hanging outside the windows by 7 August.

These are pictures of HDB blocks taken on 7 August. Usually as early as three weeks before National Day, flags will be hung outside the windows.

However, the contrast this year was very surprising to me.  

The NDP has always been a display of national pride for its citizens as much as it is a military flex for Singapore’s neighbours. 

To me, it is not so much a matter of whether it should be postponed or cancelled.

There is so much haste to push back and claw at alternative voices because they are judged as ‘dissent’. 

If someone criticises the Government, the People’s Action Party (PAP) or Singapore, that person is an unpatriotic citizen.

To me and for me, I feel it is the other way around. 

Define patriotism. (Photo source: The Pride)

No one who is born into a family or country hopes that it will be a terrible one. No one hopes to hate it. Being loyal to it and wanting to like it is the default setting until proven otherwise – and that is when people divert. 

However, diversion is not an act of rebellion as much as it is an act of disgruntlement. 

If a citizen is still trying to wrestle with societal issues, demanding changes and calling out inefficacies, that person still sees him or herself as having a stake in the country. 

If I say I am not happy being a Singaporean or living in Singapore, I am not implying I hate the country, its people or the Government. I am however saying I am very frustrated and tired of the way I have to live in Singapore. 

In the last General Election in 2020, it seems about 40 percent of Singaporean voters felt that way when the PAP won with  61.24 percent of the popular votes – the third lowest since 1976.

PAP’s Votes Share for the past 10 GEs: 

  1. GE 2015: 69.7% 
  2. GE 2011: 60.1%
  3. GE 2006: 66.6%
  4. GE 2001: 75.3% 
  5. GE 1997: 65%
  6. GE 1991: 61%
  7. GE 1988: 63.1%
  8. GE 1984: 62.9%
  9. GE 1980: 75.6%
  10. GE 1976: 72.4%

Since a person cannot choose the family or country they are born into, a person who is still committed to them will try to change the wrongs instead of falling into lethargic apathy.

The National Day Parade is about patriotism but is lauding it the only absolute way to express that?

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