Thursday, 9 August 2007

Patriotic Fervour

Today is Singapore's National Day - August 9th - and the Republic is forty two years old.

The event known as the National Day Parade, or NDP for short, has been signalled well in advance, with media coverage of the 'world's largest floating stage' be plugged at every opportunity. Every possible angle has been covered by such pre-announcements.

There have been close ups of local citizens enraptured by the knowledge that they have won free tickets and a 'goodie bag' of snacks and bottle water.

A live web cast of the event will cater for those who are no longer domiciled in Singapore.

Nostalgic footage of past parades at the old national stadium have also featured. Nostalgia though should not be misinterpreted as maudling sentiment and the stadium in question is soon to be demolished. This is the Singaporean way - growth and redevelopment are essential drivers of the economy.

Far more interesting has been some of the documentary footage showing the role of the former Presidents in the fostering of arts and heritage activities. I recall when I first visited Singapore in the early '80's, the arts did not figure prominently on the radar of most Singaporeans. This is no longer the case. With active encouragement from the government the Republic is now blessed with world-class cultural facilities.

The populace is celebrating the day as a public holiday. In many cases this does not include the canny merchants who remain open in the hope of catching sales from the extra foot traffic through the malls.

As I have been holidaying these past two weeks before starting my employment this coming Monday, this day is much like any other. I have however been noting the large number of national flags that festoon the HDB estates. Even our condominium is appropriately clad in similar livery.

The level of patriotism is actively encouraged and promoted by the government. It is something that rarely surfaces now in my previous home of New Zealand, with the exception of a win by the All Blacks. The nearest would have been in 1953 when the Queen visited 'the colony' and each school child was given a flag to wave and a medallion to mark the event.

Small flags are still distributed to pre-school children here in Singapore and their delight at receiving the bunting is quite endearing.

Also in the media this week is a report on a group of disgruntled passengers who were meant to board the Pacific Star cruise ship for a Pacific adventure, only to find that the ships certificate had apparently expired!

P&O has a reputation for such fiascos with its Antipodean operations. Another former vessel, the Pacific Sky was forever breaking down at the most inopportune times. We travelled on the Pacific Sun through Melanesia a couple of years ago and the experience was 'basic' to say the least. There have subsequently been reports of deaths and drugs aboard this ship.

Compared to the Star Cruises that sail from Singapore, the P&O operation simply doesn't rate. Other cruise lines are now also beginning to make Singapore their Sth East Asian base which is good news for those of us who like cruising.

In Singapore you feel that you are part of a dynamic entity surging forward. I am reminded of the Singaporean Prime Minister's National Day speech last evening when he concluded by saying " "The global backdrop is favourable. The winds and tides are with us. Our spirit is high, and our ship is ready"

P&O could clearly learn a lesson from this.

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