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DSP Lee Ting Wei, the Contingent Commander of the Singapore Police Force for NDP2020, and his mum (inset, circled) who was part of the Girl Guides' contingent in NDP1973. Photos: Sim Ding En and courtesy of DSP Lee Ting Wei

NDP2020: A Passion For Drills Inspired By Mum Who Was In NDP1973

Decades ago, my mum used to conduct the choir in our church. In fact, one year, I was in her tummy as she waved her arms. Through the years, because of her love for music and choral singing, my siblings and I acquired the same passion: all of us were in the choir, my brother was the conductor at one point, and today, I've taken over the "baton", so to speak - although the "virtual choir" experience during this COVID-19 pandemic has been challenging and rewarding in equal measure.

As such, I completely identify with Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) Lee Ting Wei's story. The 29-year-old grew up watching the National Day Parade with his mum, who was once a Girl Guide. So keen was her interest in drills and ceremonies that she volunteered to participate in the 1973 NDP at the tender age of 15.

"Subsequently, she was selected to be one of only three Girl Guides from the contingent to take part in the Singapore Youth Festival," recalls the 29-year-old with pride that is unmuffled by the mask he is wearing.

He is particularly grateful for her support during this challenging period, especially since his newborn (now 7 months) came along: "She stood up to the plate and helped me take some of the load off, taking care of the household stuff as well as the kid."

DSP Lee's mum (second from the right), a member of the Girls Guides, had a keen interest in drills and ceremonies.Photo: Courtesy of DSP Lee Ting Wei

"At last year’s NDP, I was the reserve (Contingent Commander). So, when I was offered the opportunity to be the Contingent Commander for the SPF Guard of Honour contingent (this year), she was very excited," says DSP Lee. "Like, yay, mother and son have both done the NDP!"

And sure enough, compare notes they did.

"Back then, things were very different: technology wasn’t so advanced, the parade sequence didn’t have the Red Lions or flypast. It was just the parade itself with the marching contingents," says DSP Lee of his "research" with his mum. "They marched a very long route - from the Padang all the way to Chinatown - and the streets would be lined with people."

One of the vast differences: "Now it’s better logistically. We’re given refreshments, food and drink - we’re well fed and hydrated. Back then, they were only given one packet of water each and some sweets!"

Back in the day, DSP Lee's mum (front row, second from the left) and other NDP participants were given only water and some sweets as refreshments during rehearsals.Photo: Courtesy of DSP Lee Ting Wei

Needless to say, the big difference this year is the presence of a pandemic, which has resulted in somewhat of a same-same but very different NDP experience for participants and "spectators" alike.

"This year with COVID-19, it’s definitely a different experience. There are a lot of risk mitigation measures in place, safe distancing, wearing of masks, so on and so forth," says DSP Lee. "Challenges aside, the parade sequence is shorter and we don’t have that many audience members. It’s different, but I'd say it’s more of a unique experience for us."

Masks all around for The Singapore Police Force contingent and other parade participants during NDP rehearsals at the Padang and on 9 Aug 2020 itself.

While some of us might feel we had received the short end of the stick if we kena arrowed to be part of the NDP amid a pandemic, this sentiment isn't one shared by DSP Lee.

"I’m very proud to represent SPF this year especially, because this year has been a challenging one for all Singaporeans. Still having NDP this year is a show of our resilience and tenacity. We’re showing that no matter what, we’re still able to put up a good show for all Singaporeans, to showcase our Army, Air Force, Navy and Police Force, and to show Singaporeans that we’re committed to serving them and keeping Singapore safe and secure despite the pandemic," says DSP Lee.

"I’m really quite honoured to be part of this year’s NDP. I’m pretty sure it’ll be memorable and one-of-a-kind!"

Catch DSP Lee Ting Wei and the rest of the 200 contingent members from the Singapore Armed Forces and Singapore Police Force in the morning ceremonial parade on 9 Aug 2020.Photo: Sim Ding En

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