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Power Of A Symbol: Divian Nair Rallies All To Fly S'pore Flag On Labour Day

Nationwide sing-alongs, virtual choirsdonation drives and heartfelt social media posts: these are some of the ways in which Singaporeans have rallied together and expressed unity and support for their fellow man and woman during these trying times.

Recently, Singaporeans also made requests to the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) to relax the law to display the National Flag beyond the usual NDP season (1 July to 30 Sep).

On Saturday (25 Apr 2020), President Halimah granted that wish and wrote in a Facebook post: "I am heartened by the desire of Singaporeans to show our solidarity. The Government has considered the request and put up a proposal, which I have supported."

What this means: You can start flying your flag already! Yes, all organisations and households can display the flag at their offices, building premises, and residential premises with immediate effect until the end of the National Day celebrations period on 30 Sep 2020.

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I assented to the revised Supplementary Supply Bill this afternoon, formally authorising the Resilience and Solidarity Budgets. ⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀ The escalating COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated unprecedented safe-distancing measures around the world, greatly affecting economies, societies and livelihoods. It is important that we cushion this impact for Singaporeans, and help everyone tide through this challenging period. The Government’s support measures total $59.9 billion, including a draw of up to $21 billion from Past Reserves. We are able to do this decisively because of the substantial reserves built up over the years. We should be thankful for the discipline of our forebears in spending prudently and saving up in the past. With my assent to the Bill today, we are now ready to roll out the support measures. We should do so quickly. The situation is still extremely fluid, so it is important that we implement the measures well, yet remain responsive to the changing needs on the ground. The next few weeks will be critical in our fight against COVID-19. It is crucial that all of us comply with the safe-distancing measures, even though they may be inconvenient in the near term. Stay home to stay safe! If we stand united as a nation, I am confident that we will be able to weather this storm together and emerge stronger as one people. MCI Photo by Betty Chua

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Another party that has fully supported this move is the ground-up inititative We Are Majulah, whose mission is to bring their fellow countrymen closer together through community and identity building efforts.

Their latest campaign, "Labour of Love", calls upon Singaporeans to proudly display their flags from their homes to celebrate Labour Day (1 May), as a show of gratitude towards all essential workers. 

No flag? Post a picture of one on your social media accounts with the hashtag #homebutnotalonesg and #stayhomeforsg

We spoke with We Are Majulah founder and radio DJ Divian Nair to find out more after we saw this video which they posted on Instagram yesterday (26 Apr 2020):

How did the idea for this campaign come about? 

My team and I were already embarking on a campaign titled “homebutnotalonesg” to help feel a little more connected as a country by sharing positive sentiments and elements of Singapore’s identity. We had some questions if the flag could be displayed. This sparked the idea of starting a movement for the whole country to have flags displayed.

With the matter of the law allowing the display of flags outside of homes only from 1 Jul to 30 Sep, we wrote in to see if an exception could be made at this time and were over the moon when we found out that the President had given her consent.

We strongly believe in the power of a symbol and we strongly believe this power comes from the people.

Everyone who saw the flag displayed on mount Matterhorn in Switzerland felt an innate sense of pride because we saw a reflection of our culture, history and solidarity. 

We hope to revitalise what displaying the flag can mean if we do it together as a country.

Did you face any challenges making that request for our flags to be flown during this period, and do you think it was an obvious decision for the government to allow it in light of the COVID-19 situation?

We wrote in to the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) after which it had to pass our request through a few channels like the Attoney-General's Chambers (AGC) and The Cabinet before it reached the President's Office. We are pretty sure other Singaporeans also wrote in to enquire but we might have been the only ones to suggest this campaign. 

In terms of how easy this was, I think any time exceptions like these are made, the government has to do its due diligence. There were a lot of moving parts in this entire process but at the end of the day, I think it’s worth the trouble. 

How has We Are Majulah progressed since its inception in 2016? 

The core message for contributing to developing national identity has not changed. Over the years, team members have come and gone but the core team has always been present. We have grown with experience through many other campaigns and have learned better ways to discuss issues like racial harmony, social integration, the environment and even our total fertility rate. 

Looking back to when we first started, I feel that we have managed to build a small community and affect positive change through the work that we have done. I am very fortunate to have a team that has weathered so many storms with me. This would not be possible otherwise.

How have you been coping during this period? Any wish for everyone - whether they're staying home or still working as part of essential services?

Fortunately, everything has been okay on my end. I am still working on radio so I count myself lucky to still have a job. It is difficult not to be able to visit my parents during this period but thankfully, they are managing fine on their own. 

My wish for everyone out there, besides the obvious which is to keep safe, is to keep in mind that we are all in this together. That we have a responsibility to look out for one another. Whether it’s offering your elderly neighbour to help pick up something if you have to go to the supermarket, or being patient with the delivery rider if he or she is late. Every little thing counts at a time like this.

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