[Update: 30 September 2020]
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) and Second Minister for Law Edwin Tong said in an update on Wednesday (September 30) that there was no intention of penalising people who display the flag after September 30.
In a Facebook post, the Minister said “no one has ever been fined for this (displaying the flag after September 30), nor do we plan to do so.”
Several reports previously stated that after September 30, Singaporeans who continue to display their national flags outside their homes will risk being fined up to S$1,000.
However, according to the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem (SAFNA) Rules, the flag can only be displayed outside a building or in an open space without a flagpole between 1 July and 30 September.
This begs the question: why can we only put up the national flag till September 30?
Netizens Are Puzzled
When the news about the S$1,000 fine for not removing the flags was announced, social media was abuzz with comments.
Most netizens were confused about why a fine would be meted out to them if they were purely engaging in a show of patriotism.
According to the National Heritage Board, the primary concern underpinning all the guidelines associated with the flag is that it “must be treated with dignity and respect at all times”.
The Board also said that any worn out or damaged flags should be disposed of properly, and it is recommended that the flag is not left out in bad weather, during regular times.
Hence, it is plausible that the government mandates the flags to be removed after 30 Sep each year, such that they will not be left out for prolonged periods of time, and will not be subjected to damage.
One consideration for allowing the display of the flag will be whether we can safeguard the dignity of the flag, including how it could be subject to wear and tear resulting from extended display or neglect.– Letchumanan Narayanan, Senior Director of MCCY’s resilience and engagement division, in a statement to The Straits Times
Edwin Tong also added in his statement that action would be taken in cases of deliberate disrespect against the Singapore flag in any way.
The SAFNA Act states that no person shall treat the flag with disrespect. The penalty is a maximum fine of $1,000.
Rules Regarding The Flag Have Evolved Over Time
In 2007, the rules regarding the flag were amended to allow it to be displayed without a flagpole or the need to be illuminated at night between 1 Jul and 30 Sep.
This was previously allowed only during the month of August, in lieu of National Day celebrations.
This year, the timeframe was extended, and Singaporeans could begin displaying their flags from 25 April, as a rallying symbol amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
It was extended after the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) received requests from the public to be allowed to display the flag for a longer period of time.
Our love for Singapore cannot be measured by months. I think Singaporeans should have the choice to express our love for Singapore. Especially in this time of difficulty, hanging up our national flag is a sign of solidarity and a reminder to fellow Singaporeans of our national values– Tin Pei Ling, MP for MacPherson SMC and member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Culture, Community and Youth, in a statement to The Straits Times
However, MP for MacPherson SMC and member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Culture, Community and Youth, Tin Pei Ling added that the flag “should be hung correctly and properly maintained in compliance with guidelines”.
The MCCY is also currently inviting Singaporeans to share their ideas on how the flag may be used to express national pride and identity here.
Featured Image Credit: The Republic of Singapore Air Force via Facebook