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Flying the flag

No one has ever been fined for flying the national flag beyond the time period allowed under the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem (Safna) Act, and the authorities do not plan to start doing so.


This was revealed by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong in a Facebook post on Wednesday (Sept 30).


“Let me assure you: As far as I know, no one has ever been fined for this, nor do we plan to do so,” he wrote, addressing concerns over recent media reports about a potential fine for those who continue to display the flag after Sept 30.


“But in cases of deliberate disrespect against the flag in any way, we will of course take action,” said Mr Tong, who is also Second Minister for Law.


He added that the law, which stipulates a fine of up to $1,000 for offenders, is meant to safeguard the dignity of the flag.


“There is no reason to ‘punish’ those who treat it with respect and dignity, and are proud to showcase the Singapore spirit. Patriotism is not just a right, it’s simply right,” he said.


On Sunday, The Straits Times reported that those who continue to display the national flag after Wednesday will risk being fined up to $1,000 under the Safna Act.


Every year, the flag can be displayed outside a building or in an open space without a flagpole between July 1 and Sept 30.


Earlier this year, the timeframe was extended to allow the flag to be displayed in such a manner from April 25 to Sept 30, as a rallying symbol during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.


Mr Tong said that his ministry had initiated a review of Safna rules before the recent report.


The amendments may allow for more occasions on which the flag can be displayed, while protecting it from extended display or neglect.


He called for members of the public to share their suggestions here.


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My suggestions on how to move forward on this issue:


1. Launch a public education campaign on how to treat the Singapore flag with dignity while expressing love for the nation. No over-the-top jingoism; just a gentle reminder of some basic dos and don’ts when handling the flag in public.


2. Let people hang the flag all year round if they wish.


3. Allow people to report ill treatment of the flag on the SnapSAFE app - the same channel people currently use for reporting safe distancing violations.


4. Provide a window of time every year for trading in faded or torn flags for new ones. The window can be the month before National Day on 9 August.


This way, people can express their love for Singapore all year round, without the problem of the flag being mistreated.

Credit: Channel NewsAsia