The Insider: The national flag

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Q: Why don’t I ever see our National Flag around town?

First published on 18 Aug 2008. Updated on 4 Jul 2011.

A: There are more than a few rules governing the use of Singapore’s flag (officially adopted in 1959). In honour of National Day on 9 August, here are ten facts about that piece of cloth with the crescent moon and five stars.

1 Prior to 2004, only Government institutions could fly the flag. After receiving feedback from flag-happy patriots, the Government granted the public permission to display the flag under strict conditions, and only in August.

2 In 2006, the flag-flying period was extended from mid-July to September.

People can now bear flag decals and stickers ‘on themselves or their belongings’ to show national pride.

Our RSN battleships bear the red-and-blue Singapore ensign instead of the flag.

When disposing of a torn or worn flag, you must conceal it in a black trash bag so it is not visible in the rubbish bin.

In 2003, local artist Justin Lee Chee Kong got in trouble with the Media Development Authority over his painting ‘Double Happiness – Fantasy in Red’, which featured the flag covered in the Chinese words ‘double happiness’. Lee argued that his artwork was an expression of patriotism, but the MDA didn’t buy it and asked him to take it down.

Looks like Lucky Lee got off scot-free: the Vandalism Act of Singapore dictates that making alterations to the flag – words, drawings or anything else – can lead to a $2,000 fine, or a three-year jail sentence and eight strokes of the cane.

Chinese artist Gu Wen Da once re-created the Singapore flag out of hair at an Esplanade art exhibition and went unpunished by the MDA.

The flag cannot be incorporated into any furnishings or decoration (thankfully).

Last year, things got a little hairy for Loof. The rooftop bar came under fire for a cheeky National Day e-flyer featuring a girl’s crotch clad in flag-themed underwear. If that wasn’t saucy enough, the girl was, for lack of a better description, due for some serious waxwork. Luckily, the undies featured a rearrangement of the stars and moon, not a full replication of the flag – a technicality that saved Loof from a world of trouble.

By Alexis Ong
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