The national flag of Singapore


The national flag of Singapore

In 1959, a new state flag was created to represent Singapore shortly after it became a self-governing state under British rule.1 Developed by a committee led by then Deputy Prime Minister Toh Chin Chye, the flag was unveiled on 3 December 1959, the day when Singapore’s first Malayan-born Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Malay for “Head of State”) was inaugurated.2 The flag was subsequently adopted as the national flag when Singapore became an independent nation on 9 August 1965.Regulation on the use and display of the flag first took effect on 30 November 1959 under the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Ordinance.4 Greater flexibility in the use of the national flag was introduced on 1 January 2004 and 16 July 2007 to encourage more frequent use of the flag among Singaporeans.5 The red and white flag, which is Singapore's most visible national symbol, is a crucial element of Singapore's national identity as it reflects the nation’s ideals, beliefs and values.6

Description and meaning
The national flag of Singapore comprises two equal horizontal sections – an upper red section and a lower white section. A white crescent moon occupies the upper left red section, with five white stars arranged in a circle beside it.
7

Each colour and symbol on the flag has a distinctive meaning and significance attached to it. The colour red symbolises universal brotherhood and the equality of man, while white represents pervading and everlasting purity and virtue.8 Together, the two colours signify Singapore’s goal to achieve brotherhood and equality through purity and virtue.9 The crescent moon represents a rising young nation, while the five stars depict Singapore’s ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.10

Regardless of size, the length to the width of the flag is in the ratio three to two. The official colours are Pantone 032 for the red portion and Pantone White for the white portion.11


Creation and developments
After Singapore attained internal self-government on 3 June 1959, the Legislative Assembly felt that the new State of Singapore should have its own symbols of authority and loyalty.
12 Having its own state flag, state crest and state national anthem would give its people a sense of identity as well as allow the hopes and ideals of its people to be expressed symbolically.13

Tasked by then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, a committee led by Toh began the process of creating the state flag in 1959, shortly after Singapore became a self-governing state. The design was completed in two months and the process involved learning about other countries’ national flags and translating Toh’s political ideas into the design of the flag.
14

With the objective of creating a unique flag that would symbolise Singapore’s multi-racialism and multi-culturalism, Toh’s final decision on the flag’s design was influenced by two key factors: the colour of the flag and the emblem that would symbolise some of the beliefs of the new self-governing state.15

During the flag creation process, the committee developed several alternative designs and made prototypes to evaluate each design. The designs included an all-blue flag as well as a flag with both blue and white. For the chosen red and white design, the five stars in the emblem were selected to represent the ideals of Singapore. The crescent was subsequently added as the five stars “did not look balanced” on their own. On the colour of the flag, Toh chose red for its association with prosperity and happiness, both of which were relevant to a new nation. The red colour also represents brotherhood. Toh’s initial intention was to have an all-red background for the flag, but the Legislative Assembly decided on a red and white background instead. An all-red background was thought to be unsuitable, possibly because red was regarded as a rallying point for communism at the time.16

The new state flag of Singapore was unveiled on 3 December 1959 during the launch of National Loyalty Week. It was revealed together with two other state symbols – the state crest and the state national anthem – following the inauguration of Yusof bin Ishak as Yang di-Pertuan Negara on that day.17 The new flag replaced the Union Jack – the national flag of the United Kingdom – that had represented Singapore for 140 years from 1819 to 1959.18 When Singapore was part of the Federation of Malaysia from 1963 to 1965, the flag of the federation was used to represent Singapore at international events and functions.19 The red and white flag was subsequently adopted as Singapore’s national flag when it became an independent nation on 9 August 1965.20


Use and display of the national flag
Rules and regulations

Regulation on the use and display of the flag first took effect on 30 November 1959 under the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Ordinance (subsequently superseded by the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act).21 The objective of the regulations is to ensure that the Singapore flag is treated with dignity and respect at all times.22 

On 1 January 2004, rules on the use and display of the national flag were relaxed to encourage more frequent use of the flag among Singaporeans. The red and white flag is a crucial element of Singapore's national identity as it reflects the nation’s ideals, beliefs and values. Under the new rules, Singaporeans and non-governmental buildings can display the flag throughout the year.23 Prior to that, non-governmental buildings were only allowed to fly the national flag during the annual National Day celebration period from 1 to 31 August.24 In addition, the flag can be reproduced in pennant or miniature representations under the new rules. Singaporeans may also wave the flag at any event in which the Singapore identity is to be projected to evoke feelings of loyalty and patriotism.25 On 16 July 2007, the rules were further relaxed to allow even greater flexibility in the use of the national flag. The changes include an extension to the National Day celebration period during which a number of restrictions on the use and display of the national flag are also lifted.26


Manner of display of the national flag
There are a number of rules pertaining to the display of the national flag, which include how it should be placed together with other flags, how it should be carried in a procession, as well as the manner in which it should be displayed on a stage and outside buildings.27 

When displayed within Singapore together with one or more other flags, the national flag must be placed prominently in a position of honour. This means that the flag should be positioned, where feasible, either above or to the left of the other flags, as seen by a person facing the flags. However, if the national flag is displayed together with other countries’ flags at official events, it should be placed in alphabetical order in accordance with international practice.28

During a procession held in Singapore, the national flag is to be carried high on the right shoulder of the standard bearer, in front of other flags in a single file. In the event that the national flag is carried side-by-side with other flags, it should be in the position of honour, which means it should be on the left as seen by someone who is facing the standard bearer.29 

When displayed on a platform or stage, the national flag must be placed above all decorations. It should also be behind and above any person speaking from the stage.30 If the flag is displayed outside a building, it must be flown from a flagpole positioned on or in front of the building. It should not be displayed at night unless it is properly illuminated.31


How the national flag cannot be used
The national flag cannot be used in a number of ways to ensure that there is no disrespect for the flag. Specifically, the national flag cannot be used for commercial purposes or in advertisements. Neither can it be used as a trademark, furnishing, decoration, covering, receptacle (which includes paper, plastic and refuse bags), or be incorporated as part of any costume or attire. Display of the flag on private vehicles, as well as the use or display of the flag at private funerals, are also not permitted.
32

In addition, any national flag that is damaged, dirty, faded or not in good condition, should not be displayed. The production or display of any flag which contains any graphic or word superimposed on the design of the national flag is also prohibited.
33

How the national flag should be treated
As a mark of respect, those in possession of the national flag have to prevent it from touching the ground, even when it is being lowered from a staff or flagpole.
34

The national flag should be replaced if it has faded and cleaned when it is dirty. After washing, it should not be hung to dry outdoors with other laundry. All damaged and worn-out flags are to be packed into a sealed black trash bag for disposal and not be left visible in dustbins.35


National Day celebration period
A number of rules on the use and display of the national flag are lifted during the annual National Day celebration period.36 On 16 July 2007, the period was extended from the month of August to a three-month period from 1 July to 30 September.37

The rules lifted during this period include allowing the national flag to be displayed on private vehicles, as well as allowing its image to be incorporated as part of any costume or attire. National flag decals, stickers, posters and other visual images may also be displayed. In addition, flags displayed outside buildings need not be flown from flagpoles or be properly illuminated during this period. The use and display of the flag, nevertheless, has to be carried out in a manner that does not give rise to any disrespect to the flag.38



Author
Cheryl Sim  



References
1. No conflict, clear-cut symbol of unity. (1981, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 370. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
2. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag; Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 370. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); 'Majulah Singapura' being taught in schools. (1959, October 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. GRC Management Office. (2008). Singapore today commemorative magazine. Singapore: Author. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 STCM-[HIS]); Ministry of Communications and Information. (2013, April 12). Towards independence. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/history/towards-independence
4. Attorney-General’s Chambers. (2013, August 31). Legislative history. Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act (Chapter 296). Retrieved from Attorney-General’s Chambers’s website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=2699d67e-5c24-4b40-9cfa-a32884e875e7;page=0;query=DocId%3A45c4d722-79df-418c-a0d0-5ff4863e0938%20%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0; Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 370. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN -[HIS])
5. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag; Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (2004, January 3). Singaporeans are encouraged to use the national symbols more often [Press release]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

6. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Signapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag
7. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singaore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag
8. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag
9. National Heritage Board. (1998). Singapore: Journey into nationhood. Singapore: Author: Landmark Books, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN-[HIS])
10. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag
11. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag
12. Chew, D. (1990). The story of the national anthem. In Zubir Said: His songs (pp. 23–28). Singapore: Published for Singapore Culture Foundation by Times Books International, p. 26. (Call no.: RSING 780.92 ZUB); Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official Report. (1959, November 11). State arms and flag and state national anthem (Vol. 11). Singapore: Legislative Assembly, col. 739. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
13. Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official Report. (1959, November 11). State arms and flag and state national anthem (Vol. 11). Singapore: Legislative Assembly, col. 739. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN)
14. No conflict, clear-cut symbol of unity. (1981, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag
15. No conflict, clear-cut symbol of unity. (1981, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. No conflict, clear-cut symbol of unity. (1981, August 9). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 370. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); National Heritage Board. (1998). Singapore: Journey into nationhood. Singapore: Author: Landmark Books, p. 44. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 SIN); 'Majulah Singapura' being taught in schools. (1959, October 26). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 370. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS]); GRC Management Office. (2008). Singapore today commemorative magazine. Singapore: Author. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 STCM-HIS])
19. Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 370. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
20. GRC Management Office. (2008). Singapore today commemorative magazine. Singapore: Author. (Call no.: RSING 959.57 STCM-[HIS]); Ministry of Communications and Information. (2013, April 12). Towards independence. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/history/towards-independence
21. Attorney-General’s Chambers. (2013, August 31). Legislative history. Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act (Chapter 296). Retrieved from Attorney-General’s Chambers’s website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=2699d67e-5c24-4b40-9cfa-a32884e875e7;page=0;query=DocId%3A45c4d722-79df-418c-a0d0-5ff4863e0938%20%20Status%3Ainforce%20Depth%3A0;rec=0; Koh, T., et al. (Eds.). (2006). Singapore: The encyclopedia. Singapore: Editions Didier Millet in association with the National Heritage Board, p. 370. (Call no.: RSING 959.57003 SIN-[HIS])
22. Singapore. Legislative Assembly. Debates: Official Report. (1959, November 11). Singapore State Arms and Flag and National Anthem Bill (Vol. 11). Singapore: Legislative Assembly, col. 729. (Call no.: RCLOS 328.5957 SIN); Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag
23. Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (2004, January 3). Singaporeans are encouraged to use the national symbols more often [Press release]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

24. Ministry of Information and the Arts. (1999). The national symbols kit. Singapore: Author. (Call no.: RSING 320.54095957027 NAT)
25. Ministry of Information, Communications and the Arts. (2004, January 3). Singaporeans are encouraged to use the national symbols more often [Press release]. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/

26. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag; Fly the S'pore flag. (2007, July 18). Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
27. Attorney-General’s Chambers. (2008, March 5). Use and display of flag. Singapore arms and flag and national anthem rules. Retrieved from Attorney-General’s Chambers’s website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=280a9818-9661-4fed-b6cc-784463ace351;page=0;query=Id%3A%22445fccc1-5e91-46b9-aa80-e61b5d15d295%22%20Status%3Ainforce;rec=0
28. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag
29. Attorney-General’s Chambers. (2008, March 5). Use and display of flag. Singapore arms and flag and national anthem rules. Retrieved from Attorney-General’s Chambers’s website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=280a9818-9661-4fed-b6cc-784463ace351;page=0;query=Id%3A%22445fccc1-5e91-46b9-aa80-e61b5d15d295%22%20Status%3Ainforce;rec=0
30. Attorney-General’s Chambers. (2008, March 5). Use and display of flag. Singapore arms and flag and national anthem rules. Retrieved from Attorney-General’s Chambers’s website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=280a9818-9661-4fed-b6cc-784463ace351;page=0;query=Id%3A%22445fccc1-5e91-46b9-aa80-e61b5d15d295%22%20Status%3Ainforce;rec=0
31. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag
32. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag; Attorney-General’s Chambers. (2008, March 5). Use and display of flag. Singapore arms and flag and national anthem rules. Retrieved from Attorney-General’s Chambers’s website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=280a9818-9661-4fed-b6cc-784463ace351;page=0;query=Id%3A%22445fccc1-5e91-46b9-aa80-e61b5d15d295%22%20Status%3Ainforce;rec=0
33. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag; Attorney-General’s Chambers. (2008, March 5). Use and display of flag. Singapore arms and flag and national anthem rules. Retrieved from Attorney-General’s Chambers’s website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=280a9818-9661-4fed-b6cc-784463ace351;page=0;query=Id%3A%22445fccc1-5e91-46b9-aa80-e61b5d15d295%22%20Status%3Ainforce;rec=0
34. Attorney-General’s Chambers. (2008, March 5). Use and display of flag. Singapore arms and flag and national anthem rules. Retrieved from Attorney-General’s Chambers’s website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=280a9818-9661-4fed-b6cc-784463ace351;page=0;query=Id%3A%22445fccc1-5e91-46b9-aa80-e61b5d15d295%22%20Status%3Ainforce;rec=0
35. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag
36. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website:  http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag
37. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag; Fly the S'pore flag. (2007, July 18). Today, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38. Ministry of Communications and Information. (2014, July 21). National flag. Retrieved from Singapore.sg website: http://app.singapore.sg/about-singapore/national-symbols/national-flag; Attorney-General’s Chambers. (2008, March 5). Use and display of flag. Singapore arms and flag and national anthem rules. Retrieved from Attorney-General’s Chambers’s website: http://statutes.agc.gov.sg/aol/search/display/view.w3p;ident=280a9818-9661-4fed-b6cc-784463ace351;page=0;query=Id%3A%22445fccc1-5e91-46b9-aa80-e61b5d15d295%22%20Status%3Ainforce;rec=0



Further resources
Crampton, W. (1992). The world of flags: A pictorial history
. London: Studio Editions. (Call no.: R 929.9209 CRA)  



The information in this article is valid as at 1 September 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Politics and Government
Law and Government>>National development
Politics and Government>>National Symbols
Flags--Singapore
Emblems, National--Singapore
Singapore--History--1945-1963

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2014.