National Loyalty Week
by Creamer, Ruth
National Loyalty Week was held between 3 and 10 December 1959 to encourage a sense of loyalty among the diverse citizens of the new state of Singapore. It saw the inauguration of key national symbols including the state flag, the national anthem, the state crest and the installation of the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara or Head of State.
The week began with the inauguration of Yusof bin Ishak as the first Malayan-born Yang di-Pertuan Negara, which took place in the City Council chamber in City Hall shortly after 10 am on 3 December 1959. This was followed by a 17-gun salute, when the new Yang di-Pertuan Negara appeared on the steps of City Hall, and Singapore’s new national anthem, Majulah Singapura, was played for the first time. Following the unfurling of the state flag at 11.20 am, Abdul Aziz bin Ishak, then Federation Minister of Agriculture, and brother of the Yang di-Pertuan Negara, led the delegation of leaders of four political parties. A crowd of 25,000 citizens then took part in a rally held at the Padang afterwards.1
These momentous events on 3 December were highlighted in a speech by then prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew, who called for the people to come together under the national flag, national anthem and coat of arms, and show their loyalty to Singapore.2
There were several other major events held during the week. The Happy World Stadium was the venue for a recital of Malayan and Southeast Asian dances on the first night.3 Although the Grand Tattoo (Malam Raksaksa Rakyat), a four-hour spectacle of dances, songs and displays by Singapore's military force, civil defence, police force and schoolchildren held at the Jalan Besar Stadium was affected by heavy rains on the second night, the rest of the activities and programmes held on subsequent days went on successfully.4
Special prayers were held by the religious groups for the welfare and prosperity of Singapore.5 Other major events included a people’s concert, Aneka Ragam Ra’ayat, at the City Hall steps, a water carnival of floats and a fireworks display along the inner roads of Singapore harbour,6 and a star-studded show at the badminton hall entitled Puspawarna Singapura organised by Radio Singapura.7
Free film shows and concerts were also held throughout the island.8 On 9 December 1959, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew addressed the Teachers' Rally at the Happy World Stadium, where he emphasised the important roles of teachers, the necessity of the new six-day work week, a cut in variable allowances for teachers, and changes to the school system.9
During the week, people could also dial two or three on the telephone to listen to the national anthem, Majulah Singapura.10 Admission to public swimming pools was free, and rides at the Great World and Happy World amusement parks were free or greatly reduced in price. The Legislative Assembly chamber and the University of Malaya's Science Faculty were opened to the public. People were also given access to the Shell tanker, M. V. Lotorium, docked at Clifford Pier. Exhibitions with free entry included the "People's Government at Work" at the Victoria Memorial Hall, photography and arts exhibition at the Singapore Polytechnic, and the Singapore Harbour Board exhibition at the SHB Exhibition Pavilion at Tanjong Pagar.11
A plaque to mark the site of the future Kallang National Theatre was unveiled by the Yang di-Pertuan Negara on 10 December, the last day of Loyalty Week. Engraved on the plaque in Malay and Chinese were the words: "This is the site for the proposed National Theatre to be built in commemoration of National Loyalty Week".12
The week culminated with a celebrity-packed concert, Aneka Ragam Ra'ayat, on the steps of City Hall on 10 December.13 The participation from the government, commercial houses, small traders, schools and other organisations for National Loyalty Week amounted to a total cost of $175,000.14
Then Federation prime minister, Tengku Abdul Rahman, as well as other countries such as France, Norway, the United States and the Netherlands sent congratulatory messages to the Singapore government on this historic occasion.15
1. Joyous week begins. (1959, December 3). The Straits Times, p. 1; The joy born of a new pride and dignity. (1959, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 5; The big moment… scene in City Hall as Inche Yusof takes the oath. (1959, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Ministry of Culture. (1959, December 3). Speech by the Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, at the City Hall on 3rd December 1959. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/
3. The first night…. (1959, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Grand Tattoo highlight of today’s events. (1959, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 9; Washed out–the Grand Tattoo at stadium. (1959, December 5). The Straits Times, p. 4; Loyalty Week: Today’s events. (1959, December 8). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Special prayers for Loyalty Week. (1959, December 4). The Singapore Free Press, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Artistic talent – and here’s the proof. (1959, December 6). The Straits Times, p. 1; Sea highlights Loyalty Week joy tonight. (1959, December 6). The Straits Times, p. 5; A magnificent show on the waterfront. (1959, December 7). The Straits Times, p. 1; Splendid show in the harbour at night. (1959, December 7). The Straits Times, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Entertainment need not be degenerate says Mr. Lee. (1959, December 8). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Throughout the island entertainment for all – and Mr Lee will start the ball rolling. (1959, December 3). The Singapore Free Press, p. 7; Radio S’pore concert. (1959, December 7). The Singapore Free Press, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Teachers cheer Lee. (1959, December 9). The Straits Times, p. 3; The role of teachers–by Lee. (1959, December 9). The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Dial 2 or 3 for the national anthem. (1959, December 4). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Loyalty Week: Today’s events. (1959, December 8). The Straits Times, p. 4; Washed out–the Grand Tattoo at Stadium. (1959, December 5). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Keep up the spirit of loyalty and unity–Mr R. (1959, December 10). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. A memorable week ends. (1959, December 10). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Joyous week begins: Final plans for big shows. (1959, December 3). The Straits Times, p. 1; Loyalty week: Govt. to ask assembly for $175,000. (1959, December 3). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Loyalty week: Tengku sends his greetings. (1959, December 3). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
Singapore [picture]: An illustrated history, 1941–1984. (1984). Singapore: Information Division, Ministry of Culture, pp. 186–187.
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The information in this article is valid as at 2018 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.
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