09 August 2007

National Day

August 9th is National Day in Singapore, marking the anniversary of its independence from Malaysia. Today is the republic's 42nd birthday. They do a good job of celebrating, with a National Day Parade that features displays from each of the branches of the military (army, navy, air force, national police force, civil defense force). The discipline and technological advancement of the military is quite impressive. This tradition goes back to the initial National Day Parade in 1966, when the fledgling city-state was facing an uncertain future with the imminent departure of British forces and less-than-friendly, much larger neighbors eyeing its strategic location with envy. Malaysia particularly was hostile, given that Singapore had broken away from the country to become independent. But, much of the worry about Malaysia was put to rest in 1969, during the fourth NDP (attended by the Malay Defence Minister), when the republic rolled out a squadron of AMX-13 tanks and V200 armoured vehicles. Malaysia at the time had no tanks, and Singapore's show of hardware put to rest any lingering thought of Malay agression.

After the military parade, there are performances and water floats (the parade viewing area looks out onto the harbor, at the mouth of the Singapore River). It all ends with a nice fireworks display.

Every Singaporean I talked to told me to watch it on television - that was the best vantage point. In any case, only Singaporeans and PRs (permanent residents) are eligible for the ticket lottery, so I was out of luck. I could see some of the fireworks from my window, and the television coverage was pretty good. And it was all viewed, of course, in the comfort of an air-conditioned room.

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