Speech by Mr Louis Ng Kok Kwang, MP for Nee Soon GRC, at the Second Reading of the National Symbols Bill (Bill No. 21/2022)
Sir, this Bill declares our seven National Symbols and three Presidential Symbols and to regulate their use.
National symbols are an important part of our national identity, and a common rallying point for Singaporeans. I welcome this Bill, which recognises and protects these symbols.
I thank MCCY for allowing Singaporeans to be a part of the process in deciding what our National Symbols mean to us by convening a citizens workgroup and public consultation for this Bill.
I have three suggestions and clarifications on the Bill.
Removing all pre-approval requirements
My first point is on pre-approval requirements.
I am glad that MCCY listened to feedback from the citizens’ workgroup and is allowing a wider use of our National Symbols by loosening approval requirements. This gives Singaporeans more freedom to express their identity and love for Singapore.
However, there are still some situations where the government’s pre-approval is needed. This includes the commercial use of our symbols outside of the National Day period or for using the National Anthem.
Can Minister share how the Ministry will ensure that the pre-approval process is accessible, low-cost, and simple to navigate for well-intentioned individuals who wish to use the National Symbols?
Independent creatives, in particular, may not have the administrative knowhow to navigate the process. We should ensure that the bureaucracy of it all does not deter them from innovative, respectful uses of our National Symbols.
Prohibit misleading use of National Symbols
My second clarification relates to the prohibitions under the regulations. Will Minister consider creating enhanced punishments for those who misuse the National Symbols to mislead others?
Our National Symbols are not only a source of identity. They also carry the Singapore brand, signifying the trust and reliability we are known for.
Almost every day we are seeing new attempts to scam Singaporeans or spread false information, with a large variety of creative tactics. Earlier this year, investment scammers tried to pass off as the GIC and used its logo to try and trick Singaporeans into transferring money to them.
I can easily imagine that other scammers might try to use our National Symbols, to fake official government communications, or give a sense of reliability, and trick victims into letting their guard down.
Enhanced penalties will deter such fraudulent behaviour and help protect Singaporeans from harm.
Amendment of National Symbols by notification in the Gazette
My last clarification relates to the President’s powers to amend the Symbols.
Section 13 allows the aspect or description of any Symbol to be amended by notification in the Gazette. Amendment by notification in the Gazette which does not require approval of Parliament appears to be incongruent with the sacrosanct nature of the Symbols.
Can Minister clarify in what circumstances is it anticipated that such an amendment may be made? Will public consultation be sought before any amendments?
When the President exercises her or his powers to amend the Symbols, on what basis and on which entity’s or individual’s advice will the President be acting?
Sir, notwithstanding my clarifications, I stand in support of the Bill.
Watch the speech here.