Singapore flag, Singapore, 1960-1980

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Singapore flag, Singapore, 1960-1980.

Collection of National Museum of Singapore.

Singapore flag, Singapore, 1960-1980. Collection of National Museum of Singapore

The national flag is Singapore's most visible symbol of statehood, symbolising its sovereignty, pride and honour. The creation of a new national flag was therefore a vital task for Singapore's newly elected cabinet in 1959. Deputy Prime Minister Dr Toh Chin Chye was placed in charge of a committee to create a new flag to replace the British Union Jack, which had flown over the island for nearly 140 years from 1819 to 1959.

Dr Toh had firm ideas about the design of the flag. To ensure that the flag would not be confused with those of other nations, Dr Toh studied the flags of countries represented in the United Nations and showed the cabinet various designs for their consideration. After careful deliberations, the Legislative Assembly endorsed the red and white flag on 18 November 1959, together with the state crest and national anthem. The national flag was unveiled on 3 December 1959 at the installation of the first Malayan-born Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Head of State), Yusof bin Ishak. The ceremony was held in the City Hall chambers. The flag was publicly unveiled for the first time on the City Hall steps. The flag was later adopted officially as Singapore's national flag upon her independence in 1965.

The flag consists of two equal horizontal sections, red above white. In the upper left section are a white crescent moon, and five white stars forming a circle. Each feature of the flag has its own distinctive meaning and significance. Red symbolises universal brotherhood and equality of man. White signifies pervading and everlasting purity and virtue. The crescent moon represents a young nation on the ascendant. The five stars stand for the nation's ideals of democracy, peace, progress, justice and equality.

This is an extract from "The Singapore Story through 60 objects" written by Kennie Ting, Director, Asian Civilisations Museum and Peranakan Museum & Group Director of Museums, National Heritage Board. This article was first published in Cultural Connections Volume IV 2019 by Culture Academy Singapore.