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Why fewer flats seem to be flying the flag

The Straits Times | Joanna Seow and Yeo Sam Jo | Saturday, Aug 9, 2014

A lone Singapore flag hangs on a block of flat at Dakota Crescent, as seen on 24 July 2014. Fewer flats seem to be flying the flag for National Day in recent years.

Entire blocks of flats awash in red and white in the run-up to National Day? It is a less common sight these days.

More than half of the 15 Members of Parliament and residents The Straits Times spoke to said they have noticed fewer flags on display in recent years.

Changes in the work of grassroots groups and public housing designs are two of the reasons for the drop in the number of Singaporeans flying the national flag from their flats, they added.

Some residents' committees (RCs) now prefer to hold community events instead of going door to door to give out flags.

Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC MP Zainal Sapari said some RCs in his GRC have stopped actively decorating housing blocks for National Day since two years ago.

"We feel it would be good if residents do it themselves so that it's more heartfelt," he said. He hopes that when residents realise fewer RCs are doing it, they will put the flags out themselves.

Tampines GRC MP Baey Yam Keng said a resident told him he did not hang a flag as he did not want to be the odd one out.

New flat design is a factor too, said Tanjong Pagar GRC MP Chia Shi-Lu. He said newer blocks in Queenstown do not have common corridors facing the outside, making it harder to display flags.

Public servant Rachel Lim, 29, said her family stopped putting up the flag when they moved from a road-facing block in Chai Chee to a point block in Sengkang West nine years ago.

"There is no common corridor and the block is inward facing," she said. "Even if you display the flag, there is no audience."

Tampines resident David Tan, 46, wrote to The Straits Times Forum to say he is the only one in his block to hang a flag.

"If you don't fly the flag, then no one will," said the call centre manager. He said some may think "putting up the flag shows support for the ruling party. But national pride and political affiliation are two different things".

But some neighbourhoods are keeping the tradition alive: Minister for National Development Khaw Boon Wan posted photos on his Facebook page yesterday showing blocks of flats in Sembawang GRC heavily decorated with flags put up by RCs.

"RCs still have to step in as most residents are either busy, don't know where to get a flag or how to hang it," said fellow MP for Sembawang GRC Ellen Lee. "It's not because they are not patriotic, but there still has to be a bit of encouragement."

Other MPs said the flag, which can be bought at community clubs for $2, is being displayed in other forms like car decals.

A FairPrice spokesman said sales of flags that can be attached to car windows and wing mirrors have gone up by over 20 per cent this year from last year.

Product manager Eric Toh, 48, who hangs a flag from his Woodlands flat every year, said: "It's only once a year and that's one way to show our respect for our pioneers and to our country."

joseow@sph.com.sg

yeosamjo@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on August 07, 2014.
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