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Misuse of national symbols: Govt proposes raising maximum fine from S$1,000 to S$30,000, new jail term

SINGAPORE — The Government is proposing a six months' jail term for misusing national symbols, as well as to raise the maximum fine from S$1,000 to S$30,000, as the current penalty is "an insufficient deterrent" to people who disrespect these symbols given the "effect of inflation and the prevailing standard of living".

National symbols to be covered under the regulations include the National Pledge, national flower, and the lion head symbol.
National symbols to be covered under the regulations include the National Pledge, national flower, and the lion head symbol.
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SINGAPORE — The Government is proposing a six months' jail term for misusing national symbols, as well as to raise the maximum fine from S$1,000 to S$30,000, as the current penalty is "an insufficient deterrent" to people who disrespect these symbols given the "effect of inflation and the prevailing standard of living".

The penalty has remained unchanged since 1959, after it was first introduced under the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act, which does not include a jail term for such offences.

On Wednesday (June 15), the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) said it has started a public feedback exercise for the proposed National Symbols Act, which is intended to replace the present law.

The new penalty is similar to the existing penalties for defacing a national monument under the Preservation of National Monuments Act, which was amended last year.

"As not all offences are deemed equally severe, the precise penalties for individual offences will be calibrated in the regulations. As an alternative to prosecution, the offences can also be compounded for an amount not exceeding S$2,000," according to a description of the public consultation posted on the website of Government feedback unit Reach.

National symbols to be covered under the regulations include the National Pledge, national flower, and the lion head symbol.

The Merlion is not covered in the proposed regulations, even though it was earlier cited as a national symbol as part of a report by a citizens’ workgroup convened by MCCY during the review of the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem Act.

A bill to introduce the proposed law is slated for the second half of 2022.

The proposed Act and its accompanying regulations seek to provide formal statutory recognition to these national symbols as well as presidential symbols such as the presidential crest and seal, several of which were created only after 1960 and were not formally recognised in legislation.

These rules will also clarify the appropriate use of the symbols, and would allow wider use of the national symbols by Singaporeans to "express national pride and solidarity".

"We can allow more use of the national symbols for expressing national pride and solidarity, if we are able to put in stronger safeguards to prevent their disrespectful use," said the description on the Reach website.

In a statement to the media, MCCY said it is looking to replace the current law with the proposed Act as developments in recent years have given rise to "more varied" uses of these national symbols.

Some of proposed regulations for the National Symbols Act are: 

  • Allowing for the national flag to be flown outside the National Day period on occasions of national significance, as an expression of national pride and solidarity
  • Permitting the non-commercial use of the image of the national flag on clothing throughout the year without the need for ministerial approval 
  • Allowing the use of the image of the national flag on decorations like stickers, posters, and decals during the National Day period without requiring approval
  • Empowering the Government to order a person to stop the use of the national flag if he uses the design in a disrespectful way
  • Stipulating that the National Pledge can only be recited in entirety, and not to be used for commercial purposes

The public can share their feedback on the proposed changes from Wednesday till July 8 at www.go.gov.sg/feedbacksafna, MCCY said.

All comments submitted during the consultation will be reviewed and the proposals refined where appropriate, it added.

MCCY said that it will publish a summary of the main comments received via Reach, as well as the ministry's responses to the feedback, after the consultation exercise closes.

Related topics

national symbols national flag MCCY

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