Thursday, February 10, 2011

Whose idea was it to come up with the Singapore Pledge?


I was reading this book today and was surprised by a lot of things that happened in the past. One of them was the Singapore Pledge.

William Cheng was a Principal Assistant Secretary of Administration, Ministry of Education. He came  up with the idea of a pledge to “inculcate national consciousness and patriotism in schools” in October 1965. The timing was sensitive as Singapore separated from the Federation of Malaya barely two months and people from different races were not comfortable with one another.

From Page 195, there are 2 letters: one from Mr Ong Pang Boon (Minister for Education) to Mr S Rajaratnam (Minister for Foreign Affairs) dated 2nd February 1966 and the other one was from Mr S Rajaratnam to Mr Ong Pang Boon dated 18th February 1966.

The first letter had 2 versions of the pledge:



(1) “I pledge (reaffirm) my allegiance (loyalty) to the Flag of Singapore, and to the country for which it stands: one sovereign nation of many freedom-loving people of one heart, one mind and one spirit, dedicated to a just and equal society.”

(2) “I proudly and wholeheartedly pledge my loyalty to our Flag of Singapore and to the honour and independence of our Republic whose banner it is. We come from different races, religions and cultures, but we are now united in mind and heart as one nation, and one people, dedicated to build by democratic means a more just and equal society.”

The second letter was Mr S Rajaratnam’s version of the Pledge:



“We, as citizens of Singapore, pledge ourselves to forget differences of race, language and religion and become one united people; to build a democratic society where justice and equality will prevail and where we will seek happiness and progress by helping one another.”

And after rounds of revision by various officials, the pledge eventually became the one that we are familiar with:



The Pledge was translated into Chinese, Tamil and Malay and introduced to schools in August 1966. Interestingly, as mentioned in the book, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew “suggested that the words in “regardless of” should be replaced by “whatever the”.” But we know too well whether the suggestion was implemented or not.



Another interesting thing to note is the action that we do when we say the Pledge. According to the book, it was then First Deputy Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong who “selected the pose of standing at attention with the right fist over the heart on 11 March 1988.”

This is so interesting to me that I wanted to share with everybody and hopefully when we recite the Pledge in the future, we can think of our founding fathers and their reasons for coming up with it.

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