Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth
- Consultation Period:
- 13 Jun 2022 - 08 Jul 2022
- Closed - Summary of Responses
RESPONSE TO FEEDBACK RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLIC CONSULTATION ON NATIONAL SYMBOLS REGULATIONS
1. The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) sought public feedback from 13 June to 8 July 2022 on the proposed National Symbols Regulations which will replace the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem (SAFNA) Rules. In general, respondents supported the proposed regulations to be legislated under the new National Symbols Act. A summary of the feedback and our responses can be found below in Annex A.
2. MCCY thanks all who contributed their views on the proposed National Symbols Regulations and will take into consideration the feedback and suggestions received as the regulations under the Act are drafted.
Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth
20 July 2022
A. Enable greater flexibility in display of the Flag outside the National Day period (Jul-Sept)
1. This proposal garnered the most responses and almost all respondents agreed that there should be greater flexibility in display of the Flag outside of the National Day period. One respondent also advocated for greater citizen participation in suggesting occasions of display. Many of those who agreed with having greater flexibility thought that it made sense to have the Flag displayed all year round. Many also opined that enabling more flexibility allows individuals to outwardly show their national pride. Some however felt that the display period of the Flag during the National Day celebrations (July-Sept) was special and should be retained.
2. Some respondents shared their ideas on occasions that could be appropriate for displaying the Flag, including
• Key national events and successes on an international stage, especially in sports;
• Local holidays that showcase multiculturalism;
• Individual citizen milestones such as when a new citizen receives their confirmation.
3. Respondents agreed that with greater flexibility comes greater responsibility to use the Flag with care. They suggested that guidelines and government support would be useful.
4. The views expressed on displaying the Flag year-round versus keeping strictly to the National Day period mirrors past feedback we received across multiple engagement efforts. The current proposal to start allowing displays outside the National Day period on a case-by-case basis, aims to find a good balance that addresses these viewpoints. Other proposed legislative changes such as the stop order also aim to address the concerns raised about greater possibility of misuse and will be coupled with efforts to increase public awareness of appropriate displays of the Flag around the National Day period.
B. Proposals to allow use of the Flag's image without requiring approval on attire, decoration and products
5. Respondents generally welcomed the idea; they preferred to have more ways of outwardly displaying their sense of national pride, particularly for non-official groups who wish to identify with the nation. At the same time, respondents expressed concerns about improper use of the Flag, such as that by businesses, foreign powers or individuals promoting divisive content online.
6. Nearly half of the respondents to this proposal were also concerned about having clear guidelines on what constitute disrespectful use and disposal of items bearing the image of the Flag; they highlighted that ‘appropriate use’ was too vague. However, others felt that Government should not be too prescriptive in the use of the Flag on attire, decoration and products, but should allow room for creativity and interpretation as long as done tastefully.
7. Some comments suggested having a brand guide on how the symbols could be applied (e.g. size, colour, usage). It would be ideal if there were clear examples which individuals could refer to. One respondent asked for the Government to consider if it mattered if someone was arrested for committing a crime while sporting an attire bearing the image of the Flag. One respondent commented that use of the Flag’s image on commercial products without approval seemed common, and the proposed relaxation of the rules would address this.
8. MCCY will take in the suggestions to issue clear guidelines on what constitutes disrespectful use in different scenarios, alongside the legislative changes.
C. Proposal to enable Government to issue stop orders on disrespectful use of the Flag's design and elements
9. Most respondents addressed this proposal, with nearly all agreeing with it. Respondents also requested clear guidelines on what was considered disrespectful, noting that otherwise it would be open to interpretation by different government officials handling the cases.
10. Some respondents expressed views that the Government should not overreact but should use stop orders judiciously and make users aware of the rules before a stop order was issued. A few respondents also supported the allowing of appeals on stop orders.
11. MCCY intends to lay out clear guidelines of use, including examples of what constitutes disrespectful use. We will continue to offer channels for feedback and enquiry should users wish to check on their intended use of the Flag or other symbols. The framework for appeals on stop orders will also be included in the subsidiary legislation.
D. Proposed safeguards for the State Crest, National Pledge, National Anthem, Public Seal and Presidential Symbols
12. About half of all respondents gave comments on the proposed safeguards. Nearly all agreed with the proposed safeguards for these symbols, and no specific objections were raised. Several respondents qualified their agreement by suggesting that some symbols like the National Pledge could be less strictly regulated than others like the Presidential Symbols.
E. Other comments on proposed regulations
13. Responses were mixed; some welcomed the proposals, but a few said the fine was too high and a jail term was too much. There were also some who said that we needed a strong deterrent and suggested higher penalties than those proposed.
14. There were some respondents who felt that penalties for disrespectful use of the Flag and the Anthem should be greater than other symbols because these are widely used at international platforms.
15. As respondents noted, the purpose of raising the penalties is to serve as a strong deterrent against misuse alongside lifting restrictions on how the symbols can be used.
16. Penalties will be commensurate with the severity of the offences, as all offences are not equally serious.
Other general comments
17. Respondents highlighted that more clarity was needed on how to use and dispose of the symbols. One respondent also wanted more clarity on digital use. One respondent advocated for all regulations to be collated on a single platform, with a way to apply for use or request for clarification for uses that were not already addressed. MCCY will take these suggestions into consideration when implementing the new legislation.
Public Consultation Paper on The National Symbols Regulations
The Ministry of Culture, Community, and Youth (“MCCY”) invites the public to give feedback on the National Symbols Regulations which will replace the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem (“SAFNA”) Rules (the “Rules”). The consultation period for the new regulations will be from 13 June to 8 July 2022.
2. The SAFNA Act (the “Act”) has been in force since 1959, and its corresponding Rules regulate three National Symbols to ensure that they are given due respect: the National Flag, the State Crest and the National Anthem, The Rules were amended in 2004, 2007, 2008 and 2020 to, among other things, relax some restrictions and allow greater use of these National Symbols.
3. Developments in recent years have given rise to more varied uses of the National Symbols, including the use of digital images on different media. Significant events and experiences such as the Olympics and COVID-19 led to an increase in calls to fly the National Flag outside the National Day period (i.e. 1 July to 30 September) to express national pride and solidarity. MCCY announced in September 2020 that it was embarking on a review of the Act and Rules.
4. As part of the review, MCCY convened a citizens’ workgroup in 2021 to gather views and recommendations from citizens. The workgroup recommended easing guidelines to allow wider use of the National Symbols, while also encouraging respectful use to honour and protect their significance (full report here). The discussions and specific suggestions from the workgroup have been instrumental in informing the proposed changes to legislation.
NEW NATIONAL SYMBOLS ACT
5. MCCY intends to replace the Act and Rules with a new National Symbols Act and corresponding regulations. The new National Symbols Act and regulations seek to provide formal statutory recognition to our National Symbols and Presidential Symbols, and to clarify appropriate use, while allowing wider use of the National Symbols by Singaporeans to express national pride and solidarity. The new Act and regulations will also clarify the appropriate use of the Symbols, as well as update penalties to deter their misuse.
6. The key changes which will be made under the new National Symbols Act are as follows:
a. Include the National Symbols that were formally recognised after 1959, i.e. the National Pledge, National Flower and Lion Head symbol. Additionally, to give legal recognition to the Public Seal and the Presidential Symbols as the President is the Head of State and the Public Seal represents the Republic.
b. Update the maximum penalties for misuse of the National Symbols or Presidential Symbols to a fine of $30,000 and/or a maximum imprisonment term of 6 months. The precise penalties for individual offences will be calibrated in the Regulations.
c. Provide for a specified person (for example, the Minister) to approve any matter relating to the use of a National Symbol or Presidential Symbol under the regulations.
The purpose and details of these changes are laid out in Annex A.
SCOPE OF THE CONSULTATION
7. While the Act provides the framework for regulating the National Symbols, the legislation regulating specific use of these symbols is mainly set out in the Rules. The Rules will be replaced with the National Symbols Regulations with key differences in the following areas:
a. Provide greater flexibility to display the National Flag outside the National Day period on occasions of national significance;
b. Reduce barriers to using the image of the National Flag on attire, decorations, and products, particularly during the National Day period;
c. Strengthen safeguards against disrespectful use of the design of the National Flag and elements of the National Flag;
d. Strengthen safeguards against disrespectful use of the State Crest, the National Anthem, the National Pledge, the Public Seal and the Presidential Symbols.
PROPOSALS FOR THE NEW NATIONAL SYMBOLS REGULATIONS
A. Provide greater flexibility to display the National Flag outside the National Day period
8. Greater flexibility on display period of the National Flag. Under the current Rules, the National Flag may, generally, only be displayed outside buildings without a flagpole and night illumination (e.g. from HDB homes) during the National Day period from 1 July to 30 September. This prescribed period allows the National Flag to be flown as part of the annual National Day celebrations while preventing damage or deterioration due to extended display or neglect. Under the new regulations, we propose to enable the Minister to allow the National Flag to be flown outside the National Day period on occasions of national significance, as an expression of national pride and solidarity. An example of such an occasion was during the months of Circuit Breaker in 2020, when display of the
Flag outside homes became a way for Singaporeans to rally together and show solidarity in crisis.
B. Reduce barriers to using the image of the National Flag on attire, decorations, and products
9. Reduce barriers to non-commercial use of the image of the National Flag on attire outside the National Day period. The current Rules prohibit the use of the image of the National Flag on attire outside the National Day period unless approval is given by the Minister. The new regulations will allow the non-commercial use of the image of the National Flag on attire throughout the year without the need for the Minister’s approval.
10. Reduce barriers to use of the image of the National Flag on decorations during the National Day period. The current Rules prohibit the use of the National Flag or its image as part of any furnishing, decoration, covering or receptacle at all times, unless approved by the Minister. The intent was to ensure that the National Flag and its image would not be trivialised or treated disrespectfully. (For example, it would be disrespectful to sit on an image of the Flag on a sofa.) The new regulations will allow use of the image of the National Flag on decorations like stickers, posters, and decals during the National Day period without requiring approval, to encourage Singaporeans to make greater use of the image of the National Flag to express our national pride. The new regulations will retain the restrictions on using the National Flag or its image on furnishings, coverings and receptacles.
11. Reduce barriers to use of the image of the National Flag on commercial products during the National Day period. The current Rules prohibit the use of the National Flag or its image for commercial purposes or advertising unless approved by the Minister. The new regulations will allow use of the image of the National Flag for commercial purposes during the National Day period without requiring approval, as long as such use is respectful. This will enable individuals and organisations to use the image of the National Flag more freely as an expression of national pride during the National Day period.
C. Strengthen safeguards against disrespectful use of the design of the National Flag
12. The new regulations will enable the Government to act against disrespectful uses of the design of the National Flag. Where a person uses the design of the National Flag in a disrespectful way, the Government may order the person to stop the use. Failure to comply with the order will be an offence. In deciding whether the design of the National Flag is being used in a disrespectful way, relevant factors include: the purpose for which the design is being used; whether the National Flag is depicted as distorted or damaged; and the nature of any image or text that appears together with the design of the National Flag. Stop orders can be made against a misuse of the whole design of the National Flag, or against a misuse of recognisable elements of the National Flag (e.g. the crescent moon and 5 stars). The use of stop orders is intended to reduce uncertainty about what constitutes an offence and to ensure that misuse can be addressed clearly.
D. Strengthen safeguards against disrespectful use of the State Crest, National Anthem, National Pledge, Public Seal and Presidential Symbols
13. The new regulations will continue to require private individuals to obtain permission before they can use the State Crest, except for the purpose of education or news reporting.
14. The new regulations will also introduce and strengthen safeguards to ensure respectful treatment of the National Anthem, the National Pledge, the Public Seal and the Presidential Symbols:
a. For the National Pledge, we propose to stipulate that it should be recited in entirety and must not be used for commercial purposes. Disrespectful use of the National Pledge would also be subject to stop orders, as with disrespectful use of the design of the National Flag in paragraph 12.
b. For the National Anthem, we propose to allow commercial use on a case-by-case basis with approval from the Minister. The intent is to prevent commercial exploitation of the National Anthem (e.g. through the sale of products such as toys featuring the National Anthem) while allowing for-profit endeavours or events at which it may be played (e.g. ticketed concerts or theatrical performances) and the sale of the recording of such performances. Regulations on performance and rearrangement of the National Anthem will also be updated to better account for new modes of reproduction and communication of music beyond those stated in the current Rules (e.g. digital replication of sound recordings, online streaming, etc). We also propose to enable the Government to make stop orders against disrespectful use of the National Anthem, similar to the proposal for acting against disrespectful use of the design of the Flag in paragraph 12.
c. For the Public Seal, we propose to stipulate that it may only be used by or with the authority of the President, or as required or allowed by law.
d. For the Presidential Symbols, we propose to stipulate that they may only be used by or with the approval of the President.
15. The new regulations will not restrict the use the Lion Head symbol and the National Flower, as these are intended as alternative, less restricted symbols for people and organisations to use to identify with the nation. MCCY will continue to publish guidelines for use of the Lion Head symbol (see here).
16. The new regulations will be technology-neutral and will generally apply to the digital sphere in the same way as they apply to the physical world.
SUMMARY OF PROPOSALS
17. In summary, the new regulations seek to:
a. enable the Minister to approve display of the National Flag outside the National Day period;
b. allow the use of the image of the National Flag on attire year-round without requiring approval, on the condition that such use is non-commercial and respectful;
c. allow the use of the image of the National Flag as decoration during the National Day period as long as the use is respectful;
d. allow the use of the image of the National Flag for commercial purposes during the National Day period as long as the use is respectful;
e. enable the Government to act against disrespectful uses of the design of the National Flag and elements of the National Flag (e.g. the crescent moon and five stars);
f. continue to restrict private use of the State Crest, while allowing use for purposes of education or news reporting; and
g. strengthen safeguards to ensure respectful treatment of the National Pledge, the National Anthem, the Public Seal and the Presidential Symbols as set out in paragraph 14 above.
GUIDELINE FOR SUBMISSION OF COMMENTS
18. We request that all interested parties submit their comments on the proposals for the new regulations using the feedback form in the link here or button below. All submissions should be sent no later than 8 July 2022, 6.00pm.
19. Respondents are also requested to follow these guidelines:
a. Please indicate your name and the organisation you represent (if any) as well as contact details (email address and/or telephone number) within the template to enable us to follow up with you to clarify any points, if necessary.
b. Where respondents feel that the proposals can be improved, it would be helpful to give details on potential operational/implementation issues the proposals may pose. Suggestions to improve the proposals are also welcome.
20. We will review all comments received during the consultation and refine the proposals where appropriate, based on feedback received during this consultation. We will publish a summary of the main comments received on the REACH website, together with our responses, after this consultation exercise closes. Please be assured that the identities of the respondents will not be disclosed in the summary.