Donaldson Tan / Head, TOC International / London
LONDON – 12,000 Overseas Singaporeans came together to relive the Singapore experience on Saturday at the 3rd Singapore Day held at Hampton Court Palace, the former residence of King Henry VIII, in London. The previous Singapore Days were held at Melbourne and New York City. The Guest-of-Honour was Mr Wong Kan Seng, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs. Highlights of the event include free authentic hawker fare from Singapore and a variety show by Singaporean comedians such as Mr Brown, Jack Neo, Mark Lee, Hossan Leong, the Dim Sum Dollies and Sebastian Tan.
This event marked a steady deviation from the Stayer-Quitter Rhetoric first floated by Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong during the 2002 National Day Rally. According to the Singapore Day Press Officer Adeline Kwok, the event aims to engage overseas Singaporeans emotionally.
Familiar Singapore icons such as the ERP Gantry and Lau Pa Sat were re-constructed under the creative direction of Filmmaker Eric Khoo. “I want to create a happy fun-filled environment that Overseas Singaporeans could connect to – local icons re-fashioned in a pop at sort of way,” he said. DPM Wong Kang Seng also expressed his desire for overseas Singaporeans to find a deeper and more passionate connection with Singapore and their fellow overseas Singaporeans.
300 Singaporeans signed up as volunteers for Singapore Day. The volunteers consist of mostly students and a good number of professionals. One of the volunteers remarked, “I work in Coventry and there are hardly any Singaporeans there. Through volunteering, I have made a lot of friends among the Singaporean community in the UK.” Another volunteer, medical student Wong Yisheng, felt it was his patriotic duty to make overseas Singaporeans feel at home, noting the satisfaction he gets from public service. “There is also something special about the food here that bonds us Singaporeans together,” he said.
The authentic local delights, which include chicken rice, kway chap and satay by hawkers specially chosen by Makan Sutra, added to the air of nostalgia and camaraderie at the event, while overseas Singaporeans young and old shared the familiar delights of home. “As always in the Singaporeans’ heart, it is the food that binds us together,” said Norhakim Shah, Vice-President (Midlands & Scotland) of the UK Singapore Student Secretariat. It is hard to please everyone. Some Singaporeans expressed their disappointment to The Online Citizen that the local favourites Indian rojak and nonya rice dumpling were not available.
The general response from Singaporeans was that the event was well organised. However, some overseas Singaporeans were shocked that Singapore Day cost S$6M and felt that sum of money should be set aside to help underprivileged Singaporeans who are more severely affected by the global economic crisis. “We don’t need charity from the Singapore Government although we appreciate this opportunity to meet other Singaporeans in the UK,” one lady said. “The money could have been used to further supplement S&CC and rental rebates for the poor.”