According to news reports, former President Tony Tan has topped the list of National Day Awards recipients. Tony Tan has certainly had a long and illustrious career in politics but I am not certain that this should equate to being top of the honours list. The Singapore National Day Awards are a means of recognising various forms of merit and service to Singapore. Shouldn’t pole position be given to someone who has perhaps pioneered something game changing, or is a tireless volunteer for a good cause? I am not sure that being a highly paid politician (no matter how efficient) quite cuts it?

If the award is meant to recognise different forms of service and merit to our country, why hasn’t someone like say Chiam See Tong ever received it? He has helped many Singaporeans get back on their feet and fought against all odds to win elected office.  An example would be the story shared by former veteran reporter Jose Raymond of how Chiam’s generosity put a roof over his head and gave him the opportunity to become who he is today.

Or how about individuals like Sylvia Lim or Low Thia Kiang who have by now spent countless hours doing grassroots events bearing in mind that they were doing this way before they were ever elected and without the bulwark of support that would have been offered to volunteers affiliated with the Peoples’ Action Party (PAP).

How are the recipients selected and by whom? Has anyone affiliated with opposition politics ever received this honour?

For the award to be meaningful, it has to be a genuine reflection of contributions made by Singaporeans from all walks of life regardless of political affiliation. While I do not knock those who have received the award, the fact that no opposition politicians have ever been so honoured is concerning. At the end of the day, the National Day Award is one that is given in conjunction with the nation’s independence day. It is an award synonymous with the country of Singapore and not the ruling political party.

Perhaps, it is considered by the nomination committee that the contributions made by those not affiliated with the PAP are not significant enough to be considered award worthy. If this is indeed the case, I would urge them to reconsider. How can someone like Chiam See Tong not be considered worthy? Unwittingly, this sends out the message that you will not be honoured if you are part of the opposition. Does this not blur the lines between state and political party once more?

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