Monday, April 11, 2011

Great Moments at City Hall by Peter Chan

How many great events took place here? The easiest to know are our National Day Parades (NDPs) which are always celebrated with much pomp. Except for a time when there were the decentralised NDPs or a switch to the National Stadium, NDPs would always be at City Hall. In recent times, the Singapore F1 night GP ran passed City Hall as the backdrop.

Photo 1: City Hall on race day.

Wait! Let’s rewind the clock and see what else we could have over-looked. A memorable event for me was in 1962 when we were taught by teachers to sing a special jingle because Singapore was going to be a part of Malaysia, together with the Federation of Malaya, Sarawak and British North Borneo. This jingle was broadcast on the air-wave and became an instant hit with listeners. To celebrate the occasion Malam Malaysia was held at City Hall and there were thousands of people on the Padang. That night, we heard for the first time Malaysia Forever. People of my generation would surely know these catchy lyrics.

Photo 2: This jingle was sold as a 45 rpm record although Radio Singapura (predecessor of Mediacorp) sold the long playing record version comprising 6 Malay and 6 English songs about Malaysia. The choir was from Marymount School.


Let’s get together, Sing a happy song, Malaysia forever, Ten million strong.

Land of the free, Marching as one. Ready to share in every way, So let’s get it done!

We’re all in the same boat, Steady as you go. Let’s pull together, Everybody row – row, row, row.

It’s right, It’s the answer ,There’s no other way, To be good neighbours, Everyday Malaysia Forever.

Evermore more, United for liberty, Land of the happy people, Just you wait and see.

We’re ready for merger, Let’s open the door, To Malaysia forever, Ever more!

Photo 3: Public entertainment on City Hall Steps. City Hall was transformed into a stage and the spectators sat or stood on the Padang.

Just for December 1959 alone, City Hall achieved a number of milestones. It was the site for the inauguration for the first local-born Yang di-Pertuan Negara (Head of State) - the first Yang di-Pertuan Negara was a British. There was the new Singapore flag and the new Coat of Arms. That night, Singapore heard a strong 300 school choir sing our Majullah Singapura when we would have traditionally sang God Save the Queen. I think that was the first time we heard loud shouts of Merdeka throughout the Padang.

To achieve a new spirit of co-operation and national will in a post-colonial Singapore, the new Ministry of Culture was created; bringing together the departments which had hitherto been under different authorities in a Colonial Singapore. The ministry launched the Aneka Ragam Ra’ayat (People’s Outdoor Concert series) and the one at the City Hall certainly dwarfed everything else.

Photo 4: Student activists demanding education reforms

In later years, there was even a student-led disturbance at City Hall. Are you familiar with the history of Ngee Ann Polytechnic? This Poly could well have been the third university like Nantah and University of Singapore, if not for the Thong Saw Park Report. In November 1966, Ngee Ann College students clashed with the police and several people were hurt or arrested. What else can you remember?


Icemoon said...

Malaysia then was only twice the population of Singapore today? Wow.

appointment setting said...

In these blog all things are looking really very cool that can be one of the distribution of population that can be perhaps great.

Zen said...

Malaya and Singapore under colonial rule was one big family. When independence as given(in good faith) by the british to the country everything seemed to fall apart all because of politics. Like humpty dumpty it cannot be put back together again.

Singapore Man of Leisure said...

I was born in 1967. So I've not experienced all the students and workers activism in Singapore.

Now in Europe, I see a lot of strikes and protests due to the austerity measures.

Hope Singapore can remain peaceful like today.

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Lam Chun See said...

My primary school classmate Aii Chan was the first one to remind us about that Malaysia song that we had to learn in primary school. She could even remember the tune.

But Peter where did you get the lyrics from. You did not recall it from memory did you?

peter said...

The lyrics were written on a scrap piece of paper and found inside a Federal Publication English Readers textbook which belonged to my cousin. You never know what can be found in between the pages.

peter said...

Chun See

Can you get your friend to hum the tune so that I can write the tune? Hum over the telephone will do! I was looking forward to getting the music score if I could not get the record.

ANDY: Pop Music Not Pills. © said...

Wow Pete, Great stuff here. I remember the song. And you got the record too.

Lam Chun See said...

When Aii Chan comes back later this year, I will ask her to sing it and I will record it on my digital voice recorder for you.

Anonymous said...

I remember the NDPs at the padang, but not old enough to have experienced the pre-1960s events. But I do know that the steps are very popular with wedding photographers!

Edward said...

Chinese student activism in Singapore can be traced back to the post war years of the 50’s. Many of these political activities were influenced by the political developments in China during the civil war period (between the Nationalist and Communist) and after 1949 when the PRC was established. The return of the British rulers after World War II saw the introduction of a series of reforms which included prioritising the English language. The British attempt to anglicise the educational system brought about strong reactions from Chinese students.

According to “Singapore Chinese Society in Transition”, the National Service Ordinance of 1954 was the main catalyst of the student demonstrations and anti-colonial sentiments amongst Chinese students.

I don’t remember the student demonstration of Ngee Ann Polytechnic in 1966, but I do have many recollections of demonstrations by Chinese school students in the 60’s; many of these were communist-inspired. I also personally knew a Chinese who served in the Reserve Unit during this era. He had recounted many stories of violent police clashes with Chinese students. At least one Barisan Sosialis MP, Koo Young (for Thomson), was charged under the ISA for instigating pro-communist demonstrations by Chinese school students. He was detained for several months in 1967 and was subsequently released when he agreed to relinquish his political beliefs. His confession of being a communist was big news in 1968. Koo Young appeared in a television interview and also made the front page on our local papers.

Chun See, you may remember this story, as you were then living in the Thomson constituency.