Singaporeans celebrate our country’s birthday on 9 Aug every year. But between 1960 and 1963, our National Day was celebrated on this day, 3 Jun, to commemorate the day Singapore became a self-governing state in 1959.
The UK ceded power in all areas (except security and defence), leaving our first elected government in charge.
Achieving self-governance was a significant step towards obtaining full independence for Singapore, and our founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, was jubilant when he called out: “Merdeka! Lagi sekali dengan semangat, merdeka!” (“Independence! Again with spirit, independence!”)
Singapore’s aspirations for independence had earlier inspired local composer Zubir Said to compose Majulah Singapura, for the reopening of Victoria Theatre in 1958. This song was adapted in 1959 to become our National Anthem. That year also saw the unveiling and adopting of our State Crest (National Coat of Arms) and National Flag.
With self-governance, Singaporeans became responsible for our own future. Voting was made compulsory for the first time in 1959, making Singaporeans accountable for who we choose to lead us. The need to be responsible has not changed since then, even after we started celebrating National Day on 9 Aug in 1965.
Our sense of responsibility governs the way we defend, house, and educate ourselves. It informs how we work, play, and care for one another. It drives our nation to overcome enormous challenges – from building our own defence force, to attracting global investments, to meeting our food, water, and energy needs. And it is what unites us as we rise to face the challenges of COVID-19, together.