Singapore: Rules governing usage of Singapore flag eased with the National Symbols Act and National Symbols Regulations 2023

In brief

The National Symbols Act 2022 ("Act") and National Symbols Regulations 2023 ("Regulations") came into effect on 1 August 2023 and replaced the Singapore Arms and Flag and National Anthem (SAFNA) Act, which was enacted in 1959.

The new Act and Regulations aim to provide a framework to promote appropriate use of the national and presidential symbols, while also allowing for their wider use by Singaporeans to express their "national pride and solidarity".


Key takeaways

  1. Display of National Flag outside buildings: If the National Flag is displayed outside a building or in an open space, the National Flag: (a) must be flown from a flagpole; and (b) must not be flown at night unless the National Flag is properly illuminated ("Flagpole Rule"). The Flagpole Rule does not, however, apply during the National Day Period (from 1 July to 30 September).

The new Regulations provide the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) with the powers to allow the National Flag to be displayed, without a flagpole and illumination at night, outside of the National Day period.

  1. Commercial or decorative purposes: Singaporeans and businesses will no longer need to seek approval from the MCCY to use the National Flag or its image for commercial or decorative purposes during the National Day period, provided it is used respectfully.
  2. Attire: Individuals may now apply the National Flag image on attire for non-commercial purposes all year round, if use of the National Flag image is in compliance with the MCCY's guidelines, which state that the National Flag image should, amongst others:
    1. Not be used on items intended to be dirtied (for instance, flipflops)
    2. Positioned above the waist, if it is used on clothing
  3. Digital technology: Considering recent technological advances, the MCCY has put in place new guidance to facilitate the digital reproduction of national and presidential symbols.

Essentially, the production and display of the National Flag with modified or distorted designs will be prohibited.

  1. Stop order: A new stop order will be instituted for disrespectful use of the national flag, including images depicting modified or distorted elements of the National Flag.
  2. Penalties: Depending on the severity of the offences, failure to comply with the Regulations can result in fines and imprisonment. High-severity offences involve misuse of the national symbols and disrespectful use of the national flag, whereby a person may face the maximum penalty of a SGD 30,000 fine, a six-month imprisonment term, or both.

In more detail

The Act was passed by Parliament in September 2022 to replace the SAFNA, which was enacted in 1959.

The presidential crest, presidential standard and presidential seal have become formally recognised as presidential symbols under the new Act, along with the national pledge, national flower, lionhead symbol, and the public seal.

These national symbols, as well as the national anthem and state crest, will be subject to more stringent restrictions.

For example, any distortion or modification of the design of the state crest and presidential crest will not be allowed; commercial use of the national anthem will require permission from the Minister; and anyone making a musical record that includes the national anthem should not rearrange the song such that it contravenes the regulations.

Regulations on how the anthem can be used have also been updated to include digitally created covers.

The ministry has stated that it will first take an 'advisory approach' if an individual or business is found to have breached the regulations of the act. A new stop order power was instituted for disrespectful use of the national flag, anthem, or pledge. Failure to comply with a stop order will constitute a punishable offence. However, some instances, such as the burning or desecration of the flag, can warrant immediate action.

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