Singapore National Pledge – why are we still trying to build a democratic society after 44 years?

The Pledge

The words of the National Pledge are:

We, the citizens of Singapore
pledge ourselves as one united people,
regardless of race, language or religion,
to build a democratic society,
based on justice and equality,
so as to achieve happiness, prosperity and
progress for our nation

The pledge is taken every day by students in schools, at public events and during the National Day Parade.

If you read the Pledge very carefully, the main aim or thrust is to “build a democratic society”.

After almost 44 years, have we really built a democratic society? If we can sincerely say we have then the wording of the Pledge needs some changes. or else it will sound meaningless or silly.

As it stands, the implication is that we haven’t built a democratic society. Then the question that naturally arises is why after 44 years of nation-building we are still trying to build a democratic society.


9 Responses to “Singapore National Pledge – why are we still trying to build a democratic society after 44 years?”

  1. Indeed, you could be right, Roger. We may not have succeeded in building a really democratic society even after 44 years and that could be why our Pledge has remained the same for 43 years. (The Pledge was written by the late S Rajaratnam in 1966.)

    I am no expert on this matter but I guess any change in the wording of the Pledge would probably require the passing of some legislation in Parliament? Besides, as Rajaratnam is no longer around to do the update, someone else of his stature would obviously be needed to do the task even if they feel that it is compelling enough to modify the words.

  2. Most people merely parrot the Pledge without realising the significance and real import which is “to build a democratic society based on justice and equality”. That we continue to make this pledge, which is a solemn undertaking, is an indictment on the political elite.

    I agree with you that legislation and a person of a suitable stature are required for any modification of the Pledge.

  3. I don’t agree. The words “… based on … to achieve …” are equally important. You can be democratic but without equality or justice. Or democratic but poor country or a country always at war. So the pledge is always relevant.

  4. Of course justice and equality are important. That means in the eyes of the political elite we haven’t built a democratic society based on Justice and Equality it seems, that’s why after more than 4 decades we still have to promise to build one. The notion that one can be democratic but without equality or justice surely goes against the grain.Your veiled meaining is that Singapore is democratic but without equality or justice? In that case you’re right-the pledge is still relevant. Surely an indictment on the political elite. Maybe it’s just lip service to a democracy based on justice and equality. We need another 40 years.

  5. I think the pledge is still relevant and it doesn’t have to be an indictment on the political elite.

    Justice and equality are ideals we should strive for. Because they are ideals, they can never be truly achieved (maybe in Heaven but not on Earth). Just like the law is fair but there are still loopholes. But loopholes do not taint the judiciary and lawyers still enter their profession with the ideal.


  6. Thank you for providing us with your perspective. In the early days of nation building the pledge was indisputably relevant but if one thinks it’s still relevant AFTER 40 years of nation building then in my view there’s something wrong somewhere whatever spin one puts on it (the pledge).

  7. Roger, only a sith deals in absolutes. 😛

    The question is how far we have built a democratic society based on the twin pillars of justice and equality. So IMHO, it is no shame to admit the pledge is still relevant. 🙂

  8. the pledge is to serve as a reminder that our nation is all about meritocracy, everyone is given the fair opportunities and every Singaporean matters.

    Reciting the pledge becomes a daily routine for me as you know I work in the school. So I’ll be constantly reminded about meritocracy, justice and equality. =D

  9. Thank you Ezzy for your views particularly on meritocracy. Mr S Rajaratnam ,who crafted the pledge,must be aghast if he were alive today to observe that Singapore is still trying to build a democratic society after more than 40 years! The world has changed dramatically since the 60s and like the vision and mission of an organisation, we need to weigh whether the pledge is still RELEVANT. Unless it is cast in stone!

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