50th Anniversary

 
Established in 1961, our Department recently reached its 50th birthday – and to commemorate this turning of age, we decided to celebrate!
Our celebrations consisted of a package of three main events: the Singapore Forum on Politics, the Singapore Model Parliament, and the 50th Anniversary Dinner. Our hard work eventually paid off; by and large, all these three activities and programs succeeded to achieve their objectives. The earlier headwinds that we encountered (to secure funding, to invite panelists and guests, and generally, to ensure the success of all three events) were resolved and overall, seen from the good participation and feedback of these events, our 50th anniversary celebrations are something to remember.
The following is a summary of the three main activities, conducted and completed in the first three months of this year (Jan-Mar 2012):
Singapore Forum on Politics (SFP) Panel Discussion
The main objective was to enable participants – this time around, comprising graduate and undergrad students from local universities and junior colleges – to engage with invited panelists (Members of Parliament: Dr Intan Azura from the PAP, Mr Yee Jenn Yong from the Workers’ Party, Mrs Lina Chiam from the SDP, NMP Ms. Tan Su Shan and academic Dr Kevin Tan) on an important current issue in Singapore, the post-GE 2011. Our aim was to have a frank and open discussion about Singapore society and politics post-GE 2011, an Election widely perceived as a watershed in Singapore politics.
 
Thus the topic: "GE+1: Has Anything Really Changed?" Panelists and participants at the Shaw Foundations’ Alumni Auditorium were asked to reflect as to what really has changed, one year after the GE. Has party political strategy become different? Have government policies shifted or do they only have the appearance of a shift? And have the people themselves changed; if yes, in what ways?
 
The discussions were lively and robust. Overall, participants raised some critical issues about the state of affairs in this Republic and panelists responded with their similarly candid views, while also offered what they saw as emerging social, political, and economic trends.
 
To conclude the event, all participants and guests were treated to a buffet dinner after the Forum, courtesy of our sponsor, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation in Singapore.
Singapore Model Parliament (SMP)
Our undergraduate Political Science Society collaborated with the REACH ‘Youth Ambassadors of NUS’ to organize this simulation of the Parliament of Singapore. This SMP brought in approximately 90 students from local high schools, junior colleges and tertiary institutions, and was held at the Arts House Chamber (the former Parliament House).
 
During the parliamentary sessions, participants played the role of Members of Parliament or Cabinet Ministers. They had the opportunity to experience how Parliament works and to frame solutions to some issues facing Singapore today. In this inaugural session of SMP, there was the simulation of the Budget Debate, in line with the Budget Debate that took place in Parliament during the time.
 
The SMP provided a platform for students to explore the complexities of the policymaking process, and to also simulate realistic parliamentary debates. In the process, the SMP aimed to foster understanding of the legislative process in Singapore amongst our youth in general and post-secondary students in particular – the segment of the population who are already becoming more discerning, if not demanding, and wish for greater avenues for participation in the political process.
We hope the SMP generated greater appreciation of the complexities of the various facets of the Republic’s policy-making process – from formulation to legislation and eventual implementation. The aim of the SMP was to encourage interest in national issues and governmental policies, create greater awareness of the importance of active civic participation, and finally, show our youth the avenues and opportunities for them to contribute towards the Republic’s progress and future challenges.
50th Anniversary Dinner
This Dinner was planned as an occasion for Alumni who had studied in the Department of Political Science within the last half a century to make a memorable 'homecoming'. To achieve this, we organized a fully-served 9-course Banquet (Halal Chinese menu) at the Ballroom of the Orchid Country Club to enable them reconnect with their friends and fellow alumni, as well as current faculty and students, while enjoying good food and good company.
 
The Dinner was also an opportunity to catch up with friends and acquaintances who had graduated and are now doing well in various professions – in both the public and private sectors – as they rekindle and share memories of their foundational years in the Department in particular and NUS in general.
To make this occasion more worthwhile and enjoyable, we lined up an exciting program for the evening.
 
In addition to providing guests with a very brief update on the Political Science Department and its achievements and plans, we also invited two former students whose music and singing talents have won public recognition, to entertain us. And, for memories’ sake, we showed a short video clip of a TV Forum in 1991 involving three panelists from the Department, and also messages and ‘birthday greetings’ from our two earliest Heads of Department, Prof R.S. Milne (1961-65) and Prof K.J. Ratnam (1965-70).
 
And what better way to reminisce than inviting our most illustrious student as Guest of Honour. We were honoured and fortunate to succeed in persuading Ambassador Prof Chan Heng Chee to return to Singapore from her post in Washington to be with us and deliver a speech. She shared with us her wide and varied experience as a student, professor, and Head of Political Science at NUS. In many ways, her story resonates with that of the Department itself over the last five decades.
 
She then joined us in our ‘50th Anniversary cake-cutting ceremony’ with much noise and applause from the guests. The Straits Times’ coverage of her speech in the following day (which also mentioned of her new appointment in NUS’ Board of Trustees) enabled the general public and alumni who missed the dinner to be informed about our Department’s history, progress and future plans.
 
The response to this Dinner was heart-warming. Although our initial target was to cater to 200 guests, more than 250 finally made it – and they included professors, alumni and their spouses, families and friends, Directors of academic Institutes and Schools (MEI, EAI, SIIA, LKYSPP, RSIS, etc.), present students (both undergrad and graduate) and other invited guests.