May 24, 2010

A People's Farewell for Dr Goh

Flags at Half-Mast

Over 18,000 people paid their respect to our late Deputy Prime Minister Dr Goh Keng Swee in Parliament House over the weekend. Young and old, male and female; some even wept. While not part of the multitude, I paid my respect in another way. On Sunday, I gave our great architect a silent farewell outside Parliament House.

The flags - three of them - were at half-mast. You can see them in the cover photo. The flag on the rooftop of Parliament House, I wonder how it gets raised and lowered? There were more than the usual number of officers outside the compound, not to mention the gurkhas behind the metal gate with their distinctive hat. Some wore bright-coloured overlay vests with "Auxiliary Police". I remember an officer with shirt tucked out, he has inspector rank (two diamonds) and wore a lanyard with "Certis". To this day, I still cannot tell normal police from auxiliary police.

Parliament House Driveway
Parliament House Driveway. Furthest from camera is an auxiliary police. Nearer to 2pm, more "police" joined in - wearing beret, uniform with what looked like the ranger arch tab, even an Inspector.

Perhaps it was Sunday and they could not recall enough manpower or maybe it has to do with creating employment opportunities, the government outsourced the task of putting up metal barricades and orange nettings to S-Lite Event Support:

S-Lite Event Support based in Singapore offers an excellent safety barrier wall product to suit your needs. We supply crowd control barricades products and traffic barriers as well as safety barrier products. 

I didn't realize that (note the guy was slinging a DSLR and I thought he was covering the event) until I saw them actually doing it before the gates opened at 2pm. In other words, the government outsourced this "bangala" job when we thought the police or SAF would be the ones doing the "saikang". While frugality is good, creating more jobs and companies like S-Lite to improve employment statistics is better.

S-Lite Event Support
Pavement outside Parliament House, S-Lite personnel on the ready for the elbow grease later.

Traffic Conditions
Left: S-Lite personnel waiting for their next "saikang": to setup the barricades that would block Parliament House driveway from pavement where we folks were standing.
Middle: A traffic policeman stood guard at Elgin Bridge.
Right: Traffic diverted to Coleman St. from North Bridge Rd.

A small crowd had gathered under High Street Centre and along the pavement outside Parliament House. We waited under the sweltering sun but under the cool of the shade. A couple exited the gate, one of them a photographer. More "police" outside the compound now. The clock ticked, our heart beat. Everybody, including the police, was waiting for the gate to open.

When the gate finally opened, it was without much fanfare. No bugle call, no music. I guess everybody held their breath and you could really hear a pin drop. I must had been too busy trying to spot the casket to have noticed the firing away - click click - from our cameras or the disappearance of traffic.

When it finally came out, I was a little disappointed .... and bewildered. They had this land rover tow a small cart which in turn towed the hearse. I understand the whole setup is a dignified one but emotionally I just cannot agree. It looks funny. A marvel of engineering, the casket was perched precariously on the last two-wheeled unit and we worry for its safety when the vehicle went over the hump.

Next was a truckload of soldiers in No.1 ceremonial uniform. Two trucks and the folks looked solemn. Under the blazing sun their white uniform shone; they certainly looked dignified but not their transport.

State Funeral Procession
Left: The State Vehicular Funeral Procession out from Parliament House.
Middle: The casket on Artillery Gun Carriage towed by a ceremonial Land Rover connected to a limber.
Right: The military escorts for the Gun Carriage and the bereaved family vehicles.

I just witnessed the State Vehicular Funeral Procession preceding the State Funeral Service. According to the organizing committee in their press statement:

As part of the SVFP, the casket will be carried on an Artillery Gun Carriage towed by a ceremonial Land Rover connected to a limber. The limber is a two-wheeled cart used to transport artillery ammunition in the past. The Gun Carriage consists of a 25-pound Gun mounted with a tempered glass case for the casket.

Traditionally, the Gun Carriage was used to carry the casket to burial grounds as part of British military tradition. It has since been accepted as a dignified way to transport the casket for state and military funerals. 32 Gunners from 21st Battalion Singapore Artillery in ceremonial unimogs (military trucks) will form the military escorts for the Gun Carriage and the bereaved family vehicles.

The moment everybody waited for was over as soon as it began. We saw our state flag draped over the casket. We gave him a people's farewell, everyone of us, the man in the street.

The Crowd - Before, During and After
Left: The crowd gathering under High Street Centre before the procession.
Middle: The crowd just before the procession, ready for the moment.
Right: A pragmatic lot, the crowd disappeared after the procession.


Anonymous said...

After seeing the documentary they'd been showing on Channel 5 recently, I'm somehow under the impression that Dr Goh would have preferred SAF/SPF to do the "saikang".

Though I wonder too how he felt about how SAF is now outsourcing things that our parents' generation used to do, such as to SFI/FoodFare or Explomo.