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Singapore is celebrating 50 years since it became an independent state with nationwide events.

Tens of thousands of people are expected on August 9 to attend an outdoor parade, complete with flybys by the air force and a Singapore Airlines A380 airliner.

People are also being asked to join together in reciting the national pledge and singing the national anthem.

Singapore became an independent state when it was ejected from the Federation of Malaya amid social unrest.

In 50 years, the former British colony has transformed itself into one of the world’s wealthiest countries.

However, its critics say the rapid development has been accompanied by a strict control on free speech and politics.

The city state celebrates its independence day in style every year, but this year’s SG50 events are being billed as Singapore’s biggest ever celebration, with months of build-up in shops, schools, work places and in the media.

Singapore has declared a four-day weekend for the anniversary.Singapore 50th anniversary

There were long queues at the crossing points into Malaysia on Thursday and Friday evenings, as thousands of Singaporeans chose to go away for the weekend.

This year’s parade includes a special tribute to Lee Kuan Yew, who led Singapore into independence and was its prime minister until 1990.

Lee Kuan Yew, a much-respected leader in Singapore, died in March this year, prompting public mourning.

A recording of Lee Kuan Yew reading the Proclamation of Independence was played on radio and TV at 09:00 local time.

Speaking on the eve of the celebrations, PM Lee Hsien Loong, Lee Kuan Yew’s son, said: “At 50 years, as we stand at a high base camp, we look back and marvel how far we have come. We are grateful to those who made it happen.”

Key figures attending Sunday’s celebrations include Malaysian PM Najib Razak and Australian Deputy PM Warren Truss.

Despite achieving such goals as 90% home ownership and per capita GDP above $56,000, critics continue to point to the strict political controls.

Singapore’s ruling People’s Action Party (PAP) has been in power for more than 50 years and the opposition hopes to make more inroads in elections that could be called in September.

The last election saw the PAP suffer its worst performance, though it still kept 80 of the 87 seats.

It will hope the boost of the anniversary and recognition of the legacy of Lee Kuan Yew will help it at the next election.

The National Day Parade usually features a military march past with fighter jet displays, large-scale performances by community groups, and a retelling of Singapore’s history. It ends with a massive firework display as the country recites the pledge and sings the national anthem.

In its early years, organizers used it to push social messages such as courtesy and diligence.

These days it’s a more sophisticated, glitzier affair, held by the shiny skyscrapers of Singapore’s Marina Bay.

Though the propaganda still gets heavy, Singaporeans love it anyway for its pomp and splendor. Tickets for the parade and its rehearsals run out every year.