SINGAPORE (APP) – Singapore will mark 50 years since independence on Sunday with nationwide celebrations including a huge military parade and firework display that will also pay tribute to former founding leader Lee Kuan Yew.

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Some 250,000 spectators are expected to take part in the festivities from 6:00 pm (1000 GMT) — among the largest in the city state’s history — which will include some 2,000 marchers, 50 military aircraft and 177 tanks and other security hardware.

The procession, which will be capped by a fireworks display, is the high point of a jubilee year largely choreographed and funded by the government, which is expected to call for general elections soon to extend its rule against a divided opposition.

Singapore became a republic on August 9, 1965, when it was ejected from the Malaysian federation following a stormy two-year union.

The celebrations kicked off Sunday morning when sirens blared at 9:00 am (0100 GMT) before national TV and radio stations broadcast a 2012 recording of Lee Kuan Yew rereading the original declaration of independence.

“At 50 years, as we stand at a high base camp, we look back and marvel at how how far we have come,” Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a televised message.