Channel NewsAsia

Collective spirit, unity is Singapore’s defence strategy: Defence Minister

Singapore will always be vulnerable but the collective spirit and unity of citizens is the country's defence strategy, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at the Total Defence Day commemoration at the National Museum on Saturday. 

SINGAPORE: Singapore will always be vulnerable but the collective spirit and unity of citizens is the country's defence strategy, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at the Total Defence Day commemoration at the National Museum on Saturday.

In his speech, Dr Ng recounted stories of Singaporeans who were survivors of the Japanese Occupation during World War II, victims of Konfrontasi in the 1960s and their families, and those who have contributed to the military efforts against Konfrontasi.

Dr Ng said the life stories of those who have been through war times serve as reminders of the heavy price to pay, should Singapore's defences fail.

Singapore fell to the Japanese during World War II more than seven decades ago on February 15, 1942.

Mr L M Mani was only 10 years old then, but horrors of the war are still vivid in his mind.

He said: "When the thing (cannon shell) exploded, suddenly I felt pain around my knees and ankles. There was blood streaming (out). Everyone was screaming and shouting."

He said he realised his sister's head was bleeding, and added: "It was a very shocking situation."

Those experiences shaped his views on life, and later on, Mr Mani became a volunteer against Indonesia's Konfrontasi.

For a survivor of the MacDonald House bombing, Mr Zainal Kassim, it was a blessing not to remember the details of the bombing.

He said: "I was inside the lift. As the lift closed, the explosion occurred. After the explosion, I do not know what happened.

“Then I realised that I was lying in hospital when I came to, with my siblings and parents around me. I started asking them what had happened to me. And they told me: ‘You are a bomb victim of the MacDonald House.’”

On the importance of Total Defence, Mr Ng said: "I don't know whether we can continue to keep up the interest in Total Defence. But it is a very serious message and I believe that as a small country, we are always vulnerable. That will not change.

"If we can tell our younger generation that, (and) if we can convince them that in order to be secure, you must be strong, you must be united, you must be a cohesive society that is able to defend their ways of life, then I believe our children's generation will be secure.”

Dr Ng said the media also plays an important role in helping Singaporeans, especially younger Singaporeans, remember the past.

"Some of you may have caught or would be catching Channel NewsAsia’s documentary called “Days of Rage”. It is a good documentary. It helps us understand our past, the values and principles that shaped our current nation.

“And there is an episode on Confrontation to be aired this Sunday evening. I have watched it, snippets of it, and I recommend it to everyone. It is well worth watching."

Dr Ng also launched a book commemorating the 30th anniversary of Total Defence in Singapore.

Titled "Because You Played A Part", it features the stories of some 30 ordinary Singaporeans who have contributed to Total Defence.

The Singapore Armed Forces will also be commemorating the occasion with a wreath-laying ceremony and Weapons Presentation Parade for the recruits of Third Battalion Singapore Guards at the War Memorial Park.

Meanwhile, civilian victims of the Japanese Occupation were also remembered at a memorial service on Saturday.

The service at the War Memorial Park is held on February 15 every year.

It is a solemn reminder that peace should not be taken for granted.

More than 800 students and families of the victims attended the service, along with Acting Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong.

Others who attended the event included representatives from the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Malay Peninsula Peace Cycle troupe from Japan, diplomatic corps, religious organisations, business and clan associations, uniformed groups and veteran leagues.

Channel NewsAsia's documentary "Days of Rage: Konfrontasi" will be telecast on Channel NewsAsia on February 16 at 8pm; Suria on February 20 at 10.30pm; Vasantham on February 23 at 9pm; and Channel 8 on February 23 at 10.30pm. 

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