Speech by Mr Ng Chee Meng, Minister for Education (Schools) at the launch of the "Stronger Together" Exhibition

Published Date: 16 February 2017 12:00 AM

News Speeches

1.Good morning. I am delighted to be at the Singapore Discovery Centre (SDC) today to commemorate Total Defence Day with all of you. For the past two decades, the SDC has shown us the importance of Total Defence through its interactive and engaging exhibitions. I would also like to take this chance to congratulate SDC on their 20th anniversary.

2.This year marks the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore, an event unimaginable to many of our forefathers at that point in time. Many had thought that Singapore was an impregnable fortress but what followed was the brutal occupation of Singapore by the Japanese for more than three years.

3.While younger generations of Singaporeans – like myself – did not experience the Occupation personally, my late mother often shared with me the hardships of war, which she remembered vividly:

  • My grandfather had to hide in a cupboard during a Sook Ching raid, as many men were executed during the war. Many others were forcefully separated from their families, as they were arrested by the Japanese then.
  • Most meals were made up of tapioca. Even eating an egg was a luxury.
  • My mother also lamented that she missed the chance of getting formal education. She had to support her family and started working at a young age as a seamstress.

4.Many also lost what mattered most to them – their loved ones, peace, security, and opportunities. This is why Total Defence matters.

Importance of Total Defence

5.Stories, like the one I just told you, make me realise just how important Total Defence is, and why we must be ever ready to defend our country and our home.

6.Singapore is safe today, but we cannot take peace for granted. We face different challenges today in a rapidly-changing and globalised environment. You would have read media reports on terrorism and the new threats we face. If we are ill-prepared, we will be vulnerable. This is why the concept of Total Defence remains relevant for all of us today.

Everyone has a part to play

7.There are many ways for all of us to play a part in Total Defence and contribute to a stronger Singapore. We must:

  • Remain vigilant in our daily activities;
  • Make conscious efforts to build relationships with our neighbours regardless of their race, religion or background;
  • Pick up vital skills in preparation for an emergency, so that we can help others and ourselves in times of crisis.

8.Our collective effort in Total Defence will anchor us firmly against any threats.

9.To this end, SGSecure was launched in 2016 as a national movement to rally everyone together, to be united as a community and help safeguard Singapore from threats of any kind. I am pleased to share that as part of SGSecure’s “Keep Singapore Safe” programme, two of our Uniformed Groups – the National Civil Defence Cadet Corps (NCDCC) and the National Police Cadet Corps (NPCC) – have worked together to engage our schools.

10.For instance, to raise students’ awareness on the need to be vigilant, cohesive, and resilient, the NCDCC cadets from Hong Kah Secondary launched an Instagram competition. Students uploaded photos with captions on the theme of “Staying United”, which is one of SGSecure’s key messages.

  • One of the photos I saw featured students from NPCC, Boys’ Brigade, and NCC. The caption was “Unity is important because we need to stay together in the good or bad times.”
  • Indeed, with unity, we can do so much for Singapore.

11.To raise students’ awareness on the need to keep Singapore safe, NCDCC cadets from Presbyterian High School encouraged fellow students to pen their thoughts on “Vigilance, Cohesion and Resilience” on a reflection wall in their school. From their reflections, I saw our students’ commitment to Singapore. These students said that they “want Singapore to be vigilant”, with “people working together in unity”, and “living in peace and harmony”.

12,All these are good initiatives for students to recognize and remember the importance of Staying Alert, Staying United as one people, and Staying Strong against the threats we face today.

13.SDC has been very supportive of our schools’ efforts in Total Defence. They are now training our Uniformed Groups teachers-in-charge, so that the teachers can guide students in the design and execution of more SGSecure-related projects.

Commemoration of Total Defence Day 2017

14.SDC, MOE, and MHA have also collaborated on a set of “SG Unite!” cards, which aims to bring across the message of resilience to students through an engaging card game. Through games, we hope to raise students’ awareness that they, too, can play a role in the defence and security of Singapore. These cards will be distributed to all our Primary 6 students this year.

15.Our secondary school students in the Uniformed Groups will also receive a set of Total Defence strategy card game this year. Called “Guardians of the City”, this game was developed by Nexus, following public suggestions from the SGfuture engagement sessions held last year. Through the game, our students can understand Total Defence better, learn about the threats we are facing, and how we can come together to keep Singapore safe and secure in a fun and interactive way.

16.Building on its past efforts, SDC will also launch a new exhibition today, in commemoration of Total Defence Day 2017. This exhibition is aptly entitled “Stronger Together”. To guard against the various threats that we face today, we have to come together to protect our way of life. As an individual, we can only do so much; Together, we can all achieve more.

17.Thank you.

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