Strong defence budget key to S'pore's survival

In his letter of Jan 29 ("Open debate needed on defence policy"), Dr Paul Tambyah criticised my call in Parliament for strong defence and Home Team budgets.

Dr Tambyah reiterated proposals to cut the defence spending by more than 40 per cent, which was put forward by the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) in 2012 and during the 2015 General Election.

In my view, to propose such a 40 per cent reduction is at total odds with the capricious regional environment Singapore finds itself in today. Several fellow Singaporeans also voiced their disagreement with Dr Tambyah's views ("Don't underestimate need for strong military" by Mr Adrian Villanueva, Jan 30; and "S'pore must be like a porcupine" by Mr Patrick Tan Siong Kuan, Feb 2).

In a subsequent letter, Dr Tambyah questioned how arming our armed forces will help in the fight against terrorism ("Strong defence needed, but not excessive spending"; Feb 6).

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is a key pillar of our nation's anti-terrorism effort, alongside the Home Team and the Internal Security Department.

  • In 1991, when SQ117 was hijacked, it was the SAF Commandos who stormed the aircraft, eliminating all terrorists on board. Not one civilian life was lost.
  • The Sept 11, 2001 attacks revealed how commercial aircraft could be hijacked as weapons. The SAF can respond to a similar episode, if it ever occurs in Singapore.
  • The Mumbai attacks in 2008 showed us how terrorists can also launch their attacks from the sea. Innocent civilians were killed, including a Singaporean. In Singapore, we need the coordinated efforts of our Navy, Police Coast Guard and other maritime agencies to deter such attacks.

Dr Tambyah also missed one crucial point I made during my speech in Parliament - that we must never take our sovereignty for granted. We must have the military wherewithal and alliances to stave off threats to our sovereignty, quite apart from terrorist attacks.

Can a strong SAF and Home Team guarantee that we will never have a terrorist attack here in Singapore?

No country and no institution can guarantee that. But we can give Singapore the optimum chance to deter attacks or reduce the loss of life, with the best available equipment and infrastructure to augment our determined security forces.

The steady defence spending over the years has built up the SAF into one of the most respected and professional militaries in this region. A strong SAF that is able to protect Singapore gives the added assurance that Singapore's sovereignty, independence and security will be guarded, even when others seek to do us harm.

I do not agree with Dr Tambyah or the SDP's proposal to reduce defence spending by 40 per cent, and will continue to call for budgets to build strong security forces to protect Singapore and its sovereignty.

Christopher de Souza

MP for Holland-Bukit Timah GRC

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 29, 2016, with the headline 'Strong defence budget key to S'pore's survival'. Print Edition | Subscribe