Boosting social bonds 'vital part of Total Defence'

The Kampung Makan group gets residents in a Sembawang neighbourhood to eat together along their corridors every month.
The Kampung Makan group gets residents in a Sembawang neighbourhood to eat together along their corridors every month. PHOTO: COURTESY OF SYED AGIL

From capturing acts of kindness to sharing meals with neighbours, some people here are inspiring fellow Singaporeans to make a difference in the country's defence.

The Hidden Good, for instance, is a group that has been filming the kind deeds of Singaporeans for the past three years, with the aim of making the Republic a happier and more positive place to live in.

Group director Wu Jiezhen said: "We want to shed light on the fact that Singaporeans are not as cold or apathetic as people make us out to be or we make each other out to be."

Such acts illustrate the social and psychological aspects of Total Defence. They are among the five pillars of Total Defence. The other three components are military, civil and economic.

Former civil service head Lim Siong Guan, one of the men behind the concept of Total Defence, has singled out psychological defence as its most important component.

His comments came ahead of Total Defence Day, which falls today, to remember the day in 1942 when Singapore fell to the Japanese.

Mr Vikram Nair, chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs, said strengthening bonds and relationships between Singaporeans is also important in keeping the country safe.

"Social defence is particularly important now as non-state actors such as terrorists try to subvert our citizens. If social defence is strong, community members can reach out to these people or alert the authorities if necessary," he said.

Key to this are strong ties among neighbours, noted Mr Syed Agil, who set up the Kampung Makan group in 2014 to get residents in a Sembawang neighbourhood to eat together along their corridors every month.

His efforts are paying off as everyone is now "family" and looks out for each other by regularly updating their WhatsApp group about neighbourhood developments such as a fire or bicycle theft.

"I've managed to learn more about our differences in culture and religion and have developed a greater appreciation of these differences" said Mr Syed Agil.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2016, with the headline 'Boosting social bonds 'vital part of Total Defence''. Print Edition | Subscribe