Singapore cannot count on being "lucky enough" to avoid problems that may come its way, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.
While Singapore has enjoyed 50 years of peace, nobody can be sure there will be no tensions and conflict in Asia, he said last night at a dinner to mark the 50th anniversary of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). Singaporeans "must be ready to defend ourselves if problems come our way", he said, adding that there is a need for a strong SAF which expects full commitment from all its servicemen.
These include citizen soldiers who are willing to serve the nation, as well as career soldiers who take pride in their uniform.
Since Singapore became independent in 1965, the Republic's ability and resolve to defend itself were "never in doubt", said Mr Lee, thanks to the pioneer soldiers, regulars and operationally-ready national servicemen.
At the dinner, Mr Lee thanked members of the public for supporting national service and parents who have "sent their sons and daughters to serve the nation". He also paid tribute to the pioneer soldiers, saying "their values of courage and self-sacrifice, of service to the nation, must be handed down from generation to generation".
About 1,000 guests attended the dinner at Pasir Laba Camp, including Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, Second Minister for Defence Lui Tuck Yew, as well as past defence chiefs like Mr Desmond Kuek.
They also included 230 pioneers, such as retired navy officer William Wee, who patrolled Singapore's coastline during Konfrontasi, the period of hostilities with Indonesia in the 1960s.
The dinner venue was significant as it was the original site where SAF trained its first leaders, noted Mr Lee, who served in the SAF for 13 years and was a brigadier-general before he joined politics.
Last night, Mr Lee also launched a book, Giving Strength To Our Nation: The SAF And Its People, to mark the SAF's Golden Jubilee.
Chief of Defence Force Ng Chee Meng told reporters that the drive and commitment of SAF servicemen originated not just from a desire to succeed. He said it was also about a sense of duty to the country and to Singaporeans, to ensure that each generation of Singaporeans can chase their dreams in a peaceful environment.