5 pillars of Total Defence

Total Defence Day: Sing it, Singapore - There's A Part For Everyone

When he composed the Total Defence song in 1984, Mr Gerald Png, 58, was faced with the challenge of writing a piece which every citizen could relate to, regardless of their role in society.
Mr Png helped to write the Total Defence song, There's A Part For Everyone, which was released in 1984. He said he created the melody in under an hour.
Mr Png helped to write the Total Defence song, There's A Part For Everyone, which was released in 1984. He said he created the melody in under an hour.ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

The Total Defence campaign was started in 1984 to remind Singaporeans of the roles they play - individually and collectively - in building a strong nation and guarding against threats. Every year, Total Defence Day is observed on Feb 15 - the day Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942, during World War II. The five pillars of Total Defence - military defence, civil defence, economic defence, social defence and psychaological defence - form an enduring framework which emphasises that everyone can make a difference. The Straits Times looks at how Singaporeans are playing their part in Total Defence.

As a young executive in the advertising firm engaged by the Defence Ministry for its nascent Total Defence media campaign, Mr Gerald Png helped write a song that has endured for more than three decades.

He recalls creating the melody for There's A Part For Everyone in under an hour. The song was released in 1984 with the launch of the Total Defence campaign.

But the comfort and peace enjoyed by Singaporeans in the mid-1980s made it a challenge relating the song even to himself.

"It is different from talking about tangible things such as military hardware. When it came to the psychological part of it (national defence), I had to think about the part I would want to play and how I could convince myself to play it," said Mr Png, 58, who now runs a restaurant-cum-social enterprise, Soul Food.

He emphasises that the song was part of a larger team effort from his company and its client. The tagline for the campaign inspired the song.

There was no immediate threat of any sort and Singapore was friendly with all its neighbours, he said, and the challenge was to write a song that would help Singaporeans see the part they played.

"There was a risk that it would become another government campaign," added Mr Png.

 

The intention was not to elicit "simple patriotism", but to send a message that national defence is not limited to the men in uniform.

The lyrics were intended to convey how Singapore had grown from a small fishing village, endured the Japanese Occupation and became a nation.

"The lyrics had to remain purposeful and meaningful across different age segments," Mr Png said, even as the song got across how there had been hardships faced by the country. A new arrangement was made of the song by local band QuickPick last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'Sing it, Singapore - There's A Part For Everyone'. Print Edition | Subscribe