Total Defence exhibition launched to showcase Japanese Occupation hardships

Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng playing a round of SG Unite! with Primary 6 students from St Hilda's Primary School.
Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng playing a round of SG Unite! with Primary 6 students from St Hilda's Primary School.PHOTO: SINGAPORE DISCOVERY CENTRE

SINGAPORE - An exhibition showcasing the hardships suffered by people in Singapore during World War II, as well as the threats that the Republic currently faces, was launched at the Singapore Discovery Centre (SDC) on Thursday (Feb 16) to commemorate Total Defence Day.

Education Minister (Schools) Ng Chee Meng kicked off the Stronger Together exhibition launch with a speech to some 500 students from four primary and secondary schools and Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East, sharing his family's ordeal during the Japanese Occupation.

"The fall of Singapore was an unimaginable event back in 1942, when Singapore was a jewel of the British empire in the far east, and perceived to be an impenetrable fortress."

But this idea was quickly shattered when the Japanese invaded Singapore in a brutal occupation that lasted 3½ years, he said.

"My grandfather had to hide in the cupboard during the Japanese occupation because they'd heard that men were taken away to beaches and executed," Mr Ng said, referring to the Sook Ching operation.

Meals consisted mainly of tapioca, as rice and meat were unavailable. The war also robbed his mother of the opportunity for an education, which had a lifelong impact, he said.

Stressing the importance of defence, Mr Ng said Singapore's security cannot be taken for granted, particularly in today's fast-changing world.

"Great powers, great relations are now in flux. You see the media reports on terrorism and new threats we face. If we are not prepared or ill-prepared, we will again be vulnerable. That is why the Total Defence concept remains relevant for us today and in the future," said the former defence and air force chief.

As part of SGSecure's "Keep Singapore Safe" programme, two uniformed groups - the National Civil Defence Cadet Corps and the National Police Cadet Corps - have worked together to engage schools in raising students' awareness on the need to be vigilant, cohesive and resilient, said Mr Ng.

The SDC is now training teachers-in-charge of uniformed groups in designing and executing more SGSecure-related projects, he added.

In further efforts to engage students, decks of "SG Unite!", a strategy card game developed by the SDC and Ministry of Education, will be distributed to all Primary 6 students this year and included in social studies classes.

Mr Ng played a round of the card game with students from St Hilda's Primary School and answered questions from secondary school students during the launch event, apart from touring the exhibition.

Another card game called Guardians of the City, developed by Nexus, the Ministry of Defence department responsible for Total Defence and National Education, will be distributed to secondary school students in uniformed groups this year.

The Stronger Together exhibition will run until March 19, and is free for Singaporeans and Permanent Residents.