Chan Chun Sing urges Singaporeans to close ranks to help one another

Total Defence lessons crucial amid outbreak, he says, stressing that all have to play a part

Basic Military Training Centre recruits receiving their SAR-21 rifles from their officers during the Total Defence Day Commemoration Event yesterday at The Float @ Marina Bay.
Basic Military Training Centre recruits receiving their SAR-21 rifles from their officers during the Total Defence Day Commemoration Event yesterday at The Float @ Marina Bay.ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN
Basic Military Training Centre recruits receiving their SAR-21 rifles from their officers during the Total Defence Day Commemoration Event yesterday at The Float @ Marina Bay.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing chatting with Ms Samantha Alexa Teng (right), the winner of the Total Defence Logo Design Competition 2020. Beside him is Colonel Jerica Goh, director of Nexus, the Ministry of Defence’s central agency for National Education and Total Defence.ST PHOTOS: ALPHONSUS CHERN

The lessons of Total Defence are even more important today amid the coronavirus outbreak, said Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing yesterday.

Speaking at a Total Defence Day event at The Float @ Marina Bay, he said: "Our strongest defence as a nation is collective defence, when each and every one of us plays a part.

"With the ongoing outbreak of Covid-19, we have been put to the test in the past few weeks. We have done reasonably well thus far against an unknown enemy, but we certainly have room to improve and we must not be complacent."

Total Defence Day marks the day that Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942 during World War II and is commemorated annually to remind Singaporeans that they play a critical role in defending their country.

The six pillars of Total Defence are military, civil, economic, social, psychological and digital defence, with the last one added last year.

Mr Chan stressed that Singaporeans need to put digital defence into action. A few photos and videos shared repeatedly online could trigger panic buying and long queues at supermarkets, as happened last week after the disease outbreak response level was raised from yellow to orange, he said.

This is why there is both an individual and collective responsibility to verify sources of information, and counter falsehoods and rumours, he added.

In terms of economic defence, Singapore's supply chains and national stockpile have been tested in the last two weeks, but the Republic "did not do too badly".

This was thanks to long-term strategies of stockpiling, local production, as well as diversification of supply sources and working with trusted overseas partners.

He added: "Our economic resilience will continue to be tested in the coming months by the disruptions to our supply chains and markets. We must rise to the occasion to allow our enterprise to continue to flourish and our workers to keep their jobs and earn their livelihoods."

Mr Chan praised the civil defence efforts of front-line workers in healthcare and the Home Team, as well as those helping with the islandwide mask distribution, doing contact tracing and manning helplines.

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing chatting with Ms Samantha Alexa Teng (right), the winner of the Total Defence Logo Design Competition 2020 (below). Beside him is Colonel Jerica Goh, director of Nexus, the Ministry of Defence's central
The winning logo of the Total Defence Logo Design Competition 2020 by Samantha Alexa Teng Si Min.

As for social defence, he highlighted community-led initiatives by the likes of Youth Corps Singapore volunteers and faith organisations to deliver care packs to front-line workers.

He called upon Singaporeans to "close ranks to help one another", not ostracise medical workers, Cisco officers and front-line staff, or foreigners in Singapore.

Yesterday, leaders like Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin called on Singaporeans to come forward and donate blood, as Singapore's blood stocks are running low.

The Singapore Red Cross said on Friday that stocks for all eight blood types are either low or critical.

Mr Chan said the past weeks have seen the best of many Singaporeans, but also "the worst of a few". "It is our job to make sure that those who have done well, those who are strong, continue to reach out to those who are weak and help everyone to overcome this (outbreak) collectively."

 
 
 

The Total Defence Day Commemoration Event, which is organised annually by the Ministry of Defence, included a weapons presentation ceremony for 296 recruits from the Basic Military Training Centre, who received their SAR-21 rifles on the Marina Bay floating platform.

Mr Chan said the site, which will be demolished in the future to build the new NS Square, is significant to Singapore's wartime past.

During the Japanese Occupation, thousands of civilians and prisoners of war were forced to march from the city centre near Nicoll Highway to Changi Beach, most of them to their deaths.

Today, national service recruits graduating from Basic Military Training embark on a reverse march from Changi to the platform, a "reminder of the painful journey that our forefathers took", said Mr Chan.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 16, 2020, with the headline 'Chan urges S'poreans to close ranks to help one another'. Subscribe