SINGAPORE - A national award that honours employers who support National Service has been revamped, in a nod to small businesses, community organisations and individuals who have gone the extra mile to support the efforts of Singapore's citizen soldiers.
Besides paying tribute to company bosses, the new-look Total Defence Awards could also be given to a school principal who ensures male teachers attend their in-camp training, or a spouse who urges her husband to do more and take on heavier responsibilities in his NS unit.
For the first time, the Total Defence Awards, which were first introduced in 1986, will be handed out by the Defence and Home Affairs ministries in one combined ceremony. Previously, separate award ceremonies were held.
The revamp of the awards are a result of proposals by the Committee to Strengthen National Service and the Advisory Council for Community Relations in Defence (Accord) to get more buy-in for defence and NS.
This year, 10 individuals were honoured for their support for the rite of passage, which was introduced in 1967. They are among 122 small-and-medium-sized firms, large companies and organisations who received the NS Advocate Award on Friday night, for their support for national service and helping the Singapore Armed Forces and Home Team maintain a high level of operational readiness.
Second Defence Minister Lui Tuck Yew, who handed out the awards at a gala dinner held at the Marina Mandarin hotel, said it is critical to get the strong backing of the entire population for NS.
"Also, the concept of Total Defence counts on us being united as one people, resilient and willing to take difficult, but necessary, measures to overcome adversity and threats," he said.
Mr Rupert Gwee, who heads the MHA NS Affairs Directorate and Human Resource Transformation Office, described the revamp as a "paradigm shift" in the way companies and individuals show their support for NS so more will do so and it becomes "second nature".
"And if you are not supporting, people will ask what's wrong with you," said Mr Gwee.
On why there is a need to also recognise individuals, Mindef's National Service Affairs director Tung Yui Fai said that while most organisations already back NS, it is the "immediate person who is dealing with our NSmen (that) plays a very important role in shaping the (kind of) support he gets".