5 pillars of Total Defence

NS 'taught us to work for one another, whatever our differences'

Comedian and actor Suhaimi Yusof, 47, said that the time he spent in the army taught him to forge relationships with people from different backgrounds.
Comedian and actor Suhaimi Yusof, 47, said that the time he spent in the army taught him to forge relationships with people from different backgrounds.PHOTO: COURTESY OF SUHAIMI YUSOF

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.

Actor and comedian Suhaimi Yusof admits that when people look at him now, they may not think that he served national service.

But his experiences in the army are something that he treasures deeply.

They helped to shape the man he is now, the 47-year-old said.

The lessons he learnt went beyond learning how to defend himself and the country.

They also taught him how to forge relationships with people from different backgrounds. Race and religion were never barriers.

"As a platoon, everyone received the same punishment, for instance. This taught us to work for one another, whatever our differences," he told Berita Harian.

This camaraderie can be seen in society as well.

"Sometimes, we take for granted the good relationship there is between different segments of society. But we have to realise that it is our responsibility to protect and strengthen this harmony."

He explained that the main way for him to get others to connect is through comedy. "It breaks down walls between people."

Adrian Lim

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 15, 2017, with the headline 'NS 'taught us to work for one another, whatever our differences''. Print Edition | Subscribe