SINGAPORE - As the year of celebrations marking 50 years of national service comes to an end, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said he was encouraged by the ground-up response, and re-emphasised the need for Singapore to be defended by ordinary Singaporeans.
Reflecting on NS50, Dr Ng said: "I thought NS50 went very well, looking back at the whole year... I particularly like NS50 because there was a lot of ground-up response, whether it's this show (Ah Boys To Men 4), or employers stepping up to say: 'I want to be part of your NS50 vouchers scheme'."
Dr Ng, who is Member of Parliament for Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC, was speaking to the media after giving out awards at the Toa Payoh Central annual Polytechnic and High Nitec Edusave Awards, and CDC-CCC Bursary Awards Presentation Ceremony on Sunday (Dec 3).
A total of 69 awards were presented at the ceremony at Shaw Theatres - Lido Cineplex, with prize recipients and their families later treated to a screening of the movie 'Ah Boys To Men 4', the first time the constituency has held the award ceremony in a movie theatre.
The Defence Minister added that the NS50 celebrations this year marked the right tone, as Singaporeans themselves recognised the importance of being committed to national service.
"Because ultimately, without national service, we can't have an SAF (Singapore Armed Forces)."
Dr Ng added: "The fact that you have a terrorism threat and you have other security challenges, these drove home the point that Singapore needs to be defended by ordinary Singaporeans who do their national service, as well as under Total Defence, with employers and families."
The ceremony also saw Edusave awards being given to polytechnic students, with 35 of them receiving the awards on Sunday.
One of the prize winners, full-time national serviceman and Temasek Polytechnic graduate Zulhafiz Zulkifli, 21, said it was a privilege to receive the Edusave award.
Mr Zulhafiz has been living in a one-room rental flat with his mother and two younger brothers for the past five years after his parents separated when he was in Secondary 3.
"I hope this award is the first step to getting more awards and scholarships in the future," said Mr Zulhafiz, who hopes to become an officer in the military.
The film's director, Jack Neo, and members of the cast were also present to interact with the film-goers.
Jack Neo, who also spoke with the media, acknowledged criticism of the show for having too much product placement.
"I know that a lot of people may not like (product placement), but I've got no choice - either I do it or I don't do it, because I've got not enough money," he said.