SAF must be prepared for all eventualities amid superpower rivalry, war in Europe: Ng Eng Hen

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen (fourth from right) reciting the SAF Pledge at Temasek Polytechnic on July 1, 2022. PHOTO: MINDEF

SINGAPORE - The world is at a dangerous point in history – its most uncertain since World War II – and the Singapore Armed Forces must be prepared for all eventualities, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Friday (July 1).

The peace dividends from the end of World War II and of the Cold War have all but dried up, he said in his SAF Day message. Europe is divided and in Asia, the relationship between the United States and China is at its worst in decades.

“Clear lines have been drawn in the sand by both sides, along with a commitment to fight to defend those positions,” said Dr Ng.

“Right now, it is warnings or rhetorical barbs, but there is always that danger in an unhealthy relationship that physical blows may come about, whether by accident or intentionally,” he added.

The minister was speaking at Temasek Polytechnic to operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) and their employers at one of four rededication ceremonies held islandwide to mark SAF Day, which pays tribute to servicemen and women in uniform.

“Singapore, at the crossroads of Asia, a maritime and air hub with thousands of multinational companies... headquartered here, is the canary in the mine of the global economy,” he said.

“We are acutely vulnerable to events even far away, and cannot escape being impacted. The world at large is at a dangerous point of history, and the SAF must be prepared for all eventualities,” he added.

Dr Ng noted that Europe’s hopes of integration with Russia are dashed, and as the war in Ukraine continues, its impact will be felt worldwide, including in the sharp rise in prices of staples, fuel and energy.

This may lead to political uncertainty in many countries, if their people become hungry or dissatisfied, or if these countries become mired in debt.

In these uncertain times, Singaporeans look to the SAF to provide stability and protection, he said. 

“The SAF will give succour,” he added. “We have trained hard for many years to become a modern and capable military. Whether for the army, navy, air force and soon the Digital and Intelligence Service, capabilities have been systematically built up so that we can stand ready and be able to defend all of Singapore’s borders – on air, land, sea and in cyberspace.”

Singapore is also marking 55 years of national service (NS) this year, with more than one million men, past and present, having gone through the rite of passage since 1967. 

“We take pride that NSmen are the backbone of national defence – ordinary citizens each performing an extraordinary role to defend those they love and our way of life in our home,” said Dr Ng.

Three other SAF Day ceremonies were held – at the Procter and Gamble Singapore Innovation Centre at Biopolis, the Trade Association Hub in Jurong and Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre, attended by Sustainability and the Environment Minister Grace Fu, Manpower Minister Tan See Leng and Social and Family Development Minister Masagos Zulkifli respectively. 

Nearly 290 NSmen from over 300 companies recited the SAF pledge to reaffirm their loyalty to the country and their commitment to defend it.

At the Trade Association Hub, Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCCI) president Kho Choon Keng said the business community will continue to back NS by encouraging employers to support their employees’ in-camp training.

SCCCI believes “you must have a country to have a home”, he said. 

Citing the fallout from the Russia-Ukraine war, he added: “Staying resilient is the only way to safeguard our health and safety, possessions, dignity and economy.”
President Halimah Yacob also officiated at a parade at the Safti Military Institute, the first full-scale one since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Additional reporting by Clement Yong

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