Strong, capable SAF needed to safeguard Singapore's sovereignty: Ng Eng Hen

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen (third from right) at the annual SAF Day Combined Rededication Ceremony at Jurong Town Hall on July 2, 2018.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen (third from right) at the annual SAF Day Combined Rededication Ceremony at Jurong Town Hall on July 2, 2018.ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A strong and capable Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is needed to safeguard the country's sovereignty and way of life, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday (July 2).

Citing the SAF's successful contribution to last month's meeting between United States President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Dr Ng said that Singaporeans can take pride that the country's "steady investments over the years into building a defence capability have paid off".

As a result, Singaporeans are now generally confident that the SAF can be called on to defend Singapore and keep Singaporeans safe, said Dr Ng as he delivered the SAF Day message.

SAF Day, which calls on servicemen to reaffirm their loyalty and commitment to the defence of Singapore, is commemorated on July 1 every year.

"That confidence arises not only because of modern armaments and platforms but, most importantly, because SAF soldiers, mainly operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen), are ready and prepared to defend our peace and way of life," said Dr Ng at the annual SAF Day Combined Rededication Ceremony at Jurong Town Hall.

The ceremony, hosted by the Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry, was one of four held across the island on Monday. Each ceremony was officiated by a minister, and saw participants reaffirming their commitment to defending Singapore.

Minister for Education Ong Ye Kung was at a ceremony held in Temasek Polytechnic, while Minister for Manpower Josephine Teo was at a Suntec Singapore ceremony. Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee officiated a ceremony at the Singapore Institute of Technology in Dover.

A total of 983 NSmen from 407 companies attended the ceremonies.

Dr Ng said that the SAF's commitment to defend Singapore for more than 50 years was born of the realisation that Singaporeans had to defend the country themselves, following the Japanese occupation in the 1940s and Konfrontasi in the 1960s.

That commitment to defend Singapore was on full display during the recent Trump-Kim summit held on Sentosa, he said, adding that such "highly visible meetings could attract mischief and even mayhem, especially from terrorists".

"But the stout defence by the SAF and the Home Team deterred such actors. So even though the time and place of the summit were made known in advance to the world, no security threats surfaced," said Dr Ng, noting the protective dome around Sentosa that the SAF formed on the air, land and sea, with munitions loaded and ready to be fired.

Mr Simon Kuah, an executive director at Seng Choon Engineering, was one of the company representatives who observed the ceremony and pledged to support the country in its defence.

“This event shows that unity represents strength, and we gather to show a commitment to the defence of Singapore,” said the 65-year-old. 

Dr Ng also reminded SAF commanders that care for the well-being of soldiers should be their "paramount concern" during peacetime.

His comments come after the death of Corporal First Class Dave Lee in April. The incident led to the formation of an external review panel which found that the SAF could improve on the prevention of heat injuries and its response to them.

"Train your men well but do it safely," said Dr Ng on Monday. "Above all, never abuse your authority but earn their respect with your integrity and professionalism."