While a strong Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is important in upholding the country's sovereignty, it is also crucial that military leaders cultivate a robust safety culture, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said yesterday.
Speaking at Safti Military Institute, where she reviewed an officer cadet commissioning parade, Ms Fu said: "We live in a world that is volatile, uncertain and filled with political and economic instability...
"As recent events pertaining to territorial disputes have shown, and as we are reminded time and again, without a strong SAF we run the risk of being trampled upon and brushed aside.
"The strength of the SAF has allowed us to protect our sovereignty, shape our own future and steer a steady course, in a world where the interests of many powers converge and diverge at the same time."
Singapore and Malaysia have had recent disputes over airspace, maritime boundaries and the 1962 Water Agreement.
Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan met his Malaysian counterpart Saifuddin Abdullah last week and they agreed to suspend overlapping claims in Singapore's territorial waters off Tuas.
The two countries are also in disagreement over Singapore's introduction of new landing procedures at Seletar Airport and Malaysia's subsequent decision to declare a restricted zone over Pasir Gudang for the purpose of military activities.
Ms Fu, who was addressing 220 newly commissioned officers from the army, navy and air force, lauded the role of national service as the "basic building block" of the SAF.
She said: "As leaders, you will be responsible for the men and women under your command. It will be your duty... to ensure that the men and women under your charge train well and safely.
"Training safety is crucial in securing the confidence and support of our people towards NS.
"As the SAF strengthens training standards, you will be expected to lead by example and drive a culture of safety on the ground."
Actor and operationally ready national serviceman Aloysius Pang had sustained serious injuries during an overseas military exercise in January. His death triggered an outpouring of grief and outrage from members of the public and was the fourth training-related death since September 2017.
The SAF rolled out measures to improve safety after Corporal First Class (NS) Pang's death, including an unprecedented move to lower the training tempo across all services.
Newly commissioned Lieutenant Victoria Liang Quanyuan, 25, is looking forward to the next phase of her career in the SAF.
She had studied engineering at university and previously freelanced as a DJ and food blogger.
She said: "I want to play a part in the defence of Singapore."
A dream come true for top-performing officer
At his heaviest during Basic Military Training in 2017, Hamaran Muthayya weighed 96kg and struggled to keep up.
But quitting on his dream to become a Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officer was never an option, and as he shed the kilograms from his 1.79m-tall frame, he gained confidence.
He eventually earned a spot at Officer Cadet School (OCS). After 38 weeks, he not only emerged as Second-Lieutenant Hamaran at yesterday's commissioning parade at Safti Military Institute, but also collected the Sword of Merit award for top-performing officers.
His ambition to become an officer is partly due to his parents.
"No one had gone to OCS in my family before. Seeing as my parents are both in the military, they wanted to see someone step up to that," said 2LT Hamaran, 22, who has signed on as an army regular. He has an elder brother studying at university.
His father, Mr A. Muthayya, 67, is a retired warrant officer in the navy and his mother Muthayya Neela, 60, is a defence executive officer in the air force.
2LT Hamaran recalled how his mother had gone to an officer commissioning parade more than five years ago, where she saw how proud the parents of the officers were. He is looking forward to a new phase of his SAF career when he trains to become a commando. He said: "I feel that our nation's defence is key to our existence and I'm glad I can contribute to that."