Total defence will help Singapore get through coronavirus outbreak: Chan Chun Sing

Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing speaking at a Total Defence Day event at The Float @ Marina Bay on Feb 15, 2020. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

SINGAPORE - The lessons of total defence are even more important today amid the coronavirus outbreak, said Minister for Trade and Industry, Mr Chan Chun Sing, on Saturday (Feb 15).

Speaking at a Total Defence Day event at The Float @ Marina Bay, he said: "Our strongest defence as a nation is collective defence, when each and every one of us plays a part.

"With the ongoing outbreak of Covid-19, we have been put to the test in the past few weeks. We have done reasonably well thus far against an unknown enemy, but we certainly have room to improve and we must not be complacent."

Total Defence Day marks the day that Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942 during World War II and is commemorated annually to remind Singaporeans that they themselves must defend their country.

The six pillars of total defence are military, civil, economic, social, psychological and digital defence, the last of which was added last year.

Mr Chan stressed that Singaporeans need to put digital defence into action. A few photos and videos shared repeatedly online could trigger panic buying and long queues at supermarkets, he noted, as happened last week after the disease outbreak response level was raised from yellow to orange.

"Falsehoods and rumours must be countered collectively," he said. "Discipline to verify sources of information is both an individual and collective responsibility.

"However, we must recognise the asymmetry in human psychology - bad news travels faster than good news. Fear overwhelms more easily than calmness. Because of this reason, we must all the more try harder together."

He said that in terms of economic defence, Singapore's supply chains and stockpile have been tested in the last two weeks, but that the Republic has not done too badly thanks to long-term strategies of stockpiling, complemented by local production, as well as diversification of supply sources and working with trusted overseas partners.

"But we can certainly improve," he added. "Our economic resilience will continue to be tested in the coming months by the disruptions to our supply chains and markets. We must rise to the occasion to allow our enterprise to continue to flourish and our workers to keep their jobs and earn their livelihoods."

He praised the civil defence efforts of front-line workers in healthcare and the Home Team, as well as those taking part in the islandwide mask distribution, contact tracing and manning of helplines.

As for social defence, he highlighted community-led initiatives by the likes of Youth Corps Singapore volunteers and faith organisations to deliver care packs to front-line workers.

He called upon Singaporeans to "close ranks to help one another", not ostracise medical workers, Cisco officers and front-line staff, as well as their foreign counterparts.

"In the past weeks, we have seen the best of many and the worst of a few," he said. "It is our job to make sure that those who have done well, those who are strong, continue to reach out to those who are weak and help everyone to overcome this collectively."

The event, which is organised annually by the Ministry of Defence, included a weapons presentation ceremony for 296 recruits from the Basic Military Training Centre, who received their SAR-21 rifles on the Marina Bay floating platform.

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Mr Chan noted that the site of the platform, which will be demolished in the future to build a new space, the NS Square, is significant to Singapore's wartime past.

During the Japanese Occupation, thousands of civilians and prisoners of war were forced to march from the city centre to Changi Beach, most of them to their deaths.

Today, national service recruits graduating from Basic Military Training embark on a reverse march from Changi to the platform, a "reminder of the painful journey that our forefathers took", said Mr Chan.

He and Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How also gave out prizes to the top 10 designers of a competition to redesign the Total Defence logo, which was revamped for the first time since its introduction 35 years ago.

More than 30,000 members of the public voted for their favourite design out of the shortlisted 10 last year.

The winning design is by Queensway Secondary School allied educator Samantha Alexa Teng Si Min, 31, who said she took inspiration from the previous logo.

She has no design background and was convinced to take part in the competition by a colleague.

Of the six pillars of total defence, digital defence is especially important to her. "I'm quite a techie person," she said. "Keeping my phone and computer updated is important. I don't want them to get infected with a virus."

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