Trust needed for society to function, says Ng Eng Hen

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen lauded volunteers serving within Mindef at a dinner yesterday.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen lauded volunteers serving within Mindef at a dinner yesterday.

Such trust here explains continued public support for NS, SAF over the years, he notes

Singaporeans from different sectors come together to serve as volunteers within the Ministry of Defence (Mindef), and this embodies the trust within society here, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

This trust is often taken for granted, he noted yesterday at an appreciation dinner for about 300 volunteers serving on Mindef's boards and committees.

"Because, if we did not have multiracial and multi-religious harmony that breeds trust rather than fear and suspicion, can we believe that people of one race would trust another to make important decisions that will affect their life, whether it is their vocation during NS (national service) or the judgment of a military court?" Dr Ng said.

The minister highlighted the ongoing protests in Hong Kong to underscore the point that trust is essential for a society to function.

Government leaders and officials have visited Hong Kong periodically for many years, because it is a high-functioning society much like Singapore but organised differently, he said.

Dr Ng recounted how he would invariably be impressed on every visit with the vitality and resourcefulness of Hong Kongers, their service standards and their willingness to go the extra mile.

"But now, trust within the Hong Kong society is broken," he said. "It matters less how this downward spiral began because, with each passing day, the acrimony and distrust mounts and that makes it that much harder for any trust to be restored."

Dr Ng said he hopes the people of Hong Kong can regain the fortitude and cohesion that they displayed so often in the past against formidable challenges, "to start and rebuild what has been broken".

 
 
 

In Singapore, the trust within society explains why the public has continued to support NS and the Singapore Armed Forces over the years, he said.

He cited public polls that show 98 per cent believe in the importance of a strong defence.

"If our people believed that the system discriminated and is not fair for all, we won't have that level of support," he added.

Dr Ng also lauded the Mindef volunteers for their personal commitment to the nation, as well as their professionalism and integrity.

He added that their varied expertise, viewpoints and experiences have helped Mindef and the SAF to evolve and meet changing needs and challenges.

For example, he said, members of the External Review Panel on SAF Safety assisted Mindef greatly during recent committees of inquiry into the deaths of national servicemen.

A pro bono lawyers' panel set up last year has also improved legal access for servicemen who need it, he added.

During the dinner at the Regent Singapore hotel, Dr Ng presented certificates of appointment and re-appointment to 53 volunteers.

He also paid tribute to the SAF Volunteer Corps (SAFVC), which is in its fifth year. It has more than 800 volunteers to date, including over 200 permanent residents.

There are now 30 vocations in the SAFVC, after five roles were added last month - physiotherapist assistant, veterinarian technician, drone auxiliary trainer, video surveillance operator and sea soldier.

Concluding his speech, Dr Ng said: "We in the present are beneficiaries only because our forebears acted responsibly and courageously to do their part to give us a better life today.

"In turn, we in the present must give of our best so that tomorrow, Singapore will be better, stronger and more united."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 23, 2019, with the headline 'Trust needed for society to function, says Ng Eng Hen'. Print Edition | Subscribe