Covid-19 showed necessity of Total Defence: Ng Eng Hen

Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen speaks to journalists after a meeting with China’s Defence Minister Wei Fenghe in Singapore on May 29, 2019. (File Photo: AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — The “silver lining” in the past year dominated by the pandemic was that it reaffirmed Total Defence as a “living concept”, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in a video message on Sunday (14 February).

Total Defence is vital to Singapore’s collective well being and its ability to overcome grave challenges, said Dr Ng in his Total Defence Day message.

Singapore’s whole-of-society national defence concept of Total Defence comprises six pillars: military, civil, economic, social, digital and psychological defence.

Total Defence Day is commemorated on 15 February of every year to mark the day in 1942 of the Fall of Singapore to Japan during World War II and the importance of national defence across the pillars.

Just as in a war, the coronavirus has disrupted nearly all forms of normal activity and lives, Dr Ng said in his video message. “The global toll has been as great as any previous World Wars – at latest count, over two million people have died from the disease,” he added.

Singapore passed the COVID-19 test resoundingly despite facing huge challenges. Tens of thousands in migrant worker dormitories were affected by the pandemic, while many in the travel and hospitality sectors lost income or jobs, Dr Ng said.

“Yet when the Circuit Breaker and other restrictions were imposed, Singaporeans rallied together and put the interest of Singapore before self. The result was clear for everyone to see – that Total Defence in action saves lives and jobs,” he said.

Among other things, healthcare workers tended to the sick; Singapore’s economic agencies kept supply chains for food and essential items intact, and pre-ordered vaccines; security forces in the military and Home Team kept their guard up; businesses complied with safe management restrictions; companies implemented business continuity plans; and community groups spurred into action to help others, noted Dr Ng.

“That cohesion and compliance allowed us to celebrate national events like the National Day and New Year without further outbreaks. It also ensured that we could open our borders early to resume global trade and commerce which are essential to Singapore’s economy,” he said.

“We dealt with COVID-19 as one people, regardless of race, language or nationality in Singapore,” he added.

Going forward, Dr Ng said Total Defence will ensure that Singapore can face the future with optimism and hope, emerging stronger and more united with each crisis. “This is the power of Total Defence.”

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