Total Defence Day

February 15, 2011

15 FEBRUARY 2011

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Boys and girls,

Total Defence is a simple and effective concept. Introduced in 1984, it rallies all Singaporeans to take action together to overcome a whole spectrum of challenges and threats to our security and society. Because of Singapore’s small size and limited resources, it is even more important for us to make sure that we can respond to crises in a concerted and collective way.

Total Defence consists of 5 components – military, civil, economic, psychological and social defence. Total Defence has worked well for us. Some of you may recall that Singapore had to cope with the fall-out from the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and the outbreak of SARS in 2003. These were important real-life experiences of Total Defence at work, when government agencies, private sector organisations and individual Singaporeans came together to effectively deal with national crises. Our national will and psyche did not crack, and united action brought us closer together and strengthened us.

More recently, Total Defence helped us prevail over the worst economic crisis since our independence. The policies we implemented helped us to weather the storm and rebound quickly. We were able to implement these policies to combat the crisis because over many years we had put in place sound economic fundamentals and built up trust between the government, employers and workers. One specific example is how we carefully built up our reserves over many years, which allowed us to finance the measures to combat the recession without resorting to borrowing. Overall, Singaporeans responded as one, and we were able to pull through together.

These crises reinforce the reality of Singapore’s vulnerability to dangers, some unexpected, that can originate at any time and place in today’s globalised world. Climate change increases the occurrence of severe weather systems; pandemics spread faster and more widely; our open economy is globally interlinked and exposed to financial and economic turbulence that starts elsewhere. Disagreements and disputes can suddenly flare up into conflict.

Terrorism continues to be a real threat. The January bombing of Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport demonstrates that terrorists are constantly adapting their methods to circumvent existing security measures. The terrorists had attacked the Arrival Hall instead of the Departure Hall where screening procedures were tighter. What this means is that all of us, not just the security agencies, must always remain vigilant. We have a responsibility as well. How we respond after an incident to maintain our social cohesion and national confidence, and recover quickly, is also important.

Race and religion also continue to be exploited as a means of sowing discord. Within our own region we see, almost weekly, examples of the persisting fragility of inter-religious and inter-racial relations. In Singapore, while we have made big strides in inter-religious and inter-racial harmony through the efforts of all communities, there is still work to be done. I am glad that Singaporeans appreciate the social harmony that we have painstakingly built over the years, and understand that this is an extremely precious asset that we need to continue to strengthen.

Our founding fathers learnt the hard way that Singapore cannot take its security and stability for granted. On this day, 69 years ago, Singapore fell to invading Japanese forces. We cannot depend on others for our security and defence. One of the first things our founding fathers did when Singapore became independent was to start building a strong SAF as the guarantor of our stability and security. As we have seen, today’s threats and challenges are complex and multi-dimensional. While the SAF is the ultimate guarantor of our independence and sovereignty, we too cannot depend on the SAF alone for our security and defence. Total Defence Day serves to remind us that everyone has a part to play in ensuring the security of our country.

This year’s Total Defence campaign brings us back to the basics with the theme “Home – Keeping It Together”. It is a pertinent reminder that underlying the Total Defence concept is the fundamental and timeless conviction – that Singapore is worth defending because it is our home. This year’s campaign aims to re-affirm our sense of home. 39 Singaporean artistes came together to express their own feelings about home. They are a microcosm of Singapore – from various backgrounds and age groups. They worked with the Singapore Symphony Orchestra to give their own heartfelt interpretation of the Singapore classic, “Home”.

“Home” was first sung in the 1998 National Day Parade by Kit Chan. Written by Dick Lee when he was working overseas, the song captures his realisation that Singapore is his anchor and refuge, and will always be his home. The song remains deeply meaningful today as we cope with the challenges of an increasingly open and global society, where many Singaporeans travel overseas to study or work, and others come here to make Singapore their home.

Kit Chan, the creative director of this project, told me that she did not expect such an enthusiastic response. But when approached, the artistes came forward spontaneously to contribute their talents, because they believe that this is an important project for Singapore. Some even gave up their other engagements to turn up for the recording and filming sessions. It was inspiring to see the unity and commitment of the artistes and production crew as they worked together for a purpose bigger than themselves.

Strong support also came from many other individuals and organisations in the public, people and private sectors. MICA helped with getting the Singapore Symphony Orchestra on board. ComChest was enthusiastic about raising funds for the elderly and needy. Through a “Click for Charity” initiative, I hope Singaporeans will do their part for social defence as every download of the music video will be matched with a $1 donation to ComChest, jointly contributed by various organisations. Sakae Sushi, KFC, NTUC Fairprice, Mediacorp, Golden Village and POSB also contributed in various ways to the outreach efforts. I am greatly encouraged by how everyone across all sectors worked together in an effort truly worthy of Total Defence.

I hope that when you watch the video, you will also reflect on what Singapore means to you, and what makes Singapore your home. You may even be inspired to take part in the “Make Your Own ‘Home’ Video” contest to share what home means to you. For Rao Yu Jun, a young Singaporean studying overseas, his video of himself playing the piano and singing “Home” in English and Mandarin expresses his “gratitude and relief at coming home, and being with [his] family”.

Another popular way for young Singaporeans to express their feelings about home is through the N.E.mation contest which is now in its fifth year. I know many of you are anxiously waiting for the results. This year, 2,038 students from 604 teams took part, a 37 percent increase in participation from last year. Our participants were asked to think about the theme “Home – We make or break”. Our forefathers knew they had to make it, and did. We enjoy the Singapore that they built. Whether Singapore as a nation continues to make it is now up to us. The next generation, and future generations, can enjoy an even better Singapore. It’s now up to all of us.

There are indeed many things each of us can do to keep Singapore strong, safe and secure, and build a better future. Total Defence provides a framework for us to do something meaningful for Singapore – National Service, learning CPR skills, conserving energy, developing strong friendships across communities, helping the less fortunate, or pulling together to bounce back from a setback. When each of us takes personal responsibility for keeping our Home together, to defend it, and to make it better, then we can, like Dick Lee, know that “There’ll always be Singapore”.

Thank you.




Total Defence 2011 is anchored on the song “Home”, a Singaporean classic written by Dick Lee and originally sung by Kit Chan. The lyrics of “Home” reflect Singaporeans’ treasured memories and shared dreams for the future, whether they are living in Singapore or abroad.

The video below is launch on Total Defence Day, 15 February 2011
The title “Home”



Jurongville Secondary School NPCC Unit

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