Total Defence involves every Singaporean playing a part, individually and collectively, to build a strong, secure and cohesive nation that is prepared and able to deal with any crisis. It is our approach to dealing with threats and challenges that arise.
A response where everyone plays a part
Today, threats and challenges to Singapore can come in many unexpected shapes and forms. Innocent-looking civilians can disguise terrorist intentions. Travellers may unknowingly carry diseases. An insensitive deed or word can, directly or indirectly, spark off social tension. What began as a domestic economic problem elsewhere can turn into a global economic crisis that hits us too. Natural disasters, climate change, energy, water and food scarcity, piracy, illegal immigration, and cyber crime are other examples of the wide range of threats we face today. Our response to such challenges requires every Singaporean playing a part – the young and the old, men and women, regardless of race or religion. Every small act counts – whether it is being vigilant against suspicious activities, being tolerant and respecting people of different ethnic backgrounds, taking care of our environment, showing support for our servicemen on duty at home or abroad, or simply looking out for each other. This is the essence of Total Defence – that when we each play our part, we help to strengthen the nation as well as ourselves.
Total Defence in action
The outbreak of SARS in 2003 was a demonstration of Total Defence at work. Even amidst real fears for their personal safety, Singaporeans from all sectors of society – government agencies, private sector organisations and individual Singaporeans from young children to senior citizens – came together and worked closely with the health authorities to fight the deadly virus. Organisations and institutions implemented measures to safeguard their premises. Singaporeans played their part, from taking greater responsibility for their own hygiene and health to lending a helping hand to neighbours under home quarantine orders. Children from kindergartens and primary schools learnt to take and record their temperatures daily. Without the cooperation and active involvement of every Singaporean, it would probably have taken a longer time to overcome the SARS epidemic.