This weekend Singaporeans will celebrate the Chinese New Year. All over Singapore, families will gather to feast and wish one another good fortune and health. In 1942, the Chinese New Year was also in February, 15th February to be exact. But on that day, there were no celebrations. Instead people feared for their lives when Singapore fell to Japanese invaders. Hope was lost as the future seemed ominous and uncertain.
I am relating this dark chapter in our history from Reflections at Bukit Chandu at Pasir Panjang. It was here in 1942 that soldiers from the Malay Regiment fought the Japanese. Our soldiers fought valiantly but they were outnumbered almost ten to one. The battle was lost and so was Singapore.
The fall of Singapore which we commemorate on Total Defence Day every year reminds us all that without a strong military defence, Singapore can lose its independence, as we did in 1942. On Total Defence Day, we therefore pledge together "never again" as every Singaporean contributes to military defence - National Servicemen who make up a strong SAF and families and employers who support them.
Today, Singapore faces new threats. For example, a cyberattack can disrupt our transport system and hospitals, shut down water and electricity supply, even cause financial markets here to crash. A fake news campaign can stir unrest and incite Singaporeans to distrust one another. Physical attacks can occur too, from terrorists bent on killing and injuring as many innocent civilians as they can.
As we have done in the past, Total Defence continues to keep all of us safe. Each of us has an important role to play. Against terrorism, we can report suspicious parcels at public places or alert authorities to help someone who is being radicalised. We can participate in Emergency Preparedness exercises, so that when an attack occurs, we will know how to respond. We can do our part to dispel fake news, or at least not spread it.
Total Defence has enabled Singapore to overcome many challenges to prosper, progress and maintain this oasis of racial harmony with strong community bonding. On this Total Defence Day, let us reaffirm our resolve to do our part to make sure that every year, we and our children's generation can celebrate the Chinese New Year as an independent and sovereign country.