Senior Ministers of State, Mr Heng Chee How and Dr Mohamad Maliki Bin Osman
Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General Melvyn Ong
Chief Executive DSTA, Mr Tan Peng Yam
Deputy Secretary (Administration), Mrs Elaine Ng
Ladies and gentlemen,
Where we are sited will represent the new National Service (NS) Hub at Gombak. It represents another milestone in our commitment to NS. And if you think about NS or our commitment to NS, it is a shared one. It is a shared commitment because it cannot exist otherwise. You have to have the Government and the citizens behind it. It does not work one without the other. Because each is a vital component to maintain that solidarity for a strong national defence, by ourselves, for ourselves and for Singapore together. I am not stating something that is new because there have been many countries that have tried NS. And when we started NS in 1967, if you look around the world, the number of countries that had NS, it was a fairly long one. If you look at how many countries that have NS today, it shrunk, remarkably, by more than half. Either because you do not implement it well, not fairly, or because the government does not have the resources or because the citizens do not give the commitment. In Parliament, I mentioned Lithuania. For those of you who know about the history of Lithuania and the Baltic states, they were a part of the USSR. And when the USSR was broken up, the Baltic states were taken out and it was felt that there was peace in the region because there was no Soviet Union anymore. They had NS but they gave it up. Today, they are trying to put it back because they realised that they have security threats. It is almost impossible to re-impose NS. Why did our founding generation or our Pioneers believe or were committed to start NS? I believe that commitment was not borne out of isolation, nor theoretical underpinnings. In other words, they did not sit down and think, “Well, we are a small country with threats around you, let us have National Service”. What started NS was pain and suffering that laid the foundation for an independent Singapore and its citizens to resolve to build up the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) through conscription. Because the Pioneer Generation discovered for themselves that they could not depend on others to defend Singapore. They suffered under the Japanese Occupation. Many of us, many of you had parents that live through the Japanese Occupation when Singapore fell, even though protected by a seemingly invincible British military. That visceral reaction for that suffering forged a generation with the conviction that you cannot depend on anybody else, you have got to defend this place as Mr Lee Kuan Yew said, “If you who are growing up do not understand that you have to defend this place, then I say in the end we will lose.” And the Pioneer Generation witnessed bombings and the loss of innocent lives during Konfrontasi and the Communist insurgency.
Even with that visceral belief that you have to defend Singapore by ourselves, the commitment to NS was not an easy decision and it never will be because it will always call for sacrifices from each generation. It will call for sacrifice from the Government to use resources of that day which can be used for a multitude of other deserving needs. It will call for personal sacrifices of time and aspirations from all NS enlistees to perform their two years of duty. We are basically telling all would-be enlistees to stop your plans, give two years of your life to the country, to defend the country. That is a large sacrifice, and every generation will have to decide whether they are willing to give it or not.
The NS Hub we are building today will represent more than just a building where NSFs and NSmen will come back to enlist, take their IPPTs, undergo medical check-ups, or perform other administrative matters. I believe that the NS Hub is the physical embodiment of Singapore's unique NS commitment and culture. After 52 years since its inception, NS has become an accepted rite of passage for all male citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs). You cannot imagine Singapore life without NS. Beyond training to defend our country, NS is also where they forge deep bonds that will last their lifetime. NS is part and parcel of the Singapore identity.
So here at the NS Hub, CMPB's history will also be recounted. And I am sure when the pictures were shown, some of you, like me, cast back our minds to when we were first enlisting. You will remember in 1967, CMPB was at Kallang Camp and as you saw, even before that it was at Pearl's Hill. Enlistees reported there as well as to other district offices in Katong, Serangoon and Bukit Panjang. And I believe, when we build this NS Hub, that will be the experience of future NSmen. They, I hope, will recount to their children of their experience here when they are older, and the Singapore that we want to protect. That is my hope and wish.
Because when the NS Hub is built, it is likely to be a permanent site. When I say permanent, meaning your lifetime and theirs, where many generations of NSmen will come to enlist. The NS Hub will pull together different functions now sited at various camps across Singapore, a one-stop centre here for administration, medical and recruitment for all-weather training for their IPPT, a Fitness Conditioning Centre (FCC) as you saw in the video. We will also open the doors of NS Hub to the public, because it is a public place where we want them to gather for leisure, to learn more about NS, and to consider a career with MINDEF/SAF. And like our SAFRA Clubhouses, NS Hub will also be a good place to congregate and relax with family and friends. And I think with the Cashew MRT across the road, the NS Hub will be easily accessible by rail. We want to make the NS Hub a building for future generations, so it has to be forward looking. It will be smart and green. There will be facial recognition technology, no need to give your ICs. And I think these and other intelligent features will reduce the overall waiting time for medical screenings by 30%. We also want it to be green. The NS Hub aims to be among the top 10% of energy efficient buildings in Singapore, and to reap savings of more than $700,000 annually, just on utilities alone. Another good news for those of you like me, who like trees. When you came in you saw a lot of trees, I am told about 600 new trees will be planted, four times the existing number of trees on this land.
So it is my hope that NS Hub will become a national icon for future generations of NSmen, and one that represents this nation's commitment to a strong defence for Singapore. And we dedicate this NS Hub to all NS personnel, past and present, for their service to our nation, as well as to their families. We want to thank them for their love and support. I want to thank those who have worked hard on this project and I look forward to seeing the completed NS Hub in the coming years. Thank you very much.