Ladies and gentlemen,
A very good afternoon to all of you.
Given the festive season, a happy Chinese New Year to all friends out there.
We commemorate Total Defence Day on 15 February, the day in 1942 when Singapore came under Japanese occupation during World War II. The date is a grim reminder that we were once unable to defend ourselves, and that we alone are responsible for our own country's independence. As we reflect on what happened during the Occupation – some of us may have memories from our grandparents, some have read about it, some have visited museums – I hope that you will be inspired by the indomitable spirit of our forefathers. They went through the toughest of times and built a stable nation through grit, resourcefulness and resilience. We, too, have that strength to pull through any challenge, together as one people. Just like how a bundle of sticks is stronger than the single stick, so too is Singapore's security and happiness, when we are assured that every one of us comes together. This is the essence of Total Defence.
Total Defence has guided us through difficult times, such as the SARS outbreak in 2003 and the threat of terrorism. In the past year, Total Defence has guided our nation's fight against COVID-19. Singapore has been able to deal with the pandemic only because of the combined effort of all, each of us doing our part. The saying goes "a little goes a long way". This could not be more true when we look at how our collective efforts have helped us navigate through COVID-19 so far.
In big and small ways, every one of us has played a part in containing the spread of the virus and helping others in our community. When the spread of the virus was at its peak, Singaporeans banded together in spirit and actions to stay home and comply with safe-distancing, to help the nation's effort to flatten the curve. We showed our appreciation to our frontline workers and cheered one another on. Throughout the pandemic, it was also heartening to see many Singaporeans stepping forward as volunteers to lend help to others – especially our young. They cooked meals for vulnerable groups, delivered meals door to door, created face shields, led initiatives to help the homeless and underprivileged, started campaigns to combat fake news, created translation websites – and much more.
From the ground-up efforts we have seen the past year, it is clear that we can achieve so much when we combine our efforts. Throughout this challenging period, despite the disruptions brought about by the pandemic, we demonstrated an undaunted spirit, a confidence that we would overcome the pandemic together. The road to recovery could be long and winding, but Singapore can overcome this crisis and emerge stronger than before, as a nation, we stand together in unity.
Together we keep Singapore strong with Total Defence.