If you want to jump up & down each time Dr M speaks, you’ll be jumping like a jumping bean & other quotes by Ng Eng Hen


Today is SAF Day and this year marks the 55th anniversary of National Service.

In his annual interview ahead of SAF Day, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen spoke to local media such as The Straits Times , Today and CNA on June 30, outlining MINDEF’s efforts to make the Armed Forces an attractive career option and the fourth service, Digital and Intelligence Service.

Here are some highlights.

Of jumping beans

Recently, two-time former Prime Minister of Malaysia Dr Mahathir Mohamad said this.

Basically he said that Singapore belonged to Johor and that Singapore should be returned to the state and to Malaysia.

When quizzed about Dr M’s comments, the minister said:

“I’m not sure that I need to give a response because Dr Mahathir wasn’t talking to us… He’s a known entity, is respected as an elder and he has dealt with previous prime ministers, including (Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong). This is all on record.

If you want to jump up and down each time Dr Mahathir speaks, then you will be jumping like a jumping bean.

You have to take a few breaths and give him the respect that he is due. He says it for different audiences and he himself said that those comments were not for us, so we should just take it at face value.”

TL;DR: Respect the man but refrain from jumping every time. Because jumping too much is bad (especially for the knees). Also, there’s bigger fish to fry.

Staying vigilant

Global uncertainties mean MINDEF and SAF have to remain vigilant and strengthen defences, the defence minister said.

“It’s not possible to predict the exact change coming, it’s not as if we want it or that we can anticipate it, but you know something is coming, and you know there will be change and when there’s change, some things can happen and some things you can precipitate.

For MINDEF and the SAF, it means we have to be vigilant and use this peace to strengthen our defences.”

TL;DR: No one has a crystal ball but MINDEF and SAF will continue to stand-to to protect Singapore.

No Forward Singapore for defence?

Here’s an interesting question: Reporters asked why defence wasn’t included in the Forward Singapore exercise. To which, Dr Ng responded with this:

“Omission doesn’t reflect a lack of importance.

Also not included were home security and foreign affairs. This triumvirate don’t always lend themselves to public discourse. I wouldn’t read too much into that.”

TL;DR: Not there doesn’t mean not important. Don’t think too much, please.

No army for young men?

The defence minister then tackled the challenge of making sure the armed forces remain attractive for young Singaporeans.

He noted that in terms of work environment, the SAF have “liberalised significantly” with hotdesking, working near home, improvements in processes and automation.

“So we are not standing still and becoming a dinosaur that is out of sync with the aspirations of the young,” he said.

TL;DR: SAF is definitely not doing a Hentak Kaki when it comes to recruitment of young people.

Being watchful and nimble

Citing current geopolitical tensions, Dr Ng said Singapore, as a small country, must remain watchful and nimble.

“Entrenched foundations have been shaken and assumptions about the world and region we live in — that we have accepted and taken almost for granted — are now tested… I think in the months ahead, these geopolitical tectonic plates will shift further and may result in dramatic changes.

As a small country, Singapore — particularly — must remain watchful and nimble.

TL;DR: When elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers. And thus, we must remain watchful and nimble.

What should Singaporeans do?

“Singaporeans must gird ourselves for a troubled decade ahead or even longer, the SAF will do its part, will stand vigilant, and guard Singapore’s peace and sovereignty.”

TL;DR: Tough times don’t last, tough men do. Stay united!

The next candidate for defence minister

“That is something which the Prime Minister will have to decide.

I serve at the pleasure of Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and his Cabinet.

When he decides there should be succession is his job, not mine.”

TL;DR: Uhm. Thank you, next.

Cover photo credit: Mahathir Mohamad Facebook page and MINDEF.