6.20pm is a special time of the day. It is when people are done with work and school and are settling down for a tasty dinner with family or a fun night out with friends. There will even be a sunset soon, making our world-class city even more beautiful.
And so, you might notice how loud and jarring the sirens are all across Singapore at 6.20pm every Feb 15.
This is because Singapore fell to the Japanese during World War II on this date and at this time. The colonial British forces surrendered at the Ford Motor Factory, ushering in the 1942-45 Japanese Occupation — a very ugly era of Singapore’s history when thousands of Singaporeans were murdered, native cultures were used to support oppression and where famine and poverty ran rampant every day.
These years, Feb 15 marks Total Defence Day in Singapore. The nationwide sirens help us remember that as Singaporeans, we need to be vigilant against all sorts of threats.
“We need to stand resilient and do our part to protect Singapore and our future. Do not be alarmed by the minute-long sounding exercise,” wrote the Singapore Civil Defence Force earlier on Feb 13.
Total Defence is about people united for the common good of Singapore
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong underscored the importance of staying united this Total Defence Day during the 56th War Memorial Service at Beach Road.
“This chapter of our history has taught us an invaluable lesson — that the fate and security of Singapore and Singaporeans depends on ourselves, and on no one else,” said Minister Tong in reference to the Japanese Occupation.
And today, threats to Singapore are not confined to military invasion. Terrorism, religious extremism, cybercrimes, disinformation and climate change are some of the challenges we face today.
“To deal with these threats, we will need more than just grit and gumption. There are many fault lines in society today which could expose us to vulnerabilities and destabilise the nation, undermine the fabric of our nation, and tug at the threads that bind us as a people,” added Minister Tong.
Indeed. That is why the PAP Government structures Total Defence to mobilise every sector of Singapore through six pillars: Military, Civil, Economic, Social, Digital and Psychological Defence.
And it is also why Unite is one of the pillars of Forward Singapore, the all-of nation exercise for refreshing Singapore’s social compact.
This pillar seeks to deepen our sense of belonging to Singapore as well as our bonds with each other and to leave our country in good hands for our descendants.
“If we resolve to work together as one united people, steadfast in our vision to protect our country, we should not fear,” said Minister Tong.
This message of unity echoes Deputy Prime Minister Lawrence Wong’s words on Total Defence when delivering Budget 2023 the day previous (Feb 14).
“Our efforts to strengthen our overall resilience must reflect the values that motivate us as a people and as a nation,” he said.
“We want a Singapore where we not only do the best for ourselves, but also help our fellow citizens succeed. And that is how we keep Singapore strong, resilient and united.”
We shall stand united
So, take part in the many ongoing fun museum, sandbox and library activities which the Government has organised to mark Total Defence Day. And then, to quote Minister Tong one more time:
“Our national efforts must continue beyond this, in the spaces and places we have created for our shared heritage. Not just physical spaces, but also the mindshare and mindset that we must have as fellow Singaporeans. Creating a shared heritage with common spaces, growing spaces where we can all thrive and enjoy, and also be as one Singapore.”
“So that we can build an even better and brighter future for Singapore.”
Cover photo credit: Edwin Tong FaceBook, David Mark, cegoh)