Feb 15 is Total Defence Day: 5 pillars of Total Defence

Feb 15 is Total Defence Day: 5 pillars of Total Defence
(Left to Right) Mr Jayson Goh, Mr Gerald Png, and Ms Siti Noor Ain Masaid
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The Total Defence campaign was started in 1984 to remind Singaporeans of the roles they play - individually and collectively - in building a strong nation and guarding against threats.

Every year, Total Defence Day is observed on Feb 15 - the day Singapore fell to the Japanese in 1942, during World War II.

The five pillars of Total Defence - military defence, civil defence, economic defence, social defence and psychological defence - form an enduring framework which emphasises that everyone can make a difference.

The Straits Times looks at how Singaporeans are playing their part in Total Defence.

Sing it, Singapore - There's A Part For Everyone

When he composed the Total Defence song in 1984, Mr Gerald Png, 58, was faced with the challenge of writing a piece which every citizen could relate to, regardless of their role in society.Photo: The Straits Times

As a young executive in the advertising firm engaged by the Defence Ministry for its nascent Total Defence media campaign, Mr Gerald Png helped write a song that has endured for more than three decades.

He recalls creating the melody for There's A Part For Everyone in under an hour. The song was released in 1984 with the launch of the Total Defence campaign.

But the comfort and peace enjoyed by Singaporeans in the mid-1980s made it a challenge relating the song even to himself.

"It is different from talking about tangible things such as military hardware. When it came to the psychological part of it (national defence), I had to think about the part I would want to play and how I could convince myself to play it," said Mr Png, 58, who now runs a restaurant-cum-social enterprise, Soul Food.

He emphasises that the song was part of a larger team effort from his company and its client.

The tagline for the campaign inspired the song.

There was no immediate threat of any sort and Singapore was friendly with all its neighbours, he said, and the challenge was to write a song that would help Singaporeans see the part they played.

"There was a risk that it would become another government campaign," added Mr Png.

The intention was not to elicit "simple patriotism", but to send a message that national defence is not limited to the men in uniform.

The lyrics were intended to convey how Singapore had grown from a small fishing village, endured the Japanese Occupation and became a nation.

"The lyrics had to remain purposeful and meaningful across different age segments," Mr Png said, even as the song got across how there had been hardships faced by the country.

A new arrangement was made of the song by local band QuickPick last year.

NS 'taught us to work for one another, whatever our differences'

Comedian and actor Suhaimi Yusof, 47, said that the time he spent in the army taught him to forge relationships with people from different backgrounds.Photo: The Strait Times

Actor and comedian Suhaimi Yusof admits that when people look at him now, they may not think that he served national service.

But his experiences in the army are something that he treasures deeply.

They helped to shape the man he is now, the 47-year-old said.

The lessons he learnt went beyond learning how to defend himself and the country.

They also taught him how to forge relationships with people from different backgrounds. Race and religion were never barriers.

"As a platoon, everyone received the same punishment, for instance. This taught us to work for one another, whatever our differences," he told Berita Harian.

This camaraderie can be seen in society as well.

"Sometimes, we take for granted the good relationship there is between different segments of society. But we have to realise that it is our responsibility to protect and strengthen this harmony."

He explained that the main way for him to get others to connect is through comedy. "It breaks down walls between people."

He helped female colleague get NS leave

Mr Goh (left) convinced his company’s HR department to grant Ms Giam (right) NS leave when she is called up, so she can return to her squadron for training without taking her annual leave.Photo: The Straits Times

When he found out that a female employee - a former air force regular - was taking her annual leave in 2013 to return to her squadron for training, Mr Jayson Goh decided to give her a leg-up.

Mr Goh, the managing director of airport operations management at Changi Airport Group, convinced his company's human resources department to grant her national service (NS) leave when she is called up, similar to how male employees are given time off for in-camp training.

A change in HR policy was made in 2014 and, since then, senior associate Amanda Giam, 38, has been able to return to her unit, the 160 Squadron, without taking her own leave.

Ms Giam, who is a master sergeant (NS), left the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) in 2009. She was still keen to serve, and became the RSAF's first female volunteer in 2013.

Mr Goh said that Ms Giam should be given an equal opportunity to serve the nation, and his HR department was receptive to the suggestion.

"The role she is playing as a woman is no less than what a man would do. She went through all the training when she was a regular servicewoman," he added.

"If you believe that when people take their NS seriously, a lot of the skills they learn will develop them into a better individual, the kind of contributions they make at their organisations will be stronger."

Home cook pays it forward after years of ill health

Ms Noor Ain Masaid, who used to be bedridden, started her ChixCheese food business in 2007. Today, she is able to produce the food on her own and donates profits from some orders to those in need.Photo: The Straits Times

She had a serious fall at age 15 while playing netball in school, suffered a severe fever which was untreated, and became bedridden for two years.

But that did not stop Ms Siti Noor Ain Masaid, now 30, from setting up a home-based food business 10 years ago, allowing her to gain financial independence.

When she started ChixCheese in 2007 to sell spring rolls stuffed with chicken and cheese, she was still using a wheelchair and had difficulty lifting her arms.

But she wanted to have an income to pay for physiotherapy sessions, which were paid for by her uncle who died.

The initial going was tough. Even with her family's help, her first week of orders - 30 boxes of 15 pieces of spring rolls - were not easy to produce.

She was confined to her bed the week after due to stiffness, cramps and aches.

But she decided to press on, motivated by the encouragement of her customers, who sent her text messages telling her how much they enjoyed her spring rolls.

"I wanted to make people happy and I just continued. The positive vibes pushed me to go forward," she added.

Today, she gets orders of up to 70 boxes a week, and is able to produce the spring rolls on her own as her condition has improved. She is also able to walk around the house without a walking aid.

She has grown her business through word of mouth, social media and, most recently, through an app called Hcook, which connects home cooks with customers.

She is paying it forward now, by dedicating the profits from some of her orders to needy organisations, such as orphanages.

Recounting the years she was bedridden and fell into depression, she said: "Whatever happened to me, I am grateful, because it taught me to be more humble and caring, and I can comfort others in pain now."

Online food mart helps businesses give back

Co-founders Ms Chong (left) and Ms Lin of The Social Co, a think-tank aimed at solving social issues. Their new initiative, The Social Pantry, provides employment to people with disabilities.Photo: The Straits Times

When companies stock up on foods such as coffee and biscuits for their pantries, they also provide employment to people with disabilities.

Delivery orders of items placed through an online mart called The Social Pantry are picked and packed by beneficiaries from the Association for Persons with Special Needs, who receive a token allowance for their work.

The Social Pantry, which was beta launched in August last year and gets an average of two to three orders a week, was started by The Social Co and Samsui Supplies and Services, a subsidiary of the Soup Restaurant Group.

It will be officially launched next month, adding stationery supplier Menlon Agency to the initiative.

Ms Rebekah Lin, 32, who founded The Social Co with her friend Cheryl Chong, 31, said the aim of The Social Pantry is to show how businesses can make money and give back to society.

The Social Co, a think-tank aimed at solving social issues, was also behind the 50 For 50 campaign, which raised close to $2.25 million for 58 local charities. This sum was matched equally by the Government, for a total of $4.5 million.

The project encouraged individuals under the age of 35 to design their own fund-raising activities and launch sustainable projects to help charities.

Ms Lin said: "I have seen everyone come together, regardless of race or religion, to work on different social causes."

adrianl@sph.com.sg and hytay@sph.com.sg

This article was first published on Feb 15, 2017.
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