Singapore Also Can

Discussion in 'Chit-Chat' started by Loh, May 4, 2009.

  1. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    UPHOLDING SOLIDARITY AND BEING RESPONSIBLE TO FUTURE GENERATIONS
    Finally, on our solidarity — how we can unite our people and build a better home, and steward our resources equitably across generations.

    Some things should not, cannot, can never change — like our fundamental principle of multi-racialism.

    Our diversity is a source of strength, but it also requires constant adjustments to make sure we get the balance right: To progressively expand our common space, while allowing each community as much room as possible to go about its way of life.

    Crucially, a strong social compact must provide not just for this generation’s needs, but it must also provide across generations.

    We are fortunate to have inherited a well-endowed Singapore. We owe this to the foresight and prudence of past generations.

    And this was why we were able to pass successive Budgets to fund critical schemes, and help workers and families tide over Covid-19.

    It is our sacred duty not to squander what we have inherited.

    If we were to use up more than our fair share of fiscal resources today, or neglect taking care of the environment, our children and our future generations will end up paying the price: They will be left with bigger challenges down the road.

    So even as we tackle the challenges of today, we must consider the needs of tomorrow — the social compact we forge must be one that is fair and equitable across generations.

    PARTNERING ONE ANOTHER TO REALISE VISION
    Forward Singapore will be a major undertaking of the 4G team. It is an exercise that we are both excited and honoured to lead.

    You have my word that we are sincere and committed to listening to and partnering with Singaporeans

    We will build on the momentum we have gained, and apply the lessons we have learnt over the years

    We will engage in good faith; consider all ideas; and work alongside Singaporeans to achieve our shared aspirations.

    Some of you may ask me: What is it that I want to see in the Singapore of tomorrow?

    I would say I want to see a Singapore where opportunities are open to all, no matter who they are or what their background is.

    Where all are assured of access to basic needs like education, healthcare and housing, and everyone can chart their own path to live a fulfilling and dignified life.

    Where we can build the best home, not just for ourselves but for generations of Singaporeans yet unborn.

    Where all Singaporeans contribute their fair share to the common good, with those who are fortunate to do well in life willingly contributing more to uplift their fellow citizens with less.

    Where every man and woman is valued, every child treasured, and every senior respected.

    This is my hope for the future.

    But I cannot make this happen by myself.

    Today, I seek your full support and participation.

    I am counting on all of you — as unionists, as business leaders, but most importantly as fellow Singaporeans, to offer your ideas and energies, to shape our vision so they reflect the aspirations and concerns of all Singaporeans and to work hand in hand with the Government to turn our common vision into reality.

    This journey to take Singapore forward will not be easy.

    It will require us to reflect not only on our aspirations, but also our anxieties.

    And to see things not just from our own lens, but also from the lens of those with different backgrounds, different needs, and different priorities from us.

    I hope we can all approach this with open minds and big hearts.

    Be willing to give and take, as we negotiate difficult trade-offs.

    So we may arrive at where we want to be, stronger and more united than when we started.

    I have every confidence that by engaging and partnering one another, openly and sincerely, we will be able to build a better and stronger Singapore.

    So let us all strive for:
    • A fairer and more equal
    • A more just and inclusive
    • And a more generous, big-hearted and greener Singapore — for many more generations to come
    Thank you very much.
     
  2. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    South-east Asia's largest suspended LED sky screen to be built in S'pore
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    The screen, whose location is yet to be disclosed, is set to be 200m long. PHOTO: THE PLACE HOLDINGS
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    Anjali Raguraman
    Consumer Correspondent

    PUBLISHED
    JUN 29, 2022, 6:07 PM SGT

    SINGAPORE - The Republic will be home to the largest interactive, suspended LED sky screen in South-east Asia, which can broadcast live sporting events and concerts, among others.

    Modelled after the Shimao Tianjie Sky Screen in Beijing, China, the screen, whose location is yet to be disclosed, is set to be 200m long. Some $200 million will be pumped into building it.

    Beijing's Sky Screen, which stretches above a pedestrian walkway at mixed-use development The Place, is 250m long and 30m wide, and comprises 7,500sq m of LED lights, as well as several sound systems. It was built in 2006 but has been upgraded over the years.

    Singapore's equivalent will be built by Chinese property management and media company The Place Holdings, which signed a definitive agreement on Wednesday (June 29), with Stellar Lifestyle, which manages retail and advertising space in Singapore's MRT network.

    "The location is still being finalised, but once that is done, it will take about one to 1½ years to be constructed," said Mr Fan Xianyong, chief executive of The Place Holdings, speaking to the media before the signing of the agreement at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre.

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    Beijing's Sky Screen stretches above a pedestrian walkway at mixed-use development The Place. PHOTO: THEPLACEBEIJING.COM
    Mr Fan added that the sky screen here will be an enhanced version of Beijing's one, and hopes it will serve as a catalyst for new tourism and retail experiences in Singapore.

    Besides the sky screen, the two firms' collaboration covers the development of various platforms, including a digital and advertising platform, and a last-mile service platform, which will transport merchandise from the nearest distribution hub to the final destination, such as a home or business.

    The digital platform, in particular, will integrate technological infrastructure such as artificial intelligence and big data.

    Mr Ji Zenghe, executive chairman of The Place Holdings, said: "We share the same vision (as Stellar Lifestyle) of utilising new technology advancements and infrastructure to improve the quality of our lives and enabling SMEs (small and medium-sized enterprises) to integrate into modern business models with new digitalisation capabilities."

    Mr Seah Moon Ming, chairman of SMRT Corporation, said it is jointly developing interactive media solutions and innovative business offerings with The Place Holdings.

    "We look forward to seeing the enlivened stations and surrounding neighbourhoods that will connect better with commuters and communities," added Mr Seah.

    Tourism experts like Dr Michael Chiam said such an attraction will benefit Singapore as it provides an additional offering for tourists to explore.

    The senior lecturer in tourism at Ngee Ann Polytechnic said its proposed location will also be important.

    "If it can be incorporated into an existing place in Orchard Road, it could certainly help to rejuvenate that area," said Dr Chiam, who added that the content on the sky screen must be relevant to Singapore, and there will need to be an element of fun and excitement for the target audience.

    "The stakeholders will have to work with the relevant authorities, such as the Urban Redevelopment Authority and Building and Construction Authority, to ensure that the project meets all guidelines and regulations," he said.

    While Singapore is the first city outside China to have a sky screen built by The Place Holdings, The Place Holdings said it also aims to scale and replicate its screens in 10 major cities around the world.

    The screens will have capabilities such as screening live concerts simultaneously, and eventually, the gamification of the platform for the metaverse.

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  3. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    'I'm so moved, my knees have gone soft': Tanya Chua's big night at Golden Melody Awards
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    Singaporean singer-songwriter Tanya Chua won four awards at the Golden Melody Awards on July 3, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
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    Benson Ang

    PUBLISHED
    JUL 3, 2022, 5:34 PM SGT

    SINGAPORE - When Singaporean singer-songwriter Tanya Chua bagged her fourth award at the Golden Melody Awards on Saturday (July 2) for Album of the Year, the night's final prize, she struggled to compose herself onstage.

    Dressed in a cobalt off-shoulder gown, which matched Bluebirds, a track on her album, the 47-year-old said: "I don't want to cry, because my hair and make-up took a long time. I am so moved, my knees have gone soft."

    She also won Best Mandarin Album, Best Female Singer (Mandarin) and Best Vocal Album Recording at the 33rd edition of the awards held in Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

    Her 12th album, Depart (2021), had wowed the judges. Written in Taipei during the pandemic, the work expressed Chua's reflections on that singular time in human history, and featured pared-down songs mainly featuring an acoustic guitar.

    In her acceptance speeches, Chua said she had created the work hoping to use music to lift the spirits of listeners at a time when people were cloistered at home during the pandemic.

    "I have been very lucky to have music as a safe harbour, to provide comfort when we are at our most vulnerable. But I also don't wish to make another album like (Depart), because it would remind us of the events that happened in the last two years."

    Her Best Female Singer (Mandarin) award win - her fourth - meant she now holds the most number of wins in the category, beating three-time winner A-mei. Chua had previously won the same prize in 2006, 2008 and 2012, for her albums Amphibian (2005), Goodbye & Hello (2007) and Sing It Out Of Love (2011). This year, she bested a strong suite of powerhouse singers, such as Faye, Waa Wei, Ilid Kaolo and Karencici from Taiwan, and Tia Ray from China.

    Chua said winning was not about setting a record, but about the encouragement provided by the award.

    "After doing music for so long, I am very afraid my voice will get forgotten, or listeners will get bored of it. So I hope my music will always be your friend and mirror."

    She intends to continue working hard to make music, she added. "I don't think I will change careers, until you feel sick of listening to my music."

    In the Best Mandarin Album category, Chua's Depart emerged a cut above Jerri Li's Ai-Ching, Waa Wei's Have A Nice Day, Non-physical Troupe's Night Shift, Faye's Zai Yun Cai Shang Tiao Wu Ji Ji Zha Zha and Cui Jian's Fei Gou. Cui, a veteran rocker from China, won the Best Male Singer (Mandarin) award.

    Chua's companion for the night was her mother, Madam Jennie Sri Rangkajo Sudjana, who served an eight-day quarantine to walk the red carpet with her daughter. Chua said the 78-year-old was her "lucky charm".

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    Tanya Chua (right) posing with her mother and her trophies at the Golden Melody Awards in Kaohsiung, Taiwan, on July 3, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
    After her wins, the star celebrated with her team, eating skewers and drinking champagne. She also received text messages from friends all over the world, as well as messages from fans. She wrote in an Instagram post: "There is no way to reply one-by-one, but you must know that I cherish your existence and the connection with you very much.

    "After the glory, I know we all have to return to zero, and then follow the next theme that touches our soul... I am looking forward to this unknown."

    Other highlights of this year's Golden Melody Awards include performances by Taiwanese singers Yoga Lin, Weibird Wei and Lala Hsu, as well as the surprise appearance of Taiwanese veteran host Dee Hsu's brother-in-law, South Korean singer-DJ Koo Jun-yup, who had married actress Barbie Hsu earlier this year. He appeared onstage when Hsu and Taiwanese host Matilda Tao were presenting an award.

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  4. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Henry Kissinger on leadership, Lee Kuan Yew and US-China relations
    The former US secretary of state is optimistic about global leadership despite a divided world.

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    Grace Ho
    Opinion Editor
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    Dr Henry Kissinger in Singapore in 2018. His new book identifies six transformational leaders. PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO FILE

    PUBLISHED
    JUL 26, 2022, 5:00 AM SGT

    Most leaders are managerial, not visionary. But merely managing the status quo isn't the best response to crises. Tough times call for transformational leaders who can transcend the circumstances they inherit, and carry their societies to new heights.

    This is the subject of a new book by former United States secretary of state Henry Kissinger, who turned 99 this year.

    At over 500 pages long, Leadership: Six Studies In World Strategy identifies six transformational leaders who dominated the second half of the 20th century: former German chancellor Konrad Adenauer, former French president Charles de Gaulle, former US president Richard Nixon (also his former boss), former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat, former Singapore prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

    Giant from Lilliput
    The book's choice of leaders is debatable. The Watergate scandal, for example, has clouded Mr Nixon's legacy even though he steered the US through a time of public hostility towards its foreign entanglements, and worked to achieve a global balance of power for peace.

    But all six leaders' lives were shaped by what Dr Kissinger calls the Second Thirty Years War, a period of global conflict from 1914 to 1945. They were born into modest means and challenging national circumstances, and rose on their own merits through academic and military institutions that made such meritocracy possible.

    Among them, Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew is singled out for special mention.

    Why? Because each of the other leaders represented a major country with a culture formed over centuries, if not millennia.

    For such leaders, as they attempt to guide their societies from a familiar past to an evolving future, success is measured by their ability to direct their societies' historical experience and values in order to fulfil their potential.

    Mr Lee, however, took charge of a small country that had never before existed, and whose political past was solely as an imperial subject. In fact, Dr Kissinger names one of the chapters "The Giant from Lilliput" in reference to his outsized contributions.

    Mr Lee's achievements, notes Dr Kissinger, were to overcome Singapore's early experience to conjure up a dynamic future for an ethnically diverse society, and to transform a poverty-ridden city into a world-class economy.

    For Singapore to survive as a nation, its domestic and foreign policy had to be closely intertwined.

    There were three requirements: economic growth to sustain the population, sufficient domestic cohesion to permit long-range policies, and a foreign policy nimble enough to survive among international giants as well as neighbours - requirements which have endured till today.

    Unlike many post-colonial leaders who sought to strengthen their position by pitting their countries' diverse communities against one another, Mr Lee fostered a sense of national unity out of its conflicting ethnic groups.

    He said in a speech in 1967: "It is only when you offer a man - without distinctions based on ethnic, cultural, linguistic and other differences - a chance of belonging to this great human community, that you offer him a peaceful way forward to progress and to a higher level of human life."

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    US-China relations
    The book devotes a whole chapter to Mr Lee's geopolitical preoccupations, in particular, US-China relations which have taken on greater salience amid their sharpening rivalry.

    Dr Kissinger says that in Mr Lee's view, the great American qualities of magnanimity and idealism were insufficient on their own, if not balanced by a strategic realism.

    Mr Lee feared that the US' tendency towards moralistic foreign policy might turn into neo-isolationism, when faced with "disappointment with the ways of the world" and threats to its perceived exceptionalism.

    His approach to China, like his analysis of America, was unsentimental: if the US' challenges lay in its oscillations, the problem posed by China was the resurgence of a traditional imperial pattern.

    While Mr Lee respected China's single-minded pursuit of objectives, he felt that the millennia during which it conceived of itself as the Middle Kingdom or central country in the world - and classified others as tributary states - was bound to have left a legacy in Chinese thinking.

    He advised Washington not to treat China as an enemy, but to integrate it into the international community and accept China as a big, powerful rising state with a seat in the boardroom.

    As for China, he directed some of his appeals to a younger generation who had never experienced the country's tumultuous past, and who might not be aware of the mistakes China had made as a result of hubris and excesses in ideology.

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  5. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Close friendship
    Beyond statecraft, what is particularly satisfying about the book are its anecdotes of the personal friendships Dr Kissinger forged.

    In Mr Lee's case, their friendship came to include another US secretary of state, Mr George Shultz, and Mr Helmut Schmidt, the German chancellor from 1974 to 1982. They met at one another's residences over the years.

    Conversations with Mr Lee were a personal vote of confidence, says Dr Kissinger, and signalled an interlocutor's relevance to his otherwise monastically focused existence.

    Movingly, he observes Mr Lee's interactions with Mrs Lee after she experienced a stroke in 2008, as he read books to her aloud by her bedside, including Shakespeare's sonnets.

    In the months following her death in 2010, Mr Lee took the unprecedented step of initiating several phone conversations with Dr Kissinger, in which he made reference to his grief and specifically to the void left by his wife's passing.

    "I asked whether he ever discussed his solitude with his children," writes Dr Kissinger.

    "'No', replied Lee, 'as head of the family, it is my duty to support them, not lean on them'."

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    US statesman Henry Kissinger giving Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew a hug just before Mr Lee was given a lifetime achievement award by the US-Asean Business Council on Oct 27, 2009. PHOTO: ST FILE
    The book concludes that the six leaders will be remembered for the qualities associated with them, and which defined their impact: Mr Adenauer for his integrity and persistence, General de Gaulle for his determination and historical vision, Mr Nixon for his decisiveness, Mr Sadat for forging peace, Mr Lee for his imagination in founding a new multi-ethnic society, and Mrs Thatcher for her principled leadership and tenacity.

    Whether one agrees with their specific policies or not, it is hard to deny that they shared common traits rooted in their backgrounds: a directness and frankness about hard truths, and boldness and willingness to offend entrenched interests if needed.

    They also brought together the two fundamental modes of leadership: the "statesman" - that which is pragmatic and managerial - and the "prophet", or the visionary and transformational.

    The question is whether such leadership can be sustained in today's divided world. In US-China relations, it has become increasingly difficult to see how two different concepts of national greatness - as Dr Kissinger puts it - can co-exist peacefully.

    With the Ukraine war, the challenge is whether Russia can reconcile its view of itself with the self-determination and security of the countries that it has long defined as its near abroad - mostly in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, and to do so as part of an international system rather than by domination.

    When the only constant is change, is any leader today really able to conduct long-range policy? Is strong leadership - displaying strength of character, intellect and hardiness - still possible?

    The book ends on a cautiously optimistic note. These questions have been asked before, and although it is harder for thoughtful politicians today to swim against the tide of warring ideological tribes, leaders have - and can - emerge who rise to the occasion.

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    After all, Mr Lee, Mr Sadat and Mrs Thatcher were largely unknown when they came onto the scene. Likewise, few who witnessed the fall of France in 1940 could imagine its renewal under Gen de Gaulle in a career spanning three decades. Yet all were able to, in their own way, shape the present and future, move their societies towards a higher purpose, and rectify some of the shortcomings.

    The Stoic philosopher Epictetus wrote: "We cannot choose our external circumstances, but we can always choose how we respond to them." No society can remain great if it loses faith in itself. It is the role of leaders to help guide that choice, inspire their people in its execution, and keep the faith.
     
  6. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Renewing an exceptional Singapore
    With National Day just around the corner, the question is: Can Singapore scale greater heights in the next 57 years, or will the nation invariably slide into middle-aged, developed country malaise?
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    Terence Ho
    For The Straits Times
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    For Singapore to continue to thrive, we will need an exceptional society, says the writer. ST PHOTO: ONG WEE JIN

    PUBLISHED

    6 HOURS AGO

    In just under two weeks, Singapore will celebrate its 57th National Day. There is much Singaporeans have to be thankful for as we emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic and reflect on how far the nation has come since independence.

    Singapore's journey to this point has been indubitably exceptional - some have called it nothing less than a miracle. The question is: Can Singapore scale greater heights in the next 57 years, or will the nation invariably slide into middle-aged, developed country malaise?

    This will depend, I believe, on whether Singapore can maintain an edge in areas where it has traditionally excelled, and succeed in building new systemic advantages embedded in people and society.

    It is worthwhile to first take stock of the national narrative that underpins discussions of what Singapore must do to survive and to thrive. The narrative of competitiveness and vulnerability remains relevant for our time but may be in need of a revamp.

    Refurbishing the national narrative
    Generations of schoolchildren have been told the story of Singapore's unlikely rise - a tiny island state with no natural resources, which through the grit and determination of its people, under farsighted leadership, overcame numerous obstacles and built a nation. In the 1980s and 90s, there was a national obsession with being No. 1 - Singapore had the best airport, best airline, busiest sea port, and even the highest man-made waterfall in Jurong Bird Park. Later, top rankings in global competitiveness indices were celebrated, as were public universities' global rankings and Singapore students' performance in international literacy and numeracy tests.

    The desire to be ahead of the competition was accompanied by a profound sense of vulnerability as a small, young nation. Singaporeans have often been reminded of how fragile our society is - hence the need to guard against racial and religious discord, to safeguard national reserves and build a strong armed forces as deterrence against external threats.

    Now that Singapore has reached the income levels of advanced economies, and we are able to "punch above our weight" in international influence, some wonder whether the vulnerability narrative is holding us back - whether it ought to be replaced with a more confident posture. Others contend that Singaporeans would do well not to lose sight of our vulnerabilities, given heightened geopolitical contestation and the growing threat of foreign interference and disinformation.

    The notion of competitiveness may seem somewhat crass in an age where inclusivity and solidarity are increasingly emphasised. But economic survival and success should not be taken for granted; otherwise, complacency and listlessness can easily set in. What is important to register is that competition is not zero-sum either among citizens or among nations. Competitiveness is in essence about drive and passion - continually pushing the limits of what is possible, to achieve our potential as individuals and as a nation. This could entail collaborating with others for mutual advancement. It follows that competition is not limited to finishing ahead of others, but also about transcending limitations and reaching new heights.

    As for Singapore's vulnerabilities, the question should be how to turn these into strengths. It is not about being fatalistic or adopting a defensive mindset, but making a virtue of necessity. Singapore has done this many times before: for instance, addressing water scarcity has transformed Singapore into a hub for cutting-edge water technologies. Our land constraints have led to the development of innovative urban solutions, including high-rise greenery. So even if Singapore is renewable energy-constrained, this should not stymie ambitions to become a clean energy and green technology hub.

    The narrative of vulnerability can be paired with one of opportunity and innovation, marrying confidence and circumspection as we address the challenges of the 21 st century.
     
  7. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Financial strength and future-ready infrastructure
    The financial reserves which earlier generations have accumulated confer on Singapore a significant advantage today. Besides providing insurance against the proverbial rainy day, Singapore's past reserves generate investment returns that directly contribute about a fifth of the Government's annual budget. In contrast, many other developed and developing countries rely significantly on borrowing to meet their public spending needs. The reserves will become even more of an asset as interest rates and borrowing costs rise across the world. Stewarding the reserves well will ensure that future generations will continue to enjoy the fruits of this inheritance.

    Integral to Singapore's economic success to date has been the development of world-class infrastructure, including our transport and digital hardware. This has enhanced Singapore's connectivity to the world and consolidated our hub status, from which our businesses and workers derive an economic premium. Renewing our infrastructure for the future requires long-term planning and considerable investment. The development of Changi Airport Terminal 5 and 5G infrastructure, for instance, are vital for future economic capacity and growth.

    Passionate people and exceptional leaders
    People have always been seen as Singapore's most important resource. A disciplined and skilled workforce played a key role in Singapore's industrialisation following Independence. Going forward, diligence and competence remain vital workforce traits but are not enough to propel Singapore to the next phase of development. With wages rising to the levels of advanced economies, capabilities will have to increase further if Singapore is to remain competitive. This calls for a spirit of innovation and enterprise in each worker and citizen.

    Already, efforts are under way in our schools and tertiary institutions to encourage creativity, risk-taking and innovation. With greater financial resources, more young Singaporeans are pursuing their passion in the arts, sports, hobbies and social causes - some succeeding in turning these into vocations. These pursuits may seem frivolous at first glance, but they augur well for a more innovative Singapore.



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    It is not just the young who need to be passionate and inventive; in Singapore's greying workforce, Singaporeans of all ages will need to find the spark that turns a job into a calling. If more Singaporeans can find passion and purpose in their work, productivity will increase along with work and overall life satisfaction. This will unlock individual and collective potential, and take the country to the next level.

    Exceptional political leadership will continue to be critical for Singapore's success, but the type of leadership needed today may be different from that in the early years of nation building.

    A major difference is that the gap in education and experience between the leadership and the populace has narrowed considerably over the years. Among today's citizens are many well-informed and professionally accomplished people who are inclined to question the Government's policies and programmes. A good number may have expertise and experience in business and specific domains beyond what the political leaders possess.

    Founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew and his comrades walked the ground and consulted widely, but they did not think it necessary to have a "national conversation". Today, citizens expect to be consulted and engaged; indeed, the Government would do well to tap their ideas, energy and resources.

    A leader today does not have to be the smartest person available, but he or she must be able to harness the collective wisdom of team members, to provide direction and coordination and to persuade others to get behind a vision. Given the many competing ideologies and interests in today's heterogeneous society, we will still need exceptional leaders, albeit with different strengths from those of yesteryear, to hold the polity together and take the nation forward.

    An exceptional society
    Countries larger than Singapore have no lack of capable men and women among the ranks of their citizens and leaders. However, many of these states still struggle to pass their legislative agenda, and are beset by infighting, both within and between political parties and their supporters.

    As a result, considerable time and resources are expended unproductively while society becomes polarised.

    For Singapore to continue to thrive, we will need an exceptional society - one that can accommodate different views while fostering a broad unity of purpose and national solidarity. I have written previously about the importance of having a strong middle ground of well-informed, responsible citizens who are committed to the national interest. This will allow the competition of ideas within a democracy to build up rather than tear down society. The evolution of the polity - a task that falls to both citizens and leaders - will perhaps above all else define Singapore's trajectory over the next 57 years.

    • Terence Ho is Associate Professor in Practice at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, National University of Singapore. He is the author of Refreshing The Singapore System: Recalibrating Socio-Economic Policy For The 21st Century (World Scientific, 2021).

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  8. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Introducing sandals, better meals: How NS has changed in 55 years and the road ahead
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    All male citizens and PRs are liable for national service, with non-officers serving from age 18 to 40 and officers to 50. ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM
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    Lim Min Zhang
    Assistant News Editor

    PUBLISHED
    6 HOURS AGO

    SINGAPORE - In the 1980s, soldiers were allowed to wear only combat boots or running shoes in camp, even when these were wet from the rain after field training.

    This meant there was little opportunity to dry their feet even when not training. Then an armour trainee, former chief of defence force Desmond Kuek suggested having sandals as part of the basic kit, to be worn in camp.

    He gave the idea in a unit suggestion scheme, but was unsuccessful. He did so again years later as a battalion commander, but to no avail.

    "Some thought it was an unnecessary cost, others felt it undermined image, military regimentation and discipline," he said.

    He tried yet again when he became army chief, tabling the idea before the logistics department, and sandals were finally introduced in the army. He was army chief from 2003 to 2007, and defence chief from 2007 to 2010.

    "Regimentation and discipline have an important place in the SAF but need not crowd out other competing considerations such as health and hygiene," he said in an interview.

    This was among the many improvements to national servicemen's quality of life over the 55 years since the passage of the National Service (Amendment) Bill on March 14, 1967.

    Since then, more than a million male Singaporeans and permanent residents have gone through the rite of passage, in the Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF).

    All male citizens and PRs are liable for national service, with non-officers serving from age 18 to 40 and officers to 50.

    After serving up to two years full time, national servicemen turn operationally ready and need to complete a 10-year in-camp training cycle as reservists.

    Numerous policy changes and material improvements - to cookhouses, bunks and uniforms - have been made to ensure servicemen have a positive experience during NS, seen as key to engendering commitment and boosting morale.

    It is a testament to such efforts that NS is strongly supported by the public.

    But with demographic and other challenges looming, how will NS evolve to meet the changing expectations of the population and a new generation of enlistees?

    Early days
    The earliest batches of full-time national servicemen were enlisted from 1967, trained by soldiers from the Israeli Defence Forces. They had limited equipment and were kitted out in the iconic Temasek Green uniforms.

    The first and longest-serving chief of defence force, Lieutenant-General (Ret) Winston Choo, recalled that the servicemen he commanded back then did not receive as much formal education as those in the army today.

    Many of them were Hokkien peng, he said, referring to soldiers who spoke the Hokkien dialect.

    Asked if they questioned why they had to serve, Mr Choo said national servicemen in the early days just knew that they had to comply.

    MORE ON THIS TOPIC
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    NS was established with the painful memories of the Japanese Occupation and Indonesia's policy of Konfrontasi still vivid, and further spurred by the announcement in 1968 by the British that it would accelerate the withdrawal of its troops from Singapore by 1971.

    Mr Choo said: "Many of them came in because the law told them to come in. We tried to have NE (national education) to put it across to them. I think we went as far as 'you are here because you need to defend Singapore'. Full stop.

    "You don't go into fancy exhortations. And they understand that enough. Why must you train? You don't train, then if you go to war, you die."
     
  9. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Senior Assistant Commissioner of Police Puvenesveran K., who is director of the Police National Service Department, said the Laju incident prompted the inception of full-time police NS in 1975.

    The incident, where armed gunmen hijacked a ferry, the Laju, and held crew hostage at Pulau Bukom, highlighted the importance of strengthening the police's manpower to secure and protect vital installations and important industries, he said in an e-mail interview.

    Police NS officers now serve as coast guard officers and troopers in the Public Transport Security Command, among other more active roles, he said.

    [​IMG]
    Soldiers celebrating their graduation from Basic Military Training. PHOTO: ST FILE

    The greater responsibilities placed on servicemen were mirrored in the Singapore Civil Defence Force, whose first batch of NSFs was enlisted in January 1976 under the Singapore Fire Brigade.

    After completing a basic firefighting course, the 50 NSFs from this batch were deployed to the fire stations and primarily tasked with routine chores such as area cleaning and washing of fire hoses.

    This was recounted by SCDF Commissioner Eric Yap in a 2017 book on 50 years of NS in the Home Team titled Everyday Guardians.

    The NSFs' roles were confined to support functions such as providing water supply from the hydrant. Today, they work alongside regular officers in firefighting, he wrote.

    But NS also caused unhappiness among various segments of the population in the early days.

    The Chinese community did not take to soldiering as a profession: There is a Chinese saying that good sons do not become soldiers, just as good iron is not made into nails.

    The business community offered its support.

    The Singapore Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry gave the first two batches of recruits a medallion each. Inscribed on it were four Chinese characters, jin zhong bao guo, which means devotion to one's country.

    In the earlier years, not all Malay men were called up, because of the "large preponderance of Malay soldiers in the army" when NS began, then Defence Minister Goh Keng Swee told Parliament in 1977.

    This was because the regulars of the two battalions inherited from the British were mostly Malays. The non-Malays, especially the Chinese, were simply not interested then in joining the army, he said.

    But in the decades since, all who are eligible to serve have been enlisted.

    MORE ON THIS TOPIC
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    Generations of NSmen have kept Singapore safe and secure for 55 years: K. Shanmugam

    In a dialogue with Malay community leaders in March 2001, then Senior Minister Lee Kuan Yew addressed the issue in a nuanced but frank speech.

    He said that while Singapore upheld meritocracy and for nearly every job, a person's race and religion were irrelevant, race and religion cannot be ignored in deciding suitability in the security services because of Singapore's context.

    "We now call up all those fit for national service, whatever his race or religion. All NSmen participate in the Total Defence of Singapore... But in deciding which outfit to post an NSman to, we have to consider the sensitivity of the posts and the racial and religious mix of the units," he said then.

    Science and technology
    The continual improvements to the NS experience extends to the all-important area of soldier sustenance, in the form of personal equipment and cookhouse food, with science and technology playing an increasingly important role.

    Bland food that was cooked by NSF military cooks and their assistants are a far cry from the meals of today, where calorie intake is calculated and healthier cooking methods such as baking, steaming and stir-frying are used.

    Cookhouses were given over to caterers in 1997, in a move to deploy manpower more effectively to meet operational needs. This resulted in a greater variety of meals.

    Further refinements were made in 2019, when the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) sought to further save manpower using a central kitchen concept.

    [​IMG]
    Visitors to the Army Open House at the F1 Pit Building, on May 28, 2022. PHOTO: ST FILE

    With the use of automation, manpower savings of 30 per cent were achieved, said DSTA cluster head for general products and services Choo LiLing, who worked on the contract between 2015 and 2019.

    She said the amount of food that can be cooked has increased by about 50 per cent.

    This system is being rolled out across SAF camps.

    Arguably the most visible aspect of the SAF over three generations is the uniform. It has evolved from the first-generation, thick cottoned Temasek Green to a camouflage version used from the 1980s and then the pixelised one introduced in 2008 that improves comfort and stealth.

    Further improvements to durability were made to the pixelised uniform from 2015, in response to soldiers' feedback.

    The fabric was made stronger such that the uniform tore less easily during field training, said DSTA senior programme manager Chua Chee Seng, who worked on personal equipment from 2013 to 2018.

    "The gist of looking at personal equipment is to make sure that we improve the soldier experience - the comfort of the soldiers. That's the key."

    For Mr Kuek, such improvements hinged on the belief that a positive NS experience was crucial to building the necessary commitment and resilience towards the defence and security of Singapore.

    The training system was also reconceived to be based on outcomes, rather than by "rigid programming".

    "It was untenable that our youths entering NS should find the SAF regressive, not keeping up with the latest societal standards, infrastructure or services.

    "When our soldiers are out in the field, they train hard, rough it out in tough environments and to exacting standards. But once back from the field in the garrison, they deserve the same high quality of amenities, sanitation and nutrition as they would have in their parallel civilian lives. It would be thoroughly disengaging and uncaring of the SAF if we did not meet this."

    MORE ON THIS TOPIC
    What is the future of Singapore's national service as it turns 55?
    Digital and Intelligence Service: What lies ahead for the SAF?
     
  10. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    While today's youth might not take so readily to rain, mud and jungle on Day 1, they are mentally resilient and physically tough in attaining the required operational standards, said Mr Kuek, who now heads Sustainable Finance for Asia Pacific at UBS.

    In 2006, the NS duration was reduced from 2½ to two years, with those achieving the required physical standards having a further reduction of two months.

    For NSmen, 13 years of high- and low-key in-camp training were also reduced to 10 years. These changes were a result of technology and better training ways, said Mr Kuek.

    Roles that national servicemen play will continue to evolve, with the growing threats in the digital domain.

    The new Digital and Intelligence Service will enlist its first batch of digital specialists early next year, noted National Service Affairs director Kenneth Liow at the Ministry of Defence.

    This is part of efforts to deploy NSFs in meaningful ways that also contribute to national defence needs, he said in an e-mail interview.

    [​IMG]
    A new recruit having his measurements taken. He was among the first batch enlisted for national service in 1967. ST PHOTO: CHEW BOON CHIN
    Public support
    From early opposition to conscription such as street demonstrations, public support for NS has since swelled.

    An often-cited 2013 Institute of Policy Studies survey that polled 1,251 citizens showed strong public support, with many seeing NS as fulfilling a social mission of instilling discipline and values in the young, beyond its defence mandate.

    Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, in a Parliament speech last month, said 96 per cent of Singaporeans polled in 2021 by his ministry affirmed that NS was critical for the defence and security of the nation.

    But Singapore is an outlier, he said, noting that the number of countries with conscription has dwindled since NS started.

    In the view of former permanent secretary for defence Lim Siong Guan, the most remarkable thing about NS is how public support for it has been maintained.

    Singapore is such a small country that solving its defence needs using regulars could undermine the country's economic capacity, he said.

    MORE ON THIS TOPIC
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    Parents used to be scared about their children doing NS, but by and large, this has changed, he said, with parents' main interest now being how to get them prepared for NS.

    "It's an important institution. It's not something that you can give up, primarily because geography dictates for you this has to be the way to go."

    Sustaining public support for NS was not left to chance.

    Efforts were made, including the setting up of the Advisory Council on Community Relations in Defence, or Accord, in 1984 as a way for community leaders to give feedback to Mindef on defence issues.

    Accord has come up with various suggestions and ideas to recognise servicemen over the years.

    Mr Lim said: "It's to appreciate the fact that it is an imposition for people to do NS, and for them to be serving so many years as a reservist. It's important that the country recognises and appreciates what NSmen have to do... that these are men who have to live with it."

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    Enlistees reporting for national service on Aug 30, 1967. ST PHOTO: KOK AH CHONG
    Looming challenges
    While many challenges to NS are not new, recent developments have made some of them more acute.

    One is an impending manpower crunch - Singapore's declining birth rate, which Dr Ng described in a 2019 interview as the "greatest internal challenge" faced by the SAF. The number of servicemen is projected to fall by one-third by 2030.

    To overcome this, the SAF has outsourced work less critical to operations, is using technology and more sophisticated equipment and vehicles, and has reviewed how servicemen can be better deployed.

    Ensuring the need for national defence is well-communicated to those in service as well as to the public remains another hurdle.

    Assistant Professor Ong Wei Chong, head of the National Security Studies Programme at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), highlighted in a recent commentary how education is crucial in shaping mindsets towards NS and communicating the key principles of national security.

    [​IMG]
    Ensuring the need for national defence is well-communicated to those in service as well as to the public remains another hurdle. PHOTO: ST FILE

    The importance of national education throughout the NS cycle cannot be understated, he wrote, especially in the current information age where the "struggle for the command of attention and influence is unrelenting".

    A third challenge is the perception of unfairness among citizens who have to do NS about second-generation PRs who chose not to serve and gave up their PR status.

    This is especially as NS is no longer just seen as needed for military deterrence, but also as a key marker of social integration, said Dr Leong Chan-Hoong, head of policy development, evaluation and data analytics at consulting firm Kantar Public.

    He wrote an op-ed in 2012 that highlighted how in November 2011, it was revealed in Parliament that a third of second-generation PRs gave up their PR status before serving NS over the previous five years.

    He believes this perceived inequity will continue to be an issue, as it could feed into the narrative that the Singaporean is disadvantaged in some way due to NS, such as in employment or education.

    In response to public disquiet that NS defaulters were getting off lightly, then Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean laid out the fundamental principles of NS in a landmark Parliament speech in 2006.

    These principles were affirmed by the High Court in 2017 when a sentencing framework was introduced, which provided more certainty to the punishment given to defaulters, based largely on how long they have defaulted for.

    Other issues that have made headlines - and could resurface - include: heightened scrutiny on training safety, calls for women to serve and for greater flexibility to be provided to elite sportsmen, such as disruptions from NS.

    Road ahead
    Recent geopolitical events, from rising tensions between the United States and China to Russia's invasion of Ukraine, have also reinforced the need to sustain investments in national defence, which is built on the bedrock of NS.

    In an interview in May, the army chief, Brigadier-General David Neo, said NS was a way in which "a small country, in an uncertain world, can defend itself and call upon every citizen, if need be, to come together for the purpose of defending our country".

    NS is also about the sacrifice "to put aside the needs of the few for the needs of the many", he said then. "And it's something that I think we ought to guard zealously, and continue to strengthen, nurture and build in the years ahead."

    MORE ON THIS TOPIC
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    Amid the SAF and Home Team's continual renewal of its assets, gadgets and weaponry, observers still point to the critical role of more than a million national servicemen who have done their part.

    On how commitment to NS can be maintained, Mr Choo stressed continual education and guarding against complacency.

    "You must not accept Singapore, and all the good things that are happening around you, as a given... Especially today, you must sell them the idea that life is not all hunky-dory. You must work for it. And... the moment you let yourself go, Singapore could go down."

    Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin, a former army brigadier-general, said the ability to defend the country is not just about the "hardware", including equipment, training and organisational structures.

    He said: "We all know that while these things are essential, the key is in the spirit - the will to fight and defend that which is our own. There is an element of sacrifice and being prepared to put others before self.

    "This is the 'heartware' component and is not something you can buy, or order people to believe in and adopt."
     
  11. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Three public service veterans top this year's National Day Awards list
    [​IMG]
    The Distinguished Service Order is awarded to (from left) veteran diplomat Gopinath Pillai, PSC chairman Lee Tzu Yang and the Ministry of Health's chief health scientist Tan Chorh Chuan. PHOTOS: COURTESY OF MR GOPINATH PILLAI, LIANHE ZAOBAO, RENDY ARYANTO
    [​IMG]

    Goh Yan Han
    Political Correspondent

    PUBLISHED
    6 HOURS AGO

    SINGAPORE - Three Singaporeans with a long record of public service have been conferred the Distinguished Service Order, one of the Republic's top national honours, for their contributions to the country over the years.

    They are among 6,258 individuals - including public servants, community and grassroots leaders and educators - who will receive National Day honours this year.

    The Distinguished Service Order, the highest accolade given out this year, is awarded to veteran diplomat and former Indian Heritage Centre advisory board chairman Gopinath Pillai, 84; Public Service Commission (PSC) chairman Lee Tzu Yang, 67; and the Ministry of Health's (MOH) chief health scientist Tan Chorh Chuan, 62.

    Mr Pillai, who is a former ambassador-at-large, facilitated greater synergy and interaction between India and Singapore, according to his award citation.

    As chairman of the Institute of South Asian Studies at National University of Singapore (NUS) from 2004 to 2021, Mr Pillai played a leading role in fostering Singapore-India relations by building up deep knowledge on India. He was also involved in various organisations that played a key role in Singapore's social development, and held roles including as chairman of the Hindu Advisory Board from 1990 to 1999 and as founding chairman of NTUC FairPrice Co-operative from 1983 to 1993.

    Mr Lee, who has been PSC chairman since 2018, was recognised for his contribution to the public service, education and the arts.

    Under his leadership, the PSC brought in a more diverse pool of scholarship candidates. He is also chair of the board of trustees of the Singapore University of Technology and Design, the Esplanade and the Founders' Memorial Steering Committee.

    "This is an honour I humbly accept on behalf of others who work with me. In my short time on the PSC, I have seen members and secretariat work tirelessly to increase our reach for diversity in talent, and to improve selection of strengths and traits, to enable the public service to do an even better job," Mr Lee said as he also acknowledged the contributions of his colleagues on the various boards.

    Prof Tan, who is also executive director of the MOH Office for Healthcare Transformation, said he was thankful for the opportunity to work in three areas that mean a great deal to him.

    These are: improving health and healthcare, building the local research and innovation ecosystem, and contributing to the transformation of NUS. He was NUS president from 2008 to 2017.

    "What was especially exciting and meaningful for me was the chance to be involved in creating and strengthening bridges between these sectors, to increase the overall impact," he said.

    He also highlighted the strength, commitment and resilience of those he had worked with along the way, in particular during the two most challenging periods he encountered - the Sars epidemic in 2003, when he was director of medical services, and the current Covid-19 pandemic.

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    Four veterans in their fields were conferred the next highest award this year, the Meritorious Service Medal.

    They are Mr Chan Yeng Kit, permanent secretary at MOH; Dr Andrew Phang, Justice of the Court of Appeal; Mr Seah Moon Ming, chairman of SMRT; and Mr David Wong, chairman of Republic Polytechnic.

    Four foreign business leaders were among 67 individuals to be recognised with a Public Service Star for their contributions to Singapore.

    Mr Marcus Wallenberg, 65, a Swedish member of the Temasek International Panel, was also Temasek's first international board director, serving from 2008 to 2020.

    The veteran investor, who chairs northern European financial services group SEB, said: "I am deeply honoured to have received this award. Working with Temasek and Singapore for many years has been a true pleasure, as well as an opportunity for me to widen my perspectives and learn a lot from many exceptional people."

    Sir James Dyson, 75, the British founder and chairman of home appliance giant Dyson, said the award was a great honour and recognition of the whole Dyson team in Singapore.

    "Today, we proudly call the historic St James Power Station our global headquarters and our wonderful Singapore engineers and scientists are driving exciting research programmes with Singapore's excellent universities - it is a highly supportive environment for a high-technology manufacturer such as Dyson," he said. The company's global headquarters officially moved to Singapore in March this year.

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    Also recognised are Mr Shimano Yozo, Singapore's Honorary Consul-General in Osaka, Japan, who is chairman and chief executive of bicycle component manufacturing company Shimano; and Mr Bill Winters, a member of the Monetary Authority of Singapore's International Advisory Panel and group CEO of Standard Chartered Bank.

    One recipient conferred honours posthumously is Dr Agnes Koong, who was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Bronze).

    The former community health director at SingHealth Polyclinics died in 2021 at age 44 from leukemia. She was also clinic director at Marine Parade Polyclinic from 2012 to 2019, where she oversaw the launch of a locker box service that allowed patients, especially the elderly, to pick up urgent medication after hours.

    The late Mr Subaraj Rajathurai, a wildlife consultant and well-known conservationist, is conferred the Public Service Medal (Posthumous). Mr Subaraj died in October 2019, aged 56.

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    His wife, former nurse Shamla Subaraj, said she and her two sons are deeply appreciative of the award.

    "It is surreal - I know he has done a lot for Singapore, especially for ecotourism. He would be chuffed, if he is listening from up there," she said. "He made his passion his work. It resonated with him as he was also very passionate when it came to wildlife, and he lived his life fighting for the wildlife and being a voice for the animals."

    A full list of the 2022 National Day Award recipients is available at the Prime Minister's Office website.
     
  12. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    From Red Lions free-fall display to salute to mark NS at 55: What to look out for at NDP 2022

    Wallace Woon

    PUBLISHED
    7 HOURS AGO

    SINGAPORE - The National Day Parade (NDP) returns as a full-scale event on Tuesday (Aug 9) for the first time in three years.

    Spectators, both at home and at the Marina Bay floating platform, can look forward to the usual crowd favourites such as fighter jet aerial displays and fireworks.

    Here are five highlights to look out for at Singapore's 57th birthday bash:

    1. Sounds of Freedom
    [​IMG]
    ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

    Crowd favourite aerial elements will return.

    Ten Red Lions will jump from a height of around 1,800m, including a woman parachutist, Second Warrant Officer Shirley Ng, who is taking part in her fourth NDP.

    Singaporeans will be able to see a formation of helicopters carrying and escorting the state flag around the island, as well as a flypast of six F-16 fighter jets.

    2. Up close with the SAF and the Home Team
    [​IMG]
    ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

    The Total Defence Display, a security operations demonstration involving the Singapore Armed Forces and the Home Team, will return to NDP for the first time since 2017.

    During this segment, the air force's new Chinook CH-47F will perform a helocast manoeuvre where naval divers are dispatched into the water.

    Two Apache attack helicopters will demonstrate their aerial agility, followed closely on land by the army's Leopard tanks.

    Special forces troops will respond to a hostage crisis on a bus, using explosive charges to break through windows and rescue passengers.

    3. Tribute to national servicemen
    [​IMG]
    ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

    A salute will be given to all national servicemen during the parade segment to mark 55 years of national service this year.

    A tribute video will be played, featuring various national servicemen reflecting on their experience in uniform.

    The parade will be commanded by an operationally ready national serviceman, Lieutenant Colonel (NS) Desmond Fu.

    4. Show-stopping numbers
    [​IMG]
    ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

    Other than familiar National Day tunes, spectators will also be treated to a range of other songs during the show segment, which is helmed by veteran actor Adrian Pang for the first time.

    Singer Aisyah Aziz will be singing You Will Be Found from the musical Dear Evan Hansen, meant to capture the experience of Singaporeans during the early days of the pandemic.

    Singers Liu Ling Ling, Jacintha, Shabir, Rahimah Rahim and a capella group MICappella will feature in a multicultural segment in Chapter 3.

    Singapore Idol Taufik Batisah will perform this year's upbeat theme song, Stronger Together, in the finale.

    5. Fireworks return to heartland
    [​IMG]
    ST PHOTO: FELINE LIM
    Fireworks will be set off from five different locations in the heartland, in addition to Marina Bay.

    The locations are: the former site of Tampines Junior College, Woodlands Stadium, Jurong West Stadium, Bedok Stadium and the open field next to the Ang Mo Kio public library.

    Members of the public will be allowed to enter the venues from 6pm. The fireworks will take place from 8.15pm to 8.25pm.

    Admission is on a first come, first served basis due to capacity limits.

    [​IMG]
    MORE ON THIS TOPIC
    Interactive: Pre-Parade Preparation Party
    NDP 2022: Follow our coverage
     
  13. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    National Day: Sovereignty is alive and well but under considerable pressure
    Today, Singapore marks its 57th anniversary as a sovereign nation. As some countries find their ability to act independently being challenged, we take a closer look at the concept of sovereignty and how it can be protected.

    [​IMG]

    Grace Ho
    Opinion Editor
    [​IMG]
    As Singapore deals with new challenges, its financial reserves will become even more of an asset. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

    PUBLISHED
    7 HOURS AGO

    Today marks the day Singapore became a sovereign, independent state, one of many to have emerged in the last century.

    In 1920 there were only 50 independent countries; today there are nearly 200. A handful of European empires, the British empire being the largest, ruled more than 60 per cent of the world.

    Then came World War II. Crippled by debilitating debt, these vast empires started to break apart; their colonies cried for independence.

    The impetus for self-determination - the right of nations to determine their political future - gained steam with the birth of the United Nations in 1945, whose founding charter enshrined a "respect for the principle of equal rights and self-determination of peoples".

    From 1945 to 1960, three dozen new states in Asia and Africa achieved autonomy or outright independence from their European colonial masters.

    Singapore, unable to resolve deep political and economic differences with its hinterland after nearly two years, joined this club of newly minted nations on August 9, 1965. The Proclamation of Singapore stated that it "shall become an independent and sovereign state and nation separate from and independent of Malaysia and recognised as such by the Government of Malaysia".

    More than a month later, then Foreign Minister S. Rajaratnam told the UN General Assembly, on the occasion of Singapore's admission to the UN, that Singapore would stand by three principles of the UN Charter: the preservation of peace through collective security; the promotion of economic development through mutual aid; and the safeguarding of the inalienable right of every country to establish forms of government in accordance with the wishes of its own people.

    "It is practical self interest and not vague idealism which makes it necessary for my country to give loyal support to these essential elements," said Mr Rajaratnam.

    "World peace is a necessary condition for the political and economic survival of small countries like Singapore."

    Limits to sovereignty
    There are internal and external dimensions to sovereignty, which is usually taken to mean that governments have final authority over what happens within their borders.

    Internally, governing institutions provide security, prosperity and justice for their citizens.

    Externally, sovereignty is a passport into the society of states.

    Other states recognise one's territorial integrity, and the ability to participate in diplomatic relations and international organisations on equal footing with all.

    Sovereignty, territorial integrity and non-interference in the internal affairs of countries are the foundational principles of the Westphalian system.

    [​IMG]
    Singapore's then-Foreign Affairs Minister S. Rajaratnam (left) at the United Nations in 1974. Beside him is Ambassador Tommy Koh, Singapore's Permanent Representative to the UN at the time. PHOTO: ST FILE
    But, in practice, countries have violated one another's sovereignty throughout history.

    Stanford University professor and former diplomat Stephen Krasner says this happens because first, there is no final authoritative decision-maker in the international system. Second, there are differences in power, interests and values across states.

    Nor are internal and external sovereignty empirically related to each other. Failed, badly governed states, or states which are compromised by external agents, may enjoy international recognition but do not have effective domestic sovereignty.

    In the case of abuses like genocide or state-sponsored terrorism, some argue that breaches of sovereignty should be allowed.

    Countries also voluntarily give up some of their sovereignty when they enter into international treaties and join international organisations. In rule-making bodies like the World Trade Organisation (WTO), countries agree to certain limits on their governments' capacity to restrict trade, or to interfere with the investment decisions of transnational capital.

    The European Union is an experiment in balancing national and collective interests. Nations have pooled their sovereignty to a large extent and handed some powers over to a supranational authority.

    Economically, some say the US dollar's strength and global importance means that foreign central banks have less "sovereignty" than they think. This is especially true for poorer countries during times of high inflation, as higher US rates mean higher debt servicing and borrowing costs and capital outflows.

    MORE ON THIS TOPIC
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    Challenges to sovereignty
    If violations of sovereignty have been the historical norm instead of an aberration, why was Russia's invasion of Ukraine such a seismic shock in global affairs?

    Perhaps decades of relative peace had lulled the world into a false sense of security - that a nuclear power, so enmeshed in the global system, could not possibly risk being an international pariah by waging an unprovoked war and redrawing the borders of another sovereign, independent state.
     
    #9773 Loh, Aug 8, 2022 at 10:58 PM
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2022 at 11:09 PM
  14. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    The invasion of Ukraine is an existential issue for Singapore, which has taken a strong stand against it, including by imposing sanctions on Russia.

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    A Ukrainian boy looks at the rubble and fallen trees in front of a blast-damaged apartment building in Kostiantynivka, Ukraine, on Aug 5, 2022. PHOTO: NYTIMES

    As Foreign Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said, a world order based on "might is right", or where "the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must" would be profoundly inimical to the security and survival of small states.

    If Singapore chooses to "stay out of trouble" as a small state - and accepts that one country can attack another on the basis that its independence was the result of "historical errors and crazy decisions" - on what ground can it stand if the same logic is used to rewrite history and rationalise an invasion of Singapore?

    If today everyone were allowed to unilaterally adopt a revisionist version of international law - one which validates Russia's sphere of influence, accompanied with the right to intervene within it - on what ground can Singapore stand if other nations claim that we are within their "sphere of influence"?

    Should Singapore then concede to being returned to Malaysia because, as former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad postulated recently, Singapore and Indonesia's Riau Islands were historically "Tanah Melayu" or Malay lands?

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    Singapore is racially and religiously diverse, making it all the more easy to exploit. There has already been a steady build-up of different narratives even as traditional spying and subversion operations increase in scope and intensity due to the Internet and new technologies.

    Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam has brought up on a few occasions the Gerasimov Doctrine - a military doctrine for the Internet Age developed by Russia - where aggressors identify issues of "protest potential" in a target country such as race and religion and use them in information operations to destabilise society and cause internal turmoil in the target country. This is to more easily achieve the political and military objectives of the aggressors.

    There have been high-profile examples of foreign interference in Singapore's affairs: the 2016 impounding of the Singapore army's Terrex vehicles in Hong Kong while en route home from Taiwan; the 2017 expulsion of China-born academic Huang Jing for trying to influence senior decision-makers in Government; and a 2018 spike in critical comments online during tensions with Malaysia.

    There will surely be more incidences of information operations that seek to increase Singaporeans' distrust of one another and their institutions.

    But when other states conduct cyber intrusions remotely, there is no international agreement as to what kinds of effects - such as the degree of severity of attacks - are required under a de minimis threshold to be considered a violation of sovereignty. Nor is there consensus on what constitutes the appropriate state response.

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    The fight within
    In his totemic work Leviathan, the 17th century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes developed what is now known as the social contract. Hobbes argued that to avoid a return to a state of brutish nature, people should enter a social contract where their natural right is transferred to an absolute sovereignty.

    In the same vein, political legitimacy depends on whether a government can effectively protect those who have consented to obey it, not on how it came to power.

    In short, political obligation ends when protection ceases.

    For some countries that social contract has been broken, and so has their political leaders' legitimacy. The Sri Lankan government's loose fiscal policy and heavy borrowing caused a rapid decline in foreign reserves, making it unable to import food, medicines, and fuel.

    The Institute of International Finance estimates that after investing heavily in infrastructure, Sri Lanka now owes Beijing some US$6.5 billion (S$8.9 billion). While international actors - particularly the International Monetary Fund - can exert external pressure, the final decision on any loan restructuring agreement rests with the Chinese leadership.

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    A demonstrator waves a flag during a protest against Sri Lankan President Ranil Wickremesinghe in Colombo on July 22, 2022. PHOTO: AFP
     
    #9774 Loh, Aug 8, 2022 at 11:01 PM
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2022 at 11:18 PM
  15. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    Similar pockets of risk are emerging in other economies with large foreign debts, including Argentina, Pakistan and Tunisia. Sovereign dollar bonds are trading in distressed territory and there are already signs of political instability in these countries.

    Singapore, while not completely self-sufficient, has averted such problems. It has boosted its food resilience by diversifying imports, with a plan to produce 30 per cent of the country's nutritional needs locally by 2030. Even as Malaysia banned exports of chicken, it stayed unflappable and tapped other sources.

    It has also refused to cede its financial sovereignty to others. Unlike many countries which rely on borrowing to meet their public spending needs, Singapore's accumulated reserves confer a long-term strategic advantage.

    Aside from being a rainy day fund for crises such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the reserves are also an endowment fund, generating investment returns that directly contribute around 20 cents of every $1 of the Budget.

    They will become even more of an asset as interest rates and borrowing costs rise, and as Singapore deals with new challenges related to an ageing society, social safety nets, and climate change.

    As Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lawrence Wong said, the bottom line is to keep the economy growing while ensuring that the fruits of economic growth are shared widely by all.

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    But some hard questions still need to be answered: Can Singapore's education and reward systems be re-designed towards a society that values the contributions of every worker in every profession?

    Are Singaporeans willing to share not just the fruits, but also the costs of citizenship? Fewer than half of the respondents to a poll conducted at the launch of the Forward Singapore exercise were willing to pay more taxes, which would enable the Government to better provide for needy Singaporeans.

    More existentially, we all need to do a better job of helping Singaporeans make sense of their place in the world. Here, I am reminded of the need for "deep literacy" which former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote about, defined as "(engaging with) an extended piece of writing in such a way as to anticipate an author's direction and meaning".

    Deep literacy supplies the quality the German sociologist Max Weber called "proportion", or the ability to allow realities to impinge on you while maintaining an inner calm and composure. It also provides one with a sense of historical perspective when faced with alarming events.

    But how does one educate and imbue a sense of proportion - when citizens are deluged with sock puppets that pass for online "discussion", and echo chambers that erode the quality of thinking and willingness to compromise?

    Singaporeans are being taught media literacy. But more can be done to encourage evidence-based critical thinking, and to strengthen institutions to withstand misinformation and mistrust.

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    In Finland, to ensure that its people know what is at stake, politicians, business leaders and representatives from the church, media and non-governmental organisations meet for a month-long intensive programme four times a year, involving lectures from senior military officers and government officials as well as a crisis simulation.

    The frequency of the programme may be excessive for Singapore. But since government agencies already conduct crisis simulations - and with the hindsight of Covid-19 - it is not a stretch to think of scaling such programmes appropriately to involve industry and community leaders and educators, who have the task of shaping a future generation that can defend the national interest.

    Today, sovereignty is under considerable pressure. Many aspects of it are still honoured, but inroads are being made by a diversity of actors to challenge state authority.

    On the other hand, it is an exaggeration to say that states as independent entities are collapsing under the combined onslaught of the Internet, external threats and civil society activists.

    Those who proclaim the death of sovereignty misread history; the nation-state has always survived and adapted to new challenges.

    MORE ON THIS TOPIC
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  16. Loh

    Loh Regular Member

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    NDP 2022: A night of celebration at Singapore's first full parade since pandemic
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    The crowd waves flags during the National Day Parade 2022 held at The Float, on Aug 9, 2022. ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG
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    Clement Yong

    PUBLISHED
    AUG 9, 2022, 8:38 PM SGT

    SINGAPORE - About 25,000 people gathered at the Marina Bay floating platform to mark Singapore's 57th birthday on Tuesday (Aug 9), in a show that recognised the hardships inflicted by the Covid-19 pandemic and celebrated a return to relative normalcy.

    A human sea of red and white sat elbow to elbow, joining in the Kallang Wave and soaking in the rat-a-tat of rifle salutes at the first ticketed National Day Parade in three years.

    About the only thing that signalled how the pandemic is not over was some spectators wearing face masks. Parade organisers had "strongly encouraged" this but it was not mandatory.

    This year's parade was a world of difference from 2020 and 2021, when Covid-19 restrictions reduced the NDP to symbolic affairs watched live by only small, safe-distanced audiences.

    Last year's show even had to be postponed by two weeks following a resurgence of cases in the community.

    Amid the noise of Tuesday's celebrations, a moment of hushed silence was, for many, the most poignant of the night.

    At the start of the second act of the show directed by theatre veteran Adrian Pang, a single source of light emerged from the pitch-black stage.

    There, standing alone, was singer-songwriter Aisyah Aziz. In a velvety voice, she sang a song of compassion: "Have you ever felt like nobody was there? Have you ever felt forgotten in the middle of nowhere? Have you ever felt like you could disappear?... You can reach, reach out your hand."

    The song, You Will Be Found, from American musical Dear Evan Hansen, launched a section of the show about the price exacted by the pandemic.

    The theme of this year's NDP, Stronger Together Majulah, was chosen for the need to stick together during these tough times. It is embodied in the logo of two figures holding hands to build a caring and inclusive society.

    The celebrations at the floating platform kicked off at about 5.30pm, with hosts Joakim Gomez, Sonia Chew, Siti Khalijah and Rishi Budhrani urging the crowd to wave their lights and flags and do the Kallang Roar.

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    Among those soaking in the atmosphere was housewife Normala Ahmad, 60. "I miss gathering and celebrating like this," she said. "Let's hope there are no more pandemics."

    Teacher Ravindran Rajasekeran, 37, who was also watching at the platform, said: "During the pandemic, a lot of normal things we took for granted were restricted. It's good to see the parade back to normal."

    At 6.30pm, 10 parachutists from the Red Lions descended in a spiral from the sky to cheers of delight.

    The final parachutist landed heavily and was stretchered off.

    In a Facebook post later, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said Third Warrant Officer Jeffrey Heng's condition was "currently stable, alert and conscious" and he was receiving medical attention.

    This information was also conveyed to the spectators, who cheered in relief.

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    Third Warrant Officer Jeffrey Heng was the last of 10 parachutists to land. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM NDPEEPS/YOUTUBE
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    Immediately after came the land, sea and air Total Defence display.

    The audience was informed on the big screen that "threatening personnel" were encroaching on Singapore's waters. This sparked a high-speed water chase, helicopters performing climbing manoeuvres close to the crowd, troopers raiding a "hijacked" public bus, and tanks firing into the distance.

    Gripping and loud, this segment involved at least 50 vehicles from the air force, army, navy, the police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

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    Last performed five years ago, a display combining such varied elements is unlikely to be seen again for a while.

    This is the last parade to be held at the Marina Bay floating platform as it will be replaced by a permanent structure called NS Square, which will be ready by the end of 2026.

    Next year's NDP will be held at the Padang.

    In between the defence display, about 2,000 participants marched on stage for the parade, inspected by President Halimah Yacob.

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    This year is the 55th anniversary of national service, and the parade paid tribute to past and present national servicemen.

    The event's master of ceremonies asked those in the audience who had served or were serving NS to stand to receive a salute. There was hesitance and abashed smiles among some men.

    But there were those, like Mr Irwan Ramli, who immediately stood up, solemn and straight.

    Mr Irwan, 42, who works in logistics operations, served in the Singapore Civil Defence Force. He said of his stint: "We saved lives and learnt a lot of new things every day."

    His wife, logistics executive Norlie Ramli, 42, added: "I'm very proud of him for giving back to the country."

    Celebrations returned to a high with former Singapore Idol Taufik Batisah's rendition of the theme song Stronger Together, culminating in the national anthem and pledge.

    The celebrations struck a chord with Madam Chia Foong Lin, 67, a retiree, who said: "I hope there will be peace and harmony, both at home and in the region, for a long time."

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