SPEECH BY PRESIDENT TONY TAN KENG YAM AT THE 99/15 OFFICER CADET COURSE COMMISSIONING PARADE AT SAFTI MILITARY INSTITUTE ON 17 JANUARY 2016
Graduands of the 99/15 Officer Cadet Course
Ladies and Gentlemen
Singapore celebrated 50 years of independence last year - a milestone in our young nation’s history. We have enjoyed peace and prosperity because we have never taken our success and security for granted. A strong defence force is vital for Singapore’s stability, security and dynamism. Our SAF pioneers recognised this hard truth in the early years of Singapore’s independence. They built the SAF into the professional, ready and respected armed force that it is today. Singaporeans too, display this spirit when they rally behind National Service, and support their loved ones in uniform.
Today, the world is very different from what it was 50 years ago. Globalisation has brought us greater opportunities but also fiercer competition. Our security environment is increasingly complex and volatile. Just three days ago, in Jakarta, a group of gunmen launched a series of gun and bomb attacks in the heart of a busy commercial district, which left 8 people dead and more than 18 wounded. These heinous acts are a stark reminder that terrorism is a real and severe threat to our security. In Southeast Asia, more than 700 Indonesians and over 200 Malaysians have joined ISIS -- and this includes personnel from the military! We must remain vigilant and resilient as one people, to withstand, recover and rebuild from any challenges that might come our way. The trust and social cohesion between the different races and communities in Singapore that we have built up over the last 50 years must never be allowed to fracture.
All of us here today can take pride in how far the SAF has come. From its humble beginnings of two infantry battalions, two ships and no air force, the SAF today holds its own in highly complex and multi-layered military scenarios. These capabilities also enabled the SAF to make a real difference in peace time. Over the last year, the SAF assisted in the search and locate operations for AirAsia QZ8501, provided assistance to our neighbours during the Kelantan floods and deployed staff from the Changi Regional Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief Coordination Centre to work closely with the Nepalese Army in aid operations after the Nepal earthquake. In the coming months, the SAF will lead the multinational Combined Task Force 151 for the fourth time, as part of the international coalition effort to combat piracy in the Gulf of Aden.
The modern and professional capabilities that the SAF possess today were built up through steady investments in our defence capabilities. In the next 15 years and beyond, the SAF will undergo further transformation in order to tackle the new threats that are emerging on the horizon. Our own defence technology community will continue to play a critical role enabling the SAF to tackle a wider spectrum of threats to our security by fighting as a networked military, with greater precision, and at faster speeds.
Even as we use technology to sharpen our war-fighting capabilities, it is the quality of leadership in the SAF that remains the greatest determinant of its potential. SAF’s achievements today were built on the sacrifices and hard work of the first batches of SAF officers, who stepped forward at a time of great uncertainty in the late 1960s when relations with our immediate neighbours were tense following the Separation and Konfrontasi, and the Cold War was raging. The British was planning to withdraw their troops but the pioneer generation of SAF officers persisted in courage and laid the foundations for the SAF that we have today.
SAF officers today must carry on in the same indomitable spirit of our pioneers to overcome the new challenges on the horizon and lead us into the next chapter of the Singapore story. They must embrace the same convictions and lead the men and women under their charge in the firm belief that we can only depend on ourselves to defend our country and our way of life.
To those on parade today, I congratulate you on your successful completion of the Officer Cadet Course. In the past 38 weeks of physically demanding and mentally rigorous training, you have proven your worthiness and readiness to be appointed as officers of the Singapore Armed Forces. I am pleased to note that among you today are two foreign officer cadets – one from the Malaysian Armed Forces and one from the Royal Thai Army. Your presence here is testament to the warm and close ties that our nations share. In an era of increasingly complex challenges that transcend international boundaries, it is these bonds of friendships that will bring creative and innovative solutions to the common challenges which we face.
This is a proud and defining moment for you and your loved ones. I wish you the very best as you embark on the start of your leadership journey.