DPM Heng Swee Keat at the Commissioning of the 117/19 Officer Cadet Course

DPM Heng Swee Keat | 13 June 2020

Speech By Deputy Prime Minister and Minister For Finance Heng Swee Keat at the Commissioning of the 117/19 Officer Cadet Course on 13 June 2020. Due to COVID-19, DPM Heng delivered his speech via video message.


Graduands of the 117/19 Officer Cadet Course, 


Congratulations on your commissioning as officers of the Singapore Armed Forces! Over the past nine months, you have demonstrated great resolve and discipline to meet the exacting training standards in Officer Cadet School. You have earned your commission.  This is a solemn duty and a calling of the highest order. I am sure most of you would prefer to be out there on the parade square on this special occasion, with your friends beside you, and your families watching on proudly from the stands. While we cannot do so today, we should not let COVID-19 take away your accomplishments, or dampen the pride and joy that you and your families must be feeling.


Fighting COVID-19, A Global Pandemic 

2020 is an extraordinary year, for Singapore and the world. COVID-19 has turned into a global pandemic, with more than 6 million confirmed cases and 350,000 deaths. For us, COVID-19 is a test of our generation. Our healthcare community, public service, SAF personnel and other frontline workers are giving their utmost to contain the spread of the virus and to treat those who have been infected. Our people have been observing strict safe distancing measures. We have just exited the circuit breaker, and will be gradually re-opening some of our social and economic activities. But learning from the experience of other countries, we must do so cautiously, with additional safeguards in place. Else we risk a new wave of infection. The strong measures we have put in place are necessary to protect lives. But the stronger the measures, the greater the impact on the economy. Protecting livelihoods and jobs have therefore been a key part of our response to the crisis. In total, over four Budgets, the Government has committed almost $100 billion to support businesses, preserve jobs, help households, and to contain the outbreak.


This virus is smart and agile. Medical experts have cautioned that the virus will be in our midst and in global circulation for some time to come. This is why all of us must continue to remain vigilant. We must be on our guard and do our part in this continued battle.


Thanking The SAF And The Defence Community 


Let me also take this opportunity to thank your fellow servicemen and the wider defence community for your dedication to this fight since the start of the outbreak. Early in the outbreak, the SAF and the defence community sprang into action – supporting three masks distribution efforts to households, supporting temperature screening and contact tracing. SAF personnel was mobilised to support the containment efforts in our migrant worker dormitories. Our nine MINDEF-related organisations, such as SAFRA, helped to set up Community Care and Recovery Facilities as well as temporary dormitories. The SAF Medical Corps was deployed to provide medical support in hospitals and the Singapore Expo. The defence technology ecosystem contributed their deep scientific knowledge and engineering skills in service of this fight. Together, more than 6000 men and women of MINDEF, the SAF, and the wider defence eco-system are involved in combating the pandemic. Your ability to mobilise, adapt and sustain your efforts in this fight has given our people a great deal of assurance – both in terms of our ability to manage the virus and to deter external threats. Just as important is the SAF’s ability to work together with other agencies, such as our Home Team, and our people in Singapore. This is Total Defence in action.


So I am especially heartened, that even as the SAF does its utmost on the COVID-19 front, you have continued to maintain a high level of operational vigilance and readiness.When it comes to defending our home and protecting our borders, there can be no hiatus. Essential military operations and training have continued, with additional precautions in place. In fact, all of you here at OCS have experienced this yourselves. Having undergone some home-based learning modules. Having to adapt to modified training arrangements, such as marching in open files one metre apart. These modifications have enabled us to still train hard, while staying safe.


Addressing New Threats


We not only need to be vigilant to the present, we also have to look ahead and anticipate the future. The security environment is increasingly more complex and volatile. As a small country, we do not have the strategic depth to accommodate any compromises in security. Therefore, I am encouraged that the SAF continues to develop new capabilities, warfighting concepts, and structures to be ready for emerging threats. A growing and ever present threat is in cyberspace. Even in the midst of the pandemic, hackers have attempted to break into the email accounts of World Health Organisation officials. The digital virus can be as, if not more damaging, than the physical virus. As a highly digital society and as we deploy more digital tools to combat the virus, Singapore must be extra vigilant. Singapore is setting aside $1 billion over the next three years to build up the Government’s cyber and data security. The SAF too has deepened its cyber defence capabilities, and is making strides towards building up a cyber-force to defend our digital borders against malicious actors. The upcoming inauguration of C4I Wing in OCS in September 2020 is another step in this direction. Our cyber experts must not only possess deep technical skills, but also strong leadership capabilities to inspire and bring the best out of our servicemen. 


Our Strength Lies In The Dedication Of Our Servicemen 

The security threats will continue to evolve, but the mission of the SAF remains constant – to defend Singapore and our way of life. The true foundation of the SAF’s strength lies not just in our state-of-the-art weaponry, but in the grit and commitment of our servicemen. There can be no strong SAF and Home Team, if not for the dedication and contributions of our national servicemen. Over the generations, Singaporean males have diligently answered the call of duty to protect our way of life.


I am glad that the support for National Service remains strong. Not just among those who serve, but also from parents, spouses, employers, and the community at large. I thank the families and friends of our graduands, for your steadfast support and encouragement over their NS journey. They are at the finishing line of OCS, because of your support.


Developing Leaders With The Right Values


To the commissioning class of the 117/19 Officer Cadet Course, today marks the end of one chapter in your NS journey and the start of a new one. You will pick up new skills, forge new bonds with other servicemen, and take on greater responsibility. But you must always remember your duty as an officer, and the Creed that you have undertaken:


a. To lead fellow servicemen who come from different races, religions, and walks of life.

b. To excel individually and as a team, and settle for nothing less than the highest standards.

c. To overcome adversity with courage, fortitude and determination.


I have every confidence that you will Lead, Excel, and Overcome in the next chapters of your journey.


Congratulations once again to all graduands. Majulah Singapura!


Thank you.