SPEECH BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE SAF VETERANS’ LEAGUE, BRIGADIER-GENERAL (NS) WINSTON TOH, AT THE KONFRONTASI MEMORIAL CEREMONY ON 10 MARCH 2017, 1705HRS
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Thank you for joining us at this memorial ceremony today, to remember the innocent lives lost, and honour those who fought valiantly for the survival of our nation during Konfrontasi.
2. In 1963, President Sukarno of Indonesia launched an armed campaign of Konfrontasi to destroy the Federation of Malaysia of which Singapore was then a part of. On this day 52 years ago, Singapore experienced her most grievous attack out of over 40 acts of terror carried out on civilians during Konfrontasi. The MacDonald House was bombed by saboteurs, killing three people and injuring 33 others. This was a dark period in Singapore’s history.
3. Another dark period was the fall of Singapore in World War II 75 years ago, where our forefathers faced immense hardships and suffered greatly under the Japanese Occupation for 3 years and 8 months.
4. Today, the old wounds have healed and we live in peace with our neighbours as well as Japan, but Singaporeans must never forget the impact of Konfrontasi or the Japanese Occupation. These events in our history continue to serve as sombre and important reminders that we must never take our peace and security for granted; and that we can only depend on ourselves to keep Singapore safe, strong and sovereign. We must never again let this happen to us.
5. That is why National Service was introduced 50 years ago, as the only means for a small nation state to raise a credible force to defend our home. Today, our young National Servicemen can continue to draw inspiration from veterans from the First and Second Battalions, Singapore Infantry Regiment (SIR) who fought valiantly in operations against Indonesian incursions during Konfrontasi. Some of them are present here today and we thank you for your commitment. We also had ordinary Singaporeans who served with the Singapore Volunteer Corps, the Singapore Naval Volunteer Force, and the Vigilante Corps, and safeguarded Singapore with the Police during Konfrontasi.
6. Today, as the threats and challenges we face become increasingly complex, we need to do likewise and each play our part, in not just Military and Civil Defence, but also Economic, Social and Psychological Defence. Hybrid threats come from all dimensions, and can include terrorism, cyber warfare, pandemics, or economic crises. We need Total Defence to build a society that is united, resilient and prepared for what may come our way. We can only be as strong as our collective will and resilience to overcome adversity. We have done so in the past, and we can do it again.
7. As we remember the courage, efforts and sacrifices of our fallen comrades and the victims of Konfrontasi, I hope that succeeding generations of Singaporeans, such as our young NCC cadets and young servicemen from the Singapore Armed Forces will have the courage and determination to do all they can to keep Singapore safe, strong and sovereign.
8. Thank you.