Speech by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance, Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, at the 93/13 Officer Cadet Commissioning Parade
Graduands of the 93/13 Officer Cadet Course,
Parents, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,
To all graduands on parade today, congratulations on successfully completing the Officer Cadet Course. You have persevered through 38 weeks of rigorous military training, and have proven yourself worthy to be commissioned as Officers of the Singapore Armed Forces. With this honour comes the responsibility of leading the soldiers under your charge to defend Singapore’s sovereignty and protect our way of life. Generations of SAF Officers before you have served our country with distinction, dedication and integrity. It is now for you to live up to this proud tradition, and fulfil the pledge you will take today, to keep Singapore strong, safe and secure.
While Singapore has enjoyed peace, prosperity and progress for the past 49 years, we must never take our success and stability for granted. As a small island state, we are especially susceptible to risks and volatilities in our surrounding landscape. New security challenges will keep emerging. For example, tensions in the region over territorial claims in the South and East China Seas can easily escalate.
In recent years, countries also have to deal with transnational security challenges including terrorism, natural disasters, biological pandemics and cyber threats. The inter-connected world we live in means that incidents in regions far from Singapore will have impact here, and more than before. As the ultimate guarantor of Singapore’s security, the SAF must remain a strong and credible force against all security threats, to give Singapore and Singaporeans the confidence to face a volatile and uncertain world.
Over the years, the SAF has embarked on a journey of transforming its warfighting capabilities. Today, the SAF is a networked force, ready to conduct a wide spectrum of operations. The SAF has mounted over 20 humanitarian aid and disaster relief (HADR) operations. It has participated in more than 30 overseas missions, including the reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, and the international counter-piracy operations off the Gulf of Aden. When called upon, the SAF has served with pride and honour, whether in distributing masks during the haze, searching for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 or providing relief in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan.
While state-of-the-art platforms and weapon systems keeps the technological edge of our defence sharp, it is the continued commitment, competence and fighting spirit of our people that underwrites the strengths of a 3rd Generation SAF, and achieves mission success for us. National servicemen, like yourselves, are the cornerstone of Singapor’s defence.
With the Government’s acceptance of the recommendations of the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS), MINDEF will spend the next few years implementing the various recommendations. When fully implemented, we will have a stronger NS system that takes into account the aspirations and challenges faced by a new generation. Our NSFs will be taught, trained and groomed by professional soldiers. They will be asked to indicate preferences for their vocation, and although not everyone will get their first choice, the SAF will be better able to match our soldiers to their strengths. At the heart of it all, is the intent to create a more positive NS experience that empowers and motivates individuals.
As a commander, you will have a role to play in helping your men understand and internalise the importance of NS. Our soldiers come from all walks of life and bring with them different expectations and perspectives. As their leader, train them well and build them into a cohesive fighting force. Show them that they have something precious worth defending. Lead by example and uphold the highest standards of discipline and professionalism.
Over the past 40 years, we have had about 200 foreign cadets from neighbouring countries like Brunei, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam graduate from SAFTI MI. I am pleased to see that commissioning with you today is an officer from the Royal Thai Army. The graduation of foreign cadets from OCS bears testament to the close and warm ties between our countries. This augurs well for the future, as countries are increasingly required to work together to tackle common security challenges.
I am glad to see family members and loved ones on this proud and defining moment. Your strong and unwavering committed support is critical in motivating our servicemen to give their best. It is this public support for our servicemen and commitment to defence that is Singapore’s strongest deterrence.
To all on the parade square, your commissioning affirms our nation’s trust and confidence in you. The training that you have received and the values that have been imbued in you, place you in good stead to serve as leaders of the SAF. Continue to fly our Singapore flag high. I wish you all the very best as you carry out your duties as leaders in the SAF and uphold the OCS motto – “To Lead, To Excel, To Overcome”.