Local movie strengthens Singaporeans' commitment to defence: Maliki

Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Defence Dr Maliki praised Jack Neo's film Ah Boys to Men for striking a chord in many Singaporeans, and in the process helping to strengthen Singaporeans' commitment to defence.

Here is an excerpt of his speech:

Mr Deputy Chairman, Mr Alex Yam and Dr Intan asked how MINDEF ensures public commitment to defence and confidence in the SAF. MINDEF reaches out to grassroots leaders, employers, trade union leaders and other stakeholders through regular dialogue sessions and visits to SAF units, and also through the Advisory Council for Community Relations in Defence, or ACCORD.

In collaboration with MOE, MINDEF works with all 30 Post-Secondary Education Institutions under the SAF-School Partnership Programme to organise student engagement activities.

To reach out to more Singaporeans, we also held the Army Open House for the first time in the city last year at the F1 Pit Building, which attracted a record turnout of 188,000 visitors.

Beyond these outreach efforts to bring the SAF closer to Singaporeans, our NS system, as a key institution of Singapore society, is the best opportunity to enhance Singaporeans' commitment to defence.

NS is more than just the obligations of NSFs and NSmen - it should be the commitment of every family member and employer.

Support from family members and employers is critical for our NSFs and NSmen to continue performing their defence roles.

Most of us will recognise Resorts World Sentosa, or RWS, as the company that operates Universal Studios Singapore. What you might not know is that RWS actually employs more than 2,500 NSmen amongst its staff, and has put into place a range of processes to support NS, such as revamping its HR system for supervisors to efficiently manage their employees' NS commitments and allowing the recently issued NS45 vouchers to be used at its attractions and shops.

In recognition of its commendable support for NS, RWS was awarded the Meritorious Defence Partner Award in July 2012 at the Total Defence Symposium.

Some of you might have also watched 2LT Zacky go through Officer Cadet School, or OCS, in the cyberpioneerTV web-series Every Singaporean Son II.

While 2LT Zacky had initially found the training at OCS to be physically and mentally challenging, the constant support and encouragement from his parents spurred him on and he eventually emerged as the third best graduate in his infantry cohort.

Such examples underscore the invaluable role that employers and families play in supporting NS.

Mr Yam and Dr Intan also asked about MINDEF's online engagement efforts.

We actively use social media to reach out to different segments of Singaporeans. There are currently nearly 400 video clips on life in the SAF on our cyberpioneerTV YouTube channel, which has received close to 11 million views and 20,000 subscribers. MINDEF's vibrant online presence is also reflected with more than 33,000 users "liking" the cyberpioneer Facebook page, where we post updates and photos of ceremonies, exercises and more.

These efforts help to deepen public understanding of and support for NS and defence. Recognising the power of social media platforms, the Army also launched its Facebook page earlier this month.

Our cyberpioneer and Army Facebook pages are useful platforms for our servicemen to celebrate their shared stories of service, rites of passage, camaraderie and sacrifice.

This ground-up sharing of common experiences can help to enhance our servicemen's cohesion and engage them more deeply.

MINDEF manages the associated risks of social media participation by educating our servicemen to use social media responsibly, and reminding them that their exchanges, even on non-official platforms, should not compromise safety and security.

Mr Deputy Chairman, it is also encouraging to see Singaporeans driving initiatives which help to strengthen commitment to defence. Some of you may have watched Jack Neo's films Ah Boys to Men and Ah Boys to Men 2.

The films struck a chord in many Singaporeans with their candid portrayal of Army life, becoming the highest-grossing Singapore films of all time.

This sentiment was vividly captured by Ms Heng Shu Qing, who wrote after watching the first instalment that "Ah Boys to Men tells a story that will touch the heart of every Singaporean. It is not merely just a laugh but to remind us that our independence did not come by so easily. So love our land and never take it for granted."

We look forward to more such initiatives, which bring richness to our NS story and underscore the public's support for NS.

With your permission, Mr Deputy Chairman, I have asked the clerk to place on the MPs' seats additional materials that show how MINDEF has been engaging the public on defence issues.

One of the materials is a DVD on the top 10 N.E.mation! clips. Let me conclude by showing you this year's winning clip, produced by four young students from Ahmad Ibrahim Secondary School last year, when they were in Secondary 2. On screen is a picture of the team at the award ceremony last month.

You can see their happy faces; all the young people. And you will see the clip later on. It warms the heart to know that young Singaporeans understand the challenges we face.

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