Chief of Defence Force,
Chief of Army,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me echo the words in the video and thank all of you for contribution, your participation and (for) making the NDP a resounding success. I am sure it brings back memories. You watched it personally or you watched it at home, this is the fruit of your labour. As you saw in the video, (it involved) thousands of hours, months of preparation. Each time I visit the participants, I hear individual stories (and) some (are) very touching. I remember there was one particular parade where there was a tragedy at home � the death of a relative � but the participant continued. There was a participant in a contingent, who was diagnosed with cancer, (but still) continued. This is a personal journey; very touching.
If you think about it, the NDP that Singapore has, is no ordinary show. We have gotten so used to it. We had the first in 1966, as I was trying to recount with Colonel Melvin Ong, (Chairman of) the NDP Executive Committee, that (there was a) year it rained, remember? First year of our independence, it rained very heavily. 1966 it rained. (Then-)Prime Minister Lee (Kuan Yew) recounted how they stood fast as the rain came down. Thankfully this year, it did not rain. It actually rained a few days after the actual NDP. Each time, thank goodness, it did not rain on the actual day itself. We have gotten used to it. If you ask yourself, and go to other countries and ask, How do you celebrate National Day? Some do it like this. But this is on a scale that is very grand, very large. No other annual event on our national calendar in Singapore has the reach that NDP has or the ability to bring Singaporeans and even visitors from diverse backgrounds or walks of life together. 153,000 people watched this show live at the Floating Platform, whether it was during rehearsals, the previews or the actual show itself.
If you attended it and watched it live, and looked around the Bay area, many more thousands gathered around Marina Bay. The show organisers were very thoughtful and they provided me with a pair of binoculars, SAF binoculars, and during the show I looked out to watch the crowd control, to see if the crowd is peaceful. At One Fullerton, they start(ed) gathering, (it) must (have) be(en) in (the) early afternoon, and if you look at it, it is many layers deep, including the bridge, and all chock-a-block until the fireworks are over. This year, Melvyn told me that previously, they let (the crowd) down all the way to the steps near the Merlion. This year, because of some security concerns, they pushed them back. I thought what a pity, but what to do. But the crowds there love the Chinooks when they come. They love the spray, they love to get wet. If you look out at the Promontory over on the other side, (it is) also chock-a-block. My binoculars go up to the arc in the sky, Marina Bay Sands, (there are) also crowds standing there. When night falls, I can see the hotel rooms light up (and) I try to see how many rooms are lit up. The hoteliers tell me that, (and) rightly so, they mark up the rates because the rooms become very popular and people want to watch it. The office buildings around the bay also light up. Many employers tell me that (in) their buildings, people stay behind to watch the show from there. So many more thousands (watch the show live). The NDP is no ordinary show.
Each year, the NDP both reflects and projects the mood and aspirations of Singaporeans as one people. Not only are you the participants on parade, but the entire nation with the participants. Let me give you a few examples. The crowds love the Red Lions as they come down. Before their feet touch the ground, there is (a) swell of sounds. And particularly popular is the Dynamic Defence Display, when we put our SAF machinery on display. They are crowd favourites. This year, after the show, some members of the public (and) some of my colleagues asked, This year, was your Dynamic Defence Display particularly aggressive? I said, What do you mean? They said, Is it because there are troubles around and you want to send a message? I said, I don't think so. Maybe they missed it after two years. But they understand, you see, because many people are watching. But Singaporeans, many who are national servicemen, they know there is a deterrence value; it's not easy to drive a Leopard tank, make a turn and rush out. So every time I watch it, I tell my commanders, make sure it's safe. There is a deterrence value, and so (for) the people who ask that question if it is particularly aggressive (and if) there is a message the SAF wants to send, I say, Well, not really. But it's a good message to tell people that it looks particularly aggressive. The terrorist segment that we had, it was very raw, so I asked after the show, Did you think it was too raw? Too in-your-face? They said, No, no, you have to show it this year. It underscores Singaporeans' preparedness for such an attack when it happens and mentally prepares the entire nation for such an outcome, dreadful though the outcome will be. The many beautifully crafted dances that you saw on the video (during the show segment) � whether it was the mosquitoes, whether they were riding on the mobots, or the bicycles with the fancy gizmos � you don't get to see them until you go down, (but) many of them are elderly. I didn't realise that until I shook their hands and said, Oh, you're older than I am and what you look like from up there. These are enthusiasts, and these show segments, they are choreographed with the dazzling light, sounds, fireworks and drones display that drew oohs and aahs reflects Singapore's resolve to be among the best in this world and to be future-oriented. So I would say, the NDP is as much the grandest national birthday bash for ourselves as it is a celebration of Singapore to the world. The NDP is no ordinary show.
NDP 2017 was a huge success because of the individual efforts, hard work and commitment. Because for the NDP to work like clockwork. I'll tell you why it's clockwork. The Minister for Defence is the Reviewing Officer (RO) for one of the previews. Other ones are simulated. For some previews, (the ROs are) the Minister for Defence, the Speaker and then the President. So when I first came into the Ministry of Defence, I was an RO for one of the previews, and this staff officer � I was there, I was early and I didn't want to be late; I was there watching the pre-parade and getting ready to go into the car to (review the parade) � kept asking me if I wanted to use the gents. Every few minutes he asked me, Sir, would you like to go to the gents? And every few minutes he would keep asking, and asking. So I was wondering why this chap was constantly harping on me to go to the gents. It transpired that (for) one of the previous previews, the RO went to the gents (and) took a bit longer, and the SAF helicopters with the flag had already started moving. Because when the RO stands to receive the respect of the parade, (the National Anthem) Malujah Singapura follows that, and the SAF helicopters bearing that giant flag would have taken off. And you can't ask them (to) dan ji ban ya (Hokkien for hang on), to circle around you somewhere. Where can you circle that flag? I think it's 4,000 pounds, the ballasts that hold the flag down; they can't circle over any house. Clockwork. So somehow, from that experience, when they do what we call the After Action Review �they institutionalised this � to make sure the RO doesn't take too long in the gents, or the ladies if the RO is a lady; (to) make sure that he goes, comes out, goes to the car, because not only that, the F-15SGs would have taken off somewhere before the actual moment (of the bomb burst). For it to function like clockwork, with so many moving parts at the same time with minute-to-minute precision, requires detailed planning and flawless execution. We take it for granted, but all of you succeeded. So let me congratulate you and ask you to give yourselves a strong round of applause. Thank you for your hard work, thank you for allowing your organisations to be part of this.
Appropriately, this year's NDP also focused on NS50, not only to thank past and present national servicemen with the salute but with the highest compliment of all, for the Operationally Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) to be part of the parade. So for this year's parade, MAJ(NS) Timothy Siah and CPT(NS) Valent Tan were NSmen who flew two of the F-15SGs in the bomb burst. LTC(NS) Lim Wee Tee was this year's NDP parade commander. And many more NSmen were put front and centre for NDP 2017, as it should, because national servicemen are the backbone of our national defence.
We all know that many participants gave up many weekends and spent hours practicing. You may have forgotten, but part of the preparation period was right in the midst of Ramadan. When I go down and meet our Muslim brothers and sisters; they are quite amazing. They practiced just as hard while fasting. I can understand if they go without food, but I can never understand how they can go without water. The whole day, they practise so hard, they sweat, and yet wait till they break fast to eat. This year, for the NDP, they also had to rehearse on the eve of Hari Raya Puasa. Just imagine if I asked you to rehearse on Chinese New Year eve. They deserve our admiration and thanks. Our traditional show partners from the People's Association, the Singapore Soka Association, and school children from four schools as always gave of their best too. There was an age range, quite a wide one. Starting from the four-year-old Shaista Eman to 81-year-old Grandma Mary, our rock guitarist. There were members of the Purple Symphony, these were children with special needs. And all of them, each of them, participated in this year's NDP as their own way of saying happy birthday to Singapore. For each of you, the participants, this is a special and unforgettable memory that you will tell your friends, children and even grandchildren for years to come. For all of us, the participants in the show represent the best parts of our inclusive society.
Just as important as participants, many thousands more worked behind the scenes to make the NDP a success. Security was a concern this year, because the security threat was up, and the highest it has ever been. We know of the chatter around us, we know of the situation near us. So if you can conduct a terrorist attack in a high publicity event like this, it is a major score for them. It is always a concern. The Police and the SCDF worked extra hard, handling security and safety. Just in case there were contingencies, the transport companies were roped in. How? There were bus drivers on standby in case we needed to bring people out fast. I would like to thank these bus drivers who were on standby to ferry the spectators. There were the admin personnel who gave technical support, those who helped crowd control, and many thousands more who worked behind the scenes. Finally, I would also like to highlight the many sponsors who gave generously without which it would have been much harder to put up this good show.
Ours is an improbable nation. In 1966 when we held our first NDP, we were not given much chance to succeed, if Singapore were to succeed at all. But with each NDP, we show to ourselves and the world what Singaporeans can achieve for Singapore when we dare to dream and work hard. Our NDP is a unique one and even more so, the Floating Platform, which is meant to be temporary. It is temporary. It was built because we could not use other venues, so we built it. But it turned out, as you can see, the Floating Platform is unique. I think there are very few sites, if any in the world, where you can see the air, land, and sea elements. The bomb burst, the helicopters, the speed chase, the boats, the Chinooks, and other assets on land. When you look at the pictures of NDP at the Floating Platform and with the backdrop of the Marina Bay, one of my favourite shots was that of the Chinook against the backdrop of the Marina Bay Sands. It is so surreal. Whether it is an Apache helicopter or a Chinook helicopter against the backdrop of the Marina Bay Sands, it is stunning and even surreal. Whether it is the Apache helicopters or F-15s doing aerobatics against the background of Marina Bay, or Chinooks hovering and speedboats twirling around and against buildings and the Merlion at Fullerton, or the dazzling fireworks and drones that light up the whole bay, I think this show and this site, as this year's NDP song goes, nothing in the world compares. I have said we should use the Floating Platform while we have it, so the organising committee has decided that next year's NDP 2018 will again be held at the Floating Platform. Let's all surge forward for another successful year. Each year we hold the NDP is another year that we mark the progress of this improbable nation, our nation. I look forward to your continued support and wish for you all an enjoyable evening. Thank you.
Source: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE (MINDEF)