Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Marina Bay floating platform to be renamed NS Square, be primary venue for National Day Parades

Marina Bay site will be expanded and become primary NDP venue, with new gallery on National Service
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 31 Oct 2017

The temporary floating platform at Marina Bay will be developed into a permanent space to commemorate national service as well as be the primary venue for future National Day Parades (NDPs).

The platform will be expanded and more seats added, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said yesterday.

Its current name, Float@Marina Bay, will be changed to NS Square, with a gallery that will showcase the evolution of NS.

"Its permanence and prominence in Marina Bay will reflect the central role that national service plays in our lives," said PM Lee.

The new venue can be used for parades, as well as community events such as arts performances, weekend markets and the River Hongbao, the Prime Minister said at a dinner reception for national servicemen to mark 50 years of NS.

The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said in a statement that the new NS Square will continue to be the venue for basic military training graduation parades. Parades for military units that complete their operationally ready national service will also be held there.

Details on its expansion are being finalised and will be announced later, MINDEF added.

The floating platform - which has hosted seven NDPs since 2007, including this year's edition - is a crowd favourite, as it is set against the backdrop of the city skyline and offers the public multiple vantage points to enjoy the fireworks. Built initially as a temporary NDP venue while the new National Stadium was under construction, the floating platform can seat 27,000 spectators.

Yesterday's dinner was the culmination of a year-long series of events to celebrate NS50. It was attended by 1,500 guests, including operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen), full-time national servicemen (NSFs), employers and Cabinet ministers such as Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen and Home Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam.

PM Lee, in his speech, paid tribute to servicemen and dwelt on the importance of NS in keeping Singapore safe. "Your contributions and sacrifices have enabled Singaporeans to enjoy decades of peace, and a safe and secure home," he said, noting that more than a million Singaporeans have served NS since it began in 1967.

He also said the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is a credible defence force that is taken seriously, while the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) continue to keep Singapore safe. All three - the SAF, police and SCDF - depend on a mix of regulars, NSFs and NSmen.

"Without NSFs and NSmen who serve willingly, take their training seriously and perform operational duties day after day, the SAF, SPF and SCDF could not exist," he said.

PM Lee recounted the difficulty of convincing young men and their families in the early years of NS that conscription was "the only way to build up a defence force".

"Fortunately, Singaporeans understood the urgency and gave their support. Over the years, Singaporeans have accepted national service. It's become a national institution, a rite of passage," he said.

National servicemen told The Straits Times that the symbolic gesture of renaming the floating platform, a landmark in the heart of the city, would cement the importance of NS in the minds of Singaporeans.

Deputy Superintendent (NS) Mohammed Nazly Mohammed Taha said: "It will motivate our younger generation to think about what NS means to them."

PM Lee was 'a humble officer with no airs'
By Danson Cheong, The Straits Times, 31 Oct 2017

It is often said that national service is where young Singaporean men form bonds that last for life.

For the men who served with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the artillery decades ago, he was a humble officer with no airs, who had a taste for mee siam and kambing soup.

Lieutenant-Colonel (Ret) Tan Seng Poh, 65, remembered how he and other officers would go for supper with PM Lee at the old Chong Pang Village after strenuous training. "He had no airs, he was always very sociable."

He was among several of PM Lee's former army buddies who related their experience serving with him in the 70s and 80s, during an NS50 dinner reception yesterday.

Senior Warrant Officer (Ret) Lau Peck Woh, 63, said PM Lee was an officer who had the welfare of his men at heart.

He recounted how PM Lee, then a platoon commander in 24th Battalion Singapore Artillery, once noticed that the soles of his men's shoes had split and hung "open like crocodiles". He asked SWO Lau, his then platoon sergeant, why this was so.

The men kept missing the dates to exchange their kit because they were always out in the field for exercises, SWO Lau replied. This led PM Lee to arrange with the unit's quartermaster for new gear.

"In less than one week's time, all of us had exchanged our shoes for new kit," said SWO Lau. "When (PM Lee) was around, the morale of the men was very high."

During his speech yesterday, PM Lee said he was happy that he could meet some of his old artillery comrades.

He pointed out that he would bump into old army friends from time to time in public, and they would catch up. "The years would melt away and vivid memories come flooding back," he said.

Book tracing Home Team's 50 years of National Service history launched
Commemorative tome will be given to NSFs, schools, libraries
By Tan Tam Mei, The Straits Times, 4 Nov 2017

When he makes his rounds at the dormitories in Woodlands East, Special Constable Corporal Nabel Al Masri, 23, is welcomed by crowds of Bangladeshi workers.

The full-time national serviceman's fluency in Bengali has not only made him popular among the workers, it has helped bridge the communication gap between the workers and law enforcement.

As a result, Woodlands East Neighbourhood Police Centre, where he works, has seen more workers come forward to seek help.

"Sometimes, they share problems not related to crime and it is meaningful that I am able to help then," said Cpl Nabel recalling an occasion when he helped about 20 workers facing employment-related issues file a police report.

The officer from the Community Policing Unit came to Singapore from Bangladesh with his parents when he was one, and became a citizen in 2005. "I see the language as an asset, and it gives me an advantage to help others," he said.

Cpl Nabel's story is just one of many in the Home Team NS50 Commemorative Book - Everyday Guardians: 50 Years Of National Service In Singapore's Home Team - launched by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at a dinner reception at the Istana yesterday.

The dinner was held to round off the year-long Home Team NS50 celebrations. Minister for Home Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office Josephine Teo, and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli were also present.

Written by Mr Koh Buck Song, the book traces the evolution of NS in the Home Team. It will be distributed to Home Team full-time national servicemen (NSFs), schools and public libraries.

Over 900 Home Team NSFs, NS pioneers and their families were at the dinner at the Istana Lawn.

PM Lee also presented the NSF of the Year award to 10 men from the police and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) for outstanding performance and conduct during NS.

Sergeant (NS) Danial Matin Zaini, 21, received the award for his service as a field instructor to the National Civil Defence Cadet Corps during his time with the SCDF. He taught cadets skills such as fire safety and first aid.

The undergraduate, who reached his operationally ready date (ORD) in March, said his experience with the cadets has helped him to hone his teaching skills .

"I was inspired to be a teacher by the good teachers I had in secondary school," he said.

Another award recipient, Inspector (NS) Billy Lian, 22, whose ORD was in June, served as an event security officer. The executive in a trading firm helped to plan and execute key events last year, such as the funeral of former president S R Nathan and the Singapore Formula 1 Grand Prix.

In a Facebook post last night, PM Lee thanked all Home Team members. He wrote: "Beyond rewards and recognition, what is truly priceless is your contribution to keeping our home safe and secure.

PM Lee: Continue Passing the Baton of National Defence, From One Generation to the Next
PM Lee Hsien Loong's speech at the NS50 Dinner Reception
NS50 celebrations to commemorate 50 years of National Service launched

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