Published: 13 February 2017
Mr Desmond Lee, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and President of HomeTeamNS,
Dr Mohamad Maliki Osman, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Defence & Ministry of Foreign Affairs,
Mr Amrin Amin, Parliamentary Secretary, Ministry of Home Affairs
Assoc Prof Ho Peng Kee,
Commissioner of Police,
Commissioner of SCDF,
Home Team colleagues,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. This afternoon, we officially open this HomeTeamNS Tampines club. It is the first club that is integrated with a community Town Hub - a way that we recognise and appreciate the contributions of our Home Team NSmen and their families.
2. This year also marks the 50th anniversary of National Service in Singapore, or NS50, for short. We will have a full calendar of events this year to honour, appreciate and celebrate the contributions of our NSmen.
3. Today, I wish to touch on three key points. First, how NS has evolved in the Home team. Second, our new HomeTeam NS clubhouse masterplan and third, our celebrations to mark NS50 this year.
NS in the HomeTeam
4. First, let me talk about the role of NSmen in the Home Team. They serve in the Police Force and SCDF. They stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our regulars, keeping Singapore safe and secure.
5. If you count from our first batch enlisted in 1967, we now have more than 260,000 full-time and part-time NS officers who have served or are serving in the Home Team.
6. NS was first introduced in the Police Force in 1967, on a part-time basis. Some of us remember the MacDonald House bombing in 1965. That brought home the importance of having a citizen force, as part of the Police Force, to protect ourselves and ensure the safety and security in Singapore. Full-time NS in the Police was established later, in 1975, following the Laju incident in 1974.
7. NS for the SCDF had its earliest roots in 1976, when full-time NS was established in the Singapore Fire Brigade. In 1981, the Construction Brigade was established under the Civil Defence Command to develop NS personnel in building repairs, reconstruction of installations and restoration of essential utilities.
8. We could not have walked this journey and be where we are today, without the people who put in a lot of sacrifice. We are very grateful to them for their commitment and service to the nation. They really set the standards and paved the way for future generations. I am very happy to see some of them here with us today. It is useful to mention some of them as an illustration:
Evolving Nature of the NS Duties
9. Our Home Team NS officers perform extremely important work. Over the years, the nature of this work has evolved.
10. In the early years, they were seen as a very important addition to our regular force in the Police and SCDF. Police NS officers were deployed in areas such as investigation, crime prevention patrols and protection of key installations. SCDF NS officers were trained in basic fire-fighting, rescue and construction skills.
11. Over the years, as the nature of threats evolved, our operating and training philosophies have also changed. Today, our NS officers are trained in the same way as our regulars and many of them perform the same duties as regulars.
12. In the early years, for example, to distinguish between the different training and levels of responsibilities, the uniforms looked different. Police regulars wore black lanyards and black nametags. Police NS officers wore red lanyards and white name tags.
13. Today, they wear the same uniform. If you see a Police officer, you wouldn't be able to tell if he is a regular, an NSmen, or from the Voluntary Special Constabulary (VSC) – same uniform, same responsibilities.
14. We have transformed the roles performed by our NS officers, putting more in leadership and specialist roles. Last year I went to the Hari Raya night market. The planning for the security of that event, the conceptualisation, the actual foot patrols- everything was done by Police NSmen.
15. Some units are nearly 100%, or mainly manned by NS officers. The Public Transport Security Command (or Transcom) in Police is almost 100% manned by NSFs. They do good work keeping our public transport network safe. Police also recently set up a new Protective Security Command (or ProCom) to protect key installations during National Emergencies and provide security at key national events. ProCom has the largest group of NSFs and ORNS in the SPF.
16. At SCDF, our NS officers are trained to handle to most difficult situations such as hazmat incidents and also to respond to unconventional threats, chemical and biological incidents.
17. Not many people realise, if you look at an SCDF fire engine, two to three out of a four-man crew in a fire engine are NSFs or NSmen. One out of three officers in an emergency ambulance crew is an NSmen.
18. Looking ahead, we will continue to see how our National Servicemen are better educated, more trainable, they can perform better and we will continue to see how to deploy them to new areas.
19. Last year, as part of SGSecure, our NSmen went out to bring the message of SGSecure, on how to protect themselves, how to come forward to serve the community. Many of them visiting thousands of households. They conducted public education, they tell our people what they need to do to be vigilant, to be trained, to respond.
Masterplan for HomeTeamNS Clubhouses
20. Having touched on how important NSmen are to the safety and security of Singapore and how integral they are to the Home Team, let me now touch on our Masterplan for our clubhouses. We have decided to embark on a long term Masterplan for our HomeTeamNS clubhouses.
21. In 2012, Minister Masagos Zulkifli, then President of HomeTeamNS, initiated a strategic review of HomeTeamNS. The review aimed to enable HomeTeamNS to better serve the needs of our NSmen.
22. HomeTeamNS refurbished four clubhouses- Balestier, Bukit Batok, Chinatown and Sembawang. We added new facilities and F&B outlets, increased membership privileges and widened service offerings.
23. Minister Masagos was also instrumental in securing this location at Our Tampines Hub. He is unable to join us today, but I think we ought to record our thanks to him for his significant contributions to the Home Team NS community.
24. We have built on this good work and we are now moving ahead. Since last year, we have embarked on a long-term planning exercise. We studied the needs of our Home Team NSmen. We enlisted the help of a panel of external architects, who have been helping our Development Committee and experts. We will review our clubhouse in Balestier and at the same time, we will build three new clubhouses, in the northern, eastern and western parts of Singapore over the next 10-15 years.
25. The new clubhouses will have state-of-the-art modern facilities and well-appointed, with clear themes and strong design features. They will be located near public transport facilities, accessible and convenient.
26. We want to make our clubhouses conducive and homely locations for our NSmen to bring their families, organise social gatherings, or hold unit cohesion activities.
First Clubhouse at Khatib-Yishun
27. The first of the new clubhouses will be located in the North, near Khatib-Yishun. It is expected to be ready in 2020. This will replace the existing clubhouse in Sembawang. It will focus on indoor sports and recreational facilities and provide indoor teambuilding facilities.
Second Clubhouse at Bedok Reservoir
28. The second of our new clubhouses will be located near Bedok Reservoir. It will have a waterfront theme, and the design will incorporate the waterfront as well as nature.
Third Clubhouse at Future Tengah Forest Town
29. The third is being planned in the future Tengah Forest Town. It will replace our current clubhouse at Bukit Batok. With this club, we hope to organise more cohesion building activities for larger groups for our NSmen and their families.
30. Collectively, the new clubhouses will be built with our NSmen as the key focus and we will seek views from our NSmen on what they would like to see in these spaces. Our NSmen bring with them a wealth of experience and expertise across the board, including expertise in architecture, project management, marketing and retail.
31. So we would like as many NSmen as possible to come forward and volunteer. Give us your views and we will take them seriously. Throughout the course of this year, we hope that we will concretise our viewpoints and put up artist impressions. My guidance to the team is a very clear one, we want them to be amongst the best in their class. Starting from a fresh slate, we will go out with pride and say, it is not just a building. It is what it represents and what it symbolises. It symbolises the value we place on our NSmen and how we treat them. It will be representative and it will be well done.
Home Team Celebrates NS50
32. Let me talk about celebrations this year on NS50. Minister for Defence announced last week that NS officers can look forward to an NS50 recognition package and an exciting line-up of NS50 activities. The NS50 recognition package is a token and symbolic, and it is meant to show how we value our people.
33. In addition to these national level initiatives, the Ministry of Home Affairs will organise a series of events to commemorate NS50 in the Home Team.
34. The flagship event will be the Home Team Show and Festival, to be held from the 3rd to the 7th of May at the Singapore Indoor Stadium and its surrounding area. It will showcase the work of the Home Team. How Home Team regulars, NS officers, volunteers and the community work together to keep Singapore safe. I believe the plans are very exciting. I have been briefed on them and I think Singaporeans will enjoy them too.
35. As part of the Festival, there will be displays and exhibits, including Home Team officers' weapons and tactics, and also live action-packed operational demonstrations. Home Team officers will be present in different uniforms, to meet up with people who come.
36. So I hope to see many NS officers and their families come and join us. This is the reality, this is what our people do on a day-to-day basis. It is a real experience, and we would like to share that with the public. I hope we will get full support for this. Ticketing details will be announced by my Ministry in due course.
37. Let me conclude with a few remarks to the Home Team NS community: Our Home Team NSFs and NSmen have served to protect Singapore.
38. On behalf of everyone in the Ministry, current and past, we thank you for your dedication and your service. For the past 50 years, you have helped Singapore. You have played an important part in making Singapore what it is today.
39. It is because of your contributions that you have given, and the sacrifices that your families have made, that Singapore today is really one of the safest, if not the safest, place in the world. NS50 is a time for us to renew our covenants, our commitments, and our bonds, recognise, showcase and then move forward. The whole of Singapore owes you a debt of gratitude. So with that, thank you, and keep up the good work!
40. I am pleased to officially open this HomeTeamNS Tampines Clubhouse. Thank you.