Published: 22 July 2017
Our very special guests – our Pioneer batch of Police NSmen and retired PA instructors
Families and friends,
Home Team colleagues,
1. Good morning and a very warm welcome to all.
2. For our Police NSmen, regulars and retired officers who had undergone training here at the Old Police Academy, welcome home. Commissioner Hoong Wee Teck and I are privileged to be able to host you this morning.
3. This is a special occasion to reminisce, rekindle fond memories, renew old bonds, and forge new ones.
National Service (NS) in the Singapore Police Force (SPF)
4. We are honoured to have with us today, officers from the pioneering batches of Police NSmen - Mr Albert Lee and Mr Ng Khay Chong from the second batch of NSmen; and Mr Ong Siong Seng from the first batch of Officer Cadet Trainees.
5. Mr. Albert Lee did his NS from 1968 to 1980. The Police NS system then was quite different from today. Mr Albert Lee reported for duty twice a week while helping out in his family business. He managed the crowd during the Robinson's fire at Raffles Place in 1972. He had also posed as a buyer of goods to help nab a thief during a Police sting operation in the 1970s.
6. Mr. Ong Siong Seng was among the first batch of National Service Inspectors to pass out in 1976. He served his NS as a Company Commander here in Old PA. He was a young officer put in charge of welfare and discipline. But he was able to gain the respect of older officers through his strong work ethics. After his full-time national service, he continued to serve in various NS key appointment positions in Clementi Division.
7. The commitment and service to the nation of our pioneer batches of NSmen will continue to be a source of inspiration for our current and future Home Team NS officers.
Appreciating the commitment and contributions of Police NSmen
8. As we celebrate 50 years of National Service this year, we salute and thank our Home Team NSmen for helping to keep our country safe and secure. We have a series of initiatives throughout the year to celebrate NS50.
9. One of these is a web series titled 'Frontliners'. 'Frontliners' is about the experiences of NSFs and NSmen in the Home Team. Each episode will feature first-hand accounts of our officers. The tough training they have gone through responding to real cases, to save and protect lives and learning and maturing through their time in national service. The first episode was launched yesterday on the Home Team News Facebook page and YouTube channel. You can also catch the first episode today at the NS exhibition located just behind me in this Pavilion.
10. Later this year, in November, the Prime Minister and the Home Team will host our Home Team NSmen to a Garden Reception at the Istana.
Old PA - A treasured memory for generations of Police officers
11. Today's event – the Reunion at Old PA – is also part of the Home Team's NS50 celebrations. I am proud to say that this event was fully spearheaded by Police NSmen. DAC (NS) Chua Song Heng and DAC (NS) Darric Teo Chai Jing, Chairman and Co-chairman of the organising committee and the rest of the team have spent significant time putting together this event – notwithstanding their busy work commitments.
Brief history of Old PA
12. Old PA has been a significant part of SPF's history since 1929, when it was relocated to Thomson Road from Shenton Way. For 76 years until December 2005, tens of thousands of men and women passed through its gates – entering as wide-eyed recruits, and leaving as full-fledged Police Officers.
Iconic areas within the compounds of Old PA
13. I am sure many of you have vivid memories of several iconic areas within the compounds of Old PA. The Mess, where you had your meals with steel trays and plastic mugs; the firing range, where many of you first fired your revolver; the Dixion stands, where you watched rugby matches; Jalan Kesusahan, literally translated as "Road of Struggles", where many struggled to finish the 2.4km run, and Block 1, where many graduation photos were taken.
14. Another iconic feature of Old PA is the swimming pool. I am told that it was our founding PM, Mr Lee Kuan Yew, who called for the construction of the pool. During his visit to Old PA in 1972, Mr Lee noticed that there was no swimming facilities and asked for a pool to be built for the officers and trainees. Mr Lee strongly believed that swimming was an essential life skill. This also showed how much Mr Lee had cared for the welfare of our Police officers and trainees.
15. Another interesting activity held in Old PA that may be less familiar to some of us is that from the 1970s to 1980s, weekly boxing matches were held at the drill shed on Fridays and Saturday evenings. I am also told the Academy even regularly hosted amateur boxing tournaments.
16. But Old PA is special not just because of the buildings and the places, but because of the people as well. I have heard so much about the "Living Legends" of Old PA.
17. Instructors who left a deep impression on scores of Police NSmen who have come through the Old PA. We are honoured to have one of them here with us today - Mr Sri Kanthan Chelliah, also known as the "Black Panther" because of his fearsome reputation for discipline and his physical fitness. You can immediately tell from his nickname that you must not play the fool with Mr Sri Kanthan. Always tough but also always fair, his training and experience helped shaped the lives and careers of many generations of Police officers. Trainees who have been toughened up by Mr Sri Kanthan included Mr. Heng Swee Keat, Minister for Finance and Mr. Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources. Mr Sri Kanthan, thank you for grooming many generations of Police officers, and for your contributions to the SPF and the nation.
Redevelopment of Old PA
18. Old PA holds much sentimental and historical significance for our Police Officers – past and present. But it also played a significant part in the history of our nation. The Old PA grounds and the areas around the Old PA will be undergoing redevelopment.
19. I am happy to tell you that my colleagues at MHA and MND are working closely together, to see how some of the significant old PA landmarks can be retained as part of the redevelopment plans of the area. We will respect the rich history of the area and ensure that the design of the new developments will reflect elements of Old PA. We will seek feedback from the public and the Police community as we do this.
20. On behalf of the Home Team, I would like to thank all of our Police NSmen, regulars, retirees and volunteers, for your dedication and service to the nation.
21. To the Organising Committee led by DAC (NS) Chua Song Heng, thank you once again for volunteering your time and effort in organising this special reunion. I am very encouraged by your willingness to serve despite your busy schedules.
22. Let me also extend our heartfelt appreciation to the spouses and family members of our NS officers. Without your support, our officers would not have been able to fulfil their duties and commitments effectively.
23. Beyond this event, I hope that all of you will continue to keep in touch with each other through your alumni networks, renew and strengthen your bonds of friendship and camaraderie.
24. Many guests have come back today as batches and cohorts of fellow trainees. HomeTeamNS has just launched the Alumni Connect Programme, a platform that provides secretariat services to connect NSmen with their NS buddies. You can do so via the HomeTeamNS app, or the website. I encourage you to use this platform to form alumni groups and rekindle friendships forged during NS. I'm told that the seventh batch of Police Officer Cadet Trainees has been meeting every five years, since their Passing Out Parade way back in March 1982. I applaud their commitment to each other. Similarly, I hope that your friendship with your fellow officers will continue for many more years to come.
25. With that, thank you, and I wish you an enjoyable and memorable day at the Old PA.