Welcome Reception for Operation Lionheart Contingent – Speech by Mr K Shanmugam, Minister for Home Affairs and Minister for Law

Published: 18 February 2023

Ambassador Gonenli – Excellency 

SCDF colleagues 

Good morning. 

1.   A very warm welcome back to Colonel (COL) Chew, Lieutenant-Colonel (LTC) Lok, and your Ops Lionheart team. And also, to your family members and members of the Turkish community who are here.
2.   Thank you very much. Members of SCDF, you have done very good work. 

3.   The tragedy of this, the suffering, the scale, is immense. More than 40,000 lives lost. 

4.   Our deepest condolences, thoughts, and prayers to all of those and their families..  

5.   SCDF has been building their capabilities for some time now. It is now classified as a Heavy Urban Search & Rescue (USAR) Team, recognised by the International Search & Rescue Advisory Group. 

6.   In last 33 years, SCDF has gone on 20 such missions, in Australia, Laos, Nepal. 

7.   Türkiye is a good friend of ours. In fact, when I was Foreign Minister, we opened the embassy there.  

8.   We were approached on 6 February, and we agreed immediately. 

9.   On 8 February, we sent an advance team of 20 officers. 

10.   Two days later, we sent a second team of 48 officers. 

11.   In the face of this tragedy, every life matters. It was all over the newspapers – you rescued a 12-year-old boy from the rubble of a three-storey building the day after you arrived, on 9 February. 

12.   The next day, you rescued a man who was trapped under a concrete slab from a collapsed two-storey building. 

13.   And, you have assisted with the retrieval of bodies from the rubble at various sites. You deployed search canines and life detection equipment, and you contributed supplies – trauma equipment, medicines, food, thermal wear, and tents – to the Turkish rescue teams. 

14.   I, and all Singaporeans, are proud of you for your spirits and contributions despite the very difficult conditions. I’m told that the weather was 5 degrees Celsius, and dropped to -3 degrees at night. And you were working in the middle of the risk of further collapse of buildings, staying in tents, sleeping in sleeping bags.  

15.   We, all Singaporeans, thank you, the 68 brave men and women, led by COL Chew and Deputy Commander LTC Lok. 

16.   Welcome back home. It’s time for you to have a well-deserved rest. 

17.   A very big thank you from the bottom of our hearts. Thank you very much.