Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong (Hougang): Thank you, Mr Chairman. In the last two years COVID-19 has affected virtually all aspects of our lives. It has affected our workplaces, businesses, public offices, schools, events and many other areas. SAF and military training have not been spared too. SAF had to overcome the challenges which COVID-19 might have imposed on its training programmes, training methodology, restriction of travel for overseas exercise and possibly our morale, due to restriction of activities, including cohesion activities, so on and so forth. And all these without compromising SAF’s combat readiness and maintaining the quality of its training regimes and programmes and the morale of our servicemen.
The recent Russian invasion of Ukraine is a reminder to us of the importance of Singapore having a strong defence force as an effective deterrent against foreign aggression and ambitions. Both the quality and credibility of our defence force must be maintained at all times regardless of the challenges, such as COVID-19.
At last year’s COS, Minister Ng Eng Hen shared with the House that despite the challenges of COVID-19, protection of key installations, maritime security, air defence and counter-terrorism efforts continue around the clock. The Minister also shared that COVID-19 affected some training programmes, exercises and deployments. And while certain major exercises resumed with the help of safe management measures, it might require more time to restart other exercises or for training to reach pre-COVID-19 levels.
I hope the Minister can brief the House again on what was SAF’s experience in maintaining its training regime and high-level of combat readiness last year, our second year of fighting COVID-19 and share with us the challenges which SAF had overcome.
At last year’s COS, Minister Ng also updated the House on the involvement of many SAF personnel to assist in COVID-related operations for the community, such as packing masks, stabilising the outbreak in dormitories, helping to set up the community care and recovery facilities, supporting contact tracing and medical logistics operations.
While I understand and agree with the support given by our SAF personnel in these areas, it also meant time-out from their training and their usual deployment or roles. As we head towards a post-pandemic world and this includes more countries opening up their borders, I would like to ask the Minister what are SAF’s plans to work towards the resumption of training and exercises back to a pre-COVID-19 level. Will SAF be enhancing training for all our forces and servicemen and in a sense, making up for their time spent away from our training or operational role as a result of COVID-19?
2 March 2022
Ministry of Defence