Section 2
Defence and International Security

Section 3
Linking Bridges and Strengthening Ties

Section 4
Building on the Economic Miracle

Section 5
A Healthy Nation, A Thriving Land

Section 6
Housing a Nation: Changing Times, Changin Needs

Section 7
Sports and Culture: The Finer Things in Life

Section 8
Education for All on Different Paths

Section 9
The Next Decade


Defence and International Security

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2.1 Defence in the Second Decade: Rise of Reservist Power and Modernisation of Defence Technology
- External Threats: Storm Clouds over Indo-China
- Friendly Forces: Strengthening Regional Defence Relations
- Turbo-Charging the Armed Forces
- Fit to Fight: Reservists on the Frontline
2.2 A Safer Home for All: Internal Security Matters
2.3 Do you know? Painful Lessons Learnt
- Down with Drugs: Controlling the Drug Problem
2.4 Do you know? The Glue that had Become a Sticky Problem!
- Partners in Crime-Fighting: Increased Police-Community Cooperation
- Strength from Within - Civil Defence in Singapore

Defence in the Second Decade: Rise of Reservist Power and Modernisation of Defence Technology

External threats: Storm Clouds over Indochina

Security problems dominating the first decade had largely receded by the second decade. Bilateral ties with Indonesia steadily improved following the end of Konfrontasi in 1966. Communist insurgency, while still a risk, was under control by the mid-1970s.

But new problems emerged. In 1975, South Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos fell to Communism, and fears grew that other Southeast Asian countries could follow like a row of falling dominos. The security situation worsened in 1978 when Vietnam invaded and occupied Cambodia with the backing of its ally the Soviet Union. Tensions remained high the following year as China fought Vietnam in a short but fierce border war in support of Cambodia.

With Vietnam and the Soviet Union asserting themselves militarily and China being drawn into the picture, while the United States and Great Britain were scaling back their presence in Southeast Asia, political instability threatened the region, and trade and foreign investments were affected.

Domestically, falling birth rates meant fewer national servicemen for the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), and there were concerns on our reservist’s military readiness.

Furthermore, after a decade of growth, the SAF needed to upgrade its defence equipment to keep up with regional political changes.

Source: Milwaukee Journal
The domino theory was first proposed by United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. The theory predicted that if a country came under communist influence, the countries surrounding it would soon follow, toppling like a row of falling dominos. 

Source: Saturday Evening Post  

The graphic from the American Saturday Evening Post magazine outlined the geopolitical position of the Communist powers in Southeast Asia prior to the fall of South Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in 1975.

Source: Posters of the Cold War, 2008  

This 1975 poster by an anonymous American artist reflects some of Singapore's leaders hopes and concerns for Indochina.

Friendly forces: Strengthening regional defence relations

To find shared solutions to the security threat posed by Vietnam and the Soviet Union, Singapore deepened its defence relations with both fellow ASEAN nations and friendly countries with trade and strategic links with the region, such as Australia, New Zealand and the United States. It also found an unexpected new friend in the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Singapore continued its active participation in the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA), its formal military alliance with Australia, Malaysia, New Zealand and Great Britain. We also signed a Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in 1976 with fellow ASEAN member-states. While not a military agreement, the Treaty was ratified in response to the turmoil in Indochina, demonstrating ASEAN’s unity in the face of external threats.

The frequency of bilateral military exercises with friendly neighbouring countries was stepped up. Numerous bilateral exercises were carried out between the SAF and the armed forces of Thailand, Indonesia, Brunei, New Zealand and Australia. Joint military exercises also took place with Malaysia and the United States.

Top level meetings were regularly conducted between our leaders and foreign dignitaries on Southeast Asian regional security. These included talks between PM Lee and US Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan, and landmark discussions between PM Lee and the Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping. The talks resulted in substantial improvements to Singapore’s security relations with the United States and especially the PRC.

Singapore’s defence diplomacy in the second decade encouraged trust, cooperation and cohesiveness between Singapore and its ASEAN and international allies. It served to isolate and deter potential aggressors, and was a foundation pillar of our national defence.

Our problem of adjusting to this world is to learn how we can anticipate shifts in the power balance…..This is our dilemma - a dilemma which will concern us in more and more parts of the world. A multi-polar world theoretically means a diffusion of power centres. In reality it makes for greater anxiety because nobody is in total control…..A stalemate is best for us - a stalemate which leaves us more years in which to consolidate our security, increase our cooperation and widen our options to choose our partners in economic development and progress.

Extract of keynote speech by PM Lee on the World Political Scene at the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting at Lusaka, 1 August 1979

Source: Pioneer, courtesy of NAS
Singapore warships participating in Exercise Starfish, a Five Power Defence Arrangement joint-exercise, 1982

Source: Pioneer, courtesy of NAS

Source: Pioneer, courtesy of NAS
SAF soldiers participating in a joint military exercise with the Royal Australian Armed Forces in Northern Australia, 1982 (both)

Source: Pioneer, courtesy of NAS
Singapore troops briefed by Australian soldiers on how to conduct helicopter evacuations during Exercise Platypus, an FPDA exercise held in Australia, 1981

Source: Pioneer, courtesy of NAS
Senior commanders from Brunei (right and left) and Singapore (centre) exchanging views during Exercise Singa-Hutan, a joint exercise between the armed forces of Singapore and Brunei, conducted in Brunei, 1984

Source: Pioneer, courtesy of NAS
Sailors from the Indonesian Destroyer Escort KRI Samadikun (on left) transferring equipment to their Singaporean compatriots on the missile gunboat RSS Sea Dragon (right) during Exercise Eagle IV, 1983, a joint exercise between the Indonesian and Singapore navies.

Source: MOC (now MICA), courtesy of NAS
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence Dr Goh Keng Swee (centre-right) meeting with New Zealand Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Brian Edward Talboys (centre-left) in Singapore, 1976. Singapore maintained close defence ties with New Zealand and Australia in the second decade. Dr Goh was Singapore’s first Minister of Defence and held the Singapore’s defence portfolio from 1967 until he was succeeded by Mr Howe Yoon Chong in 1979.  The foundations of the SAF were established under Dr Goh’s leadership.

Source: MOC (now MICA), courtesy of NAS
US Secretary of Defence Caspar Weinberger (right) meeting Minister for Defence Goh Chok Tong (centre) and Minister of State for Defence Dr Yeo Ning Hong (left) during his visit to Singapore in 1982. Singapore developed close defence relations with the United States in the second decade.

Turbo-charging the armed forces

The decade saw the SAF develop a substantially stronger navy and air force and make continuous enhancements to the army in its efforts to transform itself into a technologically superior armed force.

Home grown companies like Chartered Industries of Singapore, the Singapore Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, and the Singapore Aerospace Maintenance Company developed the capability to design new weapons, like assault rifles, and manufacture and upgrade complex military hardware, including small modern warships.

The new equipment made fuller use of Singapore’s increasingly well educated soldiers who were able to quickly absorb the more complex training required to handle them. They also made the SAF leaner but more deadly, making up for the gradual decline in national serviceman intakes from the late 1970s due to falling birth rates. As Minister of Defence Dr Goh Keng Swee related in Parliament in August 1977:

It is… necessary to economise the use of manpower. As a result of successful family planning in past years, the number of young men available for national service in future years will show a steady but relentless decline. In 10 years time, the number available will be nearly 30 per cent less than what it is now…

Apart from making improvements in hardware, the second decade saw new initiatives to attract talented Singaporeans into the armed forces. The public and professional image of the SAF was improved through public education campaigns, as well as job enhancements for SAF personnel, like better career development, overseas training opportunities, and tertiary education scholarships.

We have had National Service for 15 years now. I believe, however, that we have not yet built up a close and natural relationship between the SAF and the people. There is still an inadequate appreciation of the importance of SAF officers.

For example, our society as a whole does not accord SAF officers the esteem they deserve. A Colonel commanding a division of 15,000 men does not carry the same prestige as a doctor in social circles. Yet, the doctor's survival, indeed, the whole country's survival, in times of war, may depend on that Colonel and his 15,000 men.

Minister for Defence Goh Chok Tong at a promotion ceremony for reservist SAF officers, Beach Road Camp, 29 June 1982

Source: MINDEF
German-designed and technologically advanced, the Republic of Singapore’s missile gunboats were commissioned by the Singapore navy in 1975. They were armed with anti-ship and anti-aircraft cannons as well as electronically guided missiles. Four of the six missile gunboats were locally manufactured by the Singapore Shipbuilding and Engineering Company.
Source: Fighting Fit – The Singapore Armed Forces, 1990
The handy and accurate Ultimax 100 light machine gun was developed by Chartered Industries of Singapore with guidance from Jim Sullivan, a renowned firearms designer who co-designed the M-16 rifle. Introduced to the SAF in 1983, it remains the lightest 5.56mm calibre machine gun in the world.

Source: MINDEF
The American F-5E Tiger II, acquired in 1979, was Singapore’s first supersonic fighter aircraft.  The F-5Es flying in close formation performed in Singapore’s National Day celebrations, 1980
Source: Pioneer, courtesy of NAS
Source: MINDEF
The SAF enhanced its air defences considerably in the second decade. High-tech anti-aircraft missiles were acquired, like the American Improved Hawk missile and the man-portable Swedish RBS-70 missile, shown here mounted on an SAF V200 armoured vehicle.
Source: MINDEF
In the second decade, American M113 armoured personnel carriers were purchased to replace our aging fleet of V200 armoured vehicles, which were redesignated for air defence. The M113 was equipped with tracks, which provided for better manoeuvrability in rough terrain
Source: MINDEF
The American Bell UH-1H “Huey” helicopter was introduced to the SAF in 1977. The “Huey” was used to transport the SAF's elite Commandos and Guardsmen, and was an integral part of early SAF efforts to develop the capacity to launch large-scale heliborne operations.

SAF Recruitment Poster 1978
Source: MINDEF, courtesy of NAS
SAF recruitment posters used in 1978 (left) and 1980 (right).
Source: Singapore Press Holdings
The SAF helped groom many of Singapore’s present generation of leaders. Several of our current Cabinet Ministers were SAF scholars, such as BG George Yeo (far left), RADM Teo Chee Hian (standing), and Mr Lim Hng Kiang (centre).
Source: MINDEF, courtesy of NAS

The SAF continued to engage Singaporeans through exciting public display shows in which it showcased its latest equipment and combat skills

Source: MOC (now MICA), Courtesy of NAS
Scenes from the SAF Display, 1983. SAF soldiers demonstrating the fire fox in simulated combat conditions and a simulated assault on enemy positions by SAF armoured and infantry forces.
(Low Res) Assault

Fit to fight: Reservists on the frontline

There was also a strong focus in the second decade on improving the quality of our reservists, i.e. those Singapore citizens who had completed their full time National Service. By 1984, reservists accounted for 80 per cent of Singapore’s armed forces, or about 200,000 soldiers. Thus the effectiveness of the nation’s military depended on having fit, motivated and well-trained reservists.

Reservists were reminded that they were Singapore’s front-line military force and not a mere second-line “reserve”, and that they were counted on as defenders of the nation even as they went about their civilian lives.

In-camp training was made more vigorous and streamlined to save time and increase training intensity. Promising reservist soldiers were promoted and sent for advanced military training to upgrade their skills. The best reservist officers were selected for training at the SAF’s prestigious Command and Staff College, which previously admitted only senior career officers.

Efforts were made to improve the fitness levels of reservist soldiers, as many lost their physical conditioning after returning to civilian life. A new physical fitness test called the Individual Physical Proficiency Test (IPPT) was introduced in 1980 to ensure that reservists upkeep their physical fitness.

To raise the morale of reservists and recognise the crucial role they played in Singapore’s national defence, our Government also established the first two permanent Singapore Armed Forces Reservist Association (SAFRA) clubhouses at Toa Payoh and Bukit Merah. The clubhouses provided quality meeting places for reservists to meet up with one another and were generously furnished with first class sport and gym facilities to encourage physical fitness.

The fate of the nation depends on every soldier playing his part and bearing his responsibility as a citizen. National defence is a heavy responsibility. We have been given the duty to defend our country. If members of the SAF, both in active and in reserve units, take their training and tasks seriously, others will have second thoughts about threatening Singapore, and peace will be preserved. If we do not take our training and tasks seriously, we will be inviting others to take our possessions away by force…

Singaporeans must be made aware of the improvements in quality continually being made in the SAF. In order to win the respect of the public, in particular, of those who are national servicemen or reservists, our regular corps of soldiers must impress them with a sense of commitment to their profession and to the country.

Extract of message by Minister for Defence Goh Chok Tong on Singapore Armed Forces Day, 1 July 1982

Source: MOC (now MICA), courtesy of NAS
Second Minister for Defence Howe Yoon Chong swearing in before President Benjamin Sheares in 1979. Mr Howe initiated SAF reforms in the second decade to improve reservist fitness, training and morale.
Source: Pioneer, courtesy of NAS
Reservist Commandos from the 10 Commando Battalion preparing for a parachute jump.  To maintain the effectiveness of the SAF, training was made more strenuous for reservists in the second decade.

Source: Pioneer, courtesy of NAS
Reservists taking the IPPT fitness test. The test was medically designed to check a soldier’s strength, agility and endurance, and comprised of five exercises – pull-ups, sit-ups, shuttle-run, standing broad jump and a 2.4km endurance run. When it was first introduced, soldiers had to take the test every six months and pass it, or face a remedial training programme.

Source: MOC (now MICA), courtesy of NAS
Minister for Information and Communications and Second Minister for Defence Dr Yeo Ning Hong congratulating officers from the Reservist Officers Staff Training Course at their graduation ceremony at the Istana, 1985.

Source: Fighting Fit – The Singapore Armed Forces, 1990
Exercise in comfort (Print and Enhance 5R)
Source: Pioneer, courtesy of NAS
The SAFRA Bukit Merah clubhouse established in 1982 was attractively  designed and furnished with the latest fitness equipment to encourage reservists to exercise regularly and keep fit.
19980006791 - 0027 NDP 1982
Source: MOC (now MICA), courtesy of NAS
Elite SAF Commandos on parade during National Day 1982.
Goh Chok Tong Pic (To enhance and Print 6R)
Source: MOC (now MICA), courtesy of NAS
The Republic’s third Minister for Defence Goh Chok Tong. Mr Goh took over the defence portfolio from Mr Howe Yoon Chong in 1982.

A Safer Home for All : Internal Security Matters

By the mid-1970s, the internal security threats posed by communists in Singapore as witnessed in the 1950s and 1960s had largely diminished. The Communist Party of Malaya (CPM) had retreated to the Malaysia-Thailand border to continue their armed struggle in the Second Malayan Emergency. However Singapore still had to remain vigilant given the proximity to Malaysia, and communist saboteurs were sometimes caught in possession of dangerous weapons here. In polytechnics and universities, young Singaporeans were swayed by Communist elements, posing risks to the stability of society.

The government also faced other challenges in maintaining internal stability – tackling the drug problem, stemming the growing crime rates in the heartlands as well as building up credible civil defence capabilities in emergencies.

Source: The Straits Times, 21 Dec 1974

Source: The Straits Times, 5 August 1975

In July 1974, three communist agents, including a Malaysian and a Singaporean, were driving along East Coast Road when the bomb they were carrying detonated prematurely. The Malaysian was killed while the Singaporean was seriously injured. The third saboteur escaped.

Hand grenades were discovered following the arrest of five CPM members in August 1975.

Source: Singapore Press Holdings, courtesy of NAS
Singapore Polytechnic students attending a rally in 1976 to protest the arrest of five polytechnic students who were detained by the Ministry of Home Affairs for communist underground activities.

Source: Civil Defence in Singapore 1936 – 1994, 1985

A firefighter using a ladder for rescue operations at high-rise buildings. 

Do you know? Painful Lessons Learnt

Down with Drugs : Controlling the Drug Problem

Drug abuse was a serious problem in the 1970s, and young people – the country’s primary resource – were especially vulnerable. With the end of American involvement in the Vietnam War, the demand for heroin in Indochina suddenly diminished. Drug traffickers in the Golden Triangle found an alternative market in Southeast Asia, including Singapore. The Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB) was formed as the primary drug enforcement agency to counter this social problem.

If drug abuse were to be allowed to grow unchecked, particularly among our youths, we would eventually be faced with a dangerous national security problem. In no time we would find that it had penetrated right into the vital and sensitive institutions of the State, like the Police and the Armed Forces.

- Extract of speech by Minister for Home Affairs Mr Chua Sian Chin in Parliament, 20 Nov 1975

The mandatory death penalty for trafficking in more than 15 grams of heroin or more than 30 grams of morphine was introduced in December 1975. This reflected the tough stance of the Government towards drug traffickers. Drug addicts were sent to Drug Rehabilitation Centres (DRCs) for compulsory treatment and rehabilitation and subsequent integration back into society.

In April 1977, an inter-department effort led by CNB and the Singapore Police Force (SPF), codenamed Operation Ferret, was launched. This operation aimed to round up as many drug abusers as possible for treatment. In addition to the tough enforcement by the CNB, other actions included closing venues where drugs were peddled and government campaigns to discourage males from keeping long hair – associated with the hippy culture and drug abuse. Further amendments to the Misuse of Drugs Act were made to reinforce measures against drug traffickers.

As a result of strong political will in the crackdown on drugs, the drug problem was under control by the end of the second decade. Stringent checks at the country’s checkpoints limited the smuggling of drugs into Singapore. The supply of drugs on the streets fell, resulting in the increase in the street price of heroin from $35 per gram in 1977 to $333 per gram in 1980. The number of drug abusers admitted into DRCs in 1985 was 2,224 as compared to 6,719 in 1977.

Source: Singapore Press Holdings, courtesy of NAS
Forty-two phials of drugs, together with an assortment of drug-preparing utensils were seized.

Source: Singapore Anti-Narcotics Association, courtesy of NAS

Source: CNB, courtesy of NAS

Source: In the Service of the Nation, 1985
Drug addicts were a blight to society.

Source: In the Service of the Nation, 1985

Taking urine samples of drug suspects for scientific tests.

Source: In the Service of the Nation, 1985

Inmates at a DRC. A Day Release Scheme (DRS) was introduced in 1979 to help inmates reintegrate back into society. Employment was secured for DRC inmates six months before their discharge. They were allowed to leave DRCs for work, with minimal supervision. Those who misbehaved or relapsed into addiction were taken off the scheme.


Do you know?

Partners-in-Crime-fighting: Increased police-community cooperation

President Benjamin Sheares identified the growing crime rate as a problem to be addressed in his President’s address in 1975. Between 1975 and 1983, the number of reports of murder rose from 49 to 57, robbery from 1,343 to 1,472, housebreaking from 2,025 to 3,006 and theft from 9,519 to 21,049. The Singapore Police Force (SPF) had insufficient trained volunteer officers to supplement regulars in countering the growing crime rate. Full-time Police National Service was thus introduced in 1975 to help increase police manpower. The SPF also introduced changes to the system of policing. Police officers were trained to improve police-community relations and provide higher standards of service.

As the population density shifted from the city to HDB estates around the island, centralised police stations were less able to address the problem of crime in the heartlands effectively. The Neighbourhood Police Post (NPP) system, adapted from the highly-successful Japanese koban system, was first established in June 1983 as an ‘outpost’ to render assistance to the community. By having police officers working closely with the residents, it was hoped that the rapport between police and the community would be improved, hence promoting cooperation and trust. This would make it more likely for residents to assist the police in investigating possible criminal activities.

This marked a shift in policing strategy from the old method of solving crimes after they had been committed to proactively preventing crime. Cheong Quee Wah, Permanent Secretary of Home Affairs between 1981 and 1986, recalled the reasons for this shift in his oral history interview with the National Archives in 1995:

...There was not much of a rapport from members of the public. Generally, members of the public are quite fearful of the police...in the Japanese system, the police are quite well-respected by the people (and) the image of the police is one of a friendly profession, a friend next door... We thought that the policy of preventing crime is much better than solving the crime...you can only do crime prevention if you get members of the public to work with you...

Eight NPPs were set up in the Toa Payoh Police Division (‘B’ Division) first, as it had a mixture of old and new HDB flats as well as established private residential estates. In addition to policing duties, police officers at NPPs also provided social services like calling on families in their area, registering address changes on identity cards and issuing death certificates. Police officers assigned to NPPs were given specialised training on how to communicate effectively with residents. The NPP system was to be fully implemented by 1989, with 91 NPPs around Singapore. The system proved a success during its first phase, as residents were more willing to report cases, evidenced by 2,839 cases of arrests between June 1983 and May 1984, compared to 1,599 and 1,252 cases in the previous two years.

 “The image of the Police Force has changed over the years. And instead having police stations which you were afraid to approach, you now have the so-called friendly Neighbourhood Police Post. This is exactly how we can make one aspect of the Civil Service a more friendly service, and to say look, he is your policeman, not the state’s policeman.

Extract of oral history interview with Dr Andrew Chew Guan Khuan, Deputy Head of the Civil Service (1984), 1995, reel 20.

Source: SPF, courtesy of NAS

Mr Chua Sian Chin officiates at the opening of the first Neighbourhood Police Post at Block 89, Lorong 2 Toa Payoh on 3 June 1983

Source: The Straits Times, 18 Jul 1975,Singapore Press Holdings

Source: MOC (now MICA), courtesy of NAS

Police officers give a helping hand at Toa Payoh Neighbourhood Police Post

Source: Singapore 1983, courtesy of NAS

The bicycle patrol was reintroduced as a crime prevention measure in crime-prone areas.

Source: In the Service of the Nation, 1985

The Neighbourhood Police Post  was a step in improving in police-community cooperation against crime. 

Source: SPF, courtesy of NAS
Posters from 1981 reminding residents to be vigilant in preventing crime.

Strength from Within - Civil Defence in Singapore

The Civil Defence Command (CDC), comprising the Civil Defence Corps and the Construction Brigade, was established in 1981 as a national civil defence organisation to work with military forces. As a small country with limited resources, there was a need for Singapore to mobilise all available resources, including civilians, in a crisis. The National Civil Defence Plan, launched in November 1982, aimed to protect and save civilian lives and property in the event of war or disaster. With proper training and preparation, civilians could help ensure that life continued normally in times of crisis.

The CDC was renamed Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) in September 1983. Due to similar roles and functions, it was integrated with the Singapore Fire Service in 1989 to form the SCDF we know today. Its functions included the execution of civil defence operations as well as training civilians in basic civil defence skills like fire-fighting, first aid, rescue and evacuation. During the launch of the Civil Defence Plan in 1982, the Minister for Home Affairs, Mr Chua Sian Chin, said:

Civil Defence is a vital component of our national defence. As in Switzerland, our SAF are made up of mostly National Servicemen who come from almost every home in Singapore. Therefore, when they have to be at the battle front, it is essential that they be assured that their families and loved ones at home are well taken care of by an effective Civil Defence capability...Just as we have built up a strong SAF, we now need to build up a credible Civil Defence capability.

Source: Civil Defence in Singapore 1936 – 1994, 1985

The SCDF also trains civilians in basic civil defence skills like fire-fighting.

Source: MOC (now MICA), courtesy of NAS

Civil defence exercises were held to allow participants from various organizations to cooperate and coordinate their performance.

Source: NAS

Source: Singapore Press Holdings, courtesy of NAS

During the Spyros disaster in 1978, there was overwhelming response from the public to requests for blood donation; in the first three days after the incident, a record 2,988 units of blood were received.

Source: Singapore 1986, courtesy of NAS

Fire resistant escape chute used to rescue people from high-rise buildings in emergencies.

Source: Singapore 1986, courtesy of NAS

Residents of Kim Keat constituency queueing up for rice supplies in a civil defence exercise to streamline the emergency food distribution system.

National preparedness is the most effective way of deterring threats and maintaining peace. Should deterrence fail, our preparedness will enable us to respond effectively and decisively. Our way of life will only be guaranteed by our will to safeguard it, coupled with the ability to do so.

Extract of speech by Second Minister for Defence Dr Yeo Ning Hongat the Tri-service Graduation Ceremony at Pasir Laba Camp, 9 Mar 1985.

Source: MINDEF, courtesy of NAS

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