1963 we were part of Malaysia. Before we became independent in 1965, we were in an undeclared war with Indonesia that opposed the formation of Malaysia. Our two Singapore Infantry Regiments were sent to East Malaysia and Johore to defend Malaysia, and their barracks were occupied by new troops from Malaysia. Great musical chair strategy.
I could not remember the exact dates and details, but when the two SIRs returned, one or both could not move into their barracks and had to camp in the field in Farrer Park. The old soldiers could fill in the gaps on this part of our history. It was a precarious time when foreign troops were in our soil in a way, yes we a state of Malaysia then. We were once colonized by the British, then conquered by the Japanese and then became part of Malaysia. It was sheer good fortune that we were given independence without bloodshed. It was dicey that our troops could return to their barracks. It was like your flats being occupied by your FT tenants and you had to squat in the field.
The lack of a credible military force to defend our country was something that most scared the light out of our pioneering leaders. We then had the colonial masters around whose main interest was to keep us independent and friendly to their interests in the Far East. As long as they were around, we were safe within their protective umbrella, and as a semi colony. The stark reality of being walked over by a foreign power led to a hurried effort to build up an army of our own.
1967 saw the first batch of our local boys being trained in SAFTI by the Israeli advisors. The following years saw the dispatched of more young men to the UK for training for our future Navy and Air Force. And we thought time was on our side, to gradually build up our defence capabilities only to be hit with a double whammy. The British decided to pull out from their bases here in early 1970s. This was a big hit to our trading economy. And our national defence was still in infancy. We had just introduced National Service a couple of years back and everyone in uniform was still technically a trainee. Everything had to be short circuited to gain time. It was all a mad rush to put an army together out of nothing.
We were in a vacuum of sort as far as soldiers were concerned. Without the people willingly coming forward despite that it was called National Service, we would have a hard time building up an army. The people responded to the call of the nation and everyone played his part in a big jigsaw puzzle with blank pieces. And every piece had to fit or knock in to fit at the quickest time possible. It was that easy if we don’t think about it. It was DIY quick fix and hoped for the best.
Though we were fortunate not to have been in a war during our formative years, it was a critical time, and a treacherous time. The British were there holding the umbrella. But they could fold it up if the people and govt did not have the resolve to pull it through. If the govt was weak and could not rally the people to build a nation for themselves, we would have been doomed, economically and politically as a country. The British could give up and give the island to anyone able to hold it together. They could have abandoned us if we did not treasure the moment and the opportunity.
The early batches of NS men were there to fill up the void, to hold the fort for the time being while the bigger picture was being put into place. Their sheer presence was what was needed in those precarious moments of truth, to exist or to fade away, or be taken over. Our future would have been different if the people did not gel together to answer the call of a young nation in the making.
Those were the times when nothing was a luxury. Everyone was a piece of the big jigsaw puzzle in formation, the NS men, the workers, the entrepreneurs and the civil service and the govt. They were living for a strange new mission, to build a country, a nation. It was not starting a SME. And many things they were doing were completely alien to them. They were all learning on the job, doing things for the first time. Yep, like the blind leading the blind. It was only forty odd years ago. Many have walked in those days and have vivid memories of their experience.
We have forgotten. We have forgotten the difficult times, the times when personal sacrifices were part and parcel of nation building. Many civil servants and military officers were just told to get the job done with no issues of sacrifices. We forgot that at one time we were struggling to turn this island into a country. We forgot the price our parents paid for what it is today. $90 NS allowance and rubbery meat that bounced off the floor. The bread and kaya for breakfast were not much different from what prisoners got then. Today, we talk about sacrifices like having diarrheoa. Every little drop of shit is damn big sacrifice. If the NS men of then did not turn up at CMPB in Kallang, or if there were violent protest to NS, how would we have turned out today, an independent state or part of someone else’s state?
We have forgotten that together we have built a country, a nation. And still some would rubbish it as a state in the making. So we can give it away, invite everyone here and issue citizenship certificates like toilet papers. Come, take, it is no man’s land. We are migrants or descendants of migrants. You migrant, good, same same. Come share my home. Feed yourself and take all you want. There is no ownership to this land. No one feels that it belongs to the pioneering migrants who crafted it out as a country and wanted to make this home for their descendants.
And the daft descendants are calling themselves migrants and not owners of a country their forefathers have fought, worked and died for. They are willing to share with anyone, give to anyone. How generous!
How stupid can they be? No, they don’t think so. They don’t know that this is home, their country. When there is no ownership, you can expect what it will become next. Think public toilets. The daft Sinkies don’t deserve this country. And the new arrivals will tell them to go if they are not happy here.
When you lose your inheritance…or sell your inheritance away….