02/17/2024, 16.34
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Singapore conducts its largest 'total defence' exercise ever

Schools and offices shut down, water and power supplies disrupted, drone attacks simulated, food rationed, and toilets closed – for two weeks starting on 15 February, thousands of people will be involved simulating disruptions caused by a large-scale attack on the country.

Singapore (AsiaNews/Agencies) – For the first time in 40 years, Singapore held an island-wide Total Defence (TD) exercise, called SG Ready, starting on Thursday to mark the 40th anniversary of the first Total Defence Day.

The operation, which will run until 29 February, involves more than 500 educational, community, business, and government organisations in exercises simulating attacks in Singapore carried out by an anonymous attacker by various means, including disruptions to power, water and food supplies, disinformation campaigns, phishing, and drone attacks.

For the government, this is a reminder of what can happen to disrupt the Singaporean way of life should TD fail, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Finance Lawrence Wong was also present at the launch of Exercise SG Ready.

In a video message, the latter explained that TD has kept Singapore safe and guided its people through many challenges, including terrorism, financial crises, and a pandemic.

“We overcame these challenges and emerged stronger, because we worked together, stayed united, and each one of us played our part,” he noted.

Yet, presently, “We also have to contend with new threats, such as more sophisticated cyberattacks and hostile information campaigns, as well as the growing impact of climate change.”

Total Defence Day falls on 15 February, the day when British forces in Singapore surrendered to the Japanese in 1942 during World War II.

Minister Ng mentioned the current period of tensions in the world, with war in Europe, the Israel-Hamas conflict in the Middle East, and A possible war between the United States and China in Asia.

He noted that in Europe, some countries realised they had forgotten that self-defence cannot be summoned up just when they need it most. “This is, of course, after Russia invaded Ukraine”.

Such examples ought to teach Singapore to be grateful that past and present generations have kept up Total Defence to this day, he added.

Total Defence – which consists of military, civil, economic, social, digital, and psychological defence – needs to be a collective and continuous effort by all Singaporeans in good times and in bad.

“If we can do that, then Singapore can remain independent, strong and secure,” Ng said. “What happened on 15 February 1942, when our country capitulated, will not happen again.”

Bain & Company South-east Asia was one of the companies that is taking part in the drills, with a simulated power and water disruption at its office in the South Beach Tower.

The company had previously carried out a phishing exercise that involved sending a suspicious email to employees. Out of 270 employees who unknowingly opened the email, 30 per cent reported it, while 13 per cent fell prey to it.

Photo: Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at the start of the exercise on 15 February.

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