Friday, November 30, 2012

SingaPolitics' interview with Dr Chee Soon Juan

by Andrea Ong

Nov 26, 2012 (source)

In an interview on the day he was due to be discharged from bankruptcy, Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) chief Chee Soon Juan spoke on a wide range of topics including his plans for the party, his thoughts on opposition unity and why he made an offer to settle his bankruptcy.

Here are some highlights:

On his plans to contest the next General Election

Q: Now that your bankruptcy has been annulled, what are your immediate priorities going forward?

Dr Chee: Well, there isn't a big shift in terms of my, the annulment of my bankruptcy. I will just continue to do what I've been doing. That is, really to build up the party in preparation for the next GE.

And by that, you know that we're working on some alternative policy papers. And that will continue for the foreseeable future in the coming months and years. And as a result, we've also seen more people coming on board and that really taps into the policymaking part, and then that brings in more people, that kind of thing.

And then, of course, the bread and butter of political parties, and that's going down on the ground making sure that (people) get to meet, see what we're up to. It's not a time when you start; it really is a progression and continuation of everything that we've been doing since the last GE.

So that will continue as I said and the annulment for bankruptcy, in the immediate future, it won't make a lot of difference. The difference, of course, will come in when I'm eligible for the next GE.

Q: Have you given any thought to where you will run, whether it will be a single seat or GRC?

Dr Chee: No, and it's only because right now things are so fluid in terms of the constituencies. And that's really the government's game, in the sense that they're going to keep us on tenterhooks and we'll never know which single seat then remains or which gets absorbed, and how then the GRCs are in fact redrawn. So, much as we'd like to be able to at least have a forecast, for us right now it really is impossible to do.

Q: Do you have a preference for any area, perhaps where people may know you best?

Dr Chee: Not exactly. Singapore is so homogenous; there are no regional rivalries in that sense, unlike, say, in Malaysia where there is a lot of rural and urban areas. So in that regard I still see things pretty much more our groundwork and that really is rather uniform throughout. So specific areas that we can see in terms of electoral support, no, we haven't really detected that kind of thing. Things seem pretty uniform right through.

Q: The party has been active on the ground, especially in areas like Tanjong Pagar.

Dr Chee: We have, that's because in the last GE nobody contested there. And we're looking to campaign in more areas because we do see our ranks growing as well. And I see the next elections, us campaigning and contesting more GRCs.

Q: But will you be going back to the areas the party contested previously?

Dr Chee; Yes, definitely. The ones that we contested in the last elections, we will continue, we have been continuing our campaign work there. And with the added constituency of Tanjong Pagar. But then as I said the boundaries we do tend to just go on general vicinities rather than just hard demarcation of the constituencies.

Q: Will you be targeting more of the western part of Singapore?

Dr Chee: If we kept to the constituencies that we contested in the last elections, right now it looks as if we tend to be more focused on the central part of the island. But don't forget, last election also we've been working in Bishan-Toa Payoh GRC. And it was only because Mr Chiam (See Tong) wanted to contest in that constituency and because it was adjoining Potong Pasir and they wanted to use that as a geographical strategy. We thought that was a valid point as well so we didn't contest it. But the next election, depending on what happens, we still hope to be able to get back in there as well. So that would then cover more of the central part of Spore.

And then Tanjong Pagar comes right at the south. We haven't discounted going further to the west as well.

On settling his bankruptcy

Q: On the point of your settlement, why did you make that offer to Mr Goh Chok Tong and Mr Lee Kuan Yew? How did you arrive at the amount of $30,000?

Dr Chee: The amount that I offered was something that I calculated I could afford because I was going to come up with this book. And if you look at projected sales, after I lop off for printing cost and so on and so forth and my own income, that's all that I could afford. That's what I offered. So there wasn't any magic to that.

Q: The offer surprised some because you said in the past that you wouldn't pay.

Dr Chee: Look, to me it makes very little difference in terms of the work that I do. Even if I were bankrupt, I'll continue to do what I did, which is what I did in the last elections as well. I could not stand for elections but you make sure that you organise the party, get in the candidates and then present it to the electorate. So in that sense I think it was because Singapore has changed. And I thought since I was going to come up with this book, I also wanted to see if there was any change in attitude. They came back and they said they accepted it.

Q: Were you surprised that they accepted your offer?

Dr Chee: Well, if you think about it in terms of… the mood of the electorate, I think there would have been a backlash if they didn't want to accept. I thought perhaps the calculations were look, let's move on. I'm hoping that, at least, is something that is more substantive, that there is a genuine interest in wanting to move politics in Singapore forward rather than cling on to what's been the practice of old. So in that sense, I thought politically it makes sense for them to want to not continue. Otherwise, my own sense is the electorate would have turned very sour.

On opposition unity

Q: There's been a theory floated that your offer was accepted so that the opposition vote would be split in the next GE.

Dr Chee: I don't know where this theory came from. That to me is basically an overactive imagination. I've always maintained the fact that opposition needs to, even if we don't come together and amalgamate as one single political entity, we should at least have a platform whereby we have more in common than differences.

That said, the reality is that there are still differences. I don't see it as so much policy platform differences, more I think personality. But I don't see that as impossible to overcome. I still believe that where there's a will, there's a way. We're going to work towards us cooperating more. What's the end result, what's the level of cooperation, I couldn't tell you right now. But I honestly believe that if we put in effort towards that end I think we can get somewhere.

Before the last elections and then just recently as well, we've always tried to organise activities whereby we can start talking about how we can work together just that little bit more. Before the elections, we had behind-the-scenes private meetings, that kind of thing. We've also been getting together. You know, we're not going to be able to achieve it in a short span of time but it's something that needs to be worked on. But I'm hopeful that… we'll be able to make progress.

Q: Recently, the SDP tried to do a national conversation event with other opposition parties…

Dr Chee: Ya, they did respond but they declined the invitation. But, you know... (it) wasn't very surprising in the sense that we've had previously organised forums also. As I said, we'll continue to work at (it).

Q: How optimistic are you that the opposition can work together?

Dr Chee: My own sense is that as the electorate also begins to mature, I think they are going to get more and more impatient looking at what those differences are between opposition parties. If they begin to feel that look, these are more superficial than anything else, I think the opposition parties will hear of it.

And if they continue to just brush it aside, we'll also pay a price. There's a lesson there that we have to learn as well. If the differences are fundamental, they are real, I think the electorate will say, look, that's ok.

But if you're talking more personality differences, I don't think Singaporeans will tolerate that very much. In the hopes that before we get to a point where we find out the hard way, we should sit down and try to really sort out and look at what are the differences, what are the commonalities, let's weigh it up. If we cannot agree, then let's agree to disagree.

But if we can, and there's room for us to cooperate, I think wiser heads will prevail. I'm still confident about that.

Q: Do you think the differences now more personality-based than on, say, political philosophy?

Dr Chee: I'm not going to commit now and say these are personality. I think that there are differences, but those differences are not entirely on political philosophy. It's also by default that PAP has been so entrenched in one position, so it's just de facto you get these other positions that almost write themselves. In that sense, I believe there is a lot more in common.

Q: As far as SDP is concerned, which party feels closest to it politically?

Dr Chee; You know, I don't mean to cop out of this but I honestly feel that none of the parties are that far away, seriously. For example, take one issue of, say, housing. You cannot, if you're in opposition, it's hard for you to argue that, well, HDB flats are really affordable, right?

You can't make that argument. You then have differences in terms of approach, the finer points in those policy areas. But as I said in terms of the various parties, I don't think anybody is really that far away. So I think things are still very discussable, if I can use the word.

On whether the party is ready to take over government

Q: Parties like the Workers' Party and the National Solidarity say that they are not yet ready to take over government. SDP seems to take a different approach...

Dr Chee: I think if I may try to just read into what they're trying to say, the thing is looking at the situation now, they're probably saying that if nothing changes, if everything stays the same, then things may not be any different from the last elections, right?

But the way that I see it, if you've looked at what's happened in the last elections and look at history, change never comes about in a linear progression. Nothing happens for a long time and everything stays flat.

One cataclysmic event comes, or a very significant event comes and changes - that change takes place very abruptly. I would not wager that that event will not happen between now and 2016. And when that happens, you will see, as I'm looking at it right now, there's a lot of discontentment, especially if you're talking about among the professional groups, people who analyse just a little more, think just a little bit more beyond the headlines, they're extremely unhappy with the direction of this country.

If they all decide to say, ok, fair enough, all right, we will put our money where our mouth is, we'll stand for the elections, you will see a distinct change. And then you're going to have to live up to the electorate already, isn't it? And by which time, we're not going to be sitting there and say, well, you know, we're still not ready.

It may be in the form of a coalition, I don't know.

Q: On the ability to attract talent, as it is today, does the party have everybody it needs to take over government?

Dr Chee: I think if you look at pre-2011 GE and right now, you know, I don't want to exaggerate but the difference is day and night. Whereas a lot of people would not touch us with a 10-foot pole before, they are coming round.

Q: Are you there yet?

Dr Chee: Oh no, certainly not. With the people still waiting in the wings that we have not talked to yet in terms of hard politics and will you stand for elections, that kind of thing. But I'm confident that as we go along you will get more of these professionals, candidate material, coming in bigger numbers. What the numbers are, I couldn't tell you right now. But I'm confident that it will be quantitatively, qualitatively, very significantly different from (the) election itself.

On whether the SDP has changed

Q: People see SDP as being much more mainstream than it was before. What is your take on this?

Dr Chee: This one has got to come courtesy of the press, the media. I think I've said this often before. I cannot see how qualitatively what I have been doing is different.

Now I'll give you a concrete example. As early as 1994, I published Dare To Change and at that time I very consciously subtitled the book An Alternative Vision For Singapore. And in there, I wrote extensively, put in a chapter in on the economy, distribution of wealth, issues which we continue to be talking about today.

If you look at it, healthcare was in there, housing was in there as well... Now the difference between then and now is that instead, you know, with the advent of social media and new media, it has allowed people to see that we talk a lot more about some of these, what you'd call the kitchen table issues, bread and butter situations, which we have never neglected before.

But because the press has never really come out and said: Look, this is what SDP (stands for). If you can recall 2001, we brought up these issues on immigration, on foreign talent. We campaigned on a Singaporeans first policy. We talked about minimum wage as well. That was never highlighted.

And so people get this impression, they think oh, SDP very, you know, rights-based kind of thing, very high-falutin kind of ideas, which is not true.

It was only after the coming of the Internet that people began to say, yeah, they do talk a lot about (bread and butter issues)... And so you find that then people think that we're actually a lot more mainstream.

But if you were me, you would be scratching your head and saying, what have I said and done differently then and now?

Q: In the past when the party makes the news, it tends to be because of an act of civil disobedience. But there appear sto be in the past few years nothing at all like that, there have been no more processions...

Dr Chee: But don't forget, when we had those activities, the media actively censored the news, right? ... So I wouldn't attribute that to, you know, people who are reading it and therefore they came to know of SDP's activities because you guys were not reporting on those anyway.

But having said that and you come to this point about, you know, we're not doing it right now, as I said, conditions change, you know, and therefore your strategy changes. Why do I say that?

You know, we think back, the end of 1999 or that particular year when I went to Raffles Place to give a talk over there. I was prosecuted but shortly thereafter, there were calls for us to have a free speech venue, if you recall.

And then there was this discussion, and people started to talk, and they said, why can't we have this free speech venue, right? ... And then they said, okay, well, let us have a Speakers' Corner. But when it first started, you couldn't do what you were doing there today - no musical instruments, no voice enhancement instruments, we couldn't even hold our hands up and chant slogans.

I remember doing an event there with JB (Jeyaretnam) and Think Centre at that time where we said: Abolish ISA, Abolish ISA [raises fist]. The organisers were called up (and were told) you cannot, no gesticulation, no chanting of slogans, that kind of thing.

Well, as far as we're concerned, that's a joke, isn't it? So we pressed on. We pressed on and then those few protests then came about. And it was only in, if I'm not mistaken, was it 2008 or was it 2007 that the Government announced that it was going to relax the rules, allowing protests and so on. That was when conditions changed.

And so we adapted our strategy. It was not a gift from the Government, mind you, it was a hard-won concession. But when things like that happen, then you begin to recalibrate, you begin to evaluate what you need to do. And then of course with that came civil society, some of these non-political party groups started forming and coming up. That coincided with the Internet mushrooming and so on. So, you know, you evaluate your position again and from then we thought, look, let's try to encourage civil society to take up this kind of role and then SDP can then focus very much on winning the battle in elections.

Q: So there was a qualitative strategy change...

Dr Chee: Yes, yes.

Q: That the SDP would not do as much civil disobedience?

Dr Chee: No. I really don't think it was more civil disobedience or not (as much) civil disobedience, I think that fundamental question of freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, those remain the cornerstone of a democratic society. Without those freedoms, political parties will find it tremendously difficult to gain any traction with the electorate.

Q: So what is the change?

Dr Chee: So right now we have already begun to establish at least the very fundamentals of it and we want to encourage right now civil society to continue with that line, that whole campaign. And then what we want to do is then make sure that we focus on winning the elections.

One example that I can give you is the mandatory death penalty. You remember, a few years ago, we were at the forefront of making sure that the mandatory death penalty became more of an issue. Once, you know, I remember we conducted this forum and we had quite a good turnout, and then from there there were other people who really began to understand what was at stake in some of the issues at hand. And then they started organising their own activities.

We felt at that point perhaps they would be better placed to start actively organising in that area, so we took a step back and right now, I think we've got some of these activists that are very, very active in pushing that issue... And because those things change, you know, people then get more involved and we feel that okay, we can then move on to other things as well.

Q: But having built a base as far as freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, etc is concerned, now you are looking more at building up on policy. That is a change of focus, is it not?

Dr Chee: But how do you then account for the fact that we've been talking about policy countless times as well? You follow what I'm saying?

Q: You did not have the health policy paper and housing policy paper in the past?

Dr Chee: That was because, again, we didn't have the necessary human resources to do it. But how did we get those human resources? It was because people saw us on the Net as well as what we've been doing all this time. So in that sense it wasn't so much that focus is different right now. It's more an expansion of what we've been doing all along.

I don't know if you see that difference because I'm finding a tremendous difficulty in trying to figure out for myself: Now what did I do that was qualitatively different?

Q: So it's not that you left this behind but you added on.

Dr Chee: Yes. and that addition came because more people are coming on board and that's why we find that, look, we've got the people that can help take up some of these tasks right now.

Q: Because when we look at your website today, housing and health feels more prominent than issues like death penalty and freedom of speech.

Dr Chee: Well, if you've got a product that's good, you of course put it up more prominently. But then it also still begs the question, how does it become more prominent? That's where people then talk about it. You just can put it out there, nobody pays any attention to it, it dies a very natural death, isn't it? But when people start talking about it, then it gains that prominence and how do people talk about it? Again the Internet. So, you know, it's very much driven by the sense that things are changing because people have access to what the SDP is saying.

Q: Do you feel that your success is mainly among PMETs?

Dr Chee: Oh no, no, I hope I haven't given you that impression because if we hadn't kept up with some of the more grassroots work, it would have been difficult also to grow. We are not going to have just the people sitting around and making policy and then you don't have the arms and legs of the party. That has continued to be very important. But the professionals coming in and helping us do the work and so on is just one part of everything that goes on.

On a two-party democracy

Q: There is a sense from the past election that we are headed towards what will look more like a two-party democracy, more so than a multi-party one.

Dr Chee: Well, look, come on. Politics in Singapore is still so unsophisticated. Why? Media is not anywhere close to what it should be in a proper democratic society. How do you make that conclusion is, I don't think that's very realistic in trying to say whether this is going to be a multi-party or two-party systems.

Q: But what is your own view of where Singapore's politics is headed?

Dr Chee: Again, that's hard to say. In the sense that, you know, it could very well turn out to be a two-party system. Which party fills up the other, that party, or whether PAP will really just fall off - you know, become so far extreme and archaic in its policy that it could fall off the political radar also - we don't know.

But I'm just saying right now, nothing is inconceivable. And frankly speaking, I think in that sense, not just a multi-party but a mixed, proportional, first-past-the-post system a la the German and I think Korea adopted it... still makes for a lot more sense and a more responsive government than this traditional two-party system.

Q: So you prefer the multi-party system?

Dr Chee: I think it works better if you have proportional representation in as well... The Germans for example, when they go in and they vote, they don't just cast the vote for that particular candidate in that constituency. There's a second vote that they can cast - and that is for the party itself. So you know, a proportion of Parliament, the Bundestag, is actually reserved for the party list and then another portion for the candidate who gets first-past-the-post. That, I think, works a lot more efficiently and effectively.

On the PAP since GE2011

Q: What do you think of the PAP since the election? Do you think they have changed?

Dr Chee: You couldn't hand-on-heart say that, substantively, they have changed. They may have just put in more effort if you will, to say, oh, you know, you have our ear, we would like to hear from you. The problem is, what they do with that after the feedback has been given to them is something else. If they really, really wanted to, and there was really a change of heart, as expressed by PM, then you would see them making more substantive changes in terms of the structure.

I mean, one good one would be national conversation. You pack your entire committee with, you know, it doesn't make sense, isn't it? And it's not that they don't know that we exist. We've been putting up policies... Look, talk with us, right? Engage us. If you don't agree with us, you know, let's have this honest debate. But again, this is more of the same that they've done before.

Q: If they invited you to a national conversation session, would you go?

Dr Chee: We have made it very clear that anytime they did something like this, we are there. The only thing is that they always do it in such a way that it's... You see, to me, they don't come across as sincere. It's always "Ok, we can't get out of this or we do it but let's see how we can tilt it in as much to our favour as we possibly can".

And I come back to this again. When you look at the UK election, the last one, they had Nick Clegg, they had Gordon Brown, they had David Cameron. Even though one of them was Prime Minister but you know, they had a good, genuine debate. And the people are the better for it. Same thing with the last election between Obama and Romney. All we're doing is looking for that.

And I'm just not persuaded that if they invite us, it will be under a lot of conditions and so on and so forth.


Saturday, November 24, 2012

When will the government sue for defamation? Singapore's Law Minister explains

Religious, racial fault lines still exist: K Shanmugam


Nov 20, 2012 (source)

K Shanmugan, Singapore's Law Minister

Singapore may have made great strides since racially-driven violence marred its early years, but its people have yet to be completely free of racism, says Law and Foreign Affairs Minister K Shanmugam.

Speaking in a recent wide-ranging interview with Yahoo! Singapore, the minister shared his views on racism among Singaporeans, particularly in the aftermath of the incident involving former NTUC membership assistant director Amy Cheong early last month.

“What I don’t accept is the thesis by some that our society has reached a point where race and religion and skin colour are completely irrelevant. I don’t accept that,” he said. “I say we have made a lot of progress, and maybe we have crossed beyond the 50 per cent mark... (but) I do believe those fault lines exist. How deep, how widespread is anybody’s guess, but they exist.”

He stresses that the racism he speaks of is not pervasive and care must be taken to distinguish what may qualify as racist behaviour.

“It is simply that you grew up in a cultural milieu and you know it better. That’s quite different from saying I am in this group and this group is superior, or that I don’t like people of another group,” he said. “We must distinguish between the two. Are there people who fall into the second category? I believe there are. Are they a majority? No. Are they a minority? Yes. But it is there.”

Besides, Shanmugam points out, racism stems from man’s larger tendency to divide himself into small groups that are identified along various lines — be they tribal, religious, geographic or ethnic, for instance, and it is a problem not limited to Singapore.

“It’s not unique to Singapore — it happens everywhere. And these differences are often exploited by people in positions of leadership for purposes of personal power,” he said. “That is the larger picture. I’m simply saying the same can happen here if we’re not careful. As human beings, we are not different from others in other countries.”

‘Legislation won’t solve the problem’

Shanmugam accepts that Singapore’s adoption of English as its official language has helped “put us in schools together and emphasise the importance of multiracialism”, all while preserving each ethnicity’s mother tongues as requisite second languages.

“All of (this) is good, and is why we’ve made the progress we have,” he said. “(But) my point is you cannot by legislation, and you cannot over 50 years, remove the deep-seated feelings along racial and religious lines. That will take a longer time.”

Asked about the view from certain quarters that the presentation of academic performance by ethnic groupings of students has propagated racial sentiments and stereotyping, the minister responded that providing the broken-down information helps ethnic communities to assist students from their races.

“If you don’t acknowledge the problem, then it is difficult to help. You have to look at the facts. As a result of looking at the facts, understanding where the weaker performance occurs... you’re able to form
Mendaki and Sinda and CDAC, and target those students.”

Since Singapore’s various race-specific interest groups were formed, academic performance has improved for children in racial minorities, he noted. “Many community leaders support giving the breakdown so that we can help their communities,” he said. “It is better to acknowledge these things and deal with them.”

Shanmugam’s sentiments were more recently echoed by Senior Parliamentary Secretary for education Hawazi Daipi in Parliament this last week, responding to a question on the matter from Nominated Member of Parliament Eugene Tan.

Breaking down exam performance by race, Hawazi said, allows communities to monitor the effectiveness of their existing educational programmes for children from their own race as well.

Other suggestions, such as scrapping race classification in Singapore identity cards, have previously been pitched, but responding to these, Shanmugam maintained that it is preferable to examine the situation and tackle it head-on.

“Some want quick solutions, but there is no quick solution which will immediately make us all non-racial and colour-blind,” he said. “It’s going to require a lot of hard work (and) time. It’s going to require effort from the different communities as well as the government.”

‘If you say the govt is made up of idiots...’

Turning to defamation, a decidedly sensitive topic in Singapore in particular, Shanmugam explained that, as a rule of thumb, the government doesn’t sue for defamation.

“Individuals within government who are personally defamed can sue – for example when you say someone is corrupt. But if you say the government is made up of idiots no one can sue you because that will be considered an opinion, and you are entitled to that opinion, based on your assessment of government policies. If you say the policies are incompetent, anti-Singaporean, you can't be sued,” he explained.

He noted that people do fiercely criticise government policies and that is a right everyone has. “No one can sue you. But if you make a factual allegation like saying a person stole something or has his hands in the till, then you can be sued,” he said.

He also stressed the importance of understanding the impact of existing defamation laws on free speech here — the specifics of which many Singaporeans have for decades not been fully aware of.

“I think you can differentiate between the substance of the law (What is it? Why do we have it?) and the process to make it effective,” he said.

He spoke of the rationale behind defamation laws here, saying, “Should we protect reputation? We protect the right to property. If I steal your property, the Penal Code makes it an offence. If I hurt your body, that’s an offence. If I cheat you, that’s an offence. But if you have worked all your life to build up your reputation and I damage your reputation by saying untruths, why should there not be redress?

“It’s a logical question. But if indeed you are corrupt, then you ought to be exposed and the defamation law does not prevent that.”

The threat of costly defamation suits exacted by members of the government has loomed over the country for years, after opposition politicians such as Chee Soon Juan and J B Jeyaratnam were compelled into bankruptcy when they were unable to pay damages from being successfully sued by then-government leaders.

Newspapers and magazines like
The Economist, the Far Eastern Economic Review and the Singapore Herald have previously been sued and had their local publishing licences revoked for this reason as well, leaving in their wake a cloud under which journalists, editors and publishers work beneath.

This long-standing fear has also driven many government critics online, posting their views under pseudonyms to avoid being associated with their comments.

Despite these, Shanmugam maintained that defamation laws here allow for a wide berth of comments to be made in the public space — even unreasonable ones — that still fall within the acceptable boundary.

“You can say anything you like about people in public life, whether in government or in position or in the corporate world,” he said. “You can pretty much say anything you like about the way they have handled situations. You can call them incompetent. You can critique and criticise fiercely any policy, and these (policies) have been fiercely debated.

“Likewise corporate leaders, you know their handling of public companies’ affairs can be debated and you can attack it; they can’t sue you,” he continued. “But if you make a factual allegation which is untrue about them, then they can sue you.”

With the knowledge that many comments made against public figures — including members of the government — online are written and posted anonymously on a near-daily basis, Shanmugam said he had not given much thought to the possibility of modifying existing defamation laws to suit the internet space, which the government is still figuring out how to work within.

“(Right now) the law applies in the same way both in print media as well as internet media online,” he said. “If you can find the person, you can sue.”

When all is said and done, however, if a person can prove what he or she says about an individual, he or she can say it publicly, he said.

“If what you say is true, you just prove it. That’s what in essence the law of defamation is,” he noted. “There are many caveats and qualifications but in essence that’s the nub of it. It is useful to try and keep people honest in their criticisms and to try to make sure that public debate is focused on the real issues, without scurrilous, false allegations.”

Related stories:

Y! Exclusive: Law Minister K Shanmugam on the ISA

Death penalty change came from review, not activists: Shanmugam

Sunday, November 18, 2012

How Israel shaped the Singapore Armed Forces

A deep, dark, secret love affair

A team of IDF (Israel Defence Forces) officers, known as the `Mexicans,' helped Singapore establish an army. It was the start of a very special relationship.

By Amnon Barzilai
Haaretz, Jul.16, 2004 (source)
Christmas Eve, 1965, is the unofficial date of the start of the great and continuing love story between Israel and Singapore, a love affair that was kept a deep, dark secret. The international press, like the Israeli media, tried to bring the tale to light. Occasionally, scraps of information leaked out; some were published, some were denied, many were disregarded. The Israelis, as usual, wanted to rush to tell all their friends, but managed to overcome that desire. The fear that the ties would be terminated if they became public knowledge had its effect. Israel imposed a total blackout on the story and the secret was preserved. Until the other side could no longer contain itself.
In his book, "From Third World to First: The Singapore Story 1965-2000," published in 2000, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding father and its first prime minister, disclosed the secret that had been kept for almost 40 years: It was the Israel Defense Forces that established the Singaporean army. The Israeli military mission was headed by Yaakov (Jack) Elazari, then a colonel, who was later promoted to brigadier general. After leaving the army, he became a consultant to the Singaporean army. He died 15 years ago. "To disguise their presence, we called them `Mexicans.' They looked swarthy enough," Lee wrote.
Singapore's army is today considered the strongest and most advanced of the military forces in Southeast Asia. The alliance between the Israeli and Singaporean defense establishments intensified and expanded, and it now encompasses cooperation between the two countries' military industries, as well. The scope of the deals, according to foreign sources, indicates that the Singaporean army is one of the major clients of Israeli combat means and military technology. Singapore's aircraft industry is cooperating with its Israeli counterpart and with Elbit Systems in upgrading the F-5 warplanes of the Turkish Air Force. A few years ago, Singapore's defense minister revealed that the Gil antitank missile, which is manufactured by Raphael (Israel Armaments Development Authority), was developed in cooperation between the two countries.
Surrounded by Muslims

Lee explained the need to maintain secrecy to his close friend in the leadership, and the first defense minister in his government, Dr. Goh Keng Swee. "We have to ensure, as far as possible, that the arrival of the Israelis will not become public knowledge, in order not to arouse opposition among the Malay Muslims who live in Malaysia and Singapore," the prime minister summed up. That, in essence, is Singapore's problem. The residents of the small island, which has an area of about 670 square kilometers (Israel is 30 times as large), are mainly Chinese, and they live between the two Muslim countries of Malaysia and Indonesia. Life in the shadow of the large Muslim majority and fear of a Malaysian incursion are an integral part of the history of the two countries.
Singapore declared its independence from Malaysia on August 9, 1965. At the time of its creation, it had only two infantry regiments, which had been established and were commanded by British officers. Two-thirds of the soldiers were not residents of Singapore, and in any event the leaders of the nascent state had no faith in the strength of the minuscule army. The defense minister, Goh, contacted Mordechai Kidron, the former Israeli ambassador to Thailand, and asked for assistance. Kidron arrived in Singapore within days, along with Hezi Carmel of the Mossad. "Goh told us that they think that only Israel, a small country surrounded by Muslim countries, with a strong army, could help them build a small, dynamic army," Carmel says. The two Israelis met with Lee, who writes that he "told Keng Swee to put it on hold until Lal Bahadur Shastri, the prime minister of India, and President Nasser of Egypt replied to my letters seeking their urgent help to build up our armed forces."
It's not clear whether Lee, in fact, believed India and Egypt were capable of, or interested in, building up Singapore's army. Many Israelis believe the two leaders were approached only for appearance's sake. After a few weeks of waiting, India and Egypt congratulated Singapore on its independence but did not offer military aid. Lee ordered Goh to push ahead in contacts with the Israelis.
At the same time, in the wake of reports sent by Kidron and Carmel, the Israeli defense establishment deployed to supply military aid to Singapore. In discussions conducted by the chief of staff, Yitzhak Rabin, with the participation of the deputy chief of staff and head of the Operations Branch, Ezer Weizmann, it was decided to make Major General Rehavam Ze'evi, who was then deputy head of the Operations Branch, responsible for building the Singaporean army. Ze'evi (nicknamed "Gandhi" ) paid a secret visit to Singapore and the preparatory work began on his return. "Gandhi said he wanted to create an ideal army for Singapore, something we hadn't built here," Carmel says. "Instead of setting up a Defense Ministry and a General Staff, Gandhi suggested an integrated organization, a more economical structure. So there wouldn't be too many generals and too few soldiers."
Ze'evi appointed Elazari, who worked under him in the Operations Branch, as head of the team he established. Lieutenant Colonel Yehuda Golan, then-commander of an armored division (he retired from the IDF with the rank of brigadier general), was subsequently added to the team. Some members of the team "concentrated on writing the chapters that dealt with building army bases. I wrote the chapters dealing with the establishment of an infantry," Golan says. Initially they produced the "Brown Book," dealing with combat doctrine, followed by the "Blue Book," dealing with the creation of the Defense Ministry and intelligence bodies. The Brown Book was translated into English and sent to Singapore's government for its perusal. In October 1965, a military delegation from Singapore arrived in Israel.

BG Yehuda Golan of IDF (source)

"The delegation arrived in order to tell us: `Well done, but to implement the book, you are invited to come to Singapore,'" Golan recalls. Prior to setting out, the members of the military mission were invited to the chief of staff's bureau. "Dear friends," Rabin said, "I want you to remember several things. One, we are not going to turn Singapore into an Israeli colony. Your task is to teach them the military profession, to put them on their legs so they can run their own army. Your success will be if at a certain stage they will be able to take the wheel and run the army by themselves. Second, you are not going there in order to command them but to advise them. And third, you are not arms merchants. When you recommend items to procure, use the purest professional military judgment. I want total disregard of their decision as to whether to buy here or elsewhere."
Wake-up at 5:30

On December 24, 1965, about five months after Singapore became an independent state, six IDF officers and their families set out on an unknown mission. "Elazari and two other officers dealt with the establishment of the Defense Ministry," Golan relates. "My task, along with three other officers, was to establish the army."
Elazari operated according to a number of basic principles, from which the original Israeli team and those who followed did not deviate. The first was to build up a cadre of local commanders and instructors. The second was that the instructional material would be written by the cadets who would be trained as officers. And the third was that practical training would be conducted by Singaporean instructors.
"We wanted to recruit a group of 40-50 people who had some sort of military experience and would be ready to serve in a career army," Golan explains. "We organized things so that they would appoint one of their number to serve as commander. As head of the group, the cadets chose someone of Indian origin named Kirpa Ram Vij, who would eventually become chief of staff of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). For three months we gave an intensified officers course."  (On Kirpa Ram Vij, see In Command of His Life below.)

BG (retd) Kirpa Ram Vij (source)

The first course had an IDF format: wake-up at 5:30 A.M., calisthenics, personal arrangements, parade. Training began at 7:30 A.M. and went until 1 A.M. "After a few days of training a group of cadets showed up and said, `Colonel Golan, the Arabs aren't sitting on our heads here. What do we need this madness for?' I called Elazari and explained the situation. He arrived a few days later with Defense Minister Dr. Goh, who told the cadets, `Do what Colonel Golan tells you to do, otherwise you will do double.'"
Parallel to conducting the course, the Israeli team supervised the establishment of the first military base, based on plans of the Israeli Engineering Corps. Construction of the base was completed in three months.
In under a year, the Israeli team conducted a course for new recruits, a platoon commanders course and an officers course, on the basis of plans that were sent from Israel. All told, about 200 commanders were trained.
Jobless instead of soldiers

Once the staff of commanders was ready, it was possible to start creating the standing army on the basis of conscription. The Israelis prepared to establish two more infantry regiments, according to the IDF model, with each regiment consisting of three companies of riflemen, an auxiliary company and an administrative company - a total of 600 soldiers. Lieutenant Colonel Moshe Shefi, who was an instructor in a company commanders course, was sent as an adviser. "We discovered that there was psychological resistance to conscription in Singapore," he relates. "Of 10 professions, that of soldier was ranked last. In first place was the artist, followed by the philosopher, the teacher and the merchant, and the thief was in ninth place. Soldiering was considered a contemptible profession. In Singapore, conscription was considered a means to overcome unemployment."
The Israelis faced a problem. To evade service, most of the young men of draft age (18-24) who were of Chinese origin furnished proof that they were employed. Some 70 percent of the inductees were unemployed and of Malaysian origin - the opposite of their proportion within the population. Elazari and Golan complained to Lee and Goh, but the prime minister was undeterred. "I want you to recruit the most primitive people in the country, the uneducated and the jobless," he told them. Stunned, the Israelis tried to persuade him to reconsider, but he was adamant: "In the Second World War, I saw the Japanese and the British. All the British soldiers were intelligent and educated. But as soldiers they were worthless. The most primitive Japanese soldier gets an order and executes it, and they were extraordinary soldiers. The fact is that the Japanese army defeated the British army."
Golan says, "Yaakov and I tried to explain to him that it's not a question of education but of motivation. The Japanese soldier was motivated because he was fighting for his emperor, who for him was God. For him, he was ready to sacrifice his life. What motivation did the British soldier have, who fought thousands of kilometers from his home?" The explanations about the spirit of combat and about how to generate motivation persuaded Lee.
Along with the two tracks of compulsory service and career army, Singapore also adopted the IDF's model of reserve service. Every soldier who completed his regular service was obligated to serve another 13 years, until the age of 33. A system to mobilize the reserves was established and the Defense Ministry carried out surprise call-up exercises. Because of its small size and its lack of areas for live-fire training, Singapore had to establish training bases in friendly neighboring countries.
Surprise tanks

The unquiet in Singapore, and above all the fear of an invasion by Malay forces, together with the rapid development of the Singaporean army, generated additional needs. With the creation of the infantry, the Israeli team made an in-depth study of the battles fought by the Japanese in Southeast Asia during World War II and of how they succeeded in invading Malaysia and Singapore. Shefi was given the task of delivering a talk on the subject to Singapore's government.
On the basis of the lessons the Israelis drew from the engagements fought by Japan and Britain, they created a naval force based on sampans. "The boats were made of wood and could carry 10 to 15 soldiers, and they were appropriate for the conditions of the sea and for the jungle rivers," Golan says. "On a stormy sea they can be operated with oars or a motor. We asked the Singaporeans to purchase 20 boats and we set up a small base where infantry companies trained in raids and navigation."
Retired Colonel Asher Dar says, "The second team that arrived in Singapore applied what Yehuda Golan did in the form of combat doctrine. We trained in flanking maneuvers with small boats and in live fire using artillery. When the head of the training department, Yitzhak Hofi, visited Singapore, we carried out a model landing of an infantry brigade that set sail in boats at night at a distance of 12 kilometers with the aid of shore navigation only."
The waiting period in Israel on the eve of the 1967 Six-Day War was a rough time for the Israeli team in Singapore. "We were relieved the Israelis were not defeated or our SAF [Singapore Armed Forces] would have lost confidence" in the Israeli instructors, Lee writes. In January 1968, Singapore decided to create an armored corps. In great secrecy, an agreement was signed for the purchase of 72 AMX-13 light tanks from IDF surplus. It was a bold decision: Malaysia, the country's large neighbor, didn't have tanks.
On Independence Day, August 9, 1969, a major surprise awaited the invited guests, including the defense minister of Malaysia: 30 tanks rolled past the reviewing stand. "It had a dramatic effect," Lee writes. Malaysia had cause for concern. Its defense minister recommended to his guests that they take steps to persuade the Malaysian government that its intentions were not hostile.
In the wake of the Israeli victory in 1967, the veil of secrecy over the ties between the two countries was lifted a bit. The Singapore delegate at the United Nations abstained in a vote on a resolution condemning Israel that was sponsored by the Arab states. Contacts began to establish full diplomatic relations. In October 1968, Lee permitted Israel to establish a trade mission and in May 1969 authorization was given for the establishment of an Israeli embassy in Singapore. The status of the Israeli military mission to Singapore was also strengthened, and the mission heads who followed held brigadier general rank. The first Israeli military delegation laid the foundations for an extensive network of relations between Israel and Singapore.
Foundations of the air force

The small Israeli team in Singapore was augmented by professional military advisers for the various corps. The chief armored corps officer, Major General Avraham Adan, arrived to give advice on procuring armored vehicles. In 1968, Adam Tzivoni, a retired colonel who had been head of the planning and weapons branch in the air force, was appointed adviser to the Singapore Armed Forces in regard to the creation of an air force.
"As compensation for the hasty departure of the British army, the British government gave Singapore a grant of 50 million pounds to acquire British-made aerial systems: planes, helicopters and surface-to-air missiles," Tzivoni relates. "The British didn't like me at all. My first task was to approve the deals. It turned out that the English tried to sell Singapore junk. Apart from a deal for Hunters, I vetoed all the deals."
Under Tzivoni's supervision, a flight school was established in Singapore, as well as a technical school, a squadron of Alouette 3 helicopters was purchased and 40 mm anti-aircraft guns were acquired.
Uzis and Israeli marching songs

After the creation of the Singaporean army's infantry regiments, the question arose of what weapons the nascent armed forces would use. The commanding officers wanted the Uzi, the Israeli submachine gun. The Israeli team took an objective view and rejected the idea. True, the Uzi was considered a superb weapon in the 1960s, but only for short ranges. A regular army needs an assault rifle, the Israeli team asserted. Representatives of Israel Military Industries exerted pressure on the Defense Ministry to sell the new Galil assault rifle. However, the team decided that the rifle wasn't yet full ready and recommended the American M-16.
Another major headache for the Israelis concerned the decision about which mortars to procure for the new army. Infantry regiments are equipped with 60 - 52 mm and 18 mm mortars. The weapons, which were developed and manufactured by the Soltam company, based in the town of Yokne'am, were sold to the Israel Defense Forces and exported worldwide. "Even though we thought these were the best mortars, we decided not to recommend them but to make use of an independent source in order to reach a decision," says Yehuda Golan, a member of the team sent to Singapore.
The Israeli team asked a British firm that dealt in organization and consultation on military subjects to examine a series of mortars and recommend the best one. The report stated that the best of the lot was an 18 mm mortar manufactured in Britain. However, considering the price, the recommendation was to buy the Soltam product. The Singapore Armed Forces acquired the Israeli mortar.
"The Israelis emphasized military skills and high motivation. Smartness on parade and military tattoo, the SAF [Singapore Armed Forces] never learned from the `Mexicans.' Whatever smartness the SAF had" derived from the British officers who commanded the army's first two regiments, Lee writes.
"Our motto was that we would not stick our nose into what the Singaporeans could do themselves," Golan notes. "They wanted us to organize the Independence Day parade for them. We argued that a state military parade reflects the country's mentality and its history." The Singaporeans didn't make an issue of it. However, they had a problem that demanded an immediate solution - which marches to play as the soldiers marched in unison. The head of the Israeli mission, Yaakov Elazari, brought notes from Israel and the Singapore army strode to Israeli marching songs.
The jungle combat manual

The Singaporeans took the Israelis by surprise when they insisted on getting a course on jungle combat. Singapore has a tiny natural jungle of no more than five or six square kilometers, but the neighboring states have larger jungles. Yehuda Golan: "I told them they were right but that I wasn't the right guy, because I knew nothing about jungles." Nevertheless, the Israeli team began to find out how to cope with the subject. It was decided to send two Singapore officers as guests of the Malaysian army for a course on jungle combat.
"Three months later, the two officers returned with the knowledge they acquired in Malaysia, and we decided to conduct a course in jungle combat," Golan continues. "Out of curiosity, I decided to join. It looked very bad - it was clear that they had taught them British methods from the Second World War period. I decided to take a group of 10 officers. We entered the jungle and started to engage in war games. We trained in navigation, deploying forces, search and assault. We went through the American training manuals on combat in Vietnam. We developed methods of night navigation. We learned how to function with a fighting company in the dense undergrowth. After a few weeks of training, I wrote the training manual of the Singapore Armed Forces for jungle combat."


Tango "Mongolia" (Танго "Магнолия")

The history of military cooperation between Israel and Singapore

by David Gendelman (Давид Гендельман)

War Online, 2005 (source)

An imperfect Google translation  from Russian


In the photo: Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and "founding father" of Singapore Lee Kuan Yew during his visit to Singapore Rabin, October 16, 1993.

February 6, 1819 the year Sir Stamford Raffles signed a treaty with the Sultan of Johor and founded the port and trading base the British East India Company on the island of Singapore, off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. At that time, lived on the island about two hundred Malay fishermen. Free port status immediately attracted traders and pushed the business activity, and the population has grown rapidly due to mass immigration, mostly Chinese and Malays, Indians and Europeans. For several decades, Singapore has grown into the most prosperous port city in South-East Asia. In the 1867th, he became a British Crown Colony in the Straits Settlements (Straits Settlements), and the beginning of World War II was the bastion of the empire, "Gibraltar of the East". However, the bastion fell to the overwhelming pressure the Japanese army early in the war, and the British returned to Singapore only in 1945. For Empire nastavali new times, a gradual transition of the former colonies to self-government. In the 1948th was elected the first Legislative Council, 1955th constitution was adopted and elections to the Legislative Assembly. Election victory won the leader of "Labor Front" David Marshall, a successful lawyer from a family of Iraqi Jews. He became the first "Chief Minister» (Chief Minister) and continued to fight for the provision of full self-government to Singapore. Singapore's first contacts with Israel began in May 1956, with a conversation with Marshall adviser to the Israeli Embassy in London Gershon Avner opening in Singapore Israeli consulate. After a few months, the voyage to Asia Singapore visited the former Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Moshe Sharett. Practical steps to open the consulate had been taken, but it was a step towards cooperation in other spheres. Moshe Sharett also emphasized in his travel notes rising star of local politics, a young lawyer, Lee Kuan Yew, in particular, his open-mindedness and interest in what is happening in Israel.  Having failed to obtain from the British administration full self-government, David Marshall in June 1956 in protest resigned. By 1959 self-mu was obtained for the UK remains the only defense and foreign affairs. In the same year, won the elections IPA - "The People's Action» (People's Action Party - PAP) led by Lee Kuan Yew, became prime minister. Then a visit to Israel finance minister of the new government of Dr. Ken Goh Swee. Guest particularly interested in issues of professional training and development of the cooperative sector, and Israel sent experts to learn from the experience in these areas. Began a collaboration in the field of medicine: in Singapore, Israeli doctors went for the organization of various medical services and teaching.

Israeli Education Minister Abba Eban (right) and the Singapore delegates at the conference "Science in the development of new states", Rehovot, 14 August 1960.
Leaders of the ruling party, saw the future of Singapore is closely related to Malaya, which gained independence in 1957 year, it dictated the natural historical and economic ties, and so in 1961, they made every effort supported the Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman of Malaya to establish the Federation of Malaysia, which was to include Malaya, Singapore and the British territory on the island of Borneo, Brunei, Sarawak and Sabah. In 1963, it, after a referendum among the local population, the British agreed to transfer to Singapore, Sarawak and Sabah, Malaysia (Brunei resulting refused this option), and Singapore became an autonomous state within the new federation, declared September 16, 1963-year.  The central authorities referred to Israel restrained hostility, but Singapore has continued to cooperate with him: Singaporean interns trained in Afro-Asian Institute and other Israeli institutions, Israeli experts in Singapore, worked in the fields of hydroponics, handicrafts, athletic organizations and research companies. The important part is still practicing medicine: Israeli doctors working in hospitals in Singapore and taught at the local university, several Singaporean doctors trained in Israel, particularly notable project was a bone marrow transplant for children with cancer. Cooperation has been diversified, so the conductor Shalom Ronli-Riklis became an adviser to the Singapore Philharmonic Orchestra and instructor Arie Levy in 1964, created by the ruling party MHP center for the training of youth organizers.  Despite the close ties between Singapore and the rest of Malaysia, there was little opposition. According to the Constitution of Malaya, the Malays were granted exclusive privileges within the government, the army, the economy and education as compared to the Chinese and Indian minorities, which was at odds with the requirements of the Lee Kuan Yew on the full equality of rights of all citizens of the Federation. Malay nationalists feared the large Chinese population of Singapore, change the overall demographic balance, which is why Tunku Abdul Rahman, was an opponent of the combination only with Singapore and twice rejected such proposals from David Marshall and his successor Lim Yew Hock. Populated predominantly by Malays Sarawak and Sabah were ethnic counterweight and more equalized position. Furthermore, there were unfounded fears about contamination of the local Chinese Communist ideas that was displayed during the uprising in Malaya in the 50s that was brutally suppressed by the British. The bulk of the rebels were pro-communist-minded Chinese and Malay leadership did not want a repetition.  On the other hand, get rid of this potentially disruptive elements, excluding Singapore from the Federation, meant a loss of control and the possible emergence of a base of Red China to the southern border of Malaysia and the separation of Singapore from the Malay minority Malay common homeland and discrimination in independent Singapore. Conflicting interests led to conflicts between the two nations, not only in the political but also in everyday life, which often took the form of physical fighting, and the government is widely applied curfew and severe police action to restore order. Constant source of friction were also sharp differences over the allocation of the federal budget and the tax burden.  The already troubled situation exacerbated relations with Indonesia. Sukarno saw Malaysia, the entrance to the defense alliance with the United Kingdom, and posted to their territory the British troops as a "bridgehead of imperialism and colonialism," and kept against her subversive activities, with a goal of the disintegration of the country and joining of Sabah and Sarawak to Indonesia and the establishment there independent state. This conflict, officially known as "confrontation", included Indonesian commando raids in northern Malaya and Borneo, border skirmishes with Malaysian and British troops, organizing guerrilla groups, the terrorist attacks against the civilian population and infrastructure and provocation clashes between Malays and Chinese. "Confrontation" ended in 1966, after a military coup, to remove Sukarno from power.  Despite the active Lee Kuan Yew and IPA leadership in building and strengthening a unified Malaysia, the contradiction between the installation of "Malaysia for Malaysians" and "Malaysia for Malaysians" were too high. Personal ambitions, Lee Kuan Yew, his methods of suppressing local opposition until his arrest activists, the desire for power at the federal level and "too noisy", as Tunku Abdul Rahman, a policy made it impossible any compromise on this issue. After setting up, under the auspices of the IPA Convention Malaysian Solidarity bloc of opposition parties, the situation threatened to escalate into civil war. Federal minister openly called Lee Kuan Yew, "the most destructive force in the state" and expressed the complete impossibility of further cooperation, "Outside, we are threatened with Indonesia, and the inside - Mr. Lee and his policies." The right wing of the United Malays National Organization (UMNO), the ruling party of Malaysia, required security measures, review of the autonomous rights of Singapore and the arrest of Lee Kuan Yew To avoid bloodshed, and seeing no other peaceful way out, August 9, 1965, the Tunku Abdul Rahman announced to the Parliament of Malaysia to expel Singapore from the Federation. The same day, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore proclaimed an independent state. "For me it is a painful moment. All my life I have believed in the unity of the two territories, "- he said at an emergency press conference. This story begins on the Republic of Singapore and one of its lesser-known: military cooperation with Israel.

"At the far edge of the companion flies"

"Mexicans" to create an army

The primary problem was the problem of the emerging State Defense: relations with Malaysia and Indonesia have been strained, as mentioned above, and all the Singapore army numbered a little more than a thousand officers and men and is a two infantry battalions, staffed mostly Malays, including the command staff. In addition, the Singapore Malaysian team was stationed. Given its impact on the commander of the political leaders, as Said Jaffar Albar, secretary general of UMNO and categorical opponent of independence of Singapore, there was a danger that the independence will end before it began. To protect the country had to be almost nothing to build a new efficient army.  Ken Goh Swee, who became defense minister, appealed to the former Israeli Ambassador to Thailand Mordechai Kidron, who came to Singapore with the proposals for the organization of military training. Israel already had at that time a wealth of experience in guiding forces of the young states of Africa and Asia, he successfully resisted a numerically superior hostile environment, so the appeal to him for help was quite natural. According to Hezi Carmel, a representative of the Mossad, who arrived in Singapore with Kidron, Ken Goh Swee believed that only Israel can handle the job.

However, Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew previously requested assistance to build the army in India and Egypt, the leaders of the Non-Aligned Movement, but neither Lal Bahadur Shastri or Gamal Abdel Nasser sent nothing but congratulations on the occasion of Independence. Switzerland, whose model is a model of acquisition "army reservists," said that Singapore is better to do without the military. Former sovereign, Britain, to be in time to help create a Malaysian Army, declined to the same assistance to Singapore, so as not to damage their interests in the region. After that, the proposals were given the Kidron green light, but without publicity. Further damage relations with its own Muslim Malay minority, and even more with Muslim Malaysia and Indonesia, no one wanted. When looking at the map it is clear why.

Singapore - 692.7 km 2 , including small islands, Malaysia - 329.750 km 2 , Indonesia - 1,919,440 km 2 . The population at the time of declaration of independence, Singapore - 2 million (2005 - 4.4 million, of which about 900,000 foreigners, citizens of the ethnic composition: 77% Chinese, 14% Malays, Indians 8%), Malaysia - 9.3 million (2005 - 23.9 million), Indonesia - 105,000,000 (2005 - 242,000,000).

Despite this lag in area and population, the Government of Singapore enthusiasts believe in the strength of the young country, the same view was shared by both Israel and the ambitious plans began to materialize. IDF Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin was appointed curator of the Singapore project Major General Rehavam Zeevi (Gandhi), who held the post of Deputy Chief of Staff Operations Directorate. Zeevi secretly visited Singapore, on his return was carried out preparatory work for the development of military doctrine with the Israeli experience and the realities of the new state, and the fall of 1965 in Singapore received the first delegation of military advisers from eight officers, divided into two working groups.  The first group, led by Colonel James Elazar operational management, dealing with creation of the Ministry of Defence and the Army staff agencies. They were conceived as a single Gandhi combined system, to avoid inflating the command staff and duplication of civil and military authorities. Gandhi gave the Singapore general project time and saw it as an opportunity to put their ideas about the "ideal army", which for various reasons could not be created in Israel. The second group, led by Lieutenant-Colonel Yehuda Golan, commander before the 13th Battalion of the Golani Brigade and school squad, formed infantry and developed guidelines, manuals and training programs KMB, commander and officer courses. For privacy advisers called "Mexicans." "When they arrived, dark and mustachioed, I decided that it just fits its name, to avoid unnecessary noise" - explained Lee Kuan Yew, a few years later in an interview with British journalists.

Yehuda Golan at a later time. What is not Mexican?

Number one priority was to "teacher training": the creation of a sufficiently large body of instructor who could teach their own soldiers and officers later appeals. In February 1966 marked the first three-month preparatory course instructors, held for lack of suitable accommodation in the building of a primary school in Jurong. Forty students were recruited from the police personnel, the Singapore Volunteer Corps (militia led by the British colonial administration), the available two army battalions, as well as from the Ministry of Education. In June, 300 cadets have been selected out of 2,500 volunteers, many of whom were officials of the Civil Service, started the first officer's course in SAFTI (Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute) - Training Centre of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), which was built in a few months in Pasir Laba . For the year under Lieutenant Colonel Golan they passed basic training, the course and the actual squad officer course. Israeli instructors remembered to this day remained in the folklore of the Singapore army as democratic in personal relationships (especially compared to the British officers), but tough and demanding professionally. Until coveted epaulettes got 117 out of 300 cadets, and the rest were eliminated as unsuitable for the officer ranks. Dropped out at the last stage of the sergeants were the backbone of new units. The course was very intense, and when unused to drill the students tried to complain, Defense Minister Goh Ken Swee fully supported instructors and cadets promised a double load in the event of further complaints. The complaints stopped.

The audience at the graduation parade squad, July 5, 1967. The closest to us - Defense Minister Goh Ken Swee. Behind him, second from the left in the second row - Lieutenant Colonel Yehuda Golan. By the time the "Mexicans" it was possible to not masked.
Ken Goh Swee, many years served as finance minister, one of the fathers of Singapore's economic miracle has been the main force promoting the idea of ​​a strong national army in the government of Singapore. His own military "career" was in the service with the rank of corporal in the Singapore Volunteer Corps, ignominiously capitulated to the Japanese in February 1942. But, despite the lack of military experience (or vice versa, because of this), they are in the rest of his enthusiasm. As recalled later Colonel Elazar: "Even Lee Kuan Yew was not sure that Singapore will be able to stand on their own feet in terms of defense. Sure was only Dr. Ken Goh Swee. " He was also the initiator of the invitation of Israeli advisors, and considered it a success, as already mentioned above. July 16, 1967, the year the first graduating officers parade in SAFTI, Ken Goh Swee said: "For the first time in Singapore was faced with a large project of this kind, and the instructors and staff SAFTI overcome lack of experience of diligence and hard work. They were lucky that their services were the skill and knowledge of the advisors of the IDF. To all of them, trainers and advisers, I want to express our respect for these remarkable achievements in such a short time. "

Ken Goh Swee bypass the first officer's release SAFTI, July 16, 1967.

One of the main principles, future officers drawn from their Israeli teachers and remains the basis of the "philosophy of command" ARIA and now, was the principle of "command example." In a speech at the graduation parade in 1970, Minister Lim Kim San succinctly expressed this philosophy: "command - it is not only to give orders, but to lead. To lead, by example, show the way. Being ahead of the soldiers. " Another important principle of education was high personal awareness and motivation of the employees, instead of blindly follow orders from the sticks.  It should be made of the important points made in the memoirs of Lee Kuan Yew: "The Israelis were competent in the transfer of military skills, they also taught us that military doctrine in which these skills are based. Their teaching methods were the complete opposite of the British. The British created the first and second CPR (1st and 2nd battalions of the Singapore Infantry Regiment - DG) gradually, starting with a training officer corps platoon leaders, company commanders, and finally, after 15 - 20 years of service - battalion commanders and lieutenant colonels. Israelis from the start insisted that our officers to learn from them and take over as instructors as soon as possible. Whatever they do, their actions have been studied and duplicated their Singaporean counterparts, from platoon and company commanders to the Chief of the General Staff. " Methods Israelis really were amazing and even neglect of British officers stationed on the island and watch from the sidelines for the learning process. Explanation of the difference between the two approaches can be found in farewell Chief of Staff Yitzhak Rabin, the first group of advisers before leaving for Singapore: "We are not going to transform Singapore into an Israeli colony. Your task - to teach them the military profession, to put them on their feet, that they managed their army. Your success will be, if at some point they will be able to take the wheel in your hands and manage their own army. " Early on in the work of advisers in 1966, Rabin visited Singapore and was pleased with the pace of training local officers. He was also impressed by the personality of Lee Kuan Yew and his very positive attitude towards Israel.  In accordance with this fast approach year after the first release SAFTI opened SATO (School of Advanced Training for Officers) - School of improved training for officers, commanders prepared the company and battalion level. The first eleven students started their studies in September 1968. The next step was the opening in February 1970, Command and General Staff College (Singapore Command and Staff College - SCSC), a higher education institution of the SAF. Its graduates have studied both applied and theoretical aspects of military science, to hold positions brigade commanders and work in the defense ministry and the headquarters of various levels. Since the second half of 1970 as senior instructor, and then the actual commander of the college took Colonel Benjamin Ben-Eliezer (Fuad), former commander of the Shaked unit, and future politician and minister of defense of Israel. He led the college to the middle of 1973, and under his leadership was preparing the first generation of senior officers of the SAF.  After training, the Israelis first sergeant and officers started to create a conscript army on Israeli Pattern: 2 years military service and 10 years of annual reservist duties, allowing to quickly deploy large forces trained in small population. "After the separation from Malaysia, we decided that most of us are like Israel, Finland and Switzerland. We chose the Israeli example to make every boy in our country's defense unit, "- said Lee Kuan Yew at the Congress of the Socialist International in Zurich in 1967, the year of. To achieve this, in March 1967 the Singapore Parliament passed the "Law on the National Service", and the government has conducted a broad propaganda campaign, as the Chinese, being three quarters of Singapore's population, traditionally disliked the army and military service, as opposed to the Malays. "From a good steel nails do, the good guy does not go into the army," - as the Chinese proverb.  In July 9000 called on first recruits, including 900 soldiers selected to serve for a full term of two years and staffed by two new regular battalions, the other due to lack of time at the command staff have been transferred to the reserve and auxiliary police forces - Special Constabulary and Vigilante Corps performing the functions of national guard and civil defense. With the expansion of the army, the system was abolished, and all recruits began their military service 2-2.5 years, depending on the specialty and rank, followed by reserve duty. The soldiers of the first set did not speak English to a sufficient degree (initially considered Singaporean army leadership, including as a means of employment and undereducated young people), so the Israeli instructors had to use interpreters. This is somewhat hindered the learning process, but temporary difficulties were successfully overcome. New Army needed professionals in different fields, in 1967-1968 schools were opened artillery training, communications, military, military engineers and medics.

Defense Minister Goh Ken Swee and Major General Rehavam Zeevi (Gandhi) at the opening of school Corps, 22 July 1967. Two founding fathers of SAF : Dr. Goh and General Gandhi.

Ibid: "The Army makes you an officer. Communication makes you commander. " Major Corps IDF gives explanations defense minister.

In January 1968, an event that radically affected the construction of the SAF: cabinet of Harold Wilson announced the withdrawal of British forces from Singapore by the end of 1971, as part of an overall reduction of military presence "east of Suez". Liquidation 35000th garrison, which included naval and air bases, was not only a significant economic impact (cost of maintaining British bases accounted for roughly 20% of the gross domestic product of Singapore), and put the issue before the Singapore self defense long before the calculated time: earlier British politicians promised to preserve the "defense umbrella" over the former colony until the mid-70s. As a result, high-speed pace of the army had to stir up even more, but the success of the first stage gives hope that the British left Singapore will be able to protect themselves. An additional source of enthusiasm were the results of the Six Day War, during which IDF army shattered the three neighboring countries, brilliantly demonstrating Israel's military doctrine in practice. "Otherwise, our military could lose confidence in the Israeli instructors," - says Lee Kuan Yew in his memoirs.  In 1968 the main part of the first delegation of advisors finished its work and returned to Israel, including Lieutenant Colonel Yehuda Golan. Arrived shift, in a much larger structure, started the second phase of construction of ARIA: a sharp increase in the number of units and ground forces and the creation of the air and naval forces.  In 1969, Singapore's regular army numbered six infantry battalions, summarized in two teams, went knocking together reservist units. In the same year, under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Asher Dar, an infantry battalion commander, received the medal "Ituri and Oz" for the battles in Jerusalem during the Six Day War, held its first brigade-level exercises that included the landing of infantry and light vessels on the coast. In developing the plan took into account the experience of Japanese and British forces in the Second World War. For this part of the preparation was responsible Colonel Moshe Shefi, course instructor commanders. As an observer attended the exercise, Major General Yitzhak Hofi, Head of Training of Staff IDF.

Spectators at the parade, "Armed Forces Day", July 1, 1969. Third from left in the front row - Commander of the Central Military District Rehavam Zeevi. New post, new worries, chasing terrorists, but Gandhi did not forget his child and regularly visited Singapore. Pay attention to the Israeli colonels and lieutenant colonels in the first and second row. Israeli military mission in Singapore at that time has grown to 45 officers.
Many of the Israeli advisers, especially among the senior officers have had along with the combat and command experience a wealth of experience in instructing, the educational process and command training units. This initial experience was important, given the set to create a full-fledged combat units SAF timing and rapid method of training. The aforementioned Colonel Asher Dar commanded during his career rate squad, base KMB Golani brigade, was an officer-instructor in the school of infantry specialties, instructor and deputy commander of the course the company commander and the chief instructor IDF officer school. From 1968 to 1970 he was responsible for the direction of the Singapore Infantry project with Lieutenant Colonel Yitzhak Zayd, a former instructor of the course the company commander, the commander of the central base of KMB and teacher Command and Staff School IDF. A clear result of their work was the creation by the end of 1970, Singapore's first division.

Minister Lim Kim San, talking with officers after the graduation parade at Taman Jurong Camp, March 2, 1968. Right - Lt. Col. Yitzhak Zayd.

In addition to the SAF line infantry units required and special purpose. Advisor for their creation and training was Lieutenant Colonel Amos Ne'eman, a paratrooper who participated in a sting operation and the landing at Mitla Pass, commander amphibious reconnaissance, a specialist in special operations and intelligence unit commander Haruv. In addition, he served as a military advisor in Ethiopia and the course instructor commanders. Neeman arrived in Singapore in 1969, and in the same year, 20 officers and NCOs, selected SAFTI (preliminary selection was conducted by local officers in advance), began to course instructors in a separate "regular unit". Upon completion of the course, they were under the command of the 80 recruits, and in 1971, at the end of a business trip Colonel Neeman, the unit was renamed the commando battalion. Then the staff was traditional for paratroopers red berets. The course included a commando parachute, helicopter and amphibious assault forces, orienteering and survival, intelligence and subversive activity, mine thing. From 1971 to 1973, a number of officers have advanced training in the schools of American Rangers and British Marines. In the second half of the 70th several infantry battalions was enhanced commando officers and sergeants, and on this basis has been created Guards Brigade, deployed by the end of the 90th Division in the quick response. To date, the Commando is one regular and one reservist battalion and a company of special operations, which is the basic profile of counterterrorism.  Copying Israeli example touched the initial military training. Almost simultaneously with the introduction of mandatory military service in 1967, the year in high school began lessons CWP according to Israeli "Youth Battalions" GADNA (Gdud Noar), including visits to military units and introduction to military life. As the manuals used by educational brochures GADNA specially translated into Chinese. In 1969 the type GADNA based scouting organization established the National Cadet Corps from land, sea and air compartments, where students of secondary and high school students can more deeply acquainted with the various branches of service in the future to select them for their military service. In 1975 was opened as the "School for Boys SAF» - Singapore Armed Forces Boys `School (SAFBS), in which the young age of fourteen can be trained as a team, and the technical direction, modeled on the Israeli military boarding schools and college service weapons.  Speaking of the Armed Forces of the Israeli model, not to mention a well-known features of the Israeli army, as a mandatory service in their women. At the time of the SAF only proponent of this idea was the Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, other ministers, including Ken Goh Swee not supported this initiative, so women have served in the army only on a voluntary basis and only for medical or administrative positions. From 1971, the women began to take the military police, and in 1972 held its first female officer's course, and in 1986 it was decided to partially take over the Israeli experience and open to women as an instructor of military specialties, and in 1988, were discovered and technical occupations .  In addition to purely military aspect, the army, as well as in Israel, served an important social function: rallying a diverse population into one nation. In Israel, Jews from different countries speaking different languages ​​and had a very different cultural background, finding similarities between them is often a problem. Singapore is not only the Chinese, Malays and Indians held their own religions, traditions and way of life, lived apart and did not mix with each other, but even people from different regions of China, settled in different neighborhoods and spoke different dialects. People are aware of themselves as part of their community, but not a common state or nation. The army was a tool with which Lee Kuan Yew and his colleagues set out to create a single unified patriotism and Singapore Singaporean nation, he served as an example of the IDF. Of course, life is adjusted in the good intentions, for example, Malay minority, despite the full civil equality, discriminated against in the military in regard to a particularly sensitive and strategic areas, such as the flight of the Air Force, intelligence, senior command positions, and so etc. Officially, this is due to the reluctance to put Malay dilemma "dual loyalty." In the early years of the proportion of Malay SAF recruits deliberately understated relative to the Chinese because of concerns over potential "fifth column." But, by and large, the founding fathers had their way and the Singapore army has indeed become a powerful rallying point for a new "nation in formation."

"On the ground, in the air and on the sea"

Arms and the arms

As for the arms of the new army, despite the enthusiasm of Singapore officers and their desire to learn from their instructors at anything up to Israel parade marches to its (first parades were held that way), counselors guided purely professional motives, therefore, offer to equip Singapore soldier Uzi submachine guns were rejected by the Israelis, as Uzi suitable only for close combat. Later, the same were rejected by machines Galil, as yet unfinished, and small arms SAF were American M16 (in 1970, the beginning of their local production license). However, as a means of fire support to infantry on the best set of parameters were Israeli 60-mm and 81-mm mortars produced by Salt, and they were taken by the army in Singapore. In the future, the Singapore industry arranged the production of mortars under license.  In early 1968, after the announcement of the British government minimized the military presence, it was decided to make a qualitative leap in strengthening the defense of Singapore and to create armor. In November 1968 it was formed unit VCU - Vehicle Commando Unit, which included 36 officers infantry, signal corps, logistics and reserves have been pre-course driving, communications, basic mechanics and maintenance of equipment. The wife of one of the Israeli advisers had for them as a basic course of Hebrew, and in December 1968, the officers went to Israel to study light tank AMX-13, retired IDF after the Six Day War, and the course of tank specialists. The training took place in unusual circumstances for Singaporeans winter desert and led notoriously demanding instructors IDF armored forces (the phrase "Israeli instructors" is rarely used in Singapore source without adjectives "demanding", "strong", "harsh", etc.). After four months of theoretical lessons, day and night driving, live firing and tactical exercises, field repairs, sand storms and clashes with the Bedouins, stealing scrap metal from captured tanks were the target, April 30, 1969 held a graduation ceremony. In May, the officers' group subsequently for the stories of his adventures nickname "Camels", returned to Singapore and made a plan for education and training for future soldiers.

"Camels" study materiel, Israel, the beginning of 1969.

The same month, the Israeli-Singaporean relations rose to the highest diplomatic level: Singapore opened Israeli embassy. Rank head of the Israeli military mission has also increased, and Col. Jacob Elazar replaced Brigadier General Uri Rum, served before a tank brigade commander and the commander of the tank school (Jacob Elazar was appointed Chief of Staff of Central District and after retirement in the rank of Brigadier-General again became a military adviser to the Singapore, now in private). Besides Uri Roma new branch consultant arrived with a special visit, Major General Avraham Adan (Bren), commander of the IDF tank troops.  In July of 1969, Israel was the first party of the AMX-13, in September - the second, only 72 were delivered to the tank. At the parade on August 9, Independence Day and the 150th anniversary of the founding of Singapore, the passage of the column of 18 AMX-13 was a big surprise for Malaysia, which did not have at the time the tanks. Display of military might come in time and cool some hot heads, as in May 1969 in Malaysia clashes erupted between the Chinese and Malays, and again there was a danger that the Malay nationalists tried to force the military to return to Singapore the federation. As he said in his report to the Defense Ken Goh Swee: "The only bright spot in the whole grim story of the race riots in Kuala Lumpur, is the positive effect that made our armored divisions on the Malaysian political circles." Guests of honor at the front podium were Israeli advisers.

Unloading the first AMX-13, July 1969. Arrival tanks kept secret before Independence Day.

Column AMX-13 at the historic parade.

After graduation parades advisers helped the "camel" conduct based on VCU additional training series to adapt the knowledge to the specific local conditions, and in September opened a course of tank commanders. In July 1970, the two companies completed the course recruits tank specialties, and created the first tank brigade, armed with AMX-13 wheeled armored personnel carriers and V-200 Commando with infantry. The following year saw the first brigade maneuvers and tank school opened.

Demonstration maneuvers armored forces SAF, 1974. The system of tactical symbols copied from the Israeli.

Singapore is still one of the biggest users of the AMX-13 and is armed with about 350 vehicles purchased, except for Israel, India and France. Beginning in 1988, the entire fleet of AMX-13 was upgraded Singapore Industry: AMX-13 SM1 were diesel engine, automatic transmission, hydropneumatic suspension, improved fire control system, the new means of communication, enhanced reservation.  In addition, in 1975, India had purchased 63 Centurion Mk.3 and Mk.7, and in 1993-94 an additional batch of these tanks was purchased in Israel, wrote off Centurions of regular units in 1992 to the year, and their total number has grown to 80-100, according to various sources (some of which indicates the total number as 60.) In contrast to the AMX-13, the presence of Centurions never officially recognized by Singapore, and government sources of information about it is not. Non-governmental sources also say that with the help of Israeli experts all Centurions were upgraded to Israeli standard, including the 105-mm gun L7, diesel engine, as well as, presumably, and dynamic protection, were locally called «Tempest» and used in the course of regular army exercises Singapore, Taiwan and Brunei (limited area of ​​Singapore makes conduct large-scale maneuvers in landfills friendly countries, on request). It is reported, in particular, the British explorer Tim Huxley in his book «Defending the Lion City: The Armed Forces of Singapore». Official confirmation of this information, as has been said, no.  In parallel with developing tank troops and artillery. At the time of independence in the Singapore army had only outdated British 25-pounder guns. In 1967 he created the artillery school and the first Singaporean artillery battalion, received on arms 120 mm mortars, the Israeli firm Soltam. Initially mortars tolerated by calculation or towed on two-wheel speed; since 1971, with the creation of self-propelled mortar battalion, they began to mount on the V-200 armored personnel carriers, and since 1973 - the M113. During the 70th conducted a quantitative and qualitative increase power Singaporean artillery in 1973 was purchased 45,155-mm field guns, howitzers, M-68 production of Salt, in 1976 - about 20 U.S. 155-mm M114 howitzer, retired U.S. Army, in 1979 - from 40 to 50, according to various sources, the gun-howitzer M-71, developed Soltamom based on M-68, in 1980 - 12 heavy 160mm mortar M-66 of the same company. 155-mm howitzers were the basis of Israeli-made artillery SAF to the early 90's, when based on the M-71 Singapore-based industry has launched production of its own howitzers FH-88, and then FH-2000, with a barrel length of 52 calibres. Despite enacting these guns, as well as the latest 155-mm self-propelled guns «Primus» and French light 105mm Giat LG1 (Division for quick response), upgraded in 1993, the M-eat-71S are still in service. Also been deployed licensed production 120-mm mortars for infantry units and self-propelled artillery.

M-71 artillery SAF, 1981.

Along with a strong land army Singapore needs a strong aviation. Aviation issues involved Tsivoni Colonel Adam, former head of the technical department of Staff of the Israeli Air Force. Under his leadership, in 1969, was acquired eight French helicopters "Alluet-3", formed the first division of the Singapore Air Force pilots and technicians set up schools at the airbase RAF Tengah. The first training aircraft were eight aircraft "Cessna-172K." In 1970-1971 in the UK were purchased 20 fighters "Hunter", 16 training aircraft "Straykmaster" as well as a 35 mm anti-aircraft guns and 28 SAM «Bloodhound». The first pilots were trained in France and Britain and became an instructor for the following drivers, under the Israeli leadership. Additional assistance provided retired senior officers RAF, hired on contract. In 1972, Singapore's Air Force received 27 more "Hunter" and Italian training SF260. In the U.S. Navy was purchased over 50 "Skyhawks" held upgrade to A-4S and composition in the 1974-1976 two new squadrons.

Opening of the summer school, August 1, 1969.

The third component of the armed forces, demanded the creation from scratch, was the fleet. In 1965, the Singapore Volunteer Navy (Singapore Naval Volunteer Force) had three old ship: former Japanese minelayer "Vakataka" and two armed vessel used for the protection of coastal waters from pirates and smugglers. New modern fleet was created to plan and under the direction of Captain First Rank Zvi Tirosh, Deputy Chief of Naval Staff Operations Division of Israel. Tirosh, the future deputy commander of the Navy, was in the 60's, led the commission that developed the ASM "Gabriel" and the Israeli missile and patrol boats. In 1969 began the first course in the Singaporean school sailors on the island of Sentosa, which consisted of 160 cadets training was conducted in conjunction with the New Zealand officers. That same year, the water was launched the first of six new high-speed patrol boats - «RSS Independence», British construction. The second boat was also built in the UK, a series of other ships were built in Singapore. In the early 70's began to come into service missile boats of the type «Sea Wolf», the first two were built in Germany, the next four - in Singapore. Missile boats armed with anti-ship missiles "Gabriel-I», Israeli navy used with 1969 and showed excellent results in the naval battles of the Yom Kippur War, and 57-mm Bofors guns. In the 1980s, in the process of upgrading to this added ASM "Harpoon" and SAM "Mistral". Boats of the type «Sea Wolf» still are in service the 185th Squadron of Singapore and will be retired with the end of the entry into service of new series of frigates type «Formidable».  By the end of 1971, the second phase of construction was completed by the SAF. Entered into force on 1 November 1971 five-sided defense agreement (ANZUK), concluded between the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, and having the official purpose "defense of Malaysia and Singapore from external attack," to some extent replaced the British garrison, but the Singapore government preferred do not rely on contracts, especially as one of the possible opponents were Malaysia, a member of the agreement. Better protection against this threat to use his own army, and in late 1971 began the third phase of construction, which lasted until the beginning of 1974. The third stage was to create a combined arms, further raising the level of officers and strengthening aviation, navy, artillery and armored forces. Of Israeli advisers serving in Singapore during this period, apart from the above-mentioned Colonel Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, who led the Command and Staff College, SAF, may be called the chief of Israeli military mission Brigadier General Ephraim PORA (replaced Brigadier General Uri Roma in early 1972) and Lieutenant Colonel Dan Vardi, supervised the tank area. Colonel Vardi have to interrupt your trip and return immediately to Israel to start the Yom Kippur War, to lead and to lead in the fight that was left of the brigade "Barack" after a heavy loss in the Golan Heights and the death of generalship.  By 1974, the mission of Israeli advisers were executed: they developed the concept of defense, laid the foundation of a new modern army, air force and navy, and trained core team of instructors and provided the basis for further professional and technical development of all branches of service. Singapore Armed Forces to stand firmly on their feet, they no longer needed a mentor, and the Israeli military presence, which began in 1965 with eight officers and reaches at its peak in 1969, forty-five, in April 1974, has been reduced.  "The Israelis have focused on training military skills and the creation of a high motivation of personnel. SAF have not learned from the "Mexicans" parade uniforms and elegance "- says Lee Kuan Yew

Israeli reservists machines are about the same.

A small number of officers remained at the focal positions at the Ministry of Defence and the General Staff of Singapore, but most of the military cooperation between the two countries has shifted to maintaining and building qualitative superiority over neighboring armies SAF with Israeli technology output Israeli defense industry to Asian markets, and in the future to joint technological developments in the military field. Over time, Singapore has become one of the "intimate" friends of Israel and an important strategic partner.

"How does a rocket, you will not need to know about it"

Israeli technology to guard Singapore

The main interest for the Army of Singapore are the technological areas in which Israel has traditionally been a leader in the world: Electro, systems with remote-controlled missiles, avionics systems, electronic intelligence and electronic warfare, control and communications systems, the modernization of ground and air platforms, simulators. A significant part of the Israeli technology "presence" refers to the air component of the armed forces. Thus, in the 80th Singapore has adopted a UAV «Scout», in 1998, the year they were replaced by 40 UAV «Searcher Mk2» production IAI. Then, based on the acquired Israeli technology (firm EMIT Aviation Consultancy) company Singapore Technologies began developing its own vehicles «Sparrow», «Blue Horizon» and «Firefly», the latter may be the basis for a cruise missile and sea-based. Also been a joint Israeli specialists to develop UAV «Golden Eagle». There is evidence of the use of the Singapore Air Force Israeli missiles "air-to-air» «Python-3" and «Python-4."  During the 90th fleet was upgraded F-5 fighter jets in service with the Air Force of Singapore from the 70's, including the installation of a new radar and navigation system. Most of the work on the integration of the Israeli company Elbit performed. In collaboration with the same firm, as well as IAI, Singapore ST Aero has developed a package of upgrades for F-5 Turkish and Brazilian Air Force. Singapore on 10 F-16D Block 52 in the course of their production in the U.S. was installed additional Israeli equipment, including electronic warfare equipment, presumably SPS-3000 company Elisra. The latest F-16D Block 52 + are equipped with one of the variants of the complex EW ASPS of the same firm, as well as sighting and navigation system container production Rafael Litening. Maritime patrol aircraft «Fokker 50 Maritime Enforcer» were also equipped with the Israeli electronic warfare system. Israel supplied night vision equipment for helicopters, radar warning devices and tactical data terminals. In addition, Singapore has bought the Israeli Air Force training systems, such as tactical simulator «Hotshot» and mining system aviamanevrov and debriefing in real time «EHUD» company BVR Systems, as well as equipment for the landfill air battles in SIAB, Indonesia, which is used by Singapore pilots. , Israeli specialists was being developed spy satellite technology-based Israeli series of satellites "Ofek".

F-16D Block 52 with the Israeli Air Force of Singapore facilities.

The Navy Singapore are ASM "Gabriel-I» and «Gabriel-II» production IAI, SAM "Barack-I» joint development IAI and Rafael, patrol boats with mini remote control "Protector" of production Rafael, artillery and machine-gun stabilized installation "Typhoon" and "Mini-Typhoon" by the same company, and a large number of Israeli-made electronic systems, including electronic surveillance system NS-9010C, NS-9003A and EW system NS-9005 company Elisra, electro-optics system (optronic director) MSIS firm El-Op, the combat information system company Elbit, electronic surveillance system C-PEARL-M, EW system SHARK/RAN-1101, a combined system of electronic intelligence and electronic warfare SEWS/RAN-1110, multi electrooptical system «TOPLITE» and staging system of passive Rafael noise production, search radar and fire control radar EL/M-2228 SGRS, EL/M-2238 STAR and EL/M-2221 STGR company Elta.

Guided missile corvette «RSS Victory». Israeli electronics and SAM "Barack."

Land Army uses Israeli mortars and artillery, as detailed above, the ATGM "Spike" Israel (Raphael) and further local production, remotely controlled turrets weapons (Overhead Weapon Stations - OWS) Rafael production, control, communications, and command, control, orientation and targeting, electronic surveillance. Conducted joint development of integrated systems of C4ISR (Command, Control, Communication, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance) systems and tactical communications.

Upgraded M113 Ultra with a 25 mm Bushmaster cannon on OWS Rafael.

Separately, it should be said about electronic intelligence in general, which is one of the most important tools of modern warfare. Speaking about the systems of air, land and sea-based, Australian military analyst Desmond Ball says: "Singapore opportunities in electronic surveillance, especially the systems acquired from Israel over the last decade (1985-1995), as well as some of its own design, are some of the the most advanced in the world and give Singapore the largest in Southeast Asia fighting capacity in electronic warfare. " For since then another decade possibility of Singapore in this area is increased, largely due to technical cooperation with Israel.  It should be noted that much of the Israeli defense exports to Singapore is classified, and many deliveries and joint projects (particularly those of the military technological departments of the two countries) are not observed even MONITORING unofficial sources. Some Israeli defense firms "Singapore" is a separate area, along with the relevant departments, and information about his work is usually not advertised. As for the total volume, then the year 2000 the amount of signed contracts is more than two billion dollars. In terms «Trend Indicator Value» International Institute SIPRI, noted a change in the world arms exports and build on comparative technical characteristics of weapons, not the financial volumes, Singapore is ranked first in the Israeli defense exports for the period 1994-2004, overtaking the United States, India and China.  Throughout the 90th Israel, according to military experts, ranked third in importance among the suppliers of military equipment to Singapore. This place is even more weight when you consider that in the first places are providers of such platforms, the production of which Israel is not a competitor: U.S. - military aircraft and helicopters, and Sweden - submarines. It is noted that an additional advantage in the competitive Israeli systems is to provide the source code of software, as opposed to the American practice, which facilitates further modifications under the emerging changes and new requirements.  In 1997 he was created an Israeli-Singaporean fund SIIRDF (Singapore-Israel Industrial R & D Foundation) to promote joint projects in the field of high technologies. During its existence, the fund has financed projects totaling $ 50 million. Singaporean investment in Israeli high-tech companies through venture since 2000, is estimated at $ 100 million annually. Financed not only by design, with military applications, but also projects in the field of biotechnology, semiconductor, printing, agriculture, etc., but most of the funds invested in the technology of "dual use". Many joint defense productions are operating under the "Israeli technology - Singapore funding." Besides those already mentioned above directions, the Israeli and Singaporean experts are working together in the areas of computer security and cryptography, the Singapore Army provides advice in various fields, such as aviation psychology, night operations, counterterrorism, etc. Between the intelligence agencies of the two countries held a regular exchange of information.  Indirect evidence of the importance attached to the defense structures of Singapore Israel, is the fact that the post of military attaché in the country has traditionally been considered the generals. The current officer in Singapore, Rear Admiral Eli Merom, a former chief of staff of the Israeli Navy and the applicant for the post of the commander, can serve as a good illustration of the "intimate" relations between the two countries in the military sphere.

Rear Admiral Eli Merom, nicknamed "China." (The Israeli navy made the rank of Army, but here is given a traditional Russian equivalents).

The nickname is not given in vain, looks really Chinese. His parents, Chinese and Jewish refugee from Germany, met in China during the Second World War. The general public, he became known in January 2002, after he commands the operation to seize the Palestinian ship «Karine A» with cargo smuggled weapons on board. As a military officer Eli Merom coordinates joint military projects developers, represents the interests of Israeli defense firms, and is a visual aid on the "Chinese face, and the Israeli filling", which largely reflects the educational past and present technological army Singapore. As already mentioned, the occupation of this post generals and admirals indicates the priority in relation to other countries: the post of military attache in China and India, the largest customer of Israeli defense industry, is currently occupied by colonels. We note parenthetically that this is not a strict rule, for example, the older brother Eli Miriam, Moses served as attache in China, also being a rear admiral.  Besides the fact that Singapore - one of the most important customers and partners Israeli defense industry, it is also a bridge for its publication in the Asian markets and robust Arms "third party" for transactions with countries that are not able to open and trade directly with Israel on various political reasons. Strategic location in Southeast Asia makes Singapore a natural center for the founding of the "outposts" and missions, and the world's largest by annual tonnage passing Singapore's port is a great opportunity to redirect the goods are not intended for prying eyes. Thus, the first defense contacts with China began just after Singapore, he also is a conduit for supplies. According to various sources, the sale of arms to the Government of Myanmar and the other modes are not approved by the world community and subject to various embargo on military supplies, also occurs through the mediation of Singapore. Through it also forged ties with traditionally hostile to Israel, countries like Indonesia.

"Far East - support strong"

Singapore Army today

The influence of Israel, but rather a natural consequence of the same reasons as that of Israel (a small area with a small population, lack of minerals, bet on themselves), it is seen not only in the structure and the military doctrine of the Singaporean army, but in the place SAF occupy in the social life of Singapore. SAF - is not only a melting pot for a unified nation and patriotic education of youth, but also source of manpower for the managerial elite of the state. End-of officers, especially scholars, received by the army education in the best universities in the U.S. and the UK, following the resignation of starting a second career in politics, in administrative and managerial positions. As a result, as in Israel, despite the differences in political practice between the two countries, this leads to the fact that the top positions are increasingly occupied by "Junta" retirees. In the present government of Singapore three generals: the Prime Minister and Finance Minister Lee Hsien Loong (son of Lee Kuan Yew), Defense Teo Chee Hian and Foreign Minister George Yeo.  Besides the fact that officers are prepared in advance to be leaders not only in the army, but also in the state, the army itself is the cornerstone of Singapore's doctrine «Total defence»: military, civil, economic, social and psychological defense - "five fingers of one hand." Patriotism and pride in their country, constant professional improvement and a willingness to re-training, maintaining harmony among nationalities living in Singapore, teaching knowledge needed in emergency situations - all this serves to strengthen Singapore as a whole, according to the theory and practice of the corporate state. "Everyone involved in the defense of Singapore" - as the slogan says propaganda campaigns of the «Total defence».

Everyone - but especially the army. Annual defense spending is about $ 5 billion - a record figure for South-East Asia (total costs in Indonesia and Malaysia - about 3 billion) and 23rd place in the overall world ranking (by the year 2005). By comparison, Israel ranks 17th. Just as in Israel, the emphasis is on the qualitative superiority over potential enemy: technological excellence, research and development, continuous improvement and modernization, education personnel and constant readiness. The lack of strategic depth and resources for long-term hostilities led Singaporean doctrine of "poisonous mushroom": deterring possible aggression by diplomatic and political means and the creation of an army powerful enough to inflict serious, it is desirable to unacceptable losses. Lee Kuan Yew, in an interview with «New Straits Times» in the year 2000 explained the concept as follows: "We have no one to want to fight. Why? But we should be able to get a very high price to pay ... and then go to the UN. "  Besides defensive scenarios, the doctrine includes offensive: a preemptive strike in case of a sharp deterioration of the situation, the transfer of war to the enemy with shock highly mobile parts, the failure of his plans and the completion of the conflict in the short term. Under the doctrine, as a casus belli covers not only direct military action, but also interfering with the strategic interests of Singapore, for example, blocking shipping lanes or supply of water (most of its fresh water gets Singapore from Malaysia), which could not only undermine the economic base and normal functioning of the state in general. As in many other realities of Singapore, here we also see similarities to the Israeli situation, when the IDF entered the battle because of the blockade the Straits of Tiran, Egypt, in 1956 and 1967, Israeli and Syrian interference in water 1964-1965 ("Battle of the water") . In the words of Tim Huxley, "Singapore - is not Israel Southeast Asia, but he makes it clear that dare to become one, if there is an urgent need."  An important part of the defense of Singapore is military cooperation with other countries, while maintaining an independent political course. The technological aspect of this collaboration includes local defense industry cooperation with MIC Israel, Sweden, France, Australia, USA, UK and diversification purchased military equipment, training aspect - the training of officers in the American, British and Australian military academies, quartering ongoing training and Air Force units Singapore Army on military bases in the United States, Australia, France, Brunei and regular independent and joint exercises SCD in those countries, as well as in Taiwan, the Philippines, New Zealand and Thailand. Lack of space for their own landfills makes "overseas teaching" vital to maintaining combat readiness. In addition, these exercises provide an opportunity to evaluate the SAF and compare their skills to the level of the armies of Western countries and the Asia-Pacific region.  Political and international aspect is the participation of SAF in peacekeeping and humanitarian operations in the army and the UN mission in East Timor, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, etc., and providing military bases in Singapore to use the armed forces of the United States. In Singapore, the headquarters of the supply management of the 7th Fleet of the U.S., the Singapore government for its own account revolutionized naval base at Changi to receive U.S. aircraft carriers at Paya Lebar Air Base located Training Squadron U.S. Air Force. Of course, Singapore is one of the world's financial, transportation and industrial centers can count on the fact that the "big players" and no alliance will not allow its power to remove or a sharp blow to its security and the economy, as it will affect their own interests. But such a strong ally of the U.S., has a strong deterrent effect on potential enemies of Singapore. On the other hand, Singapore is important not to be anyone's satellite and pursue an independent foreign policy. Therefore, the key to the integrity of the island is its own strong army that can discourage potential aggressor and to fight back on their own or, in extreme cases, to be held prior to the entry to the cause of the "big players". Since the beginning of the 80th there has been a thaw in relations with Singapore's neighbors, including joint exercises with the armies of the SAF Malaysia and Indonesia, and the use of training facilities and Baturayya aviapoligona SIAB in Sumatra Singaporean pilots, but it did not change the views of Singapore's leadership on the need to maintain and strengthen the combat readiness Armed Forces of Singapore. Conversely, followed by the official statements of the transition from the doctrine of "poisonous mushroom" to the doctrine of the "hedgehog", including strengthening the offensive component. However, the views of the neighbors to the need to have a strong army warming also has not changed, as evidenced by the general arms race in the region, to the great joy of the MIC of different countries. Periodically hold "demonstrations of muscles", a prime example of which are the joint maneuvers of the armies of Malaysia and Indonesia with the dropping of paratroopers in the border areas, held on 9 August 1991, the day of the anniversary of the independence of Singapore. If we consider that this stage of the exercises carried the code name "Wipeout", the allusion is made more transparent, and it is possible to understand why Singapore is not considered political generals warming occasion to relax.

An additional factor, because of which the SAF prefer to keep their powder dry, is the general political instability in South-East Asia, in particular the work of Islamic extremists in Malaysia, rebel and secessionist movements in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines and ethnic conflict, sometimes results in a bloody collisions, such as the massive Chinese riots in Indonesia after the financial crisis of 1998. Long-term efforts for the military doctrine of the life led to what today is recognized Singapore army experts the most efficient in Southeast Asia, due to the large number of trained reservists (about 300 thousand soldiers and officers, the regular army of about 60,000), a high the degree of information of all echelons of the armed forces and the availability of modern military technology: F-16, Apache Longbow, missile frigates and corvettes, artillery and small arms and ammunition to its own production, precision weapons and military electronics world level. Building on the foundation of a developed economy, research and technological capacity, an educated population, a balanced internal and foreign policy of the government, and strategic relations in the world and the region, the SAF is a reliable guarantor of the sovereignty and security of the island city-state. Yes, this is only theoretical calculations, the Army of Singapore has not had to show himself in the case, but this is Singapore's concept of deterrence in action: the army must be so strong that the enemy did not dare to aggression. Much credit for the fact that the SAF over forty years of existence, went from zero to this level, belongs to Israel. And in Singapore, do not forget, as evidenced by constant references to the contribution of Israeli advisers in army building in the past and the continuous cooperation between the two countries in the present.

"We just drink and drink two"


Finish the story of the military cooperation between Israel and Singapore can quote from a speech by the Minister of Information, George Yeo (now foreign minister), delivered in 1996 to the year at the seminar "Temasek" on defense issues, held in SAFTI: «Many years ago, the commander of the Israeli Air Force General Major-General David Ivry gave a speech to the community Temasek. I was in the audience. Just as I am today, he spoke of the challenges facing small states. He used the metaphor that I will remember forever. He said that if you opened a bottle of whiskey and throw her into the pool, then gradually whiskey mixed with water, and as a result, both inside and outside is the same. Whiskey, might have changed the taste of the water in the pool, but lost its uniqueness and therefore has lost its meaning. You want to keep what's inside the bottle, other than the fact that in the pool. We can easily do this if we do not uncork the bottle. Then, if the bottle is broken, the whiskey will be whiskey. But if the bottle tightly closed, it does not affect the pool. It has no value to the world outside. It has value only if it is open to the world. "  Two small states, Israel and Singapore, have found something to share with each other in the defense of its unique bottle in a large global pool.

Moshe Dayan and Ken Goh Swee at a diplomatic reception, Singapore, May 5, 1979. A toast to friendship.

  1. Lee Kuan Yew, "The Singapore Story: From Third World - in the first (1965 - 2000)."
  2. Tim Huxley, «Defending the Lion City: The Armed Forces of Singapore».
  3. "So Israel has created an army of defense of Singapore," Amnon Barzilai, "Haaretz", 07/16/2004 ("Kah ikima Israel et CVA and AGANA-le-Singapore").
  4. Eitan Haber, Ze'ev Schiff, "Dictionary of the Yom Kippur War" ("Lexicon milhemet Yom Kippur").
  5. Eitan Haber, Ze'ev Schiff, "Dictionary of the security of Israel" ("Lexicon bitahon le-Yisrael").
  6. Encyclopedia "by IDF combat arms" ("IDF beyul Kheilo").
  7. Anniversary album "Safety 50", editor Nachman Shai ("Bitahon 50").
  8. «The Singapore Armed Forces Commemorative Book 1981», Ministry of Defence, Singapore.
  9. Moshe Yegar, "For a long trip to Asia - a chapter on the history of diplomacy in Israel" ("A-a-Masa Aroha le Assia - Perek BE-a-Toldos diplomacy Shel Israel").
  10. Arik Henig, "Fuad - against all odds" ("Fuad - keneged kol-blackjack").
  11. Moshe Sharett, "Sailing to Asia" ("wave-Asiya blah").
  12. Yitzhak Rabin, "Service Record" ("Pinkas Sherut").
  13. Materials Jane's Information Group.
  14. Directory «Jane's Fighting Ships 2004-2005».
  15. Tim Huxley, «Singapore and the Revolution in Military Affairs».
  16. Desmond Ball, «Signals intelligence (SIGINT) in Singapore», unpublished paper quoted in Huxley, «Singapore and the RMA».
  17. LTC Chan Kim Yin, COL Sukhmohinder Singh, MAJ Regena Ramaya, Lim Kwee Hoon, «Spirit and System: Leadership Development for a Third Generation SAF».
  18. - Ministry of Defence of Singapore.
  20. - The Unofficial Homepage SAF Armour.
  21. - Structure & Units of SAF.
  22. - Ministry of Education of Singapore.
  23. - Library of Congress Country Studies.
  24. - National Heritage Board.
  25. - Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.
  26. - The Jaffee Centre for Strategic Studies.
  27. 20MI / - SAFTI Military Institute.
  29. - Ministry of Trade and Industry of Singapore.
  32. - "Pointer" - Journal of the Singapore Armed Forces.
  34. - The Middle East Review of International Affairs.
  36. - Arms Reduction Coalition.
  37. - Campaign Against Arms Trade.
  41. - The Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, The Australian National University.
  43. - Singapore-Israel Industrial R & D Foundation.
  45. - Israeli Foreign Ministry.
  48. Newspaper "Yediot Ahronot", "Haaretz", "Maariv", "Globes", "Jerusalem Post".


Israel develops Iron Dome for Singapore

Singapore is reported to be acquiring Israel's new Iron Dome anti-missile air-defense system under a once-secret military cooperation pact with the Jewish state that dates back to the 1960s.

Iron Dome
Iron Dome

Iron Dome in action, Al Jazeera, Nov 19, 2012

TEL AVIV, Israel, April 2, 2010 (UPI) -- Singapore is reported to be acquiring Israel's new Iron Dome anti-missile air-defense system under a once-secret military cooperation pact with the Jewish state that dates to the 1960s.

Indeed, according to the Paris Intelligence Online Web site, Singapore helped finance the development of the system by Rafael Advanced Defense Systems.

It says that Iron Dome was always intended for the island, a key Asian shipping hub and one of the richest per capita states in the world, because of its strategic location as a trading center.

The Israeli air force, which runs the Jewish state's air defense network, completed test-firings of the system in January and the first battery is currently becoming operational.

Israeli media reports say the missiles, designed to shoot down hostile missiles with ranges of up to 25 miles, are being deployed along Israel's northern border with Lebanon.

There are growing fears of a new Middle Eastern war and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite movement in Lebanon, has an arsenal of up to 45,000 rockets and missiles, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has claimed.

Israel's defense links with largely Chinese Singapore go back to 1965, shortly after the island city-state, a former British colony off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, split from the Federation of Malaysia.

Singapore's founding father, Lee Kuan Yew, wanted to establish a military to defend Singapore, which has a landmass of only 274 square miles, since it was ringed by Muslim nations -- as is Israel.

He turned to the Jewish state, through the Israeli ambassador in Thailand, for help. Israel sent a military mission led by Maj. Gen. Rehavam Ze'evi, then deputy head of the military's operations branch. (Ze'evi was assassinated in Jerusalem by Palestinian gunmen in October 2001.)

Lee insisted on secrecy because he didn't want to antagonize his Muslim neighbors, Malaysia and Indonesia. The team of Israeli instructors arrived in October 1965. Lee wrote in his 2000 autobiography: "To disguise their presence, we called them 'Mexicans.' They looked swarthy enough."

Today, Singapore's armed forces, 72,500-strong, are considered one of the most advanced militaries in Southeast Asia.

Iron Dome will be a crucial element in Singapore's drive to build a defensive shield around one of the world's biggest and most important ports.

Israel is determining how many batteries of Iron Dome and two other systems that will make up its planned multi-layered missile shield, will be required. Each battery, which costs $50 million, can cover an area of around 60 square miles, which means 13 of them would be needed to cover all of Israel.

The Arrow-2 high-altitude anti-missile system, the only tier to be fully tested and established, cost some $2 billion to develop, largely with U.S. funds.

Israel shunned buying already developed U.S. systems, which would be cheaper. So far, the Defense Ministry has budgeted for one Iron Dome battery but will clearly need several more.

"So why develop such an expensive system, instead of acquiring Raytheon's cheaper Centurion system?" Intelligence Online asked.

"Some Israeli arms programs are too costly for the local market and are developed principally for export. Iron Dome is a typical example.

"From the outset, Iron Dome was always intended for Singapore, which helped finance its development," Intelligence Online explained. "Iron Dome will be battle-tested in Israel ahead of export to Singapore at a late date."

Singapore has bought Israeli weapons systems extensively over the years and Israeli defense companies regularly participate at the annual Singapore Air Show.

Israeli Aerospace Industries, state-owned flagship of Israel's defense industry, has sold Singapore the Barak-1 naval anti-aircraft system. Rafael's electronic warfare systems are widely deployed with the Singapore navy.

IAI upgraded the Singapore air force's old 1960s-era Northrop F-5 Tiger fighters, and with Elbit Systems and Singapore Aerospace won a contract in 1997 to modernize Turkey's fleet of F-5A/B and NF-5A/B aircraft fighter jets.

Singapore has also acquired unmanned aerial vehicles from Elbit and Rafael for surveillance to enhance maritime security in the Malacca Strait and the South China Sea.


In Command of His Life: Kirpa Ram Vij

Patrick Jonas

AsiaOne, Jan 7, 2011 (source)

A LITTLE below his right wrist, Brigadier-General (retd) Kirpa Ram Vij sports a tattoo of the Hindu sacred symbol Om. If ever he wants to recall his childhood, all he has to do is take a look at this tattoo.

His mind would race back to the time of India's partition and the horrors associated with it. Mr Vij was about 12 years old when he and his family were driven out of their village in Hazara district, in what is now Pakistan.
His family was one of the few Hindus living there and as India's independence loomed large in 1947 they had to flee.
That May, they sought refuge in one of the camps on the Indian side of Punjab. By the time India gained independence and Pakistan was created in August, the flood of refugees had increased and his family had to spend nights on a railway platform.
His aged grandfather died while they were there and later, when the young Vij and his father took his ashes to be immersed in the Ganges, a Hindu priest persuaded him to get the tattoo.
The tattoo was nearly removed when he met with a motorcycle accident during his university days and a bone had to be fixed. In some ways, it can be called a lucky charm.
Looking back at his later year successes - in the Singapore administrative service, army, foreign service and the national shipping company - he admits that he has been lucky to be at the right place at the right time.
But the early years for the man who went on to become Singapore's first army chief were tough.
He and his family found their way to Singapore in October 1947 with the help of his father's older brother who had moved here in 1928. It was only two years later that he started attending school: Rangoon Road Primary. His father earned a living by buying items like singlets and shoes from wholesalers and selling them in a pushcart in the Arab Street area. "But he was thrifty," says Mr Vij, "and he wanted me to continue with my studies even as I helped him during my free time."
An important point in his life came about when he finished his high school at Raffles Institution where he was a prefect and a quarter master in the cadet corps.
He wanted to become a teacher. As the oldest of eight children he felt he could help ease his father's burden. But fate intervened in the form of his teacher. "Mr Philip Liau told me: 'You have good grades, you are good in extra-curricular activities. You will get a teaching bursary and you can become a teacher after becoming a graduate.' He turned my attention to university and I took up geography," recalls Mr Vij, sitting in his home that has been tastefully decorated by his wife Nirmal - they met and got married when she came to visit her brother here in 1962.
Serving me a cup of tea, Mr Vij went on to narrate his life journey.
In 1960, after he graduated, he joined the administrative service - the Land Office and Ministry of Finance. But all along he had not given up his love for the uniform.
As a member of the Singapore Volunteer Artillery, he would take leave from his work to attend military courses conducted by the British army and excelled to the extent that he was honoured with a sword of honour. He was mobilised twice - during the confrontation with Indonesia and the racial riots in the 1960s.
When Singapore separated from Malaysia, Dr Goh Keng Swee who was the Minister for the Interior and Defence tasked him with setting up a training centre for the armed forces. He went to Israel to check out their training methods and interact with Israeli officers who eventually came to Singapore as training advisers.
Mr Vij, 75, admits that his proudest moment was when the first batch of officers graduated from the newly-established Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute. His rise in the army since then had been meteoric.
He was appointed Commander of the first National Service Brigade in 1969 and nine months later became the first director of the Command and Staff College. The following year, he became Director General Staff (head of army), a post in which he continued for four years. On his return to the administrative service, he worked as deputy secretary in the Ministry of National Development for a year before being sent as ambassador to Egypt in time for the reopening of the Suez Canal. It was a memorable period. He was also given charge of Lebanon, Yugoslavia and Pakistan.
"Covering Pakistan was a special bonus for me because I had come from Pakistan. Initially I thought the Egyptians wouldn't accept me because I had worked with the Israelis but they were very broadminded," he recalls of the days in Cairo. During those four years his three children picked up French which they had to learn as a second language and this helped the eldest daughter Archana enrol at a Canadian university. She now works for Microsoft in Seattle.
His son Aravind, currently based in Mumbai, is the legal head of JP Morgan for the Philippines and India. Youngest daughter Anjna did her MBA in hospitality and works for Suntec. All are married with children.
His wife Nirmal runs a boutique shop in Holland Village which sells items like cushion covers and table and bed linen, most of it designed by her.
That does not mean Mr Vij hung up his boots and stretched out his feet after his return from Cairo. He moved to Neptune Orient Lines as general manager administration. When the firm prepared to go for an IPO, it engaged consultancy firm Mckinsey to revamp the company and asked Mr Vij to be the liaison officer.
"That was the best thing that could have happened. I learnt shipping. I was working with the Mckinsey people for six months and after that I could talk shipping," he says on how he got into the shipping business.
He retired from NOL in 1995 after serving as country manager for Indonesia and Malaysia and started his own shipping consultancy firm. Soon after, a group which included Parameswara Holdings and Windmill International asked him to head Gateway Distriparks in India - a container freight station business for which he had earlier provided consultancy.
However, working in the private sector in India was an entirely new experience. After "some initial heartaches", the project took off successfully. Mr Vij, who served as adviser for the Hindu Endowment Board and Executive Committee member of SINDA for several years, is still a director on the board of Gateway and keeps himself busy with numerous social activities, one of them being vice-president of the Indian Education Trust.
That is when he does not accompany Nirmal on short holidays to India which they combine with her work - sourcing for material for her business. In fact, holiday is a word that often crops up in their conversations. It was after all her Singapore holiday which brought them together.