In Parliament on Monday, February 11, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen spoke reassuring words to parents worrying about the safety of their sons, telling them at each soldier has the right to put unsafe training to a stop, as he sees fit.
Ng said, “I’ve said very clearly, on no uncertain terms, that anybody can stop unsafe training.”
He added, ”If you think it’s unsafe for your buddies, yourself, raise it up. If you think that someone is pushing beyond his means to physical harm, do so. I think that’s the way we maintain realistic training and give comfort to our parents.”
Ng fielded many questions that concerned the four SAF-related deaths since September 2017. One of these came from Alex Yam, the MP for Marsiling-Yew Tee GRC.
Yam said that parents have been asking about their children’s safety. “None of the parents who spoke to me said we should do away with National Service … but with four recent incidents they are worried, so how do we reassure them that safety is paramount, that their children will be taken care of?”
The death of actor Aloysius Pang in a training incident in New Zealand last month sparked renewed concerns over the safety of SAF training.
Ng emphasized in Parliament that developing a culture of safety is very important for Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), however, it may take years for this to be established.
Ng said, “Who decides the culture? It’s all of us, our children, our friends, our relatives.”
After Yam’s question, Lee Bee Wah, the MP for Nee Soon GRC, asked how it could be ascertained that servicemen who reported unsafe practices in the SAF.
“I stated very clearly that there is a TSR (Training Safety Regulations) and anyone can stop it. If you bring it up to them, we want a culture where the person can assess if safety is at risk. So on the ground there are avenues, that’s in real time.”
But servicemen may take the option of using safety hotlines to report unsafe practices anonymously.
Ng added, ”I think the message is very clear to the units after this statement. It’s always been, but if it needs to be clearer after the reiteration, then remember that unsafe practices will not be tolerated.”