In Parliament today, February 11, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that the inspections on the gun-lowering mechanism of the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH) that figured in the untimely death of Aloysius Pang last month showed that there were no malfunctions in the mechanism.
The Straits Times reports Ng as saying, “Inspections of the SSPH have not detected any machine malfunction of the gun-lowering mechanism.”
The Defence Minister also talked about the two servicemen who had been with Pang during the military exercise on January 19, though they remained unnamed. The actor had been assigned to repair the calibration system of the gun but was unable to get out of the way of the barrel of the gun as it lowered. He sustained injuries to his chest and abdomen, and despite multiple surgeries, died on January 23.
Ng talked about the other servicemen to show that they were operationally ready and have experience with the maintenance of SSPHs. He added that the crew with Pang had received specific training for the SSPH and had done the same maintenance works, and that in January, daily checks on the guns were performed.
More than ten questions had been asked by MPs concerning recent SAF-related training deaths, as well as the actions taken after Pang’s demise.
The Defence Minister said that after Pang died, the SAF’s “immediate task” was to make sure of “no systemic machine malfunction of the SSPH,” in order to put no other lives at risk.
Ng also disclosed the specific size of the cabin of the SSPH. There is enough room for three people to stay on both sides of the gun, which is usually tilted upwards and is lowered for maintenance.
According to Ng, “During the lowering of the barrel, no one is supposed to be behind the barrel. Unfortunately, CFC (NS) Pang was caught between the gun barrel and the interior of the SSPH as the gun barrel was lowered, and (he had) sustained compression injuries to his chest and abdominal areas.”
Non-Constituency MP Daniel Goh asked if the design of the SSPH will be evaluated to see if there are flaws.
Ng answered, ”The SSPH prototype platform had undergone extensive trials and evaluations from 2000 to 2002 before its introduction in 2003.”
He also said that the independent Committee of Inquiry (COI) has full access to material and witnesses in order to conduct the inquiry thoroughly.
“Everything asked for by the COI will be released to them – I do not foresee any information that needs to be withheld for security reasons. We owe it to CFC(NS) Pang and his family, indeed to all Singaporeans, to get to the bottom of what happened, and make things right, to ensure the safety of the NS training system as a whole.
I ask that all of us respect these objective and impartial processes that are underway, to reserve our judgement and wait for the conclusions of the COI, which will be presented in Parliament subsequently.”