Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong extolled the value of the Gurkha Contingent (GC) weeks after he said that Singapore cannot “outsource” its security and defense to anyone else.
In a Facebook post published yesterday (10 Apr), PM Lee wrote about the Gurkhas’ “long history with Singapore” as he shared his visit to commemorate their 70th anniversary. He wrote:
“Gurkhas have a well-deserved reputation for toughness, alertness, mental and physical resilience. They are totally dependable, highly self-disciplined, loyal, and fearless in executing their duties.
“The Gurkha Contingent (GC) in the Singapore Police Force was formed in 1949. It has been deployed many times during racial conflict and civil unrest. They were there in the Maria Hertogh riots in 1950, the Hock Lee Bus riots in 1955, and the communal clashes between Malays and Chinese in 1964. At these tense moments when communal feelings ran high, the GC’s impartiality was crucial to restoring order and confidence.
“Today, the GC are an important force augmenting the Police response to new security and terrorism threats. Glad to visit the GC today to mark their 70th anniversary, to thank the officers and their families for their loyal and unwavering service, safeguarding Singapore and contributing to our peace and security.”
Interestingly, PM Lee’s latest Facebook post comes less than two months after he said that “We cannot outsource our security and defence to anyone else; we have to defend Singapore ourselves.”
PM Lee made this remark as he released his first public comment on NSman Aloysius Pang’s untimely training death, three weeks after Pang’s passing. He said on 15 Feb:
“In war, we will have to put servicemen in harm’s way to defend the country; but in peacetime training, we owe it to our servicemen never to compromise their safety and endanger their lives.
“The SAF has to carry on training and fulfilling its operational duties. We cannot outsource our security and defence to anyone else; we have to defend Singapore ourselves. Because we have a strong and well-trained SAF, Singapore enjoys peace and security, and can maintain friendly relations with other countries.”
Singapore People’s Party member Jeannette Chong-Aruldoss had some questions about the continued presence of the GC in Singapore in the light of PM Lee’s remarks. She wrote on Facebook a day later (16 Feb):
“We cannot outsource our security and defence to anyone else; we have to defend Singapore ourselves.” – LHL
“QUESTIONS: Why does the Singapore Government retain an army of Gurkha soldiers? Being paid soldiers, aren’t they mercenaries? Being mercenaries, aren’t they loyal only to their paymasters and have no love of Singaporeans?
“What is the role of the Gurkha mercenaries in Singapore National Security? Can Singaporeans do their job being done by the Gurkha mercenaries? If not, why not? Whose interests do these hired hands / paid soldiers serve and protect?”
Mrs Aruldoss drew some backlash after she put forth these questions on social media. In a subsequent post, the opposition politician clarified:
“I refer to my recent post on LHL saying that we cannot outsource national security. LHL’s statement triggered some questions in my mind. The thoughts behind my post was whether the presence of the Gurkha Contingent (GC) detracted from LHL’s statement, why the Government has retained the GC and whether we still need the GC in this day.
“If the GC is here to serve our security, then LHL’s statement (that we cannot outsource national security) is an aspiration, not a reality.
“If the role of GC is not to serve national security, then what is their role, who and whose interests do they serve and protect?
“Many commentators have reminded me that the GC not only serve the national security but play a vital role in doing so; even perhaps playing an indispensable role in our national security, given that they just cannot be replaced by Singaporeans.
“I have to thank those commentators for clarifying that we are indeed relying on non-citizens for our national security, in other words – outsourcing – therefore showing LHL’s statement to be an aspiration only, but not the reality.
“Some commentators are terribly upset with me, saying that I have insulted and dishonoured the sacrifices of the Gurkhas. Actually, I have absolutely no doubt in the competency, honour and service of the GC. But I do think we need to acknowledge that a contingent of citizens is very different from one which completely comprises non-citizens. We do ourselves no favours if we blunt the sharp difference between them.
“Tell me it is untrue that the GC is a legacy from our colonial past, set up before Singapore’s Independence in 1965 and before National Service was instituted in 1967.
“The GC was left behind by the British and the PAP Government decided to retain them.
“Is the GC a sacred cow which no one, especially politicians, should be wondering – or even asking – why our Government still maintains the GC today after 50 years of Independence and 2 maybe 3 generations of National Service?
“Is one who questions why things are the way they are, necessarily an enemy of the state, an opponent of good order, an attention seeker, less patriotic, and not a lover of our country?
“Or do we wonder and bother to ask because we love and care for our country, our people and our future?”