In a reply to Non-Constituency Member of Parliament, Dennis Tan’s parliamentary question about what punishments were meted out to the two officers involved in the case of the soldier who died during training, PTE Dominique Sarron Lee, the Minister for Defence replied that career setbacks and monetary fines were their punishments.
The Minister, Dr Ng Eng Hen, did not state how much the fine was but said, “both officers have suffered a setback in their careers. The monetary cost of the promotion delays is significant, amounting to about half of their total annual salaries.”
Dr Ng added that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officers, Chia Thye Siong and Najib Hanuk Muhamad Jalal were not prosecuted in Singapore’s criminal court because the Attorney-General Chambers (AGC) determined that the fatality was an unforeseen allergic reaction that was unlikely to have been predicted.
The AGC’s decision was based on the Coroner Inquiry (CI) which determined that Pte Lee’s death was due to an unforeseen allergic reaction to zinc chloride that was unlikely to have been predicted. The CI further found that it could not be definitive whether, in the deceased’s case, the reaction was due to the inhalation of excessive fumes or the mere inhalation of fumes.
SAF regulations specified that no more than two smoke grenades are to be used in such military exercise, but the in exercise supervised by the two SAF officers (in which PTE Lee died), six were used.
“Following the AGC’s decision not to prosecute, the two SAF officers were charged under military law in November 2013 for breaching the Training Safety Regulations,” said Dr Ng.
Following a review in 2014 triggered by PTE Lee’s death, the SAF discarded the use smoke grenades which release zinc-chloride fumes and switched to alternatives.
Stating that he did not believe that the two officers “started that fateful day intending at all to harm the soldiers under their charge,” the Minister said that the “officers involved will carry with them the pain of this incident for the rest of their lives.”
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