Singapore—A new poll shows that a majority of Singaporeans—61 percent of the respondents—think that the country’s armed forces have not been sufficiently open when it comes to injuries and deaths that are related to National Service training.
The poll also shows that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training deaths have had an effect on the respondents’ confidence as to whether or not SAF can train national servicemen in a manner that will keep them safe.
Yahoo News Singapore commissioned market research consultancy firm Blackbox Research last month to conduct a survey concerning Singaporeans’ perception of SAF training-related incidents.
There were 908 respondents who were asked the following question from February 14 to 26: “Do you think the SAF is sufficiently open about training-related injuries and deaths?”
Here are the responses:
- 61 percent of the respondents answered NO
- 23 percent of the respondents answered YES
- 16 percent of the respondents answered DON’T KNOW
Another question asked in the survey was this: “Has the recent spate of national-service training-related deaths affected your confidence in SAF’s ability to safely train soldiers?”
- 85 percent of the respondents answered that the fatalities related to SAF training had affected their confidence in varying degrees. Among this group, only 21 percent had answered “a little.” Thirty-five percent answered “somewhat,” and 29 percent answered “a lot.”
- 12 percent of the respondents answered that the casualties had not affected their confidence in SAF’s ability to train soldiers safely
- 2 percent of the respondents said that they had no opinion on the issue since they were not aware of it.
Furthermore, respondents were asked whether they agreed or not with the following statement: “It is reasonable to expect a small number of serious injuries and deaths during national service. There are risks which cannot be avoided or anticipated when it comes to any type of military training.”
- 60 percent of the respondents said they agreed with the statement, with 47 percent from this group “somewhat” agreeing, and 13 percent “strongly” agreeing.
- 40 percent of the respondents said they disagreed with the statement, with 22 percent from this group “somewhat” disagreeing, and 22 percent “strongly” disagreeing.
This is the ethnicity breakdown of the 908 respondents
- 78 percent Chinese
- 14 percent Malay
- 7 percent Indian
- 12 percent others
With regards to gender and age, around 50 percent were women and 50 percent men. Thirty-eight percent are ages 50 and older, 29 percent are 35 to 49 years old, and 25 percent are from ages 25 to 34. Eight percent of the respondents were between 15 and 24.
From September 2017 to January of this year, there have been four deaths related to SAF training, including that of popular actor and soldier Aloysius Pang, who sustained grievous injuries while cleaning the gun of a Howitzer in New Zealand on January 19. Despite several surgeries, Mr Pang died four days later.
Since Mr Pang’s death, SAF training safety has been in the spotlight as an issue of national importance.
The SAF has reviewed its training procedures in the light of these safety issues and has begun to implement changes. On January 31, in the wake of the death of Mr Pang, the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant-General (LG) Melvyn Ong announced that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) would establish an Inspector-General’s Office (IGO) whose purpose is to make sure that “command emphasis on safety is consistently applied” for all units of the armed forces.
The new IGO will directly report to the Chief of Defence Force and has complete authority to examine and implement safety practices and processes for all levels of SAF.
A Committee of Inquiry was also set up after Mr Pang’s death in order to examine the circumstances that surrounded it.
Read also: Take a leaf out of the Israeli army when handling deaths in training, says Lim Tean to Ng Eng Hen
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