The wave of National Service (NS) deaths that occurred recently have led Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to go all out to emphasize safety and to have a zero fatality mindset during training exercises.
“I know how heartbreaking this is to all of us, and especially the families. When it happens to a well-known figure like Corporal (First Class) Aloysius Pang, the emotional impact is greater, and the loss is even harder to take,” he wrote in his Facebook post (Feb 15).
The Prime Minister said the latest events have been “very painful, because they cost precious lives.”
Due to these agonizing occurrences, PM Lee said he and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) leadership are taking safety “with utmost seriousness.”
“After every incident, we make sure the injured get the best medical care. When a soldier dies, the SAF grieves deeply.
“His comrades understand how his family feels, because they feel the loss keenly too. But they try to put aside their emotions to take care of the bereaved family, and continue carrying out their SAF duties,” he said.
“We know zero fatalities is extremely hard to achieve. But we will strive for it, because every life is precious to us,” he said.
As Prime Minister, Lee is making sure that the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has capable leaders manning the group so that when a training accident happens, the government is accountable not only to the grieving family but also to all NSmen and the public.
“That is essential for the SAF and national service to retain public confidence and support.
“I can therefore assure you that the SAF leadership and I take safety with utmost seriousness. It was so when I was there, and I am confident it is even more so today,” said PM Lee.
In the Facebook post, the Prime Minister wrote that Singapore has to put its servicemen in harm’s way during war, but owes it to servicemen not to compromise their safety and endanger their lives during peacetime training.
PM Lee added that 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.”
“I thank Singaporeans for supporting the SAF and national service. Your support has helped us to build a strong and professional SAF, with a comprehensive order of battle, and well-equipped, well-trained, and well-motivated soldiers.
“So when something goes wrong, I hope you will see things in perspective. We must never gloss over shortcomings and failures. But neither should we forget the SAF’s progress and achievements, and its contributions to Singapore’s peace and security,” PM Lee said.
The Prime Minister’s comments came after three national servicemen died in training-related incidents within a period of 18 months –NSman and actor Aloysius Pang, full-time national serviceman (NSF) Liu Kai, and NSF Gavin Chan.
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