The head of The Worker’s Party (WP), Pritam Singh, said in Parliament on Monday, February 11, that the aim of the country’s Defence Ministry’s (MINDEF) to achieve no training deaths during National Service, is both ‘unrealistic’ and ‘wishful’. The fact that training military forces carries considerable risks must be taken into consideration, he added.
Pritam also said that after the publicised death of actor Aloysius Pang in a National Service (NS) training incident, MINDEF seems to be concentrating on a “zero-accident mindset.”
He said, “As a result of the expectations created, every time a training fatality occurs, the public pressure on MINDEF and SAF commanders down the leadership chain takes on a very corrosive edge. This damages not just the SAF, but the institution of National Service too.”
The WP MP’s point was that with emphasising a “zero-accident mindset,” the public would concentrate on the “zero” aspect, which even in sectors that have tight safety requirements, Pritam says is impossible to achieve.
“No organisation, let alone one that is in the business of war and defending Singapore’s sovereignty, can realistically promise zero fatalities or training incidents even as the public must insist on the strictest training safety parameters for the SAF, and MINDEF strives for the same.”
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen answered Pritam by saying that even though the goal to achieve no deaths during NS training, it still needs to be MINDEF’s aim. He said, “Our own experience shows, some years we may be able to achieve it. Can anyone guarantee that it will be zero fatalities for the rest of our future? Surely not.”
Ng had said that in the years between 2013 and 2016, there had been zero NS deaths after tighter safety measures were put in place when there had been four fatalities in 2012.
He added, “But that zero fatality sears into the consciousness of every commander and every soldier that to get there, you better be careful about what you are doing. That safety lapses will not be tolerated, that it will be safety first because, at the end of the day, I want to train you, and I want you to be alive, to be able to fight when Singapore needs you.”