The seemingly templatised response of the government to the deaths of national servicemen – the fourth training fatality of the Singapore Armed Forces in the past 18 months, including actor Aloysius Pang as the latest casualty – through its communications strategy, the work of the Committees of Inquiry, as well as the promised changes or punishments which follow, is similarly matched by a templatised chorus of outrage, even before the facts have been established: Calling for “accountability” through punitive measures against perpetrators and the immediate resignation of generals and ministers, for organisational improvements and guarantees of no more peacetime deaths, and even for a reassessment of Singapore’s need for National Service (NS).
Missing in this back-and-forth, however, is a more holistic and rigorous understanding of the NS and reservist experience for the average serviceman. Put otherwise: What does the average soldier go through upon conscription, and does he think are the areas for improvement? Continue reading
That the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) are working to increase the diversity of both their scholarship applicants and recipients – for instance, by encouraging “more of those living in one- to three-room Housing Board flats and those from poorer families to apply for the scholarships” (ST, Jul. 21) – is encouraging, though they have to be more specific about what is meant by “diversity” and how it is measured and tracked over time. In addition, perhaps having defined diversity across race, gender, socio-economic status, as well as family or educational backgrounds, these metrics ought to be communicated more consistently. Continue reading
That the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) is adopting a zero-tolerance approach to the abuse of soldiers is encouraging. In addition to the development of a comprehensive safety management system over the years (ST, Jul, 11), however, the availability of safe communication channels to report transgressions – for full-time national servicemen (NSFs) in non-commanding positions, in particular – is important. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen mentioned in parliament that new recruits are briefed on how they can make reports through unit supervisors or feedback units, yet two questions follow: First, how many reports are actually made, and how have the figures changed with time; second, the extent to which such reports have translated into disciplinary action or policy changes. Continue reading