Open debate needed on defence policy

We read with interest the report on Holland-Bukit Timah GRC MP Christopher de Souza's parliamentary speech, which apparently referenced the 2012 Singapore Democratic Party (SDP) healthcare plan ("Security and unity are key to safeguarding Republic"; Tuesday).

First and foremost, we do not see the relevance of the purchase of expensive aircraft - such as the F-35, which has been questioned by leading defence scientists - to containing alleged militants.

Surely, strong social cohesion built on comprehensive safety nets which give all Singaporeans the confidence to create and celebrate life and enhance their well-being is more important than feeding giant military-industrial contractors.

Once Singaporeans feel that we have a government that puts our families first, we will naturally step up and squash any hints of terrorism - domestic or otherwise - without the need for excessively expensive purchases of military hardware.

Second, we note that over the years, even the establishment leadership has recognised that our levels of defence spending in the 2000s were unsustainable.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong's wife Ho Ching, who is also Temasek Holdings chief, has pointed out in a Facebook post that defence spending began tapering down to 4 per cent to 5 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) by the late 1990s through to the 2000s.

She added in the same post that by financial year 2010, defence spending was down to 3 per cent of GDP, half of what it used to be.

This is close to what we proposed in the SDP healthcare plan of 2012.

Third, Singapore has a long history of being non-aligned in our foreign policy.

Such an approach has served us well. Getting overly entangled in regional conflicts, especially through military means, may not be in the interests of the people of Singapore.

The SDP is committed to the defence of Singapore and the protection of the well-being of Singaporeans.

This is a very important issue that needs to be openly discussed and debated so we can hear the voices of the people, and not just the People's Action Party.

Paul Tambyah (Dr)

Member

Central Executive Committee

Singapore Democratic Party

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 29, 2016, with the headline 'Open debate needed on defence policy'. Print Edition | Subscribe