Defence Ministry thanks volunteers for their service

Mr Abbas visits the SAFDB to inspect the barracks and talk to the detainees. Dr Ng (left) interacting with some of the volunteers who serve on the various boards and committees in the Defence Ministry at an annual appreciation dinner at the Marina Ma
Dr Ng (left) interacting with some of the volunteers who serve on the various boards and committees in the Defence Ministry at an annual appreciation dinner at the Marina Mandarin yesterday.PHOTO: MINDEF
Mr Abbas visits the SAFDB to inspect the barracks and talk to the detainees. Dr Ng (left) interacting with some of the volunteers who serve on the various boards and committees in the Defence Ministry at an annual appreciation dinner at the Marina Ma
Mr Abbas visits the SAFDB to inspect the barracks and talk to the detainees.PHOTO: MINDEF

Since 1999, Mr Abbas Abu Amin has dutifully showed up at the Singapore Armed Forces Detention Barracks (SAFDB) in Lorong Kebasi at least once a year.

The retiree, 79, does not go to the military equivalent of a prison to see anyone in particular, but to check on the living conditions and overall welfare of the detainees.

He is a volunteer with the Board of Visitors to SAFDB, an independent panel tasked with inspecting the barracks - from the cells to the food quality to the treatment of inmates who are sick or in solitary confinement.

The volunteers also lend a listening ear to inmates. Mr Abbas, an MP for Pasir Panjang from 1980 to 1991, said: "Some have personal problems - that's why they left their camps without permission. They have to work outside to get extra income... or take care of their parents. We take it case by case and (recommend) follow-up actions."

Yesterday, Mr Abbas and 380 other individuals were recognised by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen at an annual appreciation dinner held at the Marina Mandarin.

A VITAL LINK

You help us stay connected to Singaporeans; you keep us close to the ground. The fact that you are not part of the military adds to the robustness, objectivity and independence of our assessments.

DEFENCE MINISTER NG ENG HEN, acknowledging the volunteers' work.

The volunteers, who are from the public and private sectors, serve on the 38 boards and committees in the Defence Ministry, and provide expertise and advice on various matters, including training safety, compensation and medical care.

Dr Ng said these experts in their own fields help the SAF to "improve and benchmark against the best-in-class organisations".

"You help us stay connected to Singaporeans; you keep us close to the ground. The fact that you are not part of the military adds to the robustness, objectivity and independence of our assessments," he said.

Mr Abbas, who is also a visiting justice - an appointed citizen who has the authority to inspect civilian prisons - said his wish is for soldiers not to be sent to the SAFDB, as far as possible. "Regular counselling or talks with their officers can ensure soldiers follow the rules, rather than do something which is detrimental to themselves. Prevention is better than cure," he added.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2016, with the headline 'Defence Ministry thanks volunteers for their service'. Print Edition | Subscribe