Malays deployed in the SAF as sailors: Ng Eng Hen

SINGAPORE- A person is deployed in a sensitive unit in the Singapore Armed Forces based on his ability and beliefs to ensure that he is not a security risk, not on his race, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Monday night.

He also revealed that the SAF has started to deploy Malay servicemen onboard ships as sailors who will go out to sea. Previously, Malays in the navy were only deployed as "sea soldiers", who primarily patrolled naval bases.

Dr Ng was speaking to a 200-strong crowd of students and academics in a forum that was organised by the National University of Singapore and the Government's feedback arm Reach.

Responding to a question on a perceived bias against Malays in the SAF and why they have been excluded from the Navy until now, Dr Ng said it was a "practical issue" of having halal-certified kitchens onboard ships. "(This is) because in a confined space, it is hard to have a halal kitchen. If you spend months out at sea, it is difficult."

But provisions have been made for Malay Muslims who are willing to serve, said Dr Ng. "So we made and found some accommodation and started to have Malays in the navy as well, if the person is willing."

He also reiterated that Malays now serve in the army, navy and air force, adding that with Singapore's small population, the SAF does not discriminate against anyone and promotes its servicemen based on their ability.

"We want to get the maximum out of each person in the SAF...we are putting the best people in the best positions."

But for sensitive positions in the military, the SAF is not blind to the fact that "people can be blackmailed", said Dr Ng. "We ask ourselves, can we trust this person in that position to make sure he will not be made use of, that he will not be vulnerable."

During the 90-minute forum, the Defence minister also fielded other questions including women doing National Service and how to make it more meaningful to serve the country.