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Parliament: Volunteer corps aims to foster inclusive society

Dr Luisa Lee having lunch with SAF recruits. She served as a volunteer medical officer in the SAF for 20 years and is able to share her experiences with her grandchildren, who are now doing national service.
Dr Luisa Lee having lunch with SAF recruits. She served as a volunteer medical officer in the SAF for 20 years and is able to share her experiences with her grandchildren, who are now doing national service.PHOTO: MINDEF

For 20 years, Dr Luisa Lee wore two hats - one as a civilian medical doctor, the other as a volunteer medical officer in the Singapore Armed Forces before retiring with the rank of major in 1999.

Her double role was highlighted by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in Parliament yesterday when he read out her letter on the proposed SAF Volunteer Corps (SAFVC).

"As a mother, I could relate to what my three sons were going through when they enlisted. They were encouraged... that I had voluntarily undergone the training and sacrifice," wrote Dr Lee, who sits on the Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS).

Dr Ng, pointing out how the 65-year-old Dr Lee can even share her experiences with her grandchildren who are now doing national service, said it is this type of inclusiveness which the SAFVC can promote.

The volunteer corps, one of 30 recommendations put before Parliament by the CSNS, hopes to take in women, first-generation permanent residents and new citizens to serve alongside national servicemen.

While Members of Parliament like Mr Sitoh Yih Pin (Potong Pasir) and Mr Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) have voiced their support for the volunteer corps, others have said that the SAFVC cannot match the commitment and contributions of servicemen. "It may be so. But we ought to let this scheme evolve and not judge it prematurely," said Dr Ng, promising volunteers will be "trained and meaningfully deployed".

Pointing out how the police and civil defence have successfully run similar volunteer corps for a long time - since 1946 and 2006 respectively, he said: "Their volunteers work alongside regulars and national servicemen, and perform similar duties... I believe that the SAFVC can make a similar impact."

jianxuan@sph.com.sg

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