Commanders' behaviour also to blame in NSF's death

It is with much sadness that I read about Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee Han Xuan, whose life might have been spared if not for the lack of professionalism on the part of his commanders (Minister details events leading up to NSF's death; Aug 7).

As a father of three, I can imagine the anger and frustration felt by his parents, in particular his mother who rightfully pointed out that the punishment should serve as a deterrent for the sake of future full-time national servicemen (NSFs) who may be subject to similar treatment.

What confounds me is the lack of common sense on the part of the commanders who chose to conduct a run a day before the fast march in the belief that it would "enhance fitness and foster cohesion".

In order to perform well in physically strenuous activities, we need sufficient rest.

In this case, not only did they conduct a run the day before but they also chose to spot check the soldiers after lights out.

Based on a few soldiers using their phones, the whole platoon was punished.

If the commander felt the need to punish them, couldn't the punishment have been meted out after the fast march?

Again, common sense was lacking.

The next question is, was the punishment in proportion to the so-called offence. Push-ups, crunches, sprints, bear crawls and leopard crawls done in the middle of the night are cruel and unnecessary punishment.

This punishment, carried out the night before the fast march, would have added to the physical, mental and emotional stress of the soldiers.

Although the Committee of Inquiry (COI) reports that the soldiers had six hours and 15 minutes of sleep, this is based on the time they went to bed after the punishment. No one knows how long they took to fall asleep and how many of them actually had restful sleep after undergoing such punishment.

Although the COI seems to focus on other factors, including measures to prevent heat injuries and reduce the delay in getting medical attention, the fact remains that CFC Lee's death was mostly caused by the irresponsible and unprofessional behaviour of his commanders.

We need to send a strong message to those who would perpetrate such offences that the law will come down very hard on them.

S. Suresh

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 09, 2018, with the headline 'Commanders' behaviour also to blame in NSF's death'. Print Edition | Subscribe