We refer to the recent reports and Forum letters on the Singapore Armed Forces' support during train service disruptions ("Troops not trained to manage crowds" by Mr Lim Chong Leong, "Use soldiers only if rail operator is nationalised" by Mr Tong Hsien-Hui; both published on Tuesday, "Marshalling the troops during train service disruptions"; Sunday, "Talk of SAF helping out in rail incidents sparks debate"; last Saturday, and "Soldiers may help manage crowds in rail disruptions", last Friday).
The primary responsibility of the SAF is to safeguard Singapore's peace and security.
From time to time, the SAF may be called upon to assist during extreme circumstances which affect the national population.
The SAF responded to contain the Sars crisis in 2003, and in 2013, when the haze blanketed Singapore, the SAF distributed N95 masks to Singaporeans.
The SAF's assistance in these circumstances ensured the well-being of Singaporeans and protected livelihoods, as the scale of these national disruptions overwhelmed the existing resources of other agencies.
Even as the SAF responds to assist Singaporeans in times of national need, we will commit only limited assets so as not to compromise our ability to perform our primary role.
Similarly, the SAF will respond to large-scale train service disruptions only when all the available resources of local agencies cannot cope.
This is to ensure Singaporeans are not left stranded for hours at MRT stations or on the tracks.
The Land Transport Authority and the public transport operators will still be primarily responsible for having comprehensive contingency plans.
Desmond Tan (Brigadier-General)
Director of Joint Operations
Ministry of Defence