Parliament to scrutinise NS deaths, SAF training safety

The concerns about safety in the armed forces were sparked by the death of actor Aloysius Pang, who died after suffering serious injuries in an accident during a military exercise in New Zealand.
The concerns about safety in the armed forces were sparked by the death of actor Aloysius Pang, who died after suffering serious injuries in an accident during a military exercise in New Zealand.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Training deaths and safety standards in the Singapore Armed Forces will come under close scrutiny in Parliament on Monday (Feb 11), with MPs filing a total of 20 questions on the matter.

The concerns about safety in the armed forces were sparked by the death of actor Aloysius Pang, who died after suffering serious injuries in an accident during a military exercise in New Zealand.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen will deliver a ministerial statement in response. Corporal First Class (NS) Pang's death is the fifth training and operations-related death reported in the SAF since September 2017.

Ms Joan Pereira (Tanjong Pagar GRC), one of the 17 MPs who filed questions, hopes more light will be shed on procedures in the SAF for reporting near-misses, to catch loopholes in safety practices.

Said Ms Pereira, the deputy chair of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence and Foreign Affairs: "Where it comes to safety, we should not be waiting for injuries or deaths to occur before taking corrective procedures, and near-misses can act as an important checking mechanism, among other measures."

Workers' Party's (WP) Daniel Goh, a Non-Constituency MP, asked whether national servicemen go through adequate training and safety refresher courses before taking part in exercises, and if the design of the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer - which CFC (NS) Pang was conducting repair work in when the accident happened - will be reviewed.

WP chief Pritam Singh (Aljunied GRC) filed an adjournment motion, "National Service - Balancing Operational Readiness, Safety and the Will to Fight", according to the Parliament order paper published on Friday (Feb 8).

 
 

He will speak on national service at the end of Monday's sitting.

MPs have also filed questions on the Singapore Medical Council's decision to fine an orthopaedic doctor $100,000, for not warning his patient of the possible side effects of a commonly used injection he gave her.

Dr Lim Wee Kiak (Sembawang GRC) wants to know what impact the decision would have on clinical practice, "if it is now mandatory for a doctor to outline and get the consent of a patient for every possible side effect and potential complications of a drug or treatment procedure".

The loss of O-level and A-level exam scripts from Singapore - in two separate incidents in Britain in 2017 and 2018 - is another issue that will receive an airing in the House.

Mr Zainal Sapari (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC) is asking the Education Minister if his ministry would consider having the examination papers marked locally.

"Singapore's education system has matured enough and our teachers are recognised to be professionals in their own capacity. Our (mother tongue) language papers are already marked locally," Mr Zainal said.

During Monday's sitting, a Criminal Law Reform Bill will also be introduced.

This follows proposals made by a Penal Code Review Committee to the Government in 2018, that includes harsher punishments for child abuse offenders, and repealing immunity for marital rape, among other recommendations.

MPs will also debate five Bills at Monday's sitting.

One of these is the Precious Stones and Precious Metals (Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing) Bill which, if passed, will require precious stones and metals dealers to conduct stricter customer due diligence checks when handling transactions.

The stricter checks are among several measures proposed under the Bill to strengthen Singapore's safeguards against money laundering and terrorism financing.

MPs will also debate proposed changes to the Tobacco (Control of Advertisements and Sale) Act. If passed, the new laws will require cigarette packs sold here to have a standardised drab, dark brown appearance, and prohibit the use of logos or promotional information on the packs.

The Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners (Amendment) Bill, on the other hand, seeks to raise the maximum fine for errant practitioners from $10,000 to $50,000, among other changes.

MPs are also scheduled to debate on two motions concurrently, one which calls for efforts to ensure Singaporeans age with purpose, in good health and with financial stability. The other calls on the Government and the community to continue strengthening support for caregivers.