42 national servicemen have died while in service over past 20 years: Ng Eng Hen

SCDF personnel saluting the hearse headed for Service Hall 1 during a ceremonial procession for Sergeant (1) Edward H. Go at Mandai Crematorium and Columbarium on Dec 13, 2022. ST FILE PHOTO

SINGAPORE – A total of 42 national servicemen died while in service over the last two decades, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said on Monday.

They comprise 35 from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), four from the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and three from the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), Dr Ng said in a written reply to a parliamentary question from Non-Constituency MP Hazel Poa.

Of these, six cases – two from the SAF, three from the police and one from the SCDF – were due to traffic accidents on the way to or from work, or while on official duties, Dr Ng said, noting that such incidents are covered under the Defence and Home Affairs ministries’ compensation framework.

Ms Poa had asked how many full-time and operationally ready national servicemen from the SAF, SPF and SCDF had died while in service, or had permanent disability from a service injury, over the past 20 years.

During that period, there were a total of 52 cases of permanent disability to the brain, spinal cord, eyes or limbs due to serious service-related injuries, said Dr Ng.

Forty-three were from the SAF, four from the SPF and five from the SCDF, he added. Eleven cases – eight from the SAF, one from the police and two from the SCDF – were due to traffic accidents, the minister said.

Every year, about 300,000 male Singapore citizens and permanent residents perform their national service duties across the three services, he noted. “The proportions of deaths and permanent disability due to service within the SAF, SPF and SCDF are therefore 0.001 per cent, 0.001 per cent and 0.002 per cent, respectively.”

Dr Ng said that though the rates of both death and permanent disability due to service are low, the SAF and Home Team “constantly strive to achieve a zero fatality rate”.

“Every incident is investigated at the highest levels of command, with corrective measures taken to improve the safety under which our national servicemen train and operate,” he said.

Ms Poa, from the Progress Singapore Party, had also asked about the amount of compensation paid in such cases.

All national servicemen are covered by injury and life insurance, Dr Ng replied, noting that the coverage under both policies was doubled from a maximum of $150,000 to $300,000 from Jan 1, 2023. Further compensation is provided depending on the degree of disability and circumstances of injury or death, he added.

While the total compensation for such cases takes reference from industrial benchmarks like the Work Injury Compensation Act (Wica), the amounts are set several times higher to “reflect the mandatory nature of national service”, he said.

The amounts vary considerably due to the circumstances of each case, Dr Ng said, adding that payouts have ranged from several thousand dollars to more than $1.5 million. “For the same injury and comparable circumstances, the total compensation provided to national servicemen is about four times the amounts paid under the Wica,” he said.

Servicemen who sustain service-related injuries are also provided with free medical treatment for their injury for as long as medically necessary at SAF, SPF and SCDF medical facilities, as well as public healthcare institutions, he added.

In December, 19-year-old Edward H. Go, a full-time national serviceman with the SCDF, died after battling a blaze in a rental flat in Henderson Road.

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