SINGAPORE - Singapore's second Chief of Defence Force (CDF), retired Lieutenant-General Ng Jui Ping, died at the age of 71 on Wednesday (Jan 1).
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said that Mr Ng was one of the inaugural batch of commissioned officers trained in Safti - the “Safti First Batch”.
"I will remember him most from my own time in the army, when he was first my Commanding Officer, and later when I worked beside him - I learnt much from him as a leader and a colleague," Mr Lee wrote. "He was a valued comrade and friend, who always led by example, and gave his all to serve the nation."
Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean wrote on Facebook that Mr Ng was CDF and Chief of Army during a period of transformational change in the SAF.
Mr Ng became Chief of Army in 1990 before assuming the position of CDF from 1992 to 1995, taking over the helm from Lt-Gen Winston Choo.
"His views were always sharp and incisive. Above all he was a leader who was mission focused and got things done," Mr Teo wrote.
Mr Teo said he visited Mr Ng three weeks ago. "We reminisced over the times we served together in the SAF. As always, he displayed great strength and courage," he wrote, adding: "My deepest condolences to the family of an old comrade."
Mr Ng was among the first batch of officers who answered an advertisement in 1966 to become one of Singapore's pioneer career soldiers.
He became an entrepreneur after retiring from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) in 1995.
In a Facebook post on Wednesday evening, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said at the end of one of their golf games together three months ago, Mr Ng shared that a CT scan had picked up something ominous and that he had been scheduled for a workup to confirm the diagnosis.
"But like the intrepid soldier that he was, he asked for this to be kept confidential till after the workup. Jui Ping actually played another game after that with me. I felt uncomfortable but played beside him, respecting his wishes. I think Jui Ping knew that his time had come and wanted to live life to the fullest extent possible," wrote Dr Ng.
He added that when Mr Ng broke the bad news to their circle of friends, it was with "the same stoic equanimity and dignity that he approached difficulties through his life".
"He remained jovial and refused to focus on his own poor state. When Ivy and I visited him in the last week before he passed on, he had become wasted and was already very weak," wrote Dr Ng, referring to his wife Ivy Ng.
"Yet, he made it a point to sing high praise for the nurses and doctors who were looking after him. He was particularly thankful that his pain was controlled."
In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said that during Mr Ng's tenure as CDF, he emphasised “leadership by example” where commanders at various levels personally led and executed training.
In 1990, he established a Warrant Officer Corps to train, groom and appoint non-commissioned officers to command positions, similar to the officer corps, Mindef said.
He was also involved in the pioneering of the second generation SAF and redefined SAF’s strategies and capabilities to enable an integrated and more effective armed forces, the ministry added.
He was awarded the Public Administration Medal (Gold) (Military) in 1991, and the Meritorious Service Medal (Military) in 1995.
Current CDF Lt-Gen Melvyn Ong expressed his condolences to Mr Ng’s family on Mindef’s Facebook page and said he was “deeply saddened” by Mr Ng’s death.
“He was an exemplary leader and laid the foundation for the SAF to be as it is today. My officers and I are fortunate beneficiaries of his legacy and will continue his work to keep Singapore safe and secure.
“We thank Lt-Gen (retired) Ng for his many contributions to the SAF and extend our deepest sympathies to his family.”
The Straits Times understands Mr Ng’s military-assisted funeral will take place on Jan 5, and the funeral includes SAF coffin bearers, a bugler who will play the bugle during the ceremony as well as draping of the national flag over the coffin.
Former SAF officers who have worked with Mr Ng, who is survived by his wife Esther, two daughters and five grandchildren, also took to Facebook to pay tributes.
Retired general, Mr Bernard Tan, recalled how he spent 10 days with Mr Ng as his staff officer on an official visit to France and the US.
"No officer I have worked with has been so demanding or skilled at keeping people on their toes," said Mr Tan.
Mr Tan said Mr Ng had been suffering from pancreatic cancer and added that he respected the former CDF's decision to stay quiet about his illness.
"Lt-Gen Ng was a unique leader, someone who will always be remembered by those in uniform," he wrote.