PARLIAMENT

Zero-tolerance approach to abuse of soldiers in SAF: Eng Hen

On the issue of whether ragging was allowed in the SAF, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said acts of humiliation are specifically prohibited, and soldiers are encouraged to report any unauthorised activity or punishment.
On the issue of whether ragging was allowed in the SAF, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said acts of humiliation are specifically prohibited, and soldiers are encouraged to report any unauthorised activity or punishment.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) will deal severely with any personnel found to have abused their peers or subordinates, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament yesterday.

"The Ministry of Defence and the SAF take a zero-tolerance approach towards any form of abuse of soldiers or personnel, either by their commanders or peers," he said.

Dr Ng gave this assurance to Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan, who asked if any form of ragging was allowed in the SAF and whether such activity was part of the recognised duties of any SAF officer.

"Acts of humiliation are specifically prohibited," said Dr Ng.

The issue of ragging in the uniformed forces came under the spotlight after the deaths of two full-time national servicemen (NSFs) in the last few months.

On April 30, Corporal First Class Dave Lee Han Xuan, 19, died in hospital of heatstroke, after displaying signs of heat injury upon completing an 8km fast march in Bedok Camp.

On May 13, Corporal Kok Yuen Chin, a 22-year-old Singapore Civil Defence Force NSF, died after going through ragging activities that involved him getting into a fire-station pump well.

ABUSE UNACCEPTABLE

The Ministry of Defence and the SAF take a zero-tolerance approach towards any form of abuse of soldiers or personnel, either by their commanders or peers... While military training aims to build up the physical and psychological resilience of soldiers, and instil discipline, their safety need not be compromised.

DEFENCE MINISTER NG ENG HEN

Dr Ng said yesterday that the SAF has over the years put in place a comprehensive safety management system, where all training activities conducted have to be authorised and clearly outlined with safety measures and limits.

 

"While military training aims to build up the physical and psychological resilience of soldiers, and instil discipline, their safety need not be compromised," he said.

Dr Ng stressed that SAF personnel who engage in bullying, conduct unauthorised activities or negligently fail to follow training safety regulations have been and will continue to be severely dealt with, and prosecuted within the SAF or in the State Courts.

He cited a few cases, including one in which a trainee died after being submerged in water during a Combat Survival Training course. In 2005, the supervising officer, conducting officer and instructors from the commando unit who were involved in this case were sentenced to six to 12 months' jail by the State Courts.

Dr Ng said SAF soldiers are encouraged to report any unauthorised activity or punishment. New recruits are specifically briefed on how they can do so through their unit supervisors or feedback units.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 11, 2018, with the headline 'Zero-tolerance approach to abuse of soldiers in SAF: Eng Hen'. Print Edition | Subscribe