SAF has 'zero-tolerance' policy on abuse of personnel: Ng Eng Hen
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.
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 after displaying signs of heat injury upon completing an 8km fast march in Bedok Camp.
On May 13, Corporal Kok Yuen Chin, 22, a Singapore Civil Defence Force NSF, died after going through ragging activities and he was found unconscious in a fire station pump well.
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 involved in the 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.