"Tekan" culture, "keng" and ability of SAF commanders addressed
MP Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) asked if a "tekan" culture exists in the army. "Tekan" refers to punishment sessions in the military. In the case of Corporal First Class Dave Lee Han Xuan's death, there were allegations made on social media that a "tekan" session played a part in his death.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said if there was any abuse of power, it would be dealt with. He said there was no excuse for any commander to abuse his authority to do over and beyond what was necessary.
He said: "No question if you expose people to unsafe practices, go against training safety regulations, you're wrong from the outset. If you don't know how to protect the men, then I say you can't be a good commander. It's behaviour prejudicial to good order and you don't deserve to be a commander and you'll be punished accordingly."
MP Liang Eng Hwa (Holland-Bukit Timah GRC) asked how commanders can balance the need to motivate soldiers and the need to ensure they do not "keng" or skive off during training.
Dr Ng replied that training safety regulations give the benefit of the doubt to the individual soldier. He said: "If he feels unwell, he can flag himself up...Whether you think he's not completely truthful is besides the point. He has the prerogative to flag himself up."
Dr Ng added that in general, the young men serving National Service (NS) are already highly motivated and if they are not, it is up to the commander to motivate them and give them confidence to complete their exercises.
COMPETENCY OF COMMANDERS
Nominated MP (NMP) Ganesh Rajaram asked if commanders were assessed for qualities like empathy. Workers' Party Non-Constituency MP Dennis Tan also asked if there should be further post-commission training for commanders even after receiving their rank.
NMP Randolph Tan wanted to know if there were ongoing assessments to see if commanders were suitable for their role.
Dr Ng said there were psychological tests for commanders to see if they were fit to lead. They also have situational tests in Officer Cadet School (OCS) training to see how they respond to various scenarios. There were also annual reviews where those higher up the hierarchy monitored the commanders under them.
Dr Ng added: "When it comes to safety, it gets topmost priority. When it comes to the welfare of your men, that's your topmost priority, whatever your skill sets, whatever your empathy level. You protect the well-being of your men first." - SUE-ANN TAN