Monday, December 21, 2009

NS deaths: Confidential Operational Matter or Issue of Public Interest

NS deaths: Confidential Operational Matter or Issue of Public Interest

(Unpublished - Dec 13, 2009)

I refer to the report on Alex Tan's ban from the Young PAP Network Facebook group (Dec 13).

I am shocked at the part of the report which stated he was put into detention barracks for five days for blogging about the number of National Service related deaths over the years.

He was reported to have been detained because this is an operational matter, which suggests that what he did was a compromise of operations.

Since the number of training-related deaths is a statistic for public interest, I cannot understand the extent to which knowing the number of deaths is a compromise of operations.

Furthermore, should the government not be more accountable for something that annually receives a lot of public funds and taxpayer money?

Most training and operational matters deserve their confidentiality, but I hope the rules are not abused just to silence people who are deemed to be potential threat to the establishment. We are today definitely beyond such political strategies, because such strategies remove the agents of debate and lead to the avoidance of debate itself.

Having served five cycles of reservist training and being fortunate enough not to suffer any severe injury, I feel as a member of the public, that I deserve to know training-related deaths and injuries. I want to know how our training safety track record and serviceman welfare have improved.

It is sometimes relatively apparent that the blanket ruling of confidentiality and secrecy is more of a public relations management strategy than an actual safeguard of training confidentiality itself. The related defence organisations see public embarrassment and lack of public faith and trust as great a threat as actual confidentiality compromises.

I hope Alex Tan's detention will not create a chilling effect on servicemen, preventing them from providing feedback, contributing to public opinion, and demanding accountability.

Ho Chi Sam

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Taiwan to End Military Conscription

End of military conscription

On Monday Minister of National Defense, Chen Chao-ming, announced that Taiwan's military will become an all-volunteer force within five years. Speaking to a military committee under the Legislative Yuan, Minster Chen explained that the process would commence on 2011 and by 2014 all divisions of the R.O.C. Armed Forces will be filled with career soldiers instead of conscripts. In the future, local men will only be required to serve four months of basic military training.

A decade or two ago many men could look forward to a military term of at least two years. The inductees were first separated into “A” and “B” groups depending on physical strength and other factors. Then lots were drawn to determine the length and location of military service. Some unlucky conscripts drew terms as long as three years in places such as the front-line island of Matsu. Over the years the length of conscription has been reduced to where today, a young man will generally only have to serve a one-year term. We salute the sacrifice of veterans — conscripts and volunteers — who have kept Taiwan safe over the decades. These brave men and women suffered immense physical and mental pressures so that their fellow citizens could remain free. Truly, without their heroism, Taiwan could have long ago been assimilated into communist China.

But we must also agree with Minister Chen that the time has come to repeal conscription. Quite simply, unless a threat is direct and imminent, conscription during peacetime is not a viable economic policy. Even with a full two years of service, most conscripts lack the training to be effective wartime soldiers.

Aside from economic considerations there is also a humanitarian issue. The mostly young men who are conscripted have generally just finished high school or college and instead of continuing the momentum of youth, are forced to delay their careers, segregated from society and subjected to the rigors of military life. Some of these young people do not adapt well and almost every year there are stories of suicides due to depression over military service. Filling the ranks of the Armed Forces with professionals can only improve the R.O.C's capacity to respond effectively to any threat. President Ma's policies have brought a degree of detente with arch-nemesis China and are certainly a factor in the military's decision. The time has come for Taiwan to move into a new, 21st century military posture and ending conscription is a great first step.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Changes to NS Basic Military Training and medical classification from 2010
Singapore MoD Outlines Changes to Basic Military Training

13:18 GMT, December 4, 2009 Basic Military Training (BMT) equips recruits with the basic military skills to become combat-ready soldiers. It also aims to give them a sense of purpose and a positive experience in their National Service. To better engage and train recruits, the SAF undertakes periodic reviews to strengthen the BMT system.

The current review was conducted in two phases. In the first phase, the SAF looked at how recruits undergoing the 4-week Physical Training Phase (PTP) could be better prepared for BMT. This resulted in the introduction of an 8-week PTP which will raise PTP recruits' physical fitness to a level that is comparable to their direct-BMT peers'. The new PTP programme will begin in December 2009. The second phase of the review focused on customising the other BMT programmes to engage recruits and prepare them better for their subsequent combat, combat support and combat service support roles. The BMT system will now include a new 19-week BMT for obese recruits with effect from February 2010, a new 9-week BMT for PES B2 recruits from June 2010, a new 9-week BMT for PES C recruits from June 2010, and a new 4-week BMT for PES E recruits. There will be no change to the standard BMT for PES A/B recruits.

19-week BMT Programme for Obese Enlistees

The new 19-week BMT programme will be conducted for recruits whose Body Mass Index (BMI) exceeds 27. This BMT programme is designed to help obese recruits improve their physical fitness incrementally while equipping them with basic soldiering skills and knowledge. Over time, obese recruits have shown that they can achieve optimal fitness levels and weight loss in about 19 weeks, hence the 19-week BMT programme for this group of recruits.

9-week BMT Programme for PES B2 Enlistees

The new 9-week BMT programme will be conducted for recruits who are medically fit for deployment in selected combat and combat support vocations, such as signal operators, combat medics and naval system operators. These recruits will be given a new medical classification of PES B2, in place of the existing PES C1 classification. This is to ensure that the medical classification of our soldiers is consistent with their deployment. The new 9-week programme will include customised physical training, as well as basic combat training to prepare them for their combat and combat support roles.

9-week BMT Programme for PES C Enlistees

The new 9-week BMT programme will be conducted for PES C recruits. This programme will include light physical training and vocational training to prepare them for combat service support vocations, such as service medic, and those related to logistics and administration such as supply assistants.

4-week BMT Programme for PES E Enlistees

The new 4-week BMT programme will be conducted for PES E recruits. This programme will focus on National Education, SAF core values, regimentation and discipline, as well as vocational training to prepare recruits for combat service support vocations.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Defending your country? Then pay for your own insurance

Defending your country? Then pay for your own insurance

November 27, 2009 by admin
Filed under Opinion

By Khalil Adis

While the premium for Group Personal Accident Insurance Scheme is affordable, the government should cover the cost since national servicemen are defending the country

I have been serving my national service faithfully for a full two-and-a-half-years and will soon complete my reservist this year, at the end of my ten-year cycle.

At this time of writing, I have just finished doing my duty for the 20th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum held in Singapore.

Throughout my service with the Singapore Police Force, I have kept our streets safe, assisted my commander and senior officers in writing reports, managed the staff suggestion scheme, came up with newsletter for fellow national servicemen and guarded key installations across the island.

I have also endeavoured to pass my physical fitness test (IPPT) with a Silver award almost every year.

However, before I take a final bow from my national service duty, there is one burning question my troop mates and myself have been left wondering – why do we need to pay for our own insurance when we are in fact taking time from our work and family to risk our lives for our country?

Terms of insurance coverage

The Police National Service (PNS) Department last year sent us a letter saying that with effect from 1 April 2008, Home Team NSmen will be automatically covered under the Group Personal Accident Insurance Scheme.

This insurance scheme only covers reservist personnel like myself and not full-time national servicemen

So, unless we choose to opt out, the premiums are deducted from our make-up pay or service allowance.

Most of us have left it as it is as we are just too unaware of its implications or too busy with our duties to even question it.

The insurance is underwritten by American Home Assurance Company Singapore (AIG) and managed by Zuellig Insurance Singapore.

Police national servicemen are covered during their In-Camp Training (ICT) and pre-ICT assessment, mobilisation, IPPT and remedial test, course and other NS activities where the Order to Report for Service has been served.

The sum is not a lot, amounting to $4.85 (inclusive of GST).

The insurance provides coverage of up to 30 days of call-up per work year.

It covers each individual a sum assured of $100, 000 in the event of death and a scale of benefits of up to $150, 000 for permanent disablement arising from an accident.

In addition, there are other benefits, such as claims for accidental partial disability and child education lump sum benefit.

Insurance experts agree that the insurance coverage national servicemen are getting is a good deal.

“If you compare this with a normal personal accident plan, for the same risk level, it costs $360 with $50, 000 sum assured in the event of accidental death and total and permanent disablement. As the insurance for national servicemen covers higher risks, it is value-for-money,” says Hakim Halim, a financial advisor with Promiseland Independent Pte Ltd.

Cost is not the issue

However, the cost and coverage of the insurance is not the issue.

The issue is, despite our service to our country where we constantly have to put our life at risk, the government still makes us pay for our own insurance coverage.

Even the companies that we work for do pay for our insurance in the event any accident happens to us during our course of employment.

So, on behalf of my troop mates, I wrote an email to the Police National Service (PNS) Department early this year, asking them to explain why we have to foot the bill.

It is almost the end of the year and the PNS Department has yet to reply to our query.

Our political leaders have always questioned if Singaporeans would defend the country in times of war.

However, the government’s penny-pinching attitude will only sow the seeds of apathy and discord among existing national service men who have continued putting their lives at risk.

Should future generations feel less than patriotic, the government have only themselves to be blamed for their “money-as a-means-to-an-end” approach.

If the government can allocate $10 million of taxpayers’ money to make permanent residents feel more welcomed and foot the bill to host APEC, surely paying the insurance cost for national servicemen is not too much to ask for, right?

After all, we have paid our dues by helping to keep the country safe and secure.

Despite our grievances, we are grateful for the excellent welfare provided for us at APEC and the senior officers who took time to sit down to listen to the sentiments among national servicemen.

In the meantime, we are waiting with bated breath for the PNS Department’s official reply.

About the Author:

Khalil Adis graduated from Monash University with a Bachelors of Arts (Communications) and was a former editor for Property Report magazine covering Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Dumb Answer, Dumb Answer

Dumb Answer, Dumb Answer

By todayinsingapore

When asked how the Government would deal with resentment over new citizens not having to do National Service (NS), Community Development, Youth and Sports Minister Vivian Balakrishnan gave this non-answer: “I don’t want to get into the technical and operational and security reasons as to why we don’t enlist them for NS, but the point is that their children will do NS and that their children should be indistinguishable from our children in their accents, hopes, aspirations, obligations and duties to our nation.”

This must be the most blatant affront to the people’s expectation of an elected representative – he refuses outright to give a response to a tabled query from a fellow parliamentarian. Oh, we forget, not all parliamentarians are created equal, some are paid more than others. Consider the atrocious excuses he gave for not doing his homework:

Technical reason: Is there a constitutional amendment hidden somewhere we have yet to be enlightened of? That new citizens are exempt from NS in perpetuity? When a bright lawyer once argued successfully in court it was illegal to exact tolls to enter the Central Business District (CBD) since the motorist had already paid taxes for usage of public roads, they simply rewrote the law. That’s the way they take care of a “technicality”.

Operational reason: Are we running out of training grounds? Pilots now have a home in Idaho to wear Tom Cruise sunglasses and fly around in their spanking new F-15s. Even India is providing facilities for our young men to soldier in realistic terrain, unlike our geographically challenged Tekong camp. Too bad the R&R there pales in comparison to the Pei-Toh district of Taiwan.

Security reason: Lee Kuan Yew told Charlie Rose that we have Ukranians serving in NS. So why should we be afraid of a potential Major Nidal Malik Hasan hiding in the ranks? Is he eying Wong Kan Seng’s job (and pay scale)?

Balakrishnan boasts that, over time, “their children should be indistinguishable from our children in their accents, hopes, aspirations, obligations and duties to our nation”. He conveniently skips the missed unemployment opportunities for Singapore men because their career advancement is handicapped by the disruptive in-camp training demands. Meanwhile, their NS obligation-free contemporaries jet around in their high profiled international marketing trips, invaluable exposure that lands them juicy careers like heading a major local bank. Citizenship is not an issue.

Perhaps the Minister chose to be reticent on a hot topic because he doesn’t want to be reminded how he shot his own foot shortly before the Government approved bar-top dancing:

“If you want to dance on a bar top, some of us will fall off that bar top. Some people will die as a result of liberalising bar-top dancing. Not just because they’ve fallen off the bar top, but because it’s usually a young girl with a short skirt who’s dancing on it, who may attract some insults from some other men. The boyfriend starts fighting. Some people will die.
Blood will be shed for liberalising the policy.” (Straits Times, 3 Oct 2001)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

20-year-old NSman dies after being found unconscious
Another non-combat death in ship “incident”

November 22, 2009 by admin
Filed under Top News

Written by Our Correspondent

Another full-time national serviceman had died in the course of duty yesterday, three days after he was warded in the intensive care unit.

Lance Corporal Mar Teng Fong, 20, an engineering systems specialist, was on watch duty on Tuesday on the Republic of Singapore Navy’s RSS Persistence.

He was found unconscious on Wednesday morning, trapped between a hydraulic sliding door and the door frame of the ship which was out at sea for training at the time.

He had gone on a routine round to check the engineering systems at 11.40pm. When he did not return after 15 minutes, a fellow ser-viceman went in search of him.

According to the state media, LCP Mar was given immediate medical attention by a doctor on the ship, and was evacuated by helicopter to Singapore General Hospital at 1.15am.

The exact cause of his death was not revealed. LCP Mar’s case is the latest of a series of non-combat death to have hit MINDEF this year.

In July this year, a 21 year old National Serviceman, Second Lieutenant Nicholas Chan Wei Kit died yesterday after a jeep which he was inspecting rolled over and hit him, pinning him under its wheels.

There was at least a gap of about 30 minutes between the time he took over the vehicle and the time a recovery vehicle – located within the grounds of the camp – was dispatched.

In June, an army sergeant, aged 30, was found dead in his bunk in Taiwan.

A month before that, a 53-year-old parachute jump instructor at the Commando Training Institute died in South Africa when his parachute failed to open during a freefall exercise.

The others, which included a recruit and three warrant officers, all died in Singapore in separate incidents.

The circumstances surrounding their deaths were never released to the public. Like the cases before him, LCP Mar’s death will remain forever a mystery.

All Singapore males have to served mandatory National Service for two years followed by more than 10 years of reservist service each year.

The duration of two years is long compared to other countries who maintain a conscription policy such as Taiwan (12 months), Ukraine (12 months) and Germany (9 months).

MINDEF has never revealed the exact figures for non-combat deaths and injuries to Singaporeans. In the case of the latter, it is not known if the victims are adequately compensated by MINDEF.

The case of Corporal Jeremy Tan showed that MINDEF is not always forthcoming in offering compensation to NSFs who suffered injuries during their National Service.

In 2005, Corporal Tan, who was rostered as duty storeman at the Seletar East Camp, was found unconscious at the foot of the building where his bunk was located on the third level.

His head injuries were consistent with a fall from height, but findings by SAF investigators as to how he came to be hurt were inconclusive. Mindef classified his injuries as non-service related and stopped paying for his hospital treatment from March 2007.

Corporal Tan’s parents have to sue MINDEF in High Court in order to seek disability compensation and medical benefits from them.

The Minister of Defence Rear-Admiral Teo Chee Hean is also the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore and a former Chief of the Navy.

There is no political pressure on the ground or opposition in parliament to exert pressure on the government to be more transparent about the figures of non-combat deaths in the armed forces.

No senior MINDEF officers are ever taken to task for the unnecessary deaths of these young men in the prime of their lives.

The “internal” investigations conducted by MINDEF are almost always classified state secrets.

Such sensitive cases are rarely reported in the mainstream media which remains tightly controlled by the ruling party.

Without a free media and an opposition to fight for their interests, Singapore parents must pray that their sons are in safe hands during their two years in National Service.

Related articles:

Our bloated defence budget: what is the perceived threat?

Reduce the duration of National Service

One non-combat death a month: is this acceptable?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Counting the cost of NS

Counting the cost of NS posted an article entitled "Your Citizenship is Worth $4,511 More Than a PR Per Year". I'm not sure how $4511 was derived, but a glance shows the calculation is full of errors. For example, almost every single grant mentioned is for children. Depending on how you see it, almost all sums should be divided by two, or even three if you take the child into account. Not to mention, at the "average" of one child per woman, how does one simultaneously enjoy child care subsidy and subsidized school fees?

Even the $30-40k HDB grant does not go to a single citizen. It is the combined grant of two citizens. If you marry a PR or foreigner, or a citizen who is disqualified due to pay or owning private property, you get half of that.

That sum of $4511 is a gross exaggeration. Then again, it does not take into account measures that only the low income citizens enjoy, like Workfare, one off grants like GST credits and Jobs Credit. Don't count the Utilities Save though. Foreigners get that too.

But how about the costs of a citizenship vs PR?

How much does it cost a Singaporean man to serve NS?

Can we account just by the loss of salary over two (or two and half years for old timers like me)?

How about families that are plunged into financial crisis because their sole breadwinner was called up for NS? It is not as rare as most people who had not served NS think. Better yet, administrative screwups resulting into two breadwinners of a poor family being called up at the same time. I know it has happened because I have seen it myself.

I was paid around $200 per month for my 30 months of NS. No 13th month bonus. No CPF. No OT pay. The pay is much more now, but hardly market competitive.

Because it neither tracked inflation nor market rates, those who served NS in the 70s and early 80s were paid much more, relatively.

Why does a country that boasts of first world status and out of this world ministerial salaries persist in paying our national servicemen poorly? If the country has no money to pay our national servicemen, the ministers should consider a pay cut. But no, they believe in paying themselves first. And they sure track market rates closely.

How about care for servicemen who are disabled due to service injuries? Singapore seems to have no system to care for disabled servicemen. MINDEF's attitude seems to be pay a lump sum up front, discharge the servicemen and run away as quickly as they possibly can.

How do you account for the intangibles? The opportunity costs of our two years in our prime? The inconveniences erected when we turn 11 to prevent us from escaping NS? The continued inconveniences as we have to plan our lives around our reservists obligations?

And how do we account for the letter that threatens to suspend our freedom to travel, when we forget to inform to MINDEF of our overseas travels? Priceless?

What price, to account for the hostile work environment? My superior officer once threatened to kill me, wanted to slam my head against the wall. That, after yelling at me for half an hour. This is a job I cannot resign from. I cannot even apply for a transfer.

I am sure, knowing that my citizenship is worth $4511 over a PR makes me feel better. Right.

Despite the costs, serving NS is worth it, right? It's all about defending Singapore from an invasion of foreigners, right?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

No need for women to do NS, says PM Lee

By Dawn Tay

A DIALOGUE between Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and around 200 women from various women's organisations yesterday focused on an arguably male-centric issue - national service.

Of the 10 women who spoke, six rose to debate whether NS should be made compulsory for women and children of new citizens and permanent residents, and whether it disadvantaged men, at the People's Association Women's Integration Network Council dialogue.

Asked whether Singapore women are disadvantaged as, unlike men, they do not receive NS allowances as part of their pay, PM Lee assured the mainly female audience that career advancement for men and women alike would depend on the individual's ability.

Allowances for Singapore men who have completed NS are to ensure that they are not left behind when they start work after their two-year army stint and to compensate for their time in reservist training, he said.

NS should not be made compulsory for women for the sake of career advancement, he said.

"The purpose of national service is to have an operationally ready Singapore Armed Forces."

Dialogue participants suggested making NS mandatory for children of PRs to ensure a level playing field for all young people here.

But PM Lee rejected this, saying that doing so would scare away potential citizens. He added that each year, several hundred children of new Singaporeans and PRs elect to serve NS.

Before opening the floor to questions, PM Lee spoke on employment opportunities here and stressed the need for women to return to the workforce after having children.

He urged companies to be more supportive by adopting flexi-work schemes, and husbands to help with housework and bringing up the children.

He also said that the Government hopes to announce in two weeks whether the Jobs Credit Scheme - the $4.5 billion, one-year scheme to help employers retain local workers during the recession - would be extended beyond this year.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Conditioning and Conformity - How the military enforce them upon us.

I like this part "Conditioning assumes that a person’s behaviour is controlled by the environmental stimuli, so to control a person; they just have to manipulate the stimuli around the person. On a sidenote, conditioning does not distinguish the difference between animal and human behaviour, so essentially conditioning a human is like training a dog." Woof woof.

Conditioning and Conformity - How the military enforce them upon us.

Sorry for the late post, a lot of stuff to do.
Today I will discuss about a subject that invokes either admiration or hatred from the male population of Singapore. My friend who recently enlisted in NS and is currently supposed to be training in Pulau Tekong. He recently told the medical officer that he seriously can’t take it anymore, so, the medical officer directed to a SAF counsellor in MMI (Military Medicine Institute). The counsellor interviewed him and said he is fine and can continue on with the training, but, when I saw him, I saw bloodshot eyes, dark bags around his eyes that indicate insomnia and twitchiness. If these don’t indicate that something’s wrong, I don’t know what will. Inside my mind I just said: “That counsellor is a fucking moron”.

My friend is showing quite a lot of signs that he is suffering from depression, and from my experience, disregarding it and still forcing the person to go back to the harsh training is a recipe for disaster. In all likelihood, this can be followed by suicide or the trainee snapping and turning his gun on the superiors, and mind you, this has happened before.

The SAF military training employ conditioning to enforce obedience to their troops. In fact, most countries employ this kind of training, not just Singapore. Conditioning comes in two subfields, Classical and Operant. I won’t bore you with a lengthy explanation about what those two but I will give two links that explains what they are.

This is what the “normal” process the recruit will go through: The recruit will first arrive on Pulau Tekong with all the other recruits and go through the motion of doing the “pledge” and later distributed to their respective companies. They will have their heads shaved and dressed in the same way to ensure uniformity to enforce obedience. This is also an important element on shaping the mind of the recruit; some Social psychologists will call it conformity.

The recruit will realise that he will be alienated from the group if he does not do the same thing they do. Humans are social creatures, they need to socialise, and they can’t stand being alone (especially in a “hostile” environment like BMT). The people who put this training together know this fact very well; so they utilised it to its fullest potential. Uniformity is one of the methods to force the individual to conform along with the rest the of the other recruits. Everyone must look the same, walk the same, wear the same clothes and think in tandem with each other. It’s like line dancing; everyone must face the same direction and execute the dance steps at the same time; anything out of place stands out like a sore thumb. Like military marching, it also requires people do things in sync. Another method is social pressure, if the particular recruit does not conform and obey like the others; the superiors will punish everyone. In turn the recruits will pressure the offender into conforming eg: blanket parties, ostracising the person or generally making his life more difficult. Another form of social pressure is telling the recruit “Everyone can do it, why can’t you?” or making comparisons with other “more capable people” to “coax” the recruit into working harder in conforming to the group. The “ideal” end result of this training is that when the person is released from service; he is a compliant person that will obey authority figures without complaint or protest.

During the course of the training, the recruit will soon realise that his freedom has been taken away. What was once his right is now merely a privilege that is given whenever his superiors see fit. This is where conditioning comes in. The recruit will realise that to get back his freedom, he has to obey his oppressors in order to get it back even if that freedom is only temporary. That’s why during the course of the training, rewards are book outs or anything that resembles normal life like trips to the canteen or shops while punishment is not giving back that freedom like solitary confinements. The process is extremely simple, you obey and you get a treat. You don’t obey, you get a punishment. That’s how conditioning normally works. Conditioning assumes that a person’s behaviour is controlled by the environmental stimuli, so to control a person; they just have to manipulate the stimuli around the person. On a sidenote, conditioning does not distinguish the difference between animal and human behaviour, so essentially conditioning a human is like training a dog.

Conditioning is one of the only psychology disciplines that most governments only bother to learn. Why? It is simple really, it’s extremely easy to understand and utilise on the masses. We are subject to conditioning practically in our everyday lives. It is so subtle and common that even the most self-aware person can be potentially vulnerable to external control. Anyone can use it on you: you’re parents, your friends, your teachers and the list goes on. Conditioning is already there way before even Pavlov performed his experiments on his dogs; he just simply gave the process a name.

The “ideal” end result of conditioning in military training is that disobeying authority equals a negative consequence, so the person will learn to fear authority.
How one responds to the training is a matter of ideals, a person who can’t conform and obey will feel that NS is a completely unnecessary torture session that waste away two precious years of their life, they might respond negatively like going into depression or worse. A person who feels that the SAF is a good thing and considers it a potential career choice will respond well with the training.

Now people who are regulars or like the training might call my friend and I “gu niang (Chinese for lady)” or “chao keng (malingering)”, well; like I said, it’s a matter of ideals. My right can be your wrong. We see the same things with the same pair of eyes but interpret the information in a different way unique to the individual. To me, everyone is entitled their opinions but they must not force them upon others.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Ungrateful Platoon Commander, Insensitive Leader

Ungrateful Platoon Commander, Insensitive Leeder

I saw this pic at BigTalk [Link]

I'm shocked that these words can come from a former Brigadier-General of the Singapore Armed Forces, the current Prime Minister of Singapore!

“If we make it (NS and Reservist for PR) a requirement, we would not get the people we wanted. Secondly, if they did serve NS at 30, 40 and 50 years old. I would not like to be their platoon commander.”

If I have not learned to be cool, calm and collected from my guru, Wisdom, the first words that should come from my mouth would be: "KNNMCCB" or, "Fcuk you, man!"

So why am I so bloody mad?

I was released from the bondage of NS and reservists' in-camp training almost 20 years ago at age 40! It hurts me to know that having been considered over the hill as a NSman at 30, I was still asked to waste my time to serve certain platoon commanders who did not appreciate my service.

I do not know the context at which such stupid statement came from a statesman but to belittle the contributions and sacrifices of thousands of NSmen who serves till 40 is appallingly sick! It is so sad to know that Singapore citizens who recite the Singapore Aspiration (Pledge?) are lesser mortals in Singapore than PRs who spice up the lives of elite Singaporeans!

Why such callous deed tears my guts out?

At this moment, my 18 month-old grand-daughter is yearning for her father. She is fatherless for 3 weeks because her 35 year-old dad (who is my son) is out of Singapore in some godforsaken jungle somewhere doing reservist training which his Platoon Commander (if he were PM Lee) does not appreciate because he's too old to be in NS.

It's all well and good when careless politician speaks of buying votes and fixing oppositions [Link] but to callously deride the sacrifices of so many true blue Singaporean NSmen is really asking for trouble.

NSmen and reservists are already disillusioned by ministers who make a mockery of nation serving by paying themselves millions; the 'white horse' classification of NSmen and the disadvantage they face in equal employment opportunity [Link].

Mr Prime Minister, why rock the boat further with such insensitivity?

Under the current economic and social condition in Singapore,

A grateful heart
A touch of kindness
A sense of solidarity
A caring demeanour

is what we expect from a leader.

A high falutin ingrate is furthest from our minds!

God bless Singapore.


Tuesday, September 29, 2009

MinDEF: More action, less talk please, we're Singaporeans

MinDEF: More action, less talk please, we're Singaporeans
(Unpublished - Sep 22, 2009)

I refer to Colonel Darius Lim's response (Sept 22) to Mr Sylvester Lim's letter explaining his in-camp training (ICT) call-up during his undergraduate course.

Like Sylvester, I am a student, but pursuing full-time graduate studies at the National University of Singapore.

I am currently attending an ICT in the middle of of my semester.

This has caused disruptions to my obligations as a teaching assistant, my research and thesis writing. On top of that, I am unable to attend seminars or be around for consultation for my students.

I returned home for the weekend exhausted and nursing blisters on my fingers, both obvious impediments to catching up on any student and research obligation.

Months ago, my application and later appeal for deferment had both been rejected.

A letter of rejection and a response from the Ministry of Defence (MinDEF) following my letter to MinDEF both expressed MinDEF's understanding and appreciation of NSmen pursuing higher education.

I have since made the decision to put my studies, research and teaching aside and attend the ICT.

I suggest that MinDEF put more than just consolatory words into "understanding" and "appreciation" for Singaporean sons who are pursuing degrees and sacrifice a lot to do reservist.

As a student, two weeks away from lessons and research results in backlog work and loss of momentum, and more than two weeks would be required to regain what is lost.

There is no such thing as a cover or replacement for a student or researcher when he is doing his ICT.

I suggest MinDEF reimburse NSmen for a semester or half a semester of school fees, in the period they are called up for ICT. This gesture will benefit those who are called up for ICT during their studies, and be less burdened by student loans.

This way, NSmen do not end up on the deeper side of the losing end, with only a few consolatory words and a huge sense of helplessness and resignation.

Most NS-liable people are well acquainted with being helpless and resigned, so something must be done to lessen that.

In my case, as I am on research scholarship which expires August next year, I would like to ask if MinDEF is willing to pay for two and a half weeks of school fees in the event I am unable to complete my course and submit my thesis by then.

This question has been ignored in my letter to MinDEF and I would like to repeat it here.

It is time MinDEF offer solutions that thoughtfully, sincerely and genuinely help, instead of giving us reservist-liable Singaporeans doses of dead-end communications rhetoric.

I suggest that MinDEF do public relations communications that are - or at least tend towards being - mutually beneficial, rather than one-way.

The fact that conscription and reservist are mandatory does not mean that MinDEF have the right treat Singaporeans this way, students included.

Furthermore and with all due respect, MinDEF should not only talk about their "understanding" and "appreciation", but show that they are mean it and do something that the NSman will feel is reasonable and meaningful, that they feel "understood" and "appreciated".

At the same time, NSmen should not be afraid to speak up, make suggestions and stake a claim in their relationship with the organisation.

Ho Chi Sam

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Mr PM: Please Release Exact Figures

Mr PM: Please Release Exact Figures

Lee Hsien Loong is supposed to have a degree in maths. For someone who is supposed to have studied the subject at Cambridge University, it is ironic that he is incompetent when it comes to numbers. What is hundreds? He never give us the specific numbers or details. It can be 200 or it can be 900. So...confusing. Trust the PAP to be so 'transparent'

Furthermore, how does this stack up against the number of locals enlisting every year? Skeptic couldn't find any figures but he decided to guesstimate based on the figures of live birth in Singapore. Last year there was roughly 39,800 live births in Singapore. Even taking a conservative 1/4 of those births being males eligible for NS when they turn 18, it is safe to say that between 5000-8000 male citizens enlist every year.

So what is hundreds when citizens contribute thousands? Given the fact that more than a third of the population are foreigners the burden is unequally shared.

So the speech about hundreds is misleading. When you do statistics, absolute numbers are meaningless unless you do a comparison with some other data you collected. 100 degrees Celsius is too hot for a room but cold in comparison to the sun. 5 degrees Celsius is cold for human beings but too hot for superconductors. Every thing depends on a proper context and in this case the lack of a proper one is very dishonest.

What does this mean? The majority of foreigners are enjoying Singapore without any NS burden but the PAP fails to address this problem. While it is commendable that some of the foreign born choose to do NS, you have to understand that they are but a tiny minority among the foreign born population.

When you do a rough comparison between the two numbers, you realise that rather than having too many foreign born NS men, we have too few.

Straits Times Sep 16 2009 Many foreign-born do NS yearly

PRIME Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday addressed a pet peeve among Singaporeans, that new immigrants do not do national service (NS) or are called up for reservist training.Mr Lee said every year, hundreds of foreign-born youths do their NS as new citizens or permanent residents (PRs).'They come from different races and countries, but they have consciously committed themselves to do NS, and march together with Singaporeans,' he said at a dialogue with students of Nanyang Technological University.

In July, Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean had said in an interview the number of such youths is in the 'high hundreds every year'. Yesterday, PM Lee also said a 'good number of these new citizens' excel in NS, attending Officer Cadet School or topping their cohort and being awarded the Sword of Honour. Some have signed on to be regulars in the Singapore Armed Forces while others have won SAF scholarships, he said. Mr Lee cited Lieutenant Kok Khew Fai, 21, a Malaysian-born officer, who became a citizen in May 2007. Lt Kok received the SAF merit scholarship last month and will be an air engineering officer after completing his aeronautical engineering studies at Britain's Imperial College. He was awarded the SAF Medal for Distinguished Act last September for shielding a recruit from a grenade blast during an exercise in March last year. Besides defence, PM Lee said new citizens and PRs also contribute in other areas. 'They not only contribute to our economy, they also enrich our society and make up for our population shortfall.' Singapore made sure these newcomers raised the population's quality in terms of education, skills and drive, he added. Mr Lee also urged Singaporeans to intensify their efforts in engaging new citizens, who have different social habits. 'Singaporeans must understand that they come from societies very different from ours. 'In China and India, one has to be assertive and even aggressive to get anywhere. In Singapore, our social norms have become more restrained and considerate.' He noted that there are programmes to help new citizens adjust to life here, such as explaining to them the culture of queuing and other social practices. But Singapore needs to do more, which is why the National Integration Council set up in April will announce new initiatives soon, said PM Lee. The council is scheduled to do so today

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Stay connected while in-camp

Stay connected while in-camp

To ensure compliance with the security rules, NSmen must safe-keep their devices in the lockers provided and use them only within the compounds of the business centres. -- ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

TO HELP National Servicemen better balance their military training and work demands during their in-camp training (ICT), three training institutes business centres will be set up, enhanced with wireless Internet access and basic facilities to enable them to access their office network outside of training hours.

NSmen will also be allowed to bring in and use their work devices, such as office-configured laptops, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and Blackberries, within these centres.

The centres will be equipped with photocopiers, facsimile, Skype facilities, as well as wired and wireless internet access.

'Security will not be compromised as a result of the increased flexibility given to NSmen,' said the Ministry of Defence.

To ensure compliance with the security rules, NSmen must safe-keep their devices in the lockers provided and use them only within the compounds of the business centres.

As an additional layer of security, closed circuit television (CCTV) will be installed in the business centres, said Mindef.

All devices with image-capturing capability such as camera handphones would continue to be prohibited in accordance with the current Mindef security policy.

As some company laptops and Blackberries come with image capturing devices, these would be allowed for use only within the business centres. No laptops or phones with image capturing devices will be allowed outside of the business centres.

A trial run will be carried out in the last quarter in the Armour Training Institute (ATI) located in Sungei Gedong Camp, the Infantry Training Institute (ITI) located in Jurong Camp II, and the Army Logistics Training Institute (ALTI) located in Kranji Camp III.

Mindef will review this in the middle of next year before introducing the facilities SAF-wide.

Monday, September 14, 2009

SAF must disobey any order to overthrow opposition-led government

SAF must disobey any order to overthrow opposition-led government

MM Lee has still not renounced his statement that if there's a freak election result, the army will have to come in to take control.

It is shameful that a senior leader of our country can declare that he will sabotage a government freely elected by the people just because he thinks it's a "freak" result. I strongly condemn MM Lee for such arrogance.

Every NS Man has taken the SAF Pledge:

We, members of the Singapore Armed Forces,
do sincerely pledge that we will always bear true faith and
allegiance to the President and the Republic of Singapore.
We will always support and defend the Constitution. We will preserve and protect the honour and independence of our country with our lives.

The SAF is not obligated to act as Lee Kuan Yew's or the PAP's private army to do as they please. Our soldiers sacrifice two years or their lives and years of reservist duty to protect our country, not to subvert citizens' choice of government just because one man doesn't like it.

Even though the SAF's top brass has close links with the PAP, they are first and foremost soldiers pledging allegiance to the President and the Republic of Singapore, and to defend the Constitution. Under no circumstances must they order the rank and file soldiers to overthrow a freely elected government.

Even if they did, our NS Men have the duty to disobey such clearly illegal orders.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Why does Mindef discriminate against NSmen who are pursuing full-time studies in other institutions?

Call-up blues

'Why does Mindef discriminate against NSmen who are pursuing full-time studies in other institutions?'

MR SYLVESTER LIM: 'The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) requires operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) to apply online for deferment from reservist training, even if they are attending full-time studies at institutions such as the Singapore Institute of Management (SIM). While NSmen pursuing full-time studies at local polytechnics, Nanyang Technological University, National University of Singapore and Singapore Management University are called up only during their holiday period so as not to disrupt their study curriculum, why does Mindef discriminate against NSmen who are pursuing full-time studies in other institutions? Singaporean men have already sacrificed two years of their lives and should not be saddled with this uncertainty, even when they want to pursue further studies.'

Original email to STforum.

Dear Sir/Madam,

It is disconcerting to note that MINDEF requires NSmen who have finished their two years service, having to apply for deferment from reservist training even if they are attending full time studies at institutions such as SIM Singapore Institute of Management. While NSmen pursuing full time studies at local polytechnics, NTU, NUS & SMU will be posted into the Institute of Higher Learning (IHL) whereby they will only be called up during their holiday period so as not to disrupt their study curriculum, why does MINDEF discriminates NSmen who are pursuing studies via other venues? What about other institutions such as MDIS, John Cook Universities and other private institutes of higher learning in Singapore? These institutions are already approved by the MOE. Singaporean men have already sacrificed two years of their lives and should not be saddled with this uncertainty even when they want to pursue further studies.

Yours faithfully,

Mr Lim Sylvester

Reply by Mindef
Why these students get common call-up
I REFER to Mr Sylvester Lim's letter, 'Call-up blues' (Sept 14), on the call-up of operationally ready national servicemen (NSmen) who are pursuing full-time studies in institutions such as the Singapore Institute of Management.

To maintain the operational readiness of army units, the Singapore Armed Forces requires NSmen from the same unit to attend in-camp training (ICT) together. Hence, it is not possible for the unit to accommodate the different schedules of each of their NSmen when scheduling ICT.

However, the Ministry of Defence understands our NSmen have to balance their work, academic and other commitments with their ICT obligations. Most NSmen studying in the three local universities (National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technological University and Singapore Management University) are scheduled for ICT call-ups during their academic vacation period. This arrangement is made possible because these universities have a common vacation period, and the majority of our NSmen study in these institutions.
NSmen pursuing full-time studies in other educational institutions can apply for deferment from their ICT as per the normal deferment process.

Colonel Darius Lim

Director Public Affairs Ministry of Defence

Friday, September 11, 2009

Two-thirds of NSmen to get 20% hike in allowances

Two-thirds of NSmen to get 20% hike in allowances

SINGAPORE: About two-thirds of all National Servicemen will receive at least a 20 per cent increase in their allowances from next year.

The government accepted all the eighteen recommendations made by the Record V Committee to reward the NSmen for their contributions.

One of the recommendations included faster and larger rank allowance increments.

For those who take on more demanding combat roles, monthly allowances are expected to increase by S$100.

NSmen working in leadership positions and as warrant officers and specialists will witness a 5 to 35 per cent increase in rank allowances, whereas commanders will get an add-on allowance, pegged at 20 per cent of their key appointment allowance.

Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said that the changes have been made to recognise NSmen's sacrifices.

"They have many conflicting demands on their time, particularly nowadays, when life is much more fast-paced. They have their family, business and job commitments. And this is particularly demanding at a time when the economy is not doing so well," said Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean.

Another signicant change would allow NSmen to bring work-related computing or mobile devices for use when they're not training.

"While the facilities at business centres are fairly basic now, with just a few terminals - after the changes, there will be far more terminals, perhaps up to 40, in some of the bigger centres. There will also be wireless access and equipment like photocopiers and fax machines. And there will also be the ability for NSmen to bring in their own devices such as Blackberries, for use within the centre," he added.

Supporting the change, a National Serviceman, Ridzuan Ismail, said, "I am going through my MBA programme and it's a company-sponsored programme so I have a lot at stake. Things like allowing me to bring in my laptop and accessing it through the business centre is very useful."

Further approved recommendations include improving fitness corners in public housing estates so that NSmen can better train for their IPPT or physical proficiency tests, and giving away vouchers to chalets and attractions to recognise the wider efforts of NSmen's families.

The changes are expected to be implemented in phases from October.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

NSman: How about irregular pay?

NSman: How about irregular pay?

I REFER to last Friday's report, 'In-camp NSmen can stay connected to workplace'.

I am concerned over my make-up pay claim for my time spent on in-camp training. My company pays me solely in commission on sales I bring in. For the past few years, as I progressed in my career, I assumed a managerial role and spent a lot of my time grooming a team of salesmen. In return for this contribution, I am paid in overrides over my team's sales. This compensates me for the reduction in income as I have to spend less time on my own sales.

For my time spent in camp, the logical assumption is that I would be paid for lost time I could have devoted to both sales and managerial work, but that is not the case. To get my make-up pay, I need to give proof of my income and a detailed breakdown of pay for my own sales and pay in overrides. I am paid only for my own sales and not overrides. The reason given was that I still get overrides from my team when I am in camp, and it is therefore not 'loss income'.

This implies that my time spent in camp affects only my own sales and not those of my team. In other words, my presence as manager and team leader is worth nothing and immaterial. How can that be true? Worse still, the more one progresses in one's career, the less one gets in make-up pay.

A project manager is paid in full, and a business owner based on his profit-and-loss statement. They are paid for their management and leadership value. Why am I paid for only part of my taxable income?

CPT (NS) Lee Tian Shek

Monday, August 31, 2009

NS Issue Revisited
NS Issue Revisited

Now that I have calmed down. I decided to revisit the NS issue and write a less emotional analysis of the compensation report.

To understand the issue of NS, we need to first examine the root cause of unhappiness over NS. There are three separate issues which are related but not technically the same. The first is the issue of forced conscription. The second issue is the issue of inequality of treatment. The third is the issue of compensation for service.

Conscription is akin to slavery not service. It is wrong to force a fellow human being to work against his will. Most people (in the street) would agree with this view of forced conscription. We know that from a survey on Tan Kin Lian's blog that given a choice, a staggering 81% of respondents would not do NS. Strangely, most of the remarks about NS on the online forums, do not talk much about the illegitimacy of forced servitude but more on the second issue- the inequality of treatment.

This has been a hot topic on the online forums. It used to be rantings about gender discrimination- how male citizens had to serve while female citizens did not. Over the past decade, the issue of inequality has taken over an added dimension- that of foreigners. Adding up the numbers, it seemed that only a minority of the people living in Singapore have to pay a price for living on the Island. Looking at the statistics, only 32.65% of the people are liable for National Service. (Calculated by assuming 32.65% female citizens, 34.7% foreigners[numbers from this post]) The inequality of treatment is the one which evokes the most emotional response. Because it is in human nature to compare ourselves with others. Skeptic suspects that if everyone on the Island suffered the same fate, the resentment towards NS would be reduced significantly.

Finally, there is the issue of compensation for those who serve NS. Given the fact that there is a huge opportunity cost towards earning money and career advancement, the allowance and compensation for NSF and NSmen is a joke.

Okay so let us see whether the compensation report can address these sources of resentment. The illegitimacy of forced servitude? No. The inequality of treatment to male citizens? No. The compensation for the lost of opportunity? It tries to but it is still inadequate.

That is why, Skeptic finds it strange that the PM in his NDP rally 'promised' a lot of goodies in the compensation report. That is the PAP for you. They have been Promising And Promising for the past decade. But the truth is they have failed to deliver the goods since the mid-nineties.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Should NS be Reduced or Scrapped

Should NS be Reduced or Scrapped

See also, discussion on



National Service, or army conscription in Singapore, was first introduced in 1967 due to pressing issues such as national security after Singapore's "forced" independence in 1965. In 1971, the British completely pulled out of Singapore. It has been 41 years since the introduction of NS.

Since then the world and Asia has changed significantly in terms of security and economic arrangements. But has Singapore's conscription policy kept up with these changes to reflect and cope with the new geopolitical landscape?

First let us review the service that all able-bodied 18-year-old male Singaporeans have to undergo. Basic Military Training, or BMT, is the "boot camp" for all new recruits. This lasts for three months whereupon the soldier then gets posted out to other units for further specialised training.

The conscripts then serve the remainder of their two-year stint polishing up their combat skills. Following the two years of full-time service, NSmen are required (for up to 40 days a year) to serve in a part-tme capacity until they are 50 years old for commissioned officers and 40 for others.

Reduce the two-year full-time service

In an age where warfare has turned to "smart" technology, is it still logical and necessary for Singapore to insist that its National Servicemen undergo 24 months months of active, full-time service? Such a policy is rare among countries that maintain a conscription policy. Below is a list of countries with periods of full-time conscript service:

1.Austria (6 months)
2.Bolivia (12 months)
3.Brazil (9-12 months)
4.Denmark (4-12 months)
5.Estonia (8-11 months)
6.Finland (6-12 months)
7.Germany (9 months)
8.Greece (12 months)
9.Guatemala (12-24 months)
10.Moldavia (12 months)
11.Mongolia (12 months)
12.Paraguay (12-24 months)
13.Poland (9-12 months)
14.Serbia (6 months)
15.Switzerland (18-21 weeks)
16.Taiwan (12 months)
17.Tunisia (12 months)
18.Turkey (12 months)
19.Ukraine (12 months_
20.Uzbekistan (12 months)

From the above data, it can be seen that for all intents and purposes a conscript army training programme need not be as long as the one we have in Singapore. The more advance countries like Austria, Denmark, Germany, Greece, and Switzerland all have full-time services limited to one year and less.

Even Taiwan, which has an identifiable enemy in the form of China, limits its active service to 12 months. Only countries like South Korea and Israel have conscription periods that are longer than Singapore's. These countries are, however, in a state of war.

Given the situation in Singapore there is no reason why we cannot employ more efficient training methods and reduce full-time NS from the present two-years to twelve months or less.

Reservist training

The current period of reserve training for NS men of up to 40 years old is also a burden on the servicemen and, by extension, the economy. Not only does the serviceman have to contend with the influx of foreigners, they are disadvantaged in terms of employment, remuneration and promotion when employers compare local men who have to be away for weeks in anyone year with foreign workers who have no such obligation.

The span of a serviceman's reservist training should not go beyond 30 years of age. Men tend to settle down and start families around this age and job stability and carreer prospects are essential during this period. Unfair competition from foreign nationals would handicap local males and add to their already stressful lifestyles.

In addition, the human body goes into a physical decline after the age of 30. To keep our military personnel in top condition, it makes little sense in keeping men over the age of 30 in the frontline if military conflict does indeed breakout.

Increase volunteer, professional army

To compensate for the decrease in the number of active and reservist NSmen, the Singapore Armed Forces should expand volunteer army recruitment to complement the reduction in the number of conscripts.

In fact, the number of countries that have scrapped conscription are on the rise: Argentina (1994), Belgium (1994), Czech Republic (2004), France (1996), Hungary (2004), Italy (2004), Netherlands (1996), New Zealand (1972), Portugal (2004), and Spain (2001).

While Singapore may not be ready to follow suit, it would be prudent for us to reduce NSmen in favour of a professional military outfit

At the moment, NSmen are exploited for their services to glorify the PAP during National Day parades. The energy and time of these men can be put to more productive use than as entertainment for the PAP regime.

Conscientious objectors

What about people who do not believe that it is right for them to do military service due to moral, religious or ethical grounds? At the moment such conscientious objectors are charged and imprisoned for the length of their service.

In some of the countries that have compulsory military service, there is also a provision for conscientious objectors to serve in non-combat roles. There is an argument that this would open the flood gates for men to opt for non-combat positions. Such a loophole can be plugged by increasing the length of active service by, say, six months. The experiences of other countries like Germany and Sweden have not been negative in this aspect where males try to avoid combat service by claiming to be conscientious objectors.

Tranparency and openness

Obligation in Singapore seems to be a one-way street. While the Government holds the people accountable for their NS liabilities, the Ministry of Defence remains non-transparent and non-accountable in their dealings with the public.

The recent deaths of National Servicemen have opened a can of worms on training safety. In addition, the number of training fatalities and injuries are not made known to the public as a matter-of-course. The Government which compels the people to give their lives for the country are obliged to be absolutely transparent with information pertaining to safety issues. Compensation for deaths and injuries must also be reviewed and revised upwards.

The Government must also not exploit NSmen as cheap labour during major events such as the WB-IMF meeting or, possibly, the upcoming Youth Olympics. In must be remembered that the Enlistment Act was enacted for a specific purpose and any detraction from that purpose must be shunned.


When citizens are forced to serve in the military with the possibility of being killed if called to war, it is imperative that the government is a democratic one where citizens can hold the government accountable for its decisions and actions. Otherwise we may end up in a situation where wars are waged for the ruling elite rather than for the security and sovereignty of the nation.

Sunday, August 9, 2009


"Looking back, I am glad I went through NS. Because of NS, it forced me to work harder, seek opportunities abroad and settle down overseas. I met a friend of mine who once commented that Singaporeans have a high tolerance for abuse by the government. It is like someone hits you, you complain but you take more beatings and after a while, you get used to it. The issue is not about the 'privilege' of being a Singaporean, but that many Singaporeans lack the courage to do something about it." -John

This is a comment from John regarding a recent post about NS. Skeptic wonders if it is the same commentor who talked about finding a job overseas. Anyway, what he said stirred up my own personal bad memories of NS.

To be honest, I wasn't so keen on leaving Singapore until I myself suffered 2.5 years of NS. Up till then, I had experienced many bad things growing up but it seemed that NS was the tipping point. This makes me wonder whether, for some of us, NS makes us less patriotic rather than more.

Like the commentator, the pain and humiliation I suffered in NS made me more resolute in seeking my future away from Singapore. So if you are right now suffering under the system, my advice to you is to channel your resentment and anger towards something more productive. Use that energy to develop skills that would make you valuable outside of Singapore. Pretend to love the PAP system but plot to leave. Develop your abilities and resources so that you can one day become a productive citizen in another country.

I suppose the best phrase to describe it is the Chinese idiom 卧薪尝胆 which means 'steeling oneself for bitter revenge'. The best form of revenge is to lead a successful life abroad and deprive the PAP system of your abilities.

Note to non-Chinese speakers: There is a very interesting story behind the phrase 卧薪尝胆 which literally translates as 'Sleeping on Brushwood and Drinking Gall'.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Make English and modified NS a must

Yah, like the government will tell the PRs to serve part-time NS. After all, these 'talents' are here to enjoy our work environment at the expense of 'less talented' Singaporeans and not to defend the country. Money, money, money.

Make English and modified NS a must

SUNDAY'S reports, 'Mah urges new citizens to adapt to local ways' and 'Be mindful of racial, religious fault lines', bring to mind two measures that may encourage meaningful integration of naturalised citizens with 'true-blue Singaporeans'.

National Development Minister Mah Bow Tan, in calling on new citizens to make an effort to become 'true-blue Singaporeans', said he noticed that some new citizens appear to make no conscious effort to integrate or learn spoken English.

This prompts the question: Why are we giving citizenship to people who cannot communicate in Singapore's lingua franca?

Most naturalised citizens come from China. While they can converse in one official language, they are not equipped to have any meaningful interaction with minority Singaporeans and Chinese Singaporeans who do not speak Mandarin.

Not surprisingly, Mr Mah is concerned about new citizens forming cliques in their own communities.

To reduce the likelihood of ethnic enclaves becoming a problem, the Government should require future citizenship applicants to pass an English language test.

Pointing out the threat of racial and religious disharmony to Singapore's stability, Deputy Prime Minister Wong Kan Seng said the Government's key approach to managing race and religion matters is to build common spaces in schools, communities, workplaces and national service.

However, national service is one area in which adult new citizens currently do not participate, and the Government should introduce a modified, shortened form for adult new citizens under the age of 40.

While it is true that they did not enjoy the benefits of citizenship during their childhood, they will enjoy these benefits for the rest of their lives.

They could learn the basics of army combat, policing or civil defence over a predetermined number of weekends, a practical compromise given work commitments.

Besides helping them integrate better with their new compatriots, the modified national service stint will also empower them to play an active role in Singapore's national defence or internal security.

After all, the enemy's bullet or bomb does not distinguish between naturalised and native-born Singaporeans.

Michael Ang

Sunday, July 26, 2009

NSF gets five days’ detention

Mindef needs to catch with the rest of the world with conscription and permit Conscientious objectors alternatives. Must Singaporeans always conform to the standards of military life in NS?

What about people who do not believe that it is right for them to do military service due to moral, religious or ethical grounds? At the moment such conscientious objectors are charged and imprisoned for the length of their service.

In some of the countries that have compulsory military service, there is also a provision for conscientious objectors to serve in non-combat roles. There is an argument that this would open the flood gates for men to opt for non-combat positions. Such a loophole can be plugged by increasing the length of active service by, say, six months. The experiences of other countries like Germany and Sweden have not been negative in this aspect where males try to avoid combat service by claiming to be conscientious objectors.

NSF gets five days’ detention

Channel NewsAsia - Sunday, July 26

SINGAPORE: A full—time National Serviceman was summarily tried on Friday under the Singapore Armed Forces Act for conduct prejudicial to good discipline. He was sentenced to five days’ detention at the SAF Detention Barracks.

Private Madana Mohan Das, a trainee driver, was charged with misconduct because he did not comply "with his superior’s lawful orders to cut his hair in conformance to SAF’s requirements and for refusal to consume food provided by the SAF", said Colonel Darius Lim, director of public affairs at the Ministry of Defence.

The sentence was backdated to Monday, when Pte Madana was put under close arrest. He has since complied with the requirements and was released from detention on Friday afternoon and returned to his unit.

Before being charged, he was given "ample opportunities" to cut his hair and to eat the food provided by the SAF, and his "repeated acts of misconduct" were "undermining discipline in the SAF", said Col Lim in reply to media queries.

"All SAF servicemen are to abide by SAF rules and regulations on military turnout and bearing, military discipline and lawfully given orders. Pte Madana was treated in the same way as any other SAF serviceman," he said.

"The SAF cannot allow deviations from its rules and regulations for any serviceman as this will weaken military discipline, which could compromise the SAF’s operational effectiveness and the safety of SAF servicemen. Disciplinary action will be taken against any serviceman who refuses to comply with the SAF’s rules and regulations."

TODAY has learnt, though, that during his Basic Military Training in December, Pte Madana’s unit accommodated his requests to keep his tuft of long hair, which he wanted to maintain because he was a Brahmin priest at a temple here. The unit also allowed his request to have home—cooked food to be delivered to him daily.

But these "accommodations were a mistake due to a lapse of judgment by his previous unit", Col Lim told TODAY, and when Pte Madana was posted to the SAF Transport Hub in March, this was explained to him.

His and his father’s appeals were rejected and the NSF was ordered to conform to SAF regulations, which he did not, added Col Lim.

TODAY understands he brought in food from the temple when he booked out on Tuesday and Thursday evenings and on weekends, since he did not consume SAF food.

Singapore Brahmin Association president G Srinivasan told TODAY that Brahmin priests ordinarily eat only food cooked from their temple, "prepared according to tradition and with prayers".

But while he was "a bit" concerned to hear about Pte Madana’s case, he said that if this food is not available, "then food from outside is permissible as long as it is vegetarian from an acceptable source, like a vegetarian restaurant, house or temple".

He also said that while it would have been good if Pte Madana could have kept his hair, known as a sikha, the NSF would have to "follow the rule of the land" if there are no provisions for this.

Asked why exceptions are made for Sikhs serving NS, Col Lim said: "Sikhs serving in the SAF are allowed to wear turbans only because this is a carry—over from the past.

"This is a long—established practice going back decades to colonial times. We cannot allow further exceptions to be made today for other servicemen. Allowing further exceptions would undermine what we have achieved so far to make sure that our rules, regulations and standards are fair to all.

"This will be detrimental to not only the security needs of the nation, but will also weaken the strong national identity that NS forges amongst its servicemen." — TODAY/ra

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mum wants to ban NS men from taking buses

Mum wants to ban NS men from taking buses

A Netizen who claimed to be a mother of two girls made a post in an online forum recently, demanding that NS men be banned from taking public buses because they are dirty and smelly.

The post drew furore from other forum members, who have called the poster insensitive and disrespectful towards NS men.

The Netizen, who goes by the username JusticeLegal, described an unpleasant bus ride on 10 July which prompted her to propose the ban.

JusticeLegal said that she was bringing her children home from Downtown East when a group of "army boys" boarded the bus with them. The NS men were sweaty and smelled, and soon the Netizen's daughters were "making sick faces" at her.

The Netizen proposed that SAF ban soldiers from taking the bus, reasoning that the pay NS men get should be enough to pay for taxi rides.

She also said that the soldiers, having just returned to Singapore from Tekkong, might have contacted "germs and viruses" and might spread the diseases to others.

Calling the NS men "smelly green things", JusciceLegal said in her post that her two daughters should be spared the eyesore.

If she had a grandson in the future, the Netizen said that she would teach him to be a responsible citizen and take a cab, or wait for her to fetch him.

The forum thread, which has since attracted some 900 replies, was started on 17 July. A large majority of replies expressed anger at JusticeLegal's comments with many saying that the Netizen should at least recognize the contributions of NS men.

See sgforums link

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

If I am a Malaysian

The paragraph below was pulled from this letter and it really frustrates me that the government is saddling our Singapore males with NS and reservist training as well as yearly IPPT. In today's competitive environment and I'm talking about the private sector, a moment's delay can mean a make or break business deal. How many NSmen have lost opportunities in life and for what? A thank you note from MINDEF? Thanks but no thanks. This PR made a smart move as he was willing to move out of his comfort zone, he reaps the benefits of this move. What about us Singaporeans? What can we do? Move to JB, PR in Malaysia? Ironic isn't?

"Unfortunately, our greatest selling point to foreign talents is also dissuading them from settling down here permanently. What additional advantages does being a citizen have over a PR?

I failed my last IPPT and has to go for remedial training thrice a week. Can you imagine the hassle and torture of reporting to Khatib Camp to run 2.4km after a long and hectic day? Due to my frequent travels, I have to apply for deferments often. There was once I forgot and I received a letter from SAF almost immediately threatening to charge me.

My relative, however, have no such concerns. He has zero NS obligations at all - no ICTs, RTs, mob-manning and whatsoever. He can concentrate fully on his work and career. He does not care a bit about local politics. His aim is simply to make money here. His son is born in Malaysia, but studying in Singapore. He need not worry about him having to go through NS when he grows up.

Foreigners flock to Singapore in search of a better life. If they are willing to turn their backs on their homeland and become Singapore citizens in the first place, how patriotic can they be? How many of these new citizens give up their pink ICs later?

J.F. Kennedy once said: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Most Singapore males have served 2 years of national service followed by over 10 years of reservist training. Are we getting a fair deal from our country?"

If I am a Malaysian

July 8, 2009 by admin

By Fang Zhi Yuan

There are a few letters to the Malaysian media lately from Malaysian PRs and Singapore citizens whose parents are Malaysians about the ugly side of Singapore which has sparked a furore amongst Singaporeans who are indignified by the “ingratitude” shown by their brethen across the causeway.

What if I am a Malaysian working in Singapore? How will I plot my future and that of my children? Will I take up the Singapore citizenship or continue being just a PR to enjoy the best of both worlds?

Let’s imagine I was born in a middle class Chinese family in Johor Bahru. My family is not exactly that rich, but pretty well off by ordinary Malaysian standards.

My father run a small family business, like the majority of the Chinese in Malaysia and I live in a terraced house on the outskirts of the city.

After finishing my primary education in Johor, I was sent packing to continue my secondary education in Singapore. I went through the Singapore education system till university where I graduated with a Bachelor degree in Engineering.

As a Malaysian with no National Service obligations, I entered the workforce two years earlier than my Singapore counterparts. Within 6 months of working, I was offered to take up Permanent Residency in Singapore which I gladly obliged.

Singapore has been good to me. It gave me an education, a job and a future, opportunities which I will never be able to get in Malaysia as a result of the racist bumiputra policy.

Two years later, I was invited to become a Singapore citizen which threw me into a dilemma as I will have to give up my Malaysian citizenship, not that I was particularly loyal to my country of birth.

Malaysia has always been close to my heart though the government does not treat the ethnic minorities particularly well.

My parents, relatives and friends are all in Malaysia. There is a kampung spirit and human touch which is absent in Singapore. Despite living here for a number of years, I do not feel a sense of belonging.

If I become a Singapore citizen, I will now have to contribute 20% of my monthly pay to the CPF which will effectively tie me down here in the future.

My children will naturally become Singapore citizens and my sons will be mandated to serve two years of National Service under the law.

Other than being entitled to slightly higher education and healthcare subsidies, becoming a citizen does not confer any additional advantages over a PR.

After much contemplation, I have decided to maintain the status quo. My children were born in Johor as Malaysian citizens. I plan to enrol them in a Singapore school. There is little doubt that the Singapore education system is far superior than that in Malaysia.

My children will be brought up enjoying the best of both worlds. Singapore schools are well recognized worldwide. It will be a springboard for them to further their education elsewhere. At the same time, my boy need not waste two years of his precious life to serve the Singapore army.

I will leave the decision whether to become Singapore citizens to my children. As for myself, I do not intend to retire in Singapore. Life is too tough and stressful here.

Being still a Malaysian citizen, I am entitled to a housing grant which I intend to use to purchase a bungalow in Johor as a retirement home which cost about RM$500,000, the price of a three-room HDB flat in Singapore.

Had I remained in Malaysia, I will probably not achieve so much in life. I am thankful to the Singapore government for giving me the opportunity to study and work in Singapore. However, I want the best for myself and my family and Singapore is not quite the place to set up home when there are greener pastures elsewhere.

I have done my part and contributed to the Singapore economy. I do not intend to work till the day I drop dead. I want to retire and spend time with my children and grandchildren without having to worry about healthcare expenses.

Should I forfeit my Malaysian citizenship and become a Singaporean or continue to make money here and retire in my hometown?

Over the years, many Malaysians have worked in Singapore and become Permanent Residents. What percentage of these PRs have taken up citizenship?

Given a choice, would you prefer to be born in Singapore as a citizen or as a PR born in Malaysia?

The above account is not entirely fictitious. It is adapted from the personal life of a relative who is in the top echelon of a statutory board. In spite of numerous invitations by the government to him to become a Singapore citizen, he has adamantly refused to do so.

The Singapore government makes no distinction between locals and foreigners. We welcome foreigners with open arms. They are given equal opportunities as locals to succeed in Singapore.

Unfortunately, our greatest selling point to foreign talents is also dissuading them from settling down here permanently. What additional advantages does being a citizen have over a PR?

I failed my last IPPT and has to go for remedial training thrice a week. Can you imagine the hassle and torture of reporting to Khatib Camp to run 2.4km after a long and hectic day? Due to my frequent travels, I have to apply for deferments often. There was once I forgot and I received a letter from SAF almost immediately threatening to charge me.

My relative, however, have no such concerns. He has zero NS obligations at all - no ICTs, RTs, mob-manning and whatsoever. He can concentrate fully on his work and career. He does not care a bit about local politics. His aim is simply to make money here. His son is born in Malaysia, but studying in Singapore. He need not worry about him having to go through NS when he grows up.

Foreigners flock to Singapore in search of a better life. If they are willing to turn their backs on their homeland and become Singapore citizens in the first place, how patriotic can they be? How many of these new citizens give up their pink ICs later?

J.F. Kennedy once said: “Ask not what your country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your country.”

Most Singapore males have served 2 years of national service followed by over 10 years of reservist training. Are we getting a fair deal from our country?

How much of this budget is used to prop up money losing GLCs that are dependant on MINDEF contracts? Are their books open and is there any accountability? A larger budget could have been used on education or even creating more jobs for Singaporeans instead of supporting the "chiak liau bees". But then again, this is Singapore and we screw things up differently.

Singapore to have one of the highest defence budget in the world in 2009

Tuesday, 7 July 2009, 5:51 pm

Defence spending around the world (click to enlarge)

From Official Wire:

Singapore’s defence spending will amount to US$11.4bn or 6% of GDP in 2009. As a percentage of GDP, this amounts to one of the biggest defence budgets in recent history.

Singapore has consistently had one of the largest defence budgets in the Asia Pacific region. Given its small population base, Singapore has focused on maintaining its expenditure on sophisticated and superior weaponry. Singapore has consistently spent over 4% of GDP on its defence budget. However, the principal recent development affecting the future of Singapore’s defence spending is the recent rapid deterioration in economic conditions.

Singapore was the first Asian economy to slip into recession in the current global downturn, and will move deeper into recession in 2009.

According to advance estimates by the Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), Singapore’s GDP registered a dismal seasonally-adjusted annualised contraction of 12.5% quarter-on-quarter (q-o-q) in Q408 (its worst performance since at least 1980), due to a sharp fall in the services sector. On a year-on-year (y-o-y) basis, GDP contracted by 2.6%, implying that full-year growth for 2008 slowed to just 1.4% from 7.7% in 2007. The manufacturing sector contracted by 9.0% y-o-y in Q408, due largely to falling demand for electronic products in developed markets and a plunge in output for precision engineering.

Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean has announced that defence spending will amount to US$11.4bn or 6% of GDP in 2009. As a percentage of GDP, this amounts to one of the biggest defence budgets in recent history. The Defence Minister stressed the importance of maintaining military spending, noting that threats do not diminish but, rather, often emerge during testing economic times, owing to increased social and political frictions. He noted several factors that had enabled Singapore to build up its defence capability over time: careful spending, sourcing and upgrading second-hand equipment, an ongoing maintenance regime, and investment into research and development.

In February 2009, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) announced that they will participate in a US-led task force in the Gulf of Aden designed to target pirates operating in the Gulf and adjacent waterways.

Singapore will supply a landing ship tank, two helicopters and two-hundred personnel. Joining an international flotilla comprising some forty-five warships from Europe, China and Malaysia, the SAF deployment will help to escort vessels traversing the Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, Red Sea and the Gulf.

Singapore Defence and Security Report Q2 2009

Picture from: Singapore’s defence spending ranked 4th worldwide. Why?