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(Unpublished - Sep 22, 2009)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