Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Modern NS Experience.

The Modern NS Experience.



The last couple of days, the big hooha making the facebook rounds is the picture of the NSF making his maid carry his fullpack for him.

As usual, there’s a big fuss on facebook and stomp carrying on and on about the end of civilization as we know it.

Everyone just need to calm the fuck down.

Look, its nothing to be proud of that’s for sure. But then again, I don’t think most NS men wear that uniform with pride anyway. Most people would just prefer not to do NS at all and if they had to do it, most would prefer to do the whole SAF thing which is “Serve.And.Fuckoff”.

And you can’t really blame the prevalent attitude these days because NS seems nothing more than an unfortunate burden reserved for the luckless males of singapore. Its NS for citizens, jobs for FTs. The SAF itself already don’t treat the average NS man with much respect, so it is not surprising that the NS man will not wear the uniform with much pride and self respect. Mess boy, carpark attendant, usher, I’ve done it all. And that is as a red beret wearing- supposedly elite soldier. Fuck, if a so-called member of a supposedly elite branch of the army can be treated in such a shameful manner, than I don’t see how wearing this uniform means much or if anything at all for the average grunt. For the soldier to treat the uniform with respect, he first have to be treated with respect. You treat the soldier like shit, the soldier will treat the uniform like shit.

Hell, just look at Janil Puthucheary- parachuted by PAP to represent singaporeans enjoying all the rights and privileges without ever serving a day of NS. If Janil is dead serious about serving singapore, why not donate the generous MP allowance to charity and collect the monthly paycheck of a chow recruit- that is if he ever gets elected.

Anyway, I digress.

For people who thinks this is embarrassing, for a soldier, how is this any more embarrassing than any one of the majors or colonels that makes their runner carry their shit for them whenever they go on exercise. If a an NS man carry a major’s fullpack, than a maid carry an NS man’s fullpack. If anything, a maid may make more money as a maid than what a private will make as a grunt in the infantry. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander I’d say.

Fact is, I have personally witness a major strutting around the jungle like a king with his runner carrying his field chair behind him. And whenever the major stopped, the runner had to unfold the field chair so that major can rest his precious golden backside without ever touching the muddy jungle floor. Picture this in your mind if you will- how is this anymore embarrassing than the picture above.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Male Citizens Can Aspire to Political Office Without NS

New Male Citizens Can Aspire to Political Office Without NS


The first official batch of PAP candidates to be unveiled included Dr. Janil Puthucheary which became a citizen in 2008. According to media reports, he settled in Singapore in 2001, presumably got his PR sometime between 2001 and 2008 before being sworn in as a newly minted Singapore citizen.

This is not new, the Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan is also a ex-Malaysian who became a Singapore citizen and is now in the cabinet.

It is interesting to note that in Singapore, it appears not to be a liability to standing for political office if you have not served your country in the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force or the Singapore Civil Defence Force as many of us born and bred Singaporean male citizens have.

In the US, previous President George W Bush was in the National Guard. President John F Kennedy served in a patrol boat in Vietnam and Senator McCain who was the Republican nominee for the US Presidential elections in 2008. US politicians who have served their countries military typically have in their campaign publicity materials trumpeting this fact as evidence of their record in serving the country.

We currently have many ex-SAF generals/admirals in the likes of Foreign Minster George Yeo, DPM Teo Chee Hean etc.

Only in Singapore do we have aspiring politicians who gun for public office not worrying too much that they have never served their country under its mandatory conscription policy. In US, many who volunteer to serve in the US military do so in order to obtain citizenship. Over here, you can aspire for political office under the auspices of the PAP even if your citizenship tenure is shorter than the average 10 years served in reservist plus 2 to 2.5 years in full-time national service by most Singaporean male citizens.

Majullah Singapura.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

ICT make-up pay: Part-time workers shortchanged?

Source: Cyberpioneer

Full-time workers who are called up for In-camp training get their full make-up pay, including the employer’s CPF contribution of 15.5 per cent.

However, I have seen part-time workers who do not get the employer’s CPF contribution, in their make-up pay.

Discrimination against part-time workers?

Why is there a difference for full-time and part-time workers?

Why are part-time workers short-changed, when they do their In-camp training?

According to the Ministry of Manpower’s (MOM) labour reports, the definition of a part-time worker, is one who works for less than 35 hours in a week.

Some workers who are working part-time may be doing so not by choice, but because they can’t get a full-time job.

Also, of the 176,700 part-time workers, according to the latest MOM data, many may be
lower-income workers, as their median wage is only $700.

No CPF make-up pay – how to pay mortgage?

By depriving them of their employer’s CPF contribution of 15.5 per cent, the outcome may be more financial stress as they may direly need their CPF to pay for their monthly home mortgage repayments.

I would like to suggest that the Ministry of Defence and MOM look into this discrimination against part-time workers, when they serve the nation as National Servicemen.

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Friday, March 4, 2011

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others

I read the news report on the Straits Times that the Second Minister for Defence says that there's, "no operational needs to justify drafting women for National Service".

The Minister was further reported by the Straits Times, "Dr Ng also said national service is based on the three fundamental principles: National security and survival, universality and equity. And to impose conscription unnecessarily on a large segment of the population would dilute its purpose."

I am amazed at how the Minister can claim mandatory conscription as being equal and universal when it only applies to male citizens and second generation male permanent residents (PR)? Female citizens and permanent residents as well as first generation male permanent residents are not subject to national service. Can we say something is equal when it is not applied universally regardless of sex and to some extent, nationality or residency status?

Mind you, national service is MANDATORY for male citizens and 2nd generation male PRs. There is no such thing as conscientious objection and serving in another capacity. If you do that you will be charged under the Enlistment Act and jailed for three years using Jehovah Witnesses' detainees in Kranji Detention Barracks as the "market" for the penalties for not complying with the Enlistment Act.

What universality are we talking about in a system that forcibly conscripts 18 to 20 year olds male citizens (and 2nd generation male PRs) into service into the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Singapore Police Force?

What equality are we talking about when male citizens have to go through 2 years (previously up to 2.5 years) of full-time national service followed by 10 year (previous 13 years) reservist obligations that requires one to:

  1. Take and pass annual individual physical proficiency tests (or be subject to remedial training regime) and also risk dying from running the 2.4 km (a soldier from my reservist unit died during in-camp IPPT).
  2. Be away from work or business ranging from 2 days to 3 weeks for annual in-camp training which does not help your career or business when competing against foreigners who compete with you for your job.
  3. Join the workforce or go for further studies in the university two years later than your female peers and foreign peers.
  4. Report to Mindef Notification Centre every time you leave Singapore for more than 24 hours.
  5. Subject to annual operations manning and have half to three-quarters of a weekend burned to report for mobilisation exercises.
  6. Waste 2-2.5 years in national service doing fatigue (i.e. odd jobs) in the camp such as area cleaning, weeding, cleaning drains, manholes, washing staircases, cleaning the cookhouse in between training exercises and actual soldiering.
Let's call a spade a spade. Conscription is forced upon male citizens and 2nd generation male PRs. It sucks but many of us male citizens have fulfilled our obligations to duty, honour and country. I personally have served my full 2.5 years in operational combat units plus 10 years in a reservist battalion that did two tours of operational duties. I never deferred any of my annual ICT training (even when they changed the dates giving us less than the required 3-6 months notice) and cleared all my IPPT obligations.

There is no EQUALITY and UNIVERSALITY to speak of in NS. It only applies to some extent within those of us who are male citizens and 2nd generation PRs. And this group is closer to 25-30% of the population given that only 60+% are citizens and half are male. Effectively, only 1 in 3 serve for protect the rest of Singapore.

That is why many NSmen are asking the fundamental question that has been festering in our minds since our first reservist ICT to the last before we were transferred to Mindef Reserve.

What are we fighting for?

What equality does the Minister speak of in a system where the rights and responsibilities are skewed AGAINST the male citizen. We bear the brunt of national service obligations and duty but are not granted any really significant privileges. The recent election budget only doles out an additional $100 for the Growth Dividends. Do you think it is worth risking your life for the system that doles out that little $100 extra (during election years)? When the reality in the workplace is that 1st generation PR or foreigner on employment pass is competing in your face without any of the obligations of national service to take him away from the job for 2 days-3 weeks? (Update: I note that the Government will give $9,000 to NSFs and NSmen depending on their NS cycle but this only applies to those who have not finished their operationally-ready national service cycle. Those of us "old" NSmen who are in Mindef Reserve or demobilised are not entitled to this CPF top-up of $9,000).

Let's ask the families of those NSFs/NSmen who died in their service to duty, honour and country. Would they think NS in its current form is based on equality and universality?

Majullah Singapura.

Source: The Straits Times (3 March 2011)

NS for women? No need, says minister

Second Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said there were no operational needs to justify drafting women for National Service.

THE Singapore Armed Forces will not draft women for national service because there are no operational needs to justify doing so, said Second Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen yesterday.

Dr Ng also said national service is based on the three fundamental principles: National security and survival, universality and equity. And to impose conscription unnecessarily on a large segment of the population would dilute its purpose.

'From time to time, there have been calls to extend NS beyond this remit, to fulfil social objectives or otherwise. While these objectives are laudable, we must not dilute the restriction of NS only to critical needs of national security and survival, and base it on the three fundamental principles.

'At present, there are no operational needs that justify imposing upon women to serve NS,' he said.

Dr Ng was responding to Nominated MP Viswa Sadasivan's call to let women volunteer for NS. Mr Viswa described such a move as a 'meaningful gesture' that would 'send a potent signal'.

'The numbers may not be large, but I am confident we have a critical mass of Singaporeans who will step forward,' he said during the debate on the budget of the Defence Ministry.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Indefensible costs of military one-upmanship

Indefensible costs of military one-upmanship

I was recently surprised to learn that Singapore has 72,500 troops on active duty and plans to double the number of “combat-ready aircraft” to more than 200. It also plans to have 10 more submarines to add to the four it has today. Or so the Wall Street
Journal reported (“Asia’s New Arms Race,” Feb. 12-13).

In fact, Singapore has “one of Asia’s most modern armed forces,” according to a U.S. military site proudly announcing the country’s purchase of 12 more F-15 fighter jets for $1 billion (October 2007).

The island nation is smaller than New York City (90 percent in land and 60 percent in population). Yet its annual military expenditure of $9 billion is 3.4 times as large as that of Vietnam (population 18 times as big) and 70 percent larger than that of Indonesia (population 50 times bigger).

All this was a surprise to me, because the proud and prosperous Lion City strikes me as eminently indefensible in any serious military confrontation. I do not have to bring up the Japanese Army overrunning the British Empire’s “impregnable fortress in the Far East” in six days, back in early 1942, with a troop size less than half that of the defenders. Imagine New York City as an independent nation having to defend itself from surrounding enemies.

I do not mean to advance any argument on geopolitics or regional military strategy. It’s simply that when the WSJ article came out, I had just read Andrew Bacevich’s essay, “The Tyranny of Defense Inc.” (The Atlantic, Jan/Feb 2011). I was also thinking about Yukio Mishima’s novel “Silk and Insight” that I translated a dozen years ago.

Bacevich, a retired army colonel who teaches international relations at Boston University, for some years now has been highly critical of U.S. foreign policy, especially in the military field, writing books such as “The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism?” (2008) and “America’s Path to Permanent War?”(2010), to name only the latest two.

In the Atlantic article, he revisits President Dwight Eisenhower and his warnings on the military running amok “in the councils of government.” It is of course his famous farewell speech, in which he said, “we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

But Bacevich also discusses Eisenhower’s speech eight years earlier, the one he gave soon after he became president. The speech, before the American Society of Newspaper Editors, shows the military commander’s thinking did not change over the years. It is particularly notable for the concrete examples illustrating the high costs of military

“The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities,” Eisenhower said. “It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some 50 miles of concrete highway. We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.”

Direct cost comparisons between six decades ago and today may be difficult to make, but let me try.

Each B-2 “Stealth Bomber” costs $1.01 billion. The “flyaway cost” — the whole cost minus research and development — of each F-35, the product of “the most expensive arms program” of the U.S. ever and for now the source of congressional hubbub, is somewhere between $89 million to $200 million.

The CIA’s World Factbook puts the 2010 U.S. per capita income at $47,400. This means a total of 21,300 people — men, women, children — must work one whole year to produce a single B-2, and that 1,900 to 4,200 people must work just as long to produce a single F-35. Japan, whose per capita income is way below that of Singapore, plans to buy 100 F-35s.

The biggest issue in education in New York City now is Mayor Bloomberg’s threat to “eliminate” 6,000 teaching jobs because of a budget shortfall. These teachers are new hires, so suppose their average salary is $30,000. The elimination of a single F-35 at the higher cost estimate should make the firing of those 6,000 teachers unnecessary.

St. Vincent’s, the most valuable hospital in my neighborhood, shut down last year because of a monthly deficit of $7 million to $10 million, according to the New York Times. To maintain a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan just one year costs “a cool one million dollars,” Bacevich puts it. The U.S. now has 100,000 troops, at the monthly cost
of $8.4 billion.

The main purpose of the U.S. invasion and destruction of Afghanistan is now obscure, but if it is to force its own idea of government on it, it goes against Eisenhower’s observation: “Any nation’s attempt to dictate to other nations their form of government is indefensible.”

As for Yukio Mishima’s 1964 novel “Silk and Insight,” it was based on Japan’s “first human rights strike” at a textile manufacturer 10 years earlier, in 1954. Mishima does not seem to have explained it, but the puzzling title he gave to the novel harked back to the phrase “silk and warships” that dated from the Russo-Japanese War.

For decades before Japan attacked Pearl Harbor, silk was Japan’s principal export product, so it was silk that enabled the country to buy and build warships, hence the phrase. But the Yamato, the greatest battleship Japan ever built, and its twin, the Musashi, were both sunk ignominiously before engaging in any worthy battle. Of the two, the Yamato was sunk in the country’s biggest and, yes, “stupidest,” suicide sortie.

What was the cost of building the Yamato? As I have remembered it since my junior high school days, the same amount would have enabled Japan to electrify its entire railway system at the time, in 1940.

Has any of the expensive weapons systems, many of which Japan has been buying from the U.S. since it was coerced into rearmament despite the “no-war clause” of “the MacArthur Constitution,” served any real purpose in defending the country? I don’t know.

I do know that F-86s were used for years to slaughter Steller sea lions. They ate too many fish near the Japanese coast. Partly as a result of that operation perhaps, their number has dropped from 20,000 in the 1960s to 5,000 today.


by Hiroaki Sato

* This article first appeared on The Japan Times: Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011