MINDEF’s culture of secrecy

While obviously I do not expect MINDEF to be open and transparent about its military strategy, doctrine and operational plans, I don’t see why they cannot be upfront about training accidents or incidents where soldiers are seriously injured. It’s bad enough that they took two months to report the first incident, but why couldn’t they report the second incident without being asked?

A letter to the Straits Times today as well as a post by Mr Wang reflect the indignation which I feel too, regarding the Ministry of Defence’s culture of secrecy revealed in the reports about the shootings of two servicemen during a military exercise in Thailand.

On 25 May, the Straits Times reported that commando 1SG Woo Teng Hai suffered head injuries after being shot with a shotgun by a Thai villager. The incident took place on 13 March–more than two months ago. A day later, the paper reported that in fact another serviceman had been shot, this time a full-time national serviceman, PTE J. Pritheery Raj. The news of this second incident would not have occurred if not for a relative of PTE Raj calling the paper after reading the first report. The paper noted that MINDEF “admitted yesterday that another soldier had also been hurt in the same incident”.
Mindef’s failure to admit that not one, but two Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers were shot in Thailand, until a relative of the second injured soldier approached The Straits Times, has demonstrated the ministry’s basic reluctance to tell the public the truth about military casualties.
The second case also was a matter of genuine public interest, especially since a full-time national serviceman was involved.
As citizen soldiers and taxpayers, we have a right to expect that Mindef will account for all military casualties – whether in training or actual operations -where there are no national security implications.

On 25 May, the Straits Times reported that commando 1SG Woo Teng Hai suffered head injuries and lost sight in one eye after being shot with a shotgun by a Thai villager. The incident took place on 13 March–more than two months ago. A day later, the paper reported that in fact another serviceman had also been shot, this time a full-time national serviceman, PTE J. Pritheery Raj. The news of this second incident would not have surfaced if not for a relative of PTE Raj calling the paper after reading the first report. The paper noted that MINDEF “admitted yesterday that another soldier had also been hurt in the same incident”.

Reservist Matthias Chew wrote in the Straits Times Forum:

“Mindef’s failure to admit that not one, but two Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) soldiers were shot in Thailand, until a relative of the second injured soldier approached The Straits Times, has demonstrated the ministry’s basic reluctance to tell the public the truth about military casualties.

The second case also was a matter of genuine public interest, especially since a full-time national serviceman was involved.

As citizen soldiers and taxpayers, we have a right to expect that Mindef will account for all military casualties – whether in training or actual operations -where there are no national security implications.”

While obviously I do not expect MINDEF to be open and transparent about its military strategy, doctrine and operational plans, I don’t see why they cannot be upfront about training accidents or incidents where soldiers are seriously injured. It’s bad enough that they took two months to report the first incident, but why couldn’t they report the second incident without being asked?

This raises several questions:

  • How many other soldiers were injured by the shotgun fired by the villager during that exercise?
  • Was it truly an accident? Why did the villager fire upon the commandos?
  • What is being done to prevent such incidents from occurring again?

I wish 1SG Woo and PTE Raj a speedy and complete recovery and I thank them for their sacrifice and service to our nation.

Get my latest updates. ‘Like’ my Facebook Page.

Technorati Tags: , ,

11 thoughts on “MINDEF’s culture of secrecy”

  1. I agreed that Mindef has to be absolutely responsible to the family members of the servicemen. I have noticed quite a number of soldiers photos on the ST obituary. It’s very serious issue!

  2. Damn it, everything in Singapore is CONFIDENTAL!

    The loses by Temasek and GIC are CONFIDENTIAL.

    Mindef N.S. men injuries and could be death are CONFIDENTIAL.

    Come on, let’s have some transparency.

  3. transparency???….come on they’re minDEAF..3G frog

    The “foreign talent” farmer should be invited to be citizen of SIN inc.

  4. Quite surprised that Mindef could have cocked up on this. They don’t have to say everything, just say something right at the start to balance transparency and a news embargo while inquiries are being conducted with the Thais.

  5. I am not surprised by the lack of transparency by Mindef. It is a bloated bureaucracy filled with paper pushers who would rather sweep under the carpet than face the reality that NS is increasingly becoming unpopular among male citizens.

    NS imposes obligations on male Singaporeans but relatively little economic rights. 2 years behind in employment or higher education versus female Singaporeans and PRs/Foreigners.

    Risk of being injured or dying during full time and even reservist NS service. My unit had one NSman collapse and die during IPPT during ICT 3-4 years back.

    If you weigh the trade-offs, economically it is a no brainer than male citizens lose out compared to their female cohorts, PRs and foreigners as they are burdened with the service requirements but the Safra, tax reliefs are a joke when compared to risking your life for the country.

    Majullahu Singapura.

  6. My comments aren’t directly related to this issue, coming so late here. I agree with Panzer on every point. NS hasn’t done me any good; all it’s done is leave me with bad memories & other problems which persist to this day. The fact is that Singapore is what I term a Women’s Country: As long as you’re female, fine. Being male puts you at a disadvantage, economically, socially, & psychologically. The country expects everything from you, but gives you nothing in return.

  7. I am really impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your blog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Anyway keep up the excellent quality writing, it’s rare to see a nice blog like this one these days..

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *