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”. Continue reading “MINDEF’s culture of secrecy”

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Training real “thinking soldiers”

The SAF’s idea for current affairs discussions between commanders and soldiers is something along the lines of what I suggested three years ago in an article written for Singapore Angle (reproduced on my blog) titled “Israel’s unprepared reservists: Could the thing happen to Singapore?”.

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has planned a revamp of the Basic Military Training (BMT) programme. Apart from adjusting the length of BMT for several categories of less-fit recruits, the revamped BMT will also “teach military customs and traditions, and will set aside time for commanders and soldiers to discuss current affairs”.

According to TODAY, for the past two to three years, recruits have been encouraged to keep journals on their training and urged to write letters to their loved ones during “mail runs” on field training. This is part of the SAF’s efforts to engage the troops “intellectually and emotionally”, according to Chief of Army, Maj-Gen Neo Kian Hong.

MG Neo said that “rather than just teaching them, we are also telling them the reason behind it.”

The idea for current affairs discussions between commanders and soldiers is something along the lines of what I suggested three years ago in an article written for Singapore Angle (reproduced on my blog) titled “Israel’s unprepared reservists: Could the thing happen to Singapore?”.

Continue reading “Training real “thinking soldiers””

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