Military is no place for foreigners

I am of the view that non-Singaporeans should be prohibited from being members of our security services, especially the military.

Today’s newspapers were flush with stories of foreigners who are serving in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). The Straits Times highlighted some Russians, Chinese and Indian nationals, as well as Malaysians, who are serving in various leadership capacities in the SAF.

This uniquely Singaporean quirk has come about because our law requires children of first generation permanent residents (i.e., second generation PRs) to serve their National Service (NS) or forfeit their PR status. With the influx of foreigners into Singapore over the past 10 years and the liberal way in which PR status is dispensed to so many foreigners, it is inevitable that we are seeing many more foreigners donning camouflage green uniforms these days.

I feel that non-Singaporeans should be prohibited from being members of our security services, especially the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). I know I am treading on sensitive ground by saying this, especially in the context of the debate between the privileges and obligations of citizens and foreigners in Singapore.

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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?”.

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In support of humanitarian missions

As the most developed country in Southeast Asia, with the most technologically advanced and best trained military, I see it as our responsibility to make these contributions to our neighbours in times of need.

I congratulate and honour the teams from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), Mercy Relief and SingHealth institutions who undertook missions to West Sumatra to assist with relief work following the devastating earthquakes there.

There were 80 personnel from the SAF, 42 from the SCDF and seven from Mercy Relief and SingHealth sent in separate missions over the past few weeks.

I strongly support humanitarian missions undertaken by our military and civil defence forces. They not only provide essential logistics, medical and organisational assistance to the victims on the ground, but also serve to cultivate better relations with the Indonesian military, which could prove to be invaluable in future. In addition, they also provide our men and women in green with some much needed operational experience.

Given the fact that we live in a disaster-prone neighbourhood, I hope to see the SAF and SCDF continue to build up their capabilities and readiness to take on more such missions in future. As the most developed country in Southeast Asia, with the most technologically advanced and best trained military, I see it as our responsibility to make these contributions to our neighbours in times of need.

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Malays deserve equal opportunities in the SAF

I was glad to learn that Colonel Ishak bin Ismail will be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General come 1st July. As Commander of the 6th Division since last August — division commanders in Singapore are usually BGs — his promotion was unsurprising.

What makes his achievement so significant is the fact that he became a BG despite having two “strikes” against him: He is Malay in the Singapore army, and he is not a government scholar. Although I have never served under him, I am confident that the SAF would not place a man in command of one of our three Combined Arms Divisions just for the sake of political tokenism.

Nevertheless, Singaporeans should not be lulled into thinking that full meritocracy has arrived in the SAF. There are still many “sensitive” units that have recently naturalised citizens but not a single Malay in their ranks.

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