What Kallang Leisure Mall (KLM) did to keep soldiers out is no different from the intolerance and extremism which our country has been guarding against. I should begin by first stating that there is no moral equivalency between what KLM did and other intolerant and extremist acts committed around the world.
Generations of soldiers have served, some for a full three years and others for two. Most fulfill their liability in the next 10 to 15 years. On nights where Singaporeans sleep soundly, soldiers are out conducting operations or doing patrol duties. So goes the famous quote: “We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.” Fundamentally, the connection between their service and our nation’s prosperity and peace has to be established and acknowledged. If disaster were analogous to a thunderstorm, our army has provided a reliable shelter for our country.
The depth and result of their sacrifices might not be understood fully on intellectual and emotional levels – but surely, are they not credible or deserving of some form of recognition? Nonetheless, what angers me even more is that when contacted, the mall justified themselves, citing a minor inconvenience as a perfectly excusable reason for excluding what I have already argued is essentially an important reason (even if indirect one) for their existence.
That the management could make that decision because soldiers were drenched and caused the floors to be wet is not only a completely careless disregard for their sacrifices: it is intolerance. It is essentially saying: Get out, you are drenched even though you didn’t choose to be, and although we acknowledge that we can be a shelter for you, we don’t want to”.
Why? “Because we can”.
By such arguments, should not our country similarly ostracize the elderly because “they might be clumsy and spill water”, or ban babies because “they might not be able to control themselves”, or remove dogs because “they might not be trained”? This is intolerance at its most extreme level.
Our state gives out social assistance; our corporations support social causes; our individual citizens volunteer their time and effort. Our country has always believed in helping those in need, and rightly so – what more for our servicemen and servicewomen who have contributed to this country in many ways, both tangibly and intangibly. This atrocity is exacerbated by refusing entry to ALL soldiers, not simply drenched ones. This is extremism at its most intolerant level.
When contacted, the mall responded: “”We have nothing against the army boys… we just do not want to bear any liabilities if other customers slip and fall” It is a shame, a woe to this country that such intolerance and extremism exists and has arisen from such self-centeredness. It all boils down to this: We have decided to exclude our soldiers, even if verbally we shall deny that, because their existence inconveniences US, and could cause US to lose face and be liable.
That is selfishness gloriously paraded to the media. No one in the management had the right frame of mind to walk the ground, help to clean it up, or engage the soldiers to play a part. None of them considered the alternative where cleaners could be consulted for solutions.
You see, intolerance and extremism solves the problem cleanly. It eradicates it entirely. Because to KLM, the soldiers are the problem.
After 50 years, I am deeply disappointed that such an intolerant and extreme act has taken place, and even shamefully justified by the management. Unless something is done, at the very least a sincere apology using an open letter, National Service as an institution will gradually lose not only the support of society, but of soldiers serving as well.
“Have you ever wondered,
why must we serve?”
Why? We only get steamrolled and excluded by the very people we give up so much for.