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SDP: Section 14 of the Govt Proceedings Act must go

The Singapore Democratic Party (SDP), in its latest statement penned by its Secretary-General, Dr Chee Soon Juan, calls upon the Singapore Government to remove Section 14 of the Government Proceedings Act (GPA).

The party states that this law unfairly protects the government from being held accountable and "makes no moral sense".

The press statement by SDP in full

After having met with Dominique Lee's mother at her request, the SDP is of the view that the case must be reviewed particularly in regards to the Government Proceedings Act (GPA).

According to media reports, the High Court ruled against Dominique's family, citing Section 14 of the Act that “Nothing done or omitted to be done by a member of the forces while on duty as such shall subject either him or the Government to liability in tort for causing the death of another person, or for causing personal injury to another person, in so far as the death or personal injury is due to anything suffered by that other person while he is a member of the forces...”

The law makes no moral sense. It unfairly protects the government from being held accountable. When the State requires citizens to perform a duty, it cannot declare itself to be free of responsibility and accountability especially when those citizens' are harmed as a result of its, or its officers', negligence. This creates moral hazard.

In Dominique's case, the family is seeking moral restitution. The government, not just the Singapore Armed Forces, has a duty to honour the sacrifice that the soldier has made and assuage the pain that his family has had to endure.

It is inexcusable for the PAP government to hide behind Section 14 of the GPA and absolve itself from its responsibilities over the incident.

Now that this law has come to the public's attention, which parent would not be nervous about entrusting their sons to the Ministry of Defence knowing that if an incident similar to the one that robbed Dominique from his family were to occur, the PAP would invoke the GPA and not take responsibility? Which NS man will not feel aggrieved that the government is taking such an unjustified stance when he is called to risk his life in defence of this nation? What does this law do to the morale of our troops and, by extension, how will it jeopardise the national security of our country?

We. the citizens of Singapore, will defend our nation and, if need be, give our lives to protect it. But when we do, we would like to know that our government is there with us. And when our lives are taken, we want our government to shed that silent, compassionate tear and to comfort our loved ones and tell them that we did not die in vain.

But it is beyond demoralising when we see this Government take cover behind a law that it crafted to say that it cannot be held accountable if and when we are killed in the line of military duty.

We all know that in this imperfect world mistakes are made. Failures and accidents in the military are a fact of life. Singaporeans are not unreasonable to expect that the Government do everything perfectly.

But when things go wrong, we expect our leaders to – unprompted and without reluctance – step forward and take responsibility. They need to be forthright and transparent with their handling of the aftermath and dedicate themselves to ensuring that the incident does not happen again. In other words, to be accountable.

Dominique's family cannot get him back no matter what it says and does. His mother has live to with her pain for the rest of her life like only a mother will. Is sorry such a hard word for the PAP to say to her?

For the sake of the nation, Section 14 of the GPA must go. A government that cannot feel compassion for its people cannot make good laws for good laws come from a caring heart, not just a calculative head. The least that our brave and loyal young men deserve is the highest standards of accountability from the government. Section 14 diminishes that accountability.

Chee Soon Juan
Secretary-General
Singapore Democratic Party