According to news reports, five national servicemen have had police reports filed against them for allegedly sharing unauthorised photographs of an accident which occurred in a training exercise which resulted in the death of a fellow national serviceman on social media websites. While I understand the sensitivities of publicising photographs involving army apparatus, it is imperative to weigh the harm done in the publication of the photographs versus the issue of accountability.
Most readers would be aware that reports of military based incidents resulting in death have been on the rise this year and this appears to have continued despite the government issuing statements pledging otherwise. Would these incidents have received the same amount of coverage and public awareness if someone had not outed it in the first place?
It is of utmost importance to emphasise that national service in Singapore is not a choice. All able bodied young men who are Singaporean citizens or Permanent Residents are mandated to give two years of their life to the nation. As such, it is the responsibility of the government who make national service compulsory to look after the welfare of the national servicemen.
If there are incidents such as these where precious lives are lost, the government has to be accountable and transparent. No stone should be left unturned and any risk of any possible cover up must be eradicated. In this light, is the sharing of photographs of the accident on social media so reprehensible?
Could it be that the national servicemen involved in the sharing of these photographs felt duty bound to risk their own safety in order to create public awareness of what is happening because there are potential risks of cover ups? Lest we forget, the entire army is funded by public monies - with this fact in mind, it is the public's right to ask questions and to be kept aware.
Further, why is the sharing of these photographs illegal in the first place? The fact that Singapore possesses Bionix vehicles is not a secret. Secondly, the photographs did not depict any scenes that could be construed as disrespectful to the deceased. CFC Liu Kiu was not depicted in any of the pictures. In view of this, what is the damage caused by the sharing of the photographs?
If there is no damage caused by the sharing of the photographs, why then is it a crime?
Using the case of Pte Dominque Lee who died after the conducting officer threw in more smoke grenades than the Training Safety Regulations allowed, as an example. The family never got to see the detailed report of the commission of inquiry despite repeated requests to MINDEF. If not for the leaked photos, the family would not have known any better than the public of how the actual accident looked like.
By filing a police report, the Singapore Civil Defence Force is giving the impression that it has something to hide.