Tuesday, 26 September 2023

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NSFs and NSmen continue to die despite Ng’s assurance of “highest command attention” from SAF Chiefs

It was reported that Corporal First Class (CFC) Aloysius Pang Wei Chong passed away at Waikato Hospital in New Zealand yesterday (23 Jan).

Aloysius, an armament technician was said to be carrying out repair works inside a self-propelled howitzer last Sat (19 Jan) when the gun barrel was lowered, crushing him. He was with his unit undergoing reservist training at the Waiouru Training Area in New Zealand. Despite efforts to save him, he succumbed to his injuries and passed away yesterday.

According to MINDEF, an independent Committee of Inquiry (COI) will be convened to investigate the circumstances leading to the incident.

A member of Aloysius’ family wrote on his Instagram profile:

“Throughout the past few days in the hospital, it has been a difficult time for us. Every news that were brought upon us since his last op was devastating with little signs of hope on his recovery. We all broke down when the medical team spoke to us that his condition is worsening and we should be prepared for the worst. We’re going to lose a brother. And my parents are going to lose their precious son whom is only 28. Thus I seek everybody’s kind understanding that we are unable to comment further during these precarious time.”

Minister Ng: Average one NS training-related death per year in past 20 years

Deaths continue to mount despite assurance from Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen to “eliminate” them.

Last May, Minister Ng reiterated to Parliament MINDEF’s commitment to make sure training deaths within the SAF can be eliminated through “designing safety systems and enforcing them”. It’s a “difficult goal”, he acknowledged, but one they must reach because if not, another “precious son (is) lost to a family”.

External people are roped in to join the External Review Panel on SAF Safety (ERPSS) committee. The ERPSS consists of safety experts and professionals outside the SAF and helps MINDEF “scrutinise” SAF’s safety management system, he explained.

It reports periodically to the Defence Minister on the rigour of the system and presents recommendations to improve. Additionally, any COIs on training-related deaths will submit its full report to the ERPSS for “further questions, comments and views”, and the panel will provide a written public report on the COI findings, the minister said.

“With these multiple layers of safety and with experts within and outside assisting the SAF, we can move decisively to make zero training deaths the norm,” he added.

He also noted that over the last two decades (20 years), there has been one NS training-related death each year on average and, while admitting it is “difficult”, eliminating training deaths “must be done”.

“Chief of Defence Force and service chiefs have assured me that safety has always been, and will continue to, get their highest command attention to achieve zero fatalities,” Minister Ng said. “But we need every level to play their part, down to the individual commander and soldier to protect their own well-being and that of their men and their buddies.”

In any case, despite getting the “highest command attention” from SAF Chief of Defence Force and service chiefs, our people continue to die in SAF trainings with the latest casualty being CFC (NS) Aloysius Pang.


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