Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen

Defence Minister suggests SAF soldiers stop training if conditions are unsafe – easier said than done?

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has put up his first Facebook post on 24 January on the death of Aloysius Pang.

Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Operationally Ready National Serviceman, Corporal First Class (National Service) [CFC (NS)] Pang Wei Chong, Aloysius perished on Wednesday (23 January) in New Zealand after sustaining serious injuries while carrying out repair works inside the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH), four days earlier.

The 28-year-old was hurt when the gun barrel was lowered, and was rushed to Waikato Hospital where he underwent a number of surgeries to treat his injuries. Sadly, the damage was too severe, and MINDEF announced his demise on Wednesday.

It appears that Pang was unable to to get out of the way as the gun barrel of a howitzer was lowered and suffered crush injuries due to it.

Defence Minister said the SAF is fully assisting the family, and a KC-135 aircraft from the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) has been sent to repatriate Pang’s body from New Zealand.

Ng, in his post, characterised the accident as a safety issue.

He wrote,”If any SAF soldier detects an unsafe practice, he should inform his commander or stop training to protect himself or his buddies. No one needs to fear any disciplinary action for doing right to protect lives during training.”

After reading Mr Ng’s statement, netizens claim that it is difficult to voice out anything to their commanders as they will be marked by them.

As such, Facebook user Kalebh Leong said that he was treated differently by his commanders and superiors when they learned that he was medically unwell to participate in his training. He further wrote that the system in SAF is heavily flawed  and he wondered “how many soldiers were pressurised into overworking themselves even though they might not be physically fir for the given task”.

Other netizens also agree that if they do voice out due their safety concerns, they will be marked by their superiors. This is why it will be difficult to report to their commanders, contrary to what Defence Minister suggested.