It would appear that yet another tragedy has occurred within the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). The latest victim in a seemingly senseless death is local actor Aloysius Pang (Pang). No doubt, an inquiry will be held and some form of official closure will occur. However, as the number of deaths mount, the spotlight is shining ever more brightly on the lapses within the SAF. It is imperative to point out that national service and reservice is not a choice. It is mandatory. With this in mind, the responsibility that the government has towards its men is all the more heightened. If you are making it compulsory for our men to undertake this “service”, then you need to ensure that there are no lapses at all.
In Pang’s case,The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has said that he will be accorded the honours of a military funeral. While that is all well and good, what use are military honours to a family who has lost a son or brother? It is but hollow comfort. They have lost their family to a state imposed duty not of their choice. Will there be a thorough inquiry which will also look into the roles played by the “seniors”? Or will one or two hapless individuals be carted out for “justice” for the same sad scenario to be replayed to some other family?
Earlier at a press conference, the senior commanders of the SAF have said that Pang had been crushed between the gun barrel of a howitzer and its cabin after be was ‘unable to get out of the way’ as the barrel was lowered. The real question is WHY – Why was Pang unable to get out of the way? Was it because he was prevented from getting out because of negligence or oversights in the standard operating procedures? Was he unable to get out because he didn’t see the gun barrel being lowered or because he was basically trapped? The SAF have a duty to be transparent and not simply gloss over what has caused the loss of a young life.
Sadly, deaths and mishaps in the SAF seem to be commonplace these days. Have things gotten worst? If so, why? Or, has it always been this way, just that we never knew? If so, we ought to thank social media and alternative news websites for reporting these incidences thereby putting pressure on the mainstream media to also report the same.
At this point, there are more questions than answers. Lots of people are upset and understandably so. We obey the law imposed by the government and send our sons, brothers and friends to national service. The government therefore OWES it to us to ensure that our sons, brothers and friends are safe. This cannot be an expected occurrence that is brushed away. Pang’s death and those before him are not regrettable incidences, they are UNACCEPTABLE occurrences.