Singapore “cannot outsource our security and defence to anyone else”; SAF must “carry on training and fulfilling its operational duties”: PM Lee

The Singapore Armed Forces has a duty to continue “training and fulfilling its operational duties”, as the Republic “cannot outsource” its security and defence to “anyone else”, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

In a Facebook post on Friday (15 Feb), Mr Lee wrote that “a strong and professional SAF … with a comprehensive order of battle, and well-equipped, well-trained, and well-motivated soldiers” has been made possible with the support of Singaporeans.

“We must never gloss over shortcomings and failures. But neither should we forget the SAF’s progress and achievements, and its contributions to Singapore’s peace and security.

“So when something goes wrong, I hope you will see things in perspective,” he said.

Mr Lee added that as Prime Minister, he has ensured that the Ministry of Defence has “capable leaders”, and that the government will be held accountable for any accidents in training not only to the soldiers’ families, but also to “all our NSmen and the public too”.

“In war, we will have to put servicemen in harm’s way to defend the country; but in peacetime training, we owe it to our servicemen never to compromise their safety and endanger their lives.

“The recent SAF incidents have been very painful, because they cost precious lives. I know how heartbreaking this is to all of us, and especially the families.

“When it happens to a well known figure like Corporal (First Class) Aloysius Pang, the emotional impact is greater, and the loss is even harder to take.

“When a soldier dies, the SAF grieves deeply. His comrades understand how his family feels, because they feel the loss keenly too. But they try to put aside their emotions to take care of the bereaved family, and continue carrying out their SAF duties,” he said.

Mr Lee assured Singaporeans that greater safety measures, on top of further investigations, will be carried out in the wake of the NS training deaths in the recent years.

“The SAF has put enormous emphasis on training safety. It aims to achieve zero fatalities. After every incident, we make sure the injured get the best medical care.

Citing his own experience as a unit commander who was responsible “for my men’s training, safety, and welfare”, Mr Lee recalled that he “had to deal with training incidents, decide what needed to be fixed, whether anyone should be punished, what we must keep on doing and what we must stop”.

“I had to account to the bereaved families, and think hard how to keep servicemen safe while still fulfilling the SAF’s mission.”

Mr Lee added that “SAF will investigate the incident and identify its causes”.

“We will improve SAF processes and training, so that it does not happen again.

“We know zero fatalities is extremely hard to achieve. But we will strive for it, because every life is precious to us,” stressed Mr Lee.