The recent death of yet another serviceman, Aloysius Pang, has riled the public with many questioning whether Singapore Armed Forces is taking safety seriously in its trainings.
Many Singaporeans have taken to social media to vent their anger against SAF and the government.
Finally, after more than 3 weeks Aloysius Pang has passed away, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong made a public comment through his Facebook page, addressing the public anger.
In a Facebook post yesterday (15 Feb), PM Lee assured that he and SAF leadership do take safety “with utmost seriousness”.
“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,” he said.
He also said that SAF cannot outsource Singapore’s security to anyone else.
“The SAF has to carry on training and fulfilling its operational duties. We cannot outsource our security and defence to anyone else; we have to defend Singapore ourselves,” he said.
“I thank Singaporeans for supporting the SAF and national service,” he added.
Outsourcing security to Nepalese troops
Other than SAF, Singaporeans also serve in the Singapore Police Force (SPF) as part of their national service requirements. For those servicemen who served in the SPF, their duty would be to maintain law and order as well as the domestic security of Singapore.
It is interesting to note that the Singapore government does outsource some of the domestic security work to Nepalese troops, who are currently helping to maintain law and order in Singapore.
Under the SPF, a Gurkha Contingent (GC) was formed consisting of troops from Nepal. The principal role of the contingent is to be a “special guard force”. Historically, they were part of the British forces and were retained since colonial times to enforce security.
They were especially useful to help maintain law and order in Singapore during the turbulent 50s and 60s, like quelling the Maria Hertogh riots, the Hock Lee Bus riots, the 1964 racial riots and Konfrontasi which involved rooting out saboteurs from Indonesia.
In his memoirs, “From Third World To First“, former PM Lee Kuan Yew recounted the use of the Gurkhas as an impartial force at the time when Singapore had just gained independence. He wrote:
“When I returned to Oxley Road, Gurkha policemen were posted as sentries. To have either Chinese policemen shooting Malays or Malay policemen shooting Chinese would have caused widespread repercussions. The Gurkhas, on the other hand, were neutral, besides having a reputation for total discipline and loyalty.”
In other words, Lee Kuan Yew trusted the Gurkhas more than the Chinese or Malay policemen, at the time.
And now, after more than half a century of independence, the PAP government continues to outsource our security to Nepalese troops, instead of trusting to use our very own Singaporean servicemen and regulars 100% for the job.
It’s not known when our SPF would be able to “wean” itself off the foreign troops completely.