Yesterday in Parliament (6 Jan), Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing sparred with WP MP Pritam Singh over the release of local employment data to the public. Pritam wanted to know the breakdown of local data into Singaporeans and PRs.

He told Chan, “If the Government’s approach is, ‘No we are not going to provide that data’, can the Minister please share that detail with us here. Because it’s pointless for us to keep asking for that data if the Government is not going to provide it.”

Chan replied, “I don’t think we have anything to hide. We have just shared the data.”

Pritam then asked, “If that is the case, then for (the increase of 60,000 in local employment between 2015 and 2018)… How many were for Singaporeans and how many went to PRs?”

Chan said, “We can get you the numbers. But let me say this: What is the point behind the question? First, has local unemployment increased with all these efforts?” He went on to say that local unemployment hasn’t increased and Singaporeans are getting good jobs with wages going up.

“I’m always very cautious about this constant divide — Singaporean versus PR,” Chan cautioned. “The insinuation seems to be that somehow Singaporeans are not benefiting.”

Chan continued, “I’ve just spent the last half an hour explaining and sharing with this House how we are working hard to make sure Singaporeans do so.”

“It’s not the data — it is the point of (Mr Singh’s) question. And I would like to remind this House: The ultimate competition is not pitting Singaporeans against the PRs, it is about the team Singapore comprising Singaporeans, the PRs and even the foreign workforce… competing to give Singaporeans the best chance possible.”

PTE Quek requires long-term rehabilitation and physiotherapy from SAF parachute training mishap

Meanwhile, while Chan talks about having Team Singapore comprising of PRs and foreigners too, full-time national service man PTE Joshua Quek Shou Jie, 21, remains in the Intensive Care Unit after sustaining a serious spinal injury during a SAF parachute training in Taiwan last month.

PTE Quek was on his fifth and final parachute jump carried out in the night as part of his basic airborne course when the static line – a cord that attaches the jumper’s parachute to the aircraft – swept across his neck, causing injuries to his neck. This happened as he was preparing to exit the plane.

Explaining to Parliament yesterday, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that the incident, termed “static line interference”, is a known risk for static-line parachute training and occurs when the line is too slack and interferes with the jumper’s exit from the plane. Ng was responding to another question by Pritam on the findings surrounding the SAF mishap that has befallen PTE Quek.

Ng said to date, the SAF has graduated about 27,000 basic airborne course trainees and conducts about 6,000 static line parachute jumps every year. To ensure that such interference does not occur, established drills and safety protocols are given in the training manuals and safety regulations for both the jumper and the jump-master.

“Preliminary findings suggest that the static line was not pulled taut as required and interfered with PTE Quek’s exit from the plane causing a neck injury,” Ng explained and said that investigations are underway.

A MRI scan revealed that PTE Quek had sustained a cervical spine injury. He immediately underwent surgery to relieve the pressure on his spine. He underwent a second surgery later to stabilise the spine. He currently remains in ICU in Taiwan.

Ng further disclosed that the injury had resulted in neurological deficits including weakness of PTE Quek’s upper and lower limbs. Even as PTE Quek experienced some partial recovery of motor functions since the second surgery, he will require continued long-term rehabilitation and physiotherapy.

“All of us, of course, wish PTE Quek a continuous and progressive recovery. Our prayers and hopes are with him and his family. Mindef and SAF will continue to extend our full support to PTE Quek and his family on his road to recovery,” Ng said.

All male Singaporeans mandated to serve NS

All male Singaporeans are mandated to serve their National Service without any choice. Younger male PRs, however, do have a choice to relinquish their PR so as to avoid National Service. Either that, some foreigners would wait till they are over 40 before applying for PR so as to avoid possible complications of being called up by MINDEF.

Foreigners, of course, has no such obligation at all. That is why many expats in Singapore would not even want to apply PR for their children even if one of the parents is a PR or new citizen.

Several years ago, TOC interviewed a foreigner who became a citizen in 2007. He revealed that only he in the family is a Singaporean. His wife and daughter are PRs but his son was on a student pass. He sent his children to study at the Global Indian International School.

When asked why he did not apply PR for his son also, he replied, “If he is a PR he will have to serve national service. Like I said, I will let him decide if he want to put his roots down in Singapore or go back to India when he turns 21.”

Foreign students are not penalized if they do not serve NS. Once they graduate, they can still apply for work pass to work in Singapore. Foreigners who relinquish their PRs to avoid NS will not be able to get work pass to work in Singapore later.


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