Thursday, September 3, 2015

Cut Singapore's defence budget?

Seven years after the essay below was penned, the fundamentals that underpin Singapore's stability, growth and prosperity remain unchanged.

We can chart our own destiny - progressive, retrogressive or destructive, whichever way you really fancy - because the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) buys us the time and space that allows Singaporeans to decide our own course(s) of action. 

Think things through carefully.




A strong and silent keeper of the peace
Tue, Jul 01, 2008
The Straits Times

EVEN as the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) marks SAF Day this evening with a parade, a sizeable number of military personnel will remain on guard - the vigilant lions protecting the Lion City.
David Boey

EVEN as the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) marks SAF Day this evening with a parade, a sizeable number of military personnel will remain on guard - the vigilant lions protecting the Lion City.

But many Singaporeans may be unaware of this, believing all's well. Apart from the threat transnational terrorists pose, the lack of a clear and present danger from a hostile nation might seduce them into viewing the world through rose-tinted glasses. Such naivety would not only be wrong, it 
would also be dangerous.

During a study visit I made to Malaysia last year, a senior Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) officer shared with me an episode in Singapore-Malaysia relations that he said occurred during a period of tension.

According to the officer, the MAF was put on alert in late 1998 as politicians on both sides of the Causeway argued over the status of the Customs, Immigration and Quarantine (CIQ) checkpoint at Malaysia's railway station in Tanjong Pagar.

News articles from the period chronicle the public exchanges, but say nothing of the defence postures that the SAF and MAF adopted during this period.

Kuala Lumpur's unwillingness to acknowledge its heightened military preparedness - which military officials on both sides privately acknowledge did occur - was an astute move.

It indicated a tacit acknowledgement on the part of Malaysia's defence officials that they could not allow the CIQ issue to flare into a casus belli. The full force potential of the SAF when mobilised renders it a formidable opponent.

There were other telling signs that bilateral ties were not well during that period. These included Singapore's decision to conduct two open mobilisation exercises in September and October 1998. Records indicate that the SAF rarely calls up its manpower in successive months.

It should be noted that such open mobilisation exercises - overt call-ups of defence manpower broadcast over television, radio and in cinemas - are probably complemented by silent mobilisations. 

Few beyond Singapore's defence establishment would be aware of this.

The CIQ episode resembles an earlier episode in Singapore-Malaysia relations when military power was flexed in a show of force, apparently to intimidate the tiny island nation.

Operationally Ready National Servicemen who served in 1991 would recall the joint Malaysian-Indonesian military exercise, codenamed Malindo Darsasa 3AB, that occurred that year. It involved an airborne assault by paratroopers in southern Johor.

If the name of the airborne assault, codenamed Pukul Habis (Malay for 'Total Wipeout'), as well as the choice of a drop zone just 18km from Singapore, were not sufficiently provocative, the scheduling of the airdrop on Aug 9th - Singapore's 26th National Day - most certainly was.

The SAF's response was measured and confident. It triggered an Open Mobilisation on the eve of National Day, a fact that was reported extensively in the local media.

The move was calculated not to escalate tensions. But it signalled also Singapore's determination not to welcome a Trojan horse on its doorstep.

Such episodes cannot be kept secret from NSmen, of course. But because they were deliberately kept low key, many Singaporeans were probably unaware of the full picture. Consequently, they may have failed to see the relevance of a strong military.

Singapore has warm and friendly ties with its neighbours. It will often go the extra mile to keep things on an even keel with them. But Singaporeans should understand and accept that there are always undercurrents in bilateral relations.

Those who wonder about the relevance of the SAF should ponder how these past episodes might have panned out if Singapore had yielded to military pressure.

A strong and vigilant SAF is Singapore's hedge against trouble. Singapore's formidable military arsenal - and, more crucially, the fighting spirit of its citizen soldiers - are guarantors of peace.
The writer is this newspaper's former defence correspondent.


Dare we let down our guard?

By David Boey
For the Straits Times
Feb 2009
Defence Spending
When Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel are called upon to defend their country, there would be few - if any - Singaporeans who would question the relevance of Singapore's military strength.

But the SAF's readiness and the commitment of its soldiers, sailors and airmen should not be taken for granted. The combat capabilities currently deployed took years of steady investments to raise, train and sustain.
Consider the Commando Special Operations Force (SOF) that stormed Singapore Airlines flight SQ117 at Changi Airport on March 26, 1991 and saved 123 passengers and crew. Four Pakistani hijackers had threatened to kill one hostage every 10 minutes unless their demands were met. They gave the Singapore authorities five minutes to decide what to do. Three minutes into the countdown, the SOF settled the issue by killing all four hijackers.
The operation, codenamed Thunderbolt, marked the first time the SAF resolved a hijacking with deadly force. The operation also marked the first occasion when an SAF unit was deployed for operations even before its existence was publicly acknowledged. The veil of secrecy over the SOF was lifted only on Feb 20, 1997, nearly six years after the SQ117 rescue and some 13 years after the SOF was formed in April 1984.
Among the Singapore Army's fighters, SOF troopers are probably the most expensive soldiers to train, organise, equip and support. Yet the Ministry of Defence argued that they were a necessary investment.
A year after the elite unit was formed in 1984, independent Singapore endured its first economic recession. But the unit's development continued unabated, nevertheless. Had Mindef opted for was financially expedient rather than what was operationally prudent, the SQ117 rescue - executed years later - might have had a very different outcome.
Two operations flown by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) further demonstrate how defence capabilities can be called upon decades after they were first established.
The RSAF set up 122 Squadron to fly C-130 Hercules medium-lift tactical airlifters in 1977. The squadron's years of experience in flight operations, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief flights around the region, paid off in October 1990 during Operation Nightingale, when two C-130s flew medical supplies to Jordan. Iraq had invaded Kuwait that August and 122 Squadron was tasked to deliver 23 tonnes of medical supplies to the United Nations Disaster Relief Organisation in Jordan.
The second operation occurred in July 1997, when 122 Squadron evacuated more than 400 Singaporeans from Phnom Penh when the security situation in the Cambodian capital deteriorated. Two waves of air evacuations were carried out during Operation Crimson Angel using C-130s protected by commandos.
As these examples show, it may take decades for people to appreciate the value of defence investments. However, the lack fo such investment can become apparent in a much shorter tie. This is because hostile elements can be quick to exploit gaps or shortcomings in Singapore's defences.
Take the piracy problem which plagued Singapore's defence planners in the 1980s. Attacks by sea raiders at places like East Coast Park, West Coast Park and Tuas made the headlines in the 1980s, showing that sea robbers had found loopholes in Singapore's seaward defences. Singapore paid the price for an ill-defined maritime strategy.
The situation today is markedly different. Round-the-clock surveillance of Singapore's territorial waters by naval patrols ans sensors like radars, air surveillance by shore-based Fokker 50 maritime patrol aircraft and cooperation with regional navies send a signal of Singapore's determination to safeguard its shores. But attacks recorded in nearby sea lanes prove that pirates continue to prowl regional seas. Strip away the assets of the Republic of Singapore Navy and the sea robbers will surely return to our shores. Dare we take that chance?

A balanced budget
The operations cited above do not mean that Mindef should command an unlimited budget. Neither should one expect our nation's elected representatives to be mute witnesses to the SAF's transformation into a 3rd Generation fighting force.
Questions on financial stewardship will ensure that Singapore gets the maximum bang for every defence dollar that is spent. Defence planners should indeed explain how the 6 per cent of GDP that Mindef spends is spent wisely.
However, it is important to ensure that long-term defence capabiities are protected, no matter what the short-term economic conditions. Capability erosion could easily come about through cyclical variations in defence spending.
One must appreciate that combat capabilities for the SAF's land, sea and air units take years to attain full battle readiness from the time new hardware is introduced. Indecisive defence funding would onot only send a weak deterrent message, it could also hamper Singapore's defence posture through less realistic training or less capable defence equipment
******
The writer was Straits Times defence correspondent.

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

A Message from Malaysia's Prime Minister

Moving Forward In A Spirit Of Mutual Benefit

By Najib Razak
Fifty years ago today, Singapore became an independent state. As a 12-year-old, I was aware of the significance of Malaysia gaining a new neighbour and of our two countries settling our boundaries – both to continue independently on the adventure of independence, with all the opportunities and perils that developing nations faced in the 1960s.

Of course, we had a special interest in Singapore; history and geography bound us together. We have a Malay proverb for it: Sedangkan lidah lagi tergigit, or We are like tongue and teeth.

In other words, we were destined to be conjoined and need to cooperate, not compete.

Over the decades, we observed Singapore’s progress. And we too mourned the passing of Mr Lee Kuan Yew in March February (Edited: Source error). His vision underpinned Singapore’s advances, and he was admired by friends and critics alike. South-east Asia lost a statesman when he died. His presence is missed during landmark celebrations, but his legacy is secure – it is the Singapore of today.

Malaysia and Singapore have had differences, but we have always achieved the most when we have worked pragmatically together – and we have much to be proud of.

In 1967, we were among the five founders of Asean, an organisation that has kept peace in the most ethnically and religiously diverse region on earth. We came together in the Five Power Defence Arrangement in 1971; we cooperated closely at the UN in the 1980s to ensure a settled future in Indochina; and today we are linked in so many ways.

Take trade cooperation, for instance. We are each other’s second largest trading partner after China. In 2014, Singapore was Malaysia’s second largest trading partner globally and the largest trading partner in Asean. 

Singapore was also the second largest source of foreign investment in Malaysia in 2014, and I am pleased that 
while Iskandar Malaysia and Penang have been the main focus of investment from Singapore, Singaporeans are now also beginning to look further afield, including Sabah and Sarawak.

In terms of tourism, the total number of visits to Malaysia from Singapore in 2014 was 13.9 million – an increase of 5.7 per cent from 2013. But we want even more of you to visit us, and this year, Tourism Malaysia is hoping we can attract 14.5 million guests from Singapore.

The changed approach between our two countries was emphasised soon after I became Prime Minister. The win-win solution of the Points of Agreement in 2010 – after a 20 year deadlock – was an example of how we chose to move forward in a spirit of mutual benefit, and put a longstanding stumbling block behind us.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and I agreed that our countries should not be encumbered by any issues associated with the past. The days when some considered agreement to be a form of weakness are gone. Our future is as partners. Indeed, recently there have even been suggestions that our two countries should formulate an Olympic bid together.

On a personal note, the new relationship between Malaysia and Singapore was underlined soon after I became Prime Minister. On a visit to the Singapore Botanic Gardens in May 2009, I was honoured to be told that a hybrid of the Dendrobium Ronald Imanuel and Dendrobium Jeffrey Tan orchids had been named the Dendrobium Najib Rosmah. The hybrid orchid is a symbol of the relationship between Malaysia and Singapore. It needs to be nurtured carefully- for then it will flourish.

I am pleased with the results of our closer relations, and look forward to achieving more. The construction of the High Speed Rail linking Kuala Lumpur and Singapore will certainly transform the way Malaysians and Singaporeans interact with each other, facilitating travel between both capital cities, enhancing business linkages and improving people-to-people ties.

At this time of opportunity between our nations, I urge Singaporeans not to judge Malaysia by what you may read on social media, or by politically motivated statements from certain quarters running down our country.

I will ensure that Malaysia remains stable and safe – for guests and Malaysians alike.

The reality is that we share your aspirations for good governance; for a strong, inclusive and sustainable economy based on sound fundamentals; and for stability, harmony and diversity.

That is why we make good partners, and why Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and I will continue to work closely to bring real benefits to all Malaysians and Singaporeans.


Fifty years ago, ties between our two nations were strained. Today, relations have never been better and the results speak for themselves. Happy 50th birthday, Singapore – Malaysia looks forward to toasting many future anniversaries with you.

From Najibrazak.com. Click here

Monday, August 10, 2015

Risks from Malaysia's internal security woes on Singapore hard to ignore

If you believe the defence of Malaysia and Singapore is indivisible, then any threat to the Federation's security and stability - whether from external aggression or internal strife - could have a follow-on effect on Singapore too.

Among the worst-case scenarios that have surfaced recently among defence watchers is the question of how severely Singapore would be affected if social unrest up north prompts Malaysian authorities to declare a curfew.

Note that it is a foregone conclusion that Singapore will be affected should a Malaysian curfew restrict the movement of people and commerce between Malaysia and Singapore. Open to debate though is the severity of such a measure on Singapore's economy, our security posture and investor confidence.

At the most basic level, companies and businesses that rely on Malaysian workers better have a Plan B if a curfew affects the ability of their staff to turn up for work. Alas, many will not have ready answers because business continuity planning is not a strong suite among Singaporean companies, particularly the SMEs.

Anyone who has seen the predawn traffic situation at the Causeway and Second Link on a weekday would appreciate the part Malaysians serve in keeping Singapore's economy humming. Blue collar or white collar, daily-rated or salaried staff, executive or non-executive, they come across the Johor Strait in their thousands and can be found in all corners of the Lion City.

Many leave their homes in the wee hours of the morning. A 4am departure being typical in order to beat the rush at the customs, immigration and quarantine checkpoints on both sides of the border. The Malaysians then have to endure the morning rush hour traffic on Singapore island. By the time their bum hits the chair at their workplace, each would have been on the road for at least two to three hours.

For Malaysians who have to clock in every work day, their amazing race from home to workplace carries a financial penalty if their journey is disrupted. Rain, traffic jams due to accidents or road works, or the arse luck of picking a slow lane at the CIQ could cost them dearly.

After work, the tide turns the other way. The journey home could see Malaysians step past their front door around 10pm or later. And they ration their evening hours sparingly knowing the cycle will repeat itself the next work day.

And yet many Malaysians persevere. Their stoic nature is typically Malaysian and you wouldn't know from external appearances of the extraordinarily long commute they have to endure just to earn a living.

The commute is worth is. Thanks to the exchange rate that makes a job in Singapore pay several times more what a Malaysian could earn doing the same thing up north as well as lower home prices in Johor, many choose to stay on homeground knowing full well this entails many hours on the road and an abbreviated sleep cycle.

Malaysians who commute to Singapore to work are a key element of Singapore's economy.

Companies and businesses with a sizeable number of Malaysians on their payroll ought to assess how many of their foreign workers are resident in Singapore and how many make the daily commute. The demographic is crucial. It could spell the difference between business operations that hum along with minimal impact if a curfew is imposed in Malaysia or the loss of a sizeable chunk of labour that could unhinge daily operations.

For entities that provide essential services such as transport, the robustness of the assessment is crucial as it would flag out vulnerabilities that must be addressed to ensure the provision of such services is not compromised.

Recent events in the Federation have prompted defence watchers to theorise how the situation could unfold should things spiral out of control. For analysts hardwired by training to think the worst, the scenarios they have come up with are sobering to consider.

One hopes the theorising remains just an academic exercise because the impact of social unrest in the Federation will have deleterious effects on many aspects of life in the Lion City.

If the worst happens, are you ready?

Saturday, August 1, 2015

National Day Parade NDP 2015 F-16 flypast

Jubilee flight: No prizes for guessing how many years Singapore has been independent. Republic of Singapore Air Force F-16s practice their Salute to the Nation during the National Education 3 show on 25 July 2015.

Among the aerial tributes at the upcoming National Day Parade 2015, the Five-O formation by the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) is probably the most sought-after by photo buffs.

The crowd-pleaser by the RSAF's F-16 community is a difficult manoeuvre to perform because the flight of 20 aircraft have to fly at precise intervals to form each numeral. What's more, both numbers must follow one another properly in order for the typography to look neat from the ground - and the Five-O must arrive at show centre at the precise moment and clear the airspace over the Padang along the proper heading without delay before the six F-16s from the Black Knights aerobatic display team perform their fan break manoeuvre.

Difficult enough to execute in clear weather, the presence of low clouds, the glare from the setting sun and unpredictable winds demand a high level of concentration and flying skills from the F-16 pilots.

The twenty-ship formation forms up over the approaches to the Singapore Strait and holds formation while inbound for Singapore's city centre. During the flight towards the Padang, an additional F-16 tails the fighter formation (perhaps giving cues to tighten the formation's dressing) before peeling off and flying eastward.

What appears to be a neat "50" when seen from the ground is less apparent from the air. Look at the pilot's eye view below.

Kudos to the RSAF engineers and ground crew for maintaining a high level of serviceability. Their effort and dedication is a key enabler for such formations.





And now a word from the RSAF Helicopter community: To fly is heavenly. To hover, divine.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

National Day Parade 2015 Mobile Column National Education NE NE2 show


Planning to photograph the National Day Parade 2015 Mobile Column rehearsal today? Look out for the commemorative Golden Jubilee Mobile Column Patch (above) worn by all NDP 2015 Mobile Column participants.

The patch that adorns the uniforms of  Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Home Team personnel from the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Singapore Police Force is special because it marks one of those rare occasions (can't think of any other actually) when the same patch is worn by the SAF and Home Team.

The Golden Jubilee Mobile Column patches were presented to the Mobile Column team last Saturday at their form-up point during a simple ceremony attended by SAF veterans and their families.

Some 170-plus SAF and Home Team vehicles are due to stage their first run to the Padang today following the road closures in the city centre from 12 noon.

Many thanks to the NDP 2015 Media Relations Committee for these images.



Friday, July 10, 2015

Republic of Singapore Navy RSN Littoral Mission Vessel a game changer in warship design


[Spoiler alert: If you feel having all eggs in one basket compromises warship survivability and don't want to read a long post, simply mull over the last paragraph.]

Flat screen displays at every desk. Headsets and microphones for the team. Bespoke shoot/don't shoot scenarios with weather, threat matrix and area of operations as menu options.

What looks like the ultimate multiplayer team game has served a far bigger purpose. This naval battle simulation lab (simlab) led to a game changer in warship design when the Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) decided to place all key command functions in a single work area.

The Integrated Command Centre aboard RSN Independence-class Littoral Mission Vessels (LMVs) is built according to a new operating concept.

Admittedly, it sounds risky. But this is precisely why RSN warfighters invested immense time, effort and conceptual studies in subjects such as cognitive task analysis, group dynamics and work processes aboard fighting ships before the 80-metre long LMV achieved its design freeze. From 2011 to 2013, the RSN worked with Singapore's defence science community to plan the LMV from a clean sheet of paper. More than 1,800 works hours were spent on interviews alone to find out how warships are navigated, assess how the crew fights and examine how the health of the ship's vitals like the engines and electrical subsystems are monitored.

The LMV simlab built by the Defence Science & Technology Agency (DSTA), the national authority for weapons acquisitions, emphasizes that the change in design philosophy was not a decision taken lightly.

The simlab is complemented by a full-sized wooden mock up of the Integrated Command Centre, which brings together the Bridge, Combat Information Centre (CIC) and Machinery Control Room. Click here for more.

At the simlab, RSN warfighters were put through realistic scenarios fighting a ship in congested waterways within sight of friendly and hostile shorelines and island groups. Closed up for action stations for missions that lasted up to four hours at a stretch, the RSN warfighters practised fighting a ship exactly as they would on a real deck.

All stations had to report readiness state when ordered to do so by the Principal Warfare Officer (PWO). The surface situation picture was closely monitored, with friendly, unknown and hostile contacts dutifully reported as per normal.

When the situation turned nasty, the warship would reach out and touch someone with the LMV's warload. This included non-lethal options like the water monitors and long range acoustic devices located aft of the GRP superstructure, to a selection of naval guns from 12.7mm heavy machine guns to the fast-firing 76mm Super Rapid gun.

Not every day promised a radiant sunset. The LMV simlab was used to simulate rough seas, rain or haze to challenge the crew in detecting, tracking, identifying surface craft around the ship, by day or in the dark of night.

What works for Singapore's LMVs may not be the preferred solution for warships assigned other roles in other maritime environments. The Integrated Command Centre's layout came about after various configurations were tested and analysed closely. The LMV is designed for the RSN's specific operational requirements, which as the term suggests, is unique to the Singapore Navy's concept of operations for fielding these warships in peace, during a period of tension and in war.

While warship survivability weighed heavily on the minds of the LMV project team, the ability of the crew to sail, fight and manage the warship together was deemed essential for wielding information as a weapon.

The decision to house the warfighting elements together as seven "clusters" - engineering, navigation, command, surveillance, weapon, network and mission module - in the Integrated Command Centre with a 360-degree view on 02 Deck was arrived at after numerous hours in the simlab. It resulted from close consultation with warship designers from Swedish shipyard, Saab Kockums AB, which designed the LMV hull and cast the Kockums komposit superstructure (click here) in Sweden before shipping the composite superstructure modules to Singapore.

The clear cut solution would have been to design and build the vessel along conventional lines with bridge, CIC and MCR located in different parts of the vessel.

But the LMV team recognised that fighting a ship in the littoral zone, which is the part of the sea close to land, in congested waterways calls for a radical rethink of warship design philosophy.

Indeed, naval encounters have underlined the importance of close coordination between a warship's crew and its electronic eyes and ears for a better sense of its battlespace.

In May 1982, the Royal Navy destroyer, HMS Sheffield, was hit by an Exocet missile after reportedly shutting down its radar to prevent interference with the destroyer's satellite communication system as the warship was patching a phone call to fleet headquarters. The destroyer was essentially blind during those vital moments when the anti-ship missile was inbound, when her ability to sense-make was compromised to allow the ship to use her satcoms without interference.

In July 1988, an Iranian Airbus on a scheduled commercial flight over the Persian Gulf was shot down by the United States Navy cruiser, USS Vincennes. The disaster stemmed from the CIC team operating close to land amid busy shipping and air lanes. The US Navy ship mistook the Airbus as incoming F-14 Tomcats and initiated the launch sequence which killed 290 passengers and crew aboard the airliner.

In October 1992, the United States Navy aircraft carrier launched two Sea Sparrow missiles at the bridge of the Turkish Navy destroyer, TCG Muavenet, after command decisions were communicated wrongly in the carrier's CIC to the Sea Sparrow missile team during a two-sided night encounter exercise. The Sea Sparrows, notionally an anti-aircraft missile system, hit the Muavenet on the bridge, killing the Captain and some of his crew. Once again, a sophisticated warship not lacking in sensors, could have benefitted from better sense-making and decision support systems.

When the LMVs are deployed for operational patrols, time will tell if the design philosophy tested and debated vigorously by the LMV project team for years will prove to be an astute decision.

The Integrated Command Centre is indeed a radical departure from the norm. It is a game changer that will prove its worth if real life mimics the many naval encounters tested in the simlab.

Even if a wrong call was made, the LMV has something else to count on because the RSN, Saab Kockums and the defence scientists appear to have hedged their bets. If you've a chance to visit the real LMV, head to the First Deck, walk from Frame 46 to Frame 52 and tell me what you find. :-)

Saturday, July 4, 2015

National Day Parade Combined Rehearsal 3 CR3: Leisure Park Kallang irks with "no" notice

Air show: A C-130 Hercules from 122 Squadron peels off from the city area with Fokker 50s from 121 Squadron keeping station off its wings. In the  background, we see a KC-135 from 112 Squadron leading a G550 AEW aircraft and its escort of F-5S/T Tigers. Coordinating air movements in Singapore's tight airspace is the job of dozens of Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) personnel whose part in the National Day Parade goes largely unseen by the public.

Rapid dominance: Fresh from its first practice run around the Padang, Leopard 2SG main battle tanks from the 48th Battalion Singapore Armoured Regiment (48 SAR) lead Bionix 2 AFVs en route to the staging area next to the Leisure Park Kallang shopping mall. 

It was a wet start to National Day Parade (NDP) rehearsal preparations early this morning after a Sumatra squall drenched hundreds of Mobile Column participants and messed up the Red Lions' morning parachute jump practice.

The thunder and lightning in the real world was matched by a storm in cyberspace, triggered apparently by a notice from a shopping mall that banned "NDP uniform personnel" (sic) from its premises.

Pasted at the entrances to the Leisure Park Kallang mall, which is next to the car park used as a staging area by Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Home Team personnel whose 177 vehicles (not counting reserves) form the NDP 2015 Mobile Column, the notice unleashed a cyber storm against the mall's management.


The notice didn't stay up for long. By mid-afternoon, it was apparently taken down.

Alas, the damage had already been done.

The early morning rainstorm that swept across the island may well have left many Mobile Column personnel drenched. Dripping wet, some may have sought the comfort of the mall's washrooms or atrium to dry off. And if the mall's management did not like the sight of SAF and Home Team personnel dripping wet and ruining its ambience, it should have sought a more amicable way of resolving the issue.

Being private property, the mall's management enjoys full freedom of action dictating who can enter its esteemed premises. It is, however, puzzling why it posted the notice as any thinking person would see that its words have far wider ramifications than simply keeping soggy boots and dripping uniforms out of  the shopping mall.

National Day Parade Mobile Columns have used the car parks around the National Stadium as a staging area for decades.

Indeed, some eateries in the area - off the beaten track and somewhat quiet on weekdays before the advent of the Stadium Circle Line MRT station - saw the combined rehearsals as a boon to their respective businesses. To be fair, such rehearsals were a bane to business owners as road closures may have driven away some customers.

But such rehearsals are transient. In the case of the NDP Mobile Column, the assembly of SAF war machines and Home Team assets resurfaces at the car park only once every five years. It is a rare sight whose presence should be celebrated and not chastised.

One would hope that the management of Leisure Park Kallang should, by now, be used to the business cycle that results from NDP rehearsals. They ought to have adapted accordingly and adroitly to shifting sands - as one would expect astute business folks would.

Not only is the Mobile Column no stranger to the area, neither are rainstorms that drench NDP participants.

In fact, records show it rained buckets during the NDP 2010 Second National Education show. On that wet Saturday morning, there was even a flash flood that damaged some of the private cars belonging to Mobile Column participants. But there was no cause for terse notices barring NDP uniformed personnel from the mall. Click here for the 2010 report.

Marketing campaigns aimed at making customers come back again and again could be one way of keeping the SAF and Home Team audience as one's customers long after the NDP is over.

Singaporeans love freebies. So why not encourage NDP personnel to collect receipts/stamps/stickers/whatever on a loyalty card from CR1 all the way to the 9 August 2015 parade and win something? What about tiered discounts? How about a lucky draw? How about special sales of stuff NDP personnel would need or want -  like snacks and water?

With a creative touch, the hundreds of SAF and Home Team personnel become a captive audience and can be enticed to come back to support the tenants in the mall.

Alas, the "No" notice its irksome because it fans hostility when a shopping mall should display customer-centric hospitality. It breaks a golden rule in customer relations by starting a notice with the dreaded word "No".

Don't forget: Families members and well-wishers of SAF and Home Team personnel are known to visit them at the staging areas in a show of support. More poorly-worded notices from Leisure Park Kallang and Singaporean shoppers are likely to brand the mall as a social pariah.

What's more, the notice damages the mall's future customers. Bear in mind that the full-time National Servicemen who are part of this year's display were probably in lower Secondary the last time we saw the car park crammed with military, police and civil defence hardware. How do you think any school-going teens who see that notice will feel, knowing that they will one day serve NS themselves or have a brother who will do so?

Rub them the wrong way and they will take their money to spend elsewhere.

This year marks Singapore's 50th year of independence. That independence is underwritten by the SAF, which has SAF50 on its calendar albeit in a more modest, localised form.

Give SAF and Home Team personnel the respect they deserve.



Postscript:
For the record, the NDP 2015 Mobile Column did well at Combined Rehearsal 2 on 27 June 2015. From the first vehicle to the last, the time taken to leave the car park was 45 minutes - a marked improvement from the one hour and 40 minutes clocked for the first departure during CR1 a week earlier.

The departure from the staging area is no Daytona circuit. It is not a clarion call for a speedy departure. But the improved timings do indicate that the Mobile Column team is working more cohesively by achieving attaining a smooth and safe execution of its assigned tasks.


Boomz: Leopard 2SG tank crew from 48 SAR face off with military enthusiasts who photographed the Mobile Column in transit to the Padang for CR3.