Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) adds "safety" as its 8th core value

As Singapore's military adds "safety" as the eighth core value that soldiers should guide their actions by, the city-state's mainstream press should do itself a favour by not adding more salt and pepper than necessary to spice up this newspoint.

In its standfirst that claims the move by the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) follows efforts to make training safer "after a string of fatal accidents", the Straits Times newspaper paints an inaccurate picture of the SAF's safety record which is alarmist, misleading and ill-informed.

Singapore's paper of record introduces the story as follows:"Soldiers in the Singapore military will have to pledge to uphold 'safety' as one of their core values in a move introduced following a spate of deadly training accidents."

By spicing things up with stock phrases like "string of fatal accidents" and "spate of deadly training accidents", readers might reasonably build a mental picture that citizen soldiers are falling like ninepins. If Singaporeans can nurse such suspicions, what more foreign readers who happen to surf to that story in cyberspace?

Apart from one near-miss on 8 March 2013 (grenade throwing snafu by a recruit), this blog is unaware of any fatal accidents in 2013.

The adjectives bandied by the 90 cents newspaper do a disservice to ongoing efforts by the Singaporean Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and SAF to reinforce and sustain safety awareness because readers might wrongly assume defence authorities have yet to get things under control.

It is only in the third leg of the story (i.e. the story's third column) that the reader discovers that the "spate of fatal accidents" took place, ahem, "last year". Several pars of backgrounders are then thrown in to bring the story to its desired length with an obligatory quote to wrap up the story with a kicker.
In 2012, six of our fellow citizen soldiers died serving this island nation. They are:
  1. Corporal (NS) Li Hongyang, 28, on 10 January 2012
  2. Private Amirul Syahmi bin Kamal, 20, on 15 March 2012
  3. Private Lee Rui Feng Dominique Sarron, 21, on 17 April 2012
  4. Third Sergeant Tan Mou Sheng, 20, on 11 May 2012
  5. Lance-Corporal Muhammad Fahrurrazi bin Salim, 20, on 12 August 2012
  6. Lance-Corporal (NS) Tan Tai Seng, 23, on 27 September 2012
Compare and contrast, if you will, the SAF's safety record for 2012 with three deaths in the whole of 2011 and none in 2010 - the SAF's safest year on record since compulsory National Service (NS) began in 1967.

And if six deaths a year is regarded as a "spate", the 90 cents paper would have had to cough out another suitable adjective for the 10 SAF deaths in 2009 - the SAF's darkest year for training safety.

Missed newspoints
If the 90 cents newspaper wanted a punchy, human interest intro, it could perhaps have noticed that the "safety" core value comes about nearly a year to the day after the late PTE Dominique Lee's family were left heart-broken by his death. His death anniversary, by the way, is tomorrow. Does the newspaper even care, one wonders?

Dominique's birthday was marked last week, quite possibly with *sensationalist reportage alert* rivers of tears from those who cherish his loss a year after he died serving his country.

A quote from his family on whether the "safety" core value makes a difference would drive home the importance of safety to commanders and men, as the late PTE Dominique's family and friends can almost surely be counted on to furnish the 90 cents newspaper with more quotable quotes than it has the balls to print.

If the 90 cents newspaper wanted a factual intro, it could have pointed out that the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) and Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) have had "safety" as their core values for several years already.

Was the RSAF ahead of the curve when it added "safety" and "team excellence" to the SAF's seven core values: Loyalty to country, Leadership, Discipline, Professionalism, Ethics, Fighting Spirit and Care for Soldiers?

Is the SAF then, ipso facto, behind the proverbial curve and should "team excellence" also be added for good measure to the expanded list of core values?

There's a part for Everyone
Safety awareness in the Singaporean military embraces more than just giving citizen soldiers a tipsheet of values to recite.

It is an all of government, all of country effort to make sure checks and balances are in place, at the right place and the right time, all the time.

Part of that balance lies in calibrating newspaper reports that inform and educate its readership with credible and accurate reportage.


Anonymous said...

safety should be the 9th core value. we all know what the 8th core value is.... LOL..

Anonymous said...

8th core value: "You can anything you want, but don't get caught."

Anonymous said...

Safety in peacetime training yes, but it should never become an excuse for sloppy or poorly executed training, or take precedence over tactical considerations.