Friday, May 28, 2010

Letter in the Today newspaper, 28 May 2010

Training incidents ought to be reported promptly

Letter from David Boey 05:55 AM May 28, 2010

THE report "Two, not one SAF personnel shot" (May 26) underlines why prompt reporting of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) training incidents is needed to sustain public support for, and confidence in, National Service.

Two SAF personnel were shot by a Thai farmer on March 13 while on night-time war games in Thailand. But Singaporeans were informed only this week after the media reported the incident.

I would like to believe that the 73-day delay was more the result of journalists catching the news late, rather than any tardiness by the Ministry of Defence.

After reading about the shooting incident, it is neither unreasonable nor unexpected for Singaporeans to ask how many more incidents have gone unreported.

There are many positives that Mindef/SAF could have highlighted from this incident as the two servicemen survived what could have turned into a horrific tragedy.

Support from our Thai hosts could have been emphasised. The helping hand given to families of the injured soldiers could have been mentioned.

Ditto the speed and effectiveness of the medical evacuation process that brought soldiers with firearms injuries home from Thailand. The implicit message that injured soldiers will be cared for is priceless.

Mindef/SAF missed an opportunity to showcase this fact and reassure SAF personnel and their loved ones.

We must remember that many fathers of today's Third-Generation SAF soldiers served NS during the 1970s and 1980s, at a time when rumours of training deaths were rampant.

Tardy defence media management will only promote the longevity of urban myths of cover-ups.

We also have to address the concerns of new Singapore citizens, many of whom arrived here from countries where the military is viewed with disdain or suspicion.

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