Mr Dennis Tan Lip Fong: To ask the Minister for Defence (a) whether any form of ragging is allowed in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF); and (b) whether ragging or the carrying out of any activity associated with ragging constitutes part of the recognised duties of any SAF officer, specialist, instructor or personnel.
Dr Ng Eng Hen: The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) take a zero tolerance approach towards any form of abuse of soldiers or personnel, either by their commanders or peers.
While military training aims to build up the physical and psychological resilience of soldiers, and instil discipline, their safety need not be compromised. Acts of humiliation are specifically prohibited. Over the years, the SAF has put in place a comprehensive safety management system where all training activities conducted are required to be authorised. Each activity is clearly outlined with safety measures and limits, with an approved Safety Management Plan, with a Supervising Officer, Conducting Officer, and a Safety Officer present throughout. Additional physical training as a form of informal punishment can only be meted out in accordance with stipulated guidelines and based on commanders’ seniority as prescribed in the SAF Joint Manpower Directive (4-4) on the Informal Punishment System. For all activities, the safety of individual soldiers is paramount and Commanders must take corrective measures to mitigate risks to their soldiers, where necessary. Similarly, unit orientation activities can only be conducted if authorised and not endanger the well-being of any serviceman. These requirements that I had just spelt out are consistent with the core values of the SAF and are known to Commanders.
SAF personnel who conduct unauthorised activities, engage in bullying or have wilfully or negligently not complied with training safety regulations have been and will continue to be severely dealt with and prosecuted either by Summary Trials or General Court Martial within the SAF or criminal prosecution in the State Courts. In 2016, four full-time National Servicemen (NSFs) were prosecuted in the Military Court for bullying a fellow NSF. All were sentenced to between two and four weeks in the SAF Detention Barracks . In 2005, the Supervising Officer, Conducting Officer and instructors from the Commando unit who were involved in the death of a trainee after being submerged in water during a Combat Survival Training course were sentenced to six to 12 months’ imprisonment by the State Courts. In 2012, an SAF vehicle overturned during an exercise causing the death of a soldier. The Conducting Officer who appointed a serviceman to drive the military vehicle even when he knew that the serviceman did not have a driving licence was convicted in the criminal courts and sentenced to six months’ imprisonment. The officer was found to have committed a rash act and attempted to pervert the course of justice.
SAF soldiers are encouraged to report any unauthorised activity or punishment. New recruits are specifically briefed on how they can do so. They can either report it through their unit superiors or contact the MINDEF Feedback Unit. The number is 1800 367 6767. It is an easy number to remember, 1800 367 6767. There are also safety hotlines for the Army, the Navy and the Air Force and I have listed them in my reply to be distributed to the press and to be recorded in the Hansard so that people will know these numbers and know that they can report any unauthorised activity or punishment. [Army Safety Hotline (9732 3891), Navy Safety Hotline (9172 3389), Air Force Safety Hotline (9234 7233)]. Every complaint is investigated fully and those caught doing wrong will be prosecuted.