"Day after day, they are on the frontlines, whether it's in tough training or in operational duties. So I often ask myself: these are the people who step up defend the country; but who defends them when they get into trouble?"
Lawyer Mr Amolat Singh's heart for giving back to those who serve in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) was the reason he became a member of the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) Pro Bono Panel.
The term is derived from the Latin phrase Pro Bono Publico, meaning "for the public good" and is typically used to describe legal work provided at no charge to clients who cannot afford legal fees.
The panel was set up in mid-2018 to provide legal representation to servicemen and women who are facing military court martial.
"Not all servicemen can afford a lawyer… and I want give them the best shot (at justice)," said the 63-year-old, who runs his own law firm Amolat & Partners.
Mr Amolat's involvement in the military justice community goes back a long way. For close to seven years, he has been assisting in the training of Defending Officers – SAF officers who are appointed to represent court martialled personnel in pleading for leniency to mitigate their circumstances.
Outside of their rigorous training sessions, he actively replies to requests from Defending Officers in crafting their statements.
"The SAF has the phrase, 'Care for Soldiers'. To me, the Pro Bono Panel and Defending Officer training is another way of caring for soldiers," he surmised.
For his contributions to MINDEF/SAF, Mr Amolat was honoured at the MINDEF Volunteers' Dinner held on 22 Aug at Regent Hotel, together with 295 fellow volunteers.
Hosted by Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen, the annual event aims to recognise the contributions of private and public sector industry experts who serve on 40 MINDEF boards and committees as MINDEF volunteers. This comprises areas such as law, medicine, engineering, science, finance, and music and the arts.
"The significant and consistent contributions of our volunteers over the years have helped Singapore build a strong national defence… You as volunteers help MINDEF and the SAF achieve this goal (of protecting Singapore's interests and keeping Singaporeans safe)," Dr Ng told the volunteers at the dinner.
He also highlighted their professionalism and integrity in supporting and building up a strong National Service (NS) structure for the Singapore Armed Forces: "It is your integrity, your impartiality, your appreciation of the larger enterprise that makes National Service work.
"Our volunteers take their roles and responsibilities seriously, and that is not something that I think another country can find or replicate easily."
Dr Ng also presented certificates of appointment and re-appointment to 53 volunteers at the dinner. This includes Military Court of Appeal member Mr Quek Mong Hua. Mr Quek has been volunteering since 2000, and has extended his service for another year. He is also the longest-serving MINDEF volunteer in attendance.
As for Mr Heng Chiang Gnee, 64, Chairman of the External Review Panel for SAF Safety (ERPSS), he was happy to share his wealth of experience and passion in bettering the training of SAF servicemen and women.
Mr Heng, Director of MMA Offshore Limited, has decades of experience in the shipyard industry. "Shipyards back in the '70s to '90s were considered very hazardous environments," he explained.
"We did a lot at the industry level to change the situation and image of the industry. So (workplace safety) is something that I am very passionate about."
He also noted that while the members of the 12-person Panel come from diverse backgrounds, the one thing they had in common was the desire to enhance safety and health standards in the SAF: "It is satisfying to able to help improve safety and health in society."
"We fill in the gaps when we identify them, based on our years of experience in the private sector."