Singapore’s NS, compared to Malaysia’s NS

This piece is for Mr Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister. And for anyone else who cares enough about the tragedy in Malaysia also known as National Service.

I previously wrote here about how Najib said that “Many more trainees have died in Singapore” under their National Service Programme.

Well, I said it once, and I will say it again. Don’t compare with other countries. This is a problem that must be dealt with, no matter how other countries are doing.

But I did say that if Singapore is also having deaths in their National Service Training, then they should also up their game.

Guess what I found in The People’s Parliament?

In October 2003, Singapore Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean answered to Parliament. The deaths were Hu En Huai, 19, and Andrew Chew Heng Huat, 20. The minister said Hu collapsed during a Combat Survival Training (CST) session and Chew during a 2.4-km run (for obese recruits) in Basic Military Training Programme.

Hu collapsed at 1645 hours, was given medical treatment onsite and evacuated to Pulau Tekong Medical Centre at 1710 hrs, and by helicopter to Singapore General Hospital arriving at 1752 hrs. Chew collapsed at 1745 hrs and evacuated by helicopter, arriving hospital at 1842 hrs.

Hu died of asphyxia and near drowning. The SAF suspended the CST immediately after the incident. Four officers and a senior specialist who conducted the training were immediately suspended, two instructors responsible for supervising the training relieved of duty and the CO relieved from command. In short, heads rolled for the “extremely serious lapse in the conduct of the training”.

The basic difference is that both Singaporean boys were sent by helicopter to hospital within an hour, whereas the Malaysian boys and girls had been left to be sick and unattended for days. The other difference is that the Singaporeans were doing serious military training as soldiers for the defence of their country; we don’t know what our kids are doing in summer camp.

The full blog post here.


This is what becomes of something when the press doesn’t go any further than giving us what the Ministers say. The press have reduced their roles to become merely tape recorders, giving us exactly what was said and done, and nothing else. I guess this is pure reporting, and zero journalism.

Back to this issue. I’d admit that I was probably slightly too rash about my reaction towards the comparison with Singapore, because I didn’t know enough about it.

But still, if Najib wants to make comparisons, then at least make them good comparisons. Don’t just compare and say that there are “also deaths in Singapore, but the public still supports the programme”. If this is the way that the government deals with the deaths they have in NS, then I don’t see any reason why they shouldn’t support it.

Just look at the difference in the way the cases are dealt with. Look at the efficiency. And look at the post-incident actions taken. People who were responsible were actually suspended for being unable to carry out the programme properly.

And what do WE have instead? The DG of the programme saying that the programme will not be scrapped “just because of one or two deaths“. Who was held responsible? No one. Oh wait, I think it was Too Hui Min who was held responsible for her own death for not knowing about her own medical condition before showing up for camp.

This is fantastically stupid. If Najib thinks he can just leave some facts out when he starts making comparisons, he’s got something else coming. We are not an ignorant bunch. We know what we are talking about. And we will NOT just sit tight and take in his bull like we might have once used to.


3 Comments on “Singapore’s NS, compared to Malaysia’s NS”

  1. Harrison says:

    Dear Su,

    Thanks for always responding to my call and you certainly have a very nice blog. Keep it up. Maybe when you come back, you can help serve in the ranks of Pakatan Rakyat. Good luck to your study and take care. See you at Susan’s blog, ok? 😀
    Anytime, Hansome. Anytime.

  2. bow says:

    How many of our youngster had to die unneccesarily before the honorable umnoputra minister will sastify?
    or these common “rakyat” kids’ life is less valuable and worthy than minister’s children? Continue without getting to the bottom of the real cause and preventive measures in place is equivalence to “murder’!!!!

  3. another perspective says:

    Just wanted to share a bit about NS from a Singaporean perspective…

    Well, it’s been nearly 21 months since I enlisted into mandatory National Service, the bulk of which occurred in 2009. I felt quite “left behind” as my counterparts who went on the junior college track had already started on their degrees, leaving me, the polytechnic kid, behind still serving the nation. =.=” I received my “Out-of-Training” (OOT) status during my first week of Basic Military Training in Pulau Tekong due to my pending medical appointments. Subsequently, I was posted out and became first a storeman, then an armourer (small arms technician). My current role in camp is multi-faceted though, and thus not as dreadful and monotonous as before – I help out in many areas including administration, inventory, maintenance of weapons, projects, presentations, videos, and more.

    I still remember I was extremely reluctant and negative towards NS during the first few months. It’s not so much of a reluctance to serve, but more of a question of “Am I serving the nation to the best of my ability?” – which I would sordidly reply a “No” to. In fact, I had actually already passed the auditions and was waiting to enter the Music & Drama Company (MDC), which I did not get into because my PES (Physical Employment Status) was still “B” – simply meaning I was too medically fit to enter MDC (I had to be medically unfit – PES “C” or below). The manpower side apparently introduced this directive recently due to manpower shortage in many combat units; they didn’t want combat-fit soldiers flooding in to dance and make music.

    I found the manpower directive absolutely absurd and needless. It all boils down to the existing vocation system, which unfortunately posts a soldier based on manpower/organizational needs and his individual PES. There are many talented young soldiers around that can potentially contribute much more to the organization (and the nation), IF only they are placed in the “right place”. One example: a soldier with an Aerospace Engineering diploma would expectedly fare much better in a relevant vocation like an aircraft technician (being already a “Subject Matter Expert”) as compared to a medic, for instance. What is the point in “retraining” someone with a set of new skills if he can contribute much more effectively in his field of specialty (taking into account his current background and skill set)?

    Professionalism is one of the SAF’s core values – it’s essential to continually strive to improve and set high standards, especially when the “client” at stake happens to be your NATION. Realistic and reasonable standards should, however, be expected of soldiers serving NS – for many of them, it’s a whole new skill set they’re picking up. In my case, us technicians are often expected to perform exceptionally well as “experts” – after just half a year or less of training. I wouldn’t exactly term a soldier who has served NS for 2 years as an “expert” in his vocation – if that were the case, by the time I hit 50, wouldn’t I already be an “expert” in around 20 areas?! Truth is, expertise takes INTEREST, DETERMINATION, and SACRIFICE to develop – heck, I’ve already spent SEVENTEEN YEARS (along with a diploma, and relevant certificates) in my field of expertise and I still consider myself a “semi-professional”. No point forcing a cat to chew a bone. (??) (You get the gist?)

    “Force-posting” someone to an irrelevant vocation, as is often the case currently, may even incur negative effects. Taking my peers in camp as a point in case, they are simply unmotivated and reluctantly carry out orders and work. Lethargic, “can’t-be-bothered” attitudes abound, and work is tediously done with the expectations of rewards of time – either an early dismissal in the afternoon, or “offs” that can be cleared subsequently. Escapism (a.k.a. playing punk or “chao keng” in the Hokkien dialect) is an oft-used technique to get excused from events/work, appearing in various forms like RSO/MC (reporting sick outside – and thus getting a Medical Certificate) and MA (medical appointments – some of them have one appointment every FEW DAYS, so sick or feign sick?) Perhaps the popular adage sums it up best: “Act blur, live longer.” Often, I have to take up the bulk of the responsibility and do the bulk of camp work (which shouldn’t be the case just because I’m one of the most senior among my peers), while the rest hide in rooms or play their PSPs, for example. Some of my peers hardly “appear” in camp (often on MC or MA); and even when they do – hardly do anything constructive – almost equaling their absence anyway. What then, is the need to have (on the surface) sufficient manpower strength, when only a fraction of them are working efficiently? If each individual had been thoughtfully posted to a relevant vocation in the first place, potential problems and negative attitudes could have been avoided. So much for striving to be a first-class organization.

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