Friday 20 February 2015

Ng Eng Hen: SAF putting 'best people in the best positions'

But MINDEF also aware people can be blackmailed, says defence minister
By Jermyn Chow, Defence Correspondent, The Straits Times, 17 Feb 2015

SAF personnel are deployed to sensitive units in the armed forces based on their ability and beliefs.

This is to ensure that they do not pose a security risk, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.

Race is not the issue, he added.

He also disclosed that there are now Malays deployed aboard ships as sailors who go out to sea.

Previously, Malays in the navy were only posted as "sea soldiers", who primarily patrolled naval bases.

The minister was speaking to a 200-strong crowd of students, academics in a forum organised by the National University of Singapore and the Government's feedback arm REACH.

Responding to the question on why Malays had previously been excluded from the navy, Dr Ng said that it was a "practical issue"of having halal-certified kitchens aboard ships.

"(This is) because in a confined space, it is hard to have a halal kitchen. If you spend months out at sea, it is difficult."

But provisions have been made for Malay Muslims who are willing to serve, said Ng.

"So we made and found some accommodation and started to have Malays in the navy as well, if the person is willing."

He also reiterated that Malays now serve in the army, navy and air force, adding that with Singapore's small population, the SAF does not discriminate against anyone and promotes its servicemen based on their ability.

"We want to get the maximum out of each person in the SAF... we are putting the best people in the best positions."

But for sensitive positions in the military, the SAF is not blind to the fact that "people can be blackmailed", said Dr Ng.

"We ask ourselves: 'can we trust this person in that position to make sure he will not be made use of, that he will not be vulnerable?' "

During the 90-minute forum, the defence minister also fielded other questions including women doing National Service and how to make it more meaningful to serve the country.

Dr Ng said that close to 800 people had signed up for the newly formed SAF Volunteer Corps, which will enlist its first batch of trainees at the end of next month.

He also called on the younger generation to challenge new ideas and shun conventional norms and to build on the achievements of the pioneers.

"We need to have a population that explores, believes, has it own heroes, good heroes, celebrates its achievements and weeps at moments where there is a collective grief.

"We are not there yet, but in the next 50 years, Singapore will reach (that stage)."

Young S’poreans ‘must be critical in choosing ideas’
New generation, like pioneers, need to ‘gather elements from other societies’ to better nation
By Valerie Koh, TODAY, 17 Feb 2015

As young Singaporeans open themselves up to new ideas, they should shun “conventional norms” that are not suitable for society and could actually hurt it, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday.

Speaking to an audience of mainly tertiary students at a dialogue at the National University of Singapore (NUS) yesterday, he urged them to be critical and original.

“I would like you to critically look at some of the ideas that others have for us, because societies are never static. I don’t believe one country has a monopoly of what works,” Dr Ng said.

In examining such ideas, Singapore’s pioneers had created a model which worked for the Republic “in their context, in their time”.

The onus is on the current generation to “assemble the best elements from other societies” to see how they can best serve the citizens, he added.

“If we keep to this idea by our pioneers, if you leave a better Singapore than the one inherited, then I think each generation can look forward to the next, expecting a better Singapore,” Dr Ng told his audience.

The dialogue, organised by government feedback unit REACH and NUS law students, was attended by about 150 alumni members and students from tertiary institutions and junior colleges.

Replying to a question on whether Singapore society is ready for women to undergo National Service (NS), Dr Ng said while the Singapore Armed Forces Act allows for the drafting of women, much care has to be taken in drafting people for “effect”, instead of “equity”.

“NS imposes a burden on anyone you bring in ... When you bring (a person) in, all the problems that come up must justify why you’re brought in, because you can have training injuries,” he said.

A member in the audience pointed out that having women serve NS could create strength in numbers. But Dr Ng said Singapore has to compute in terms of technology and not numbers.

“Ten years ago … we went (up) the technology ladder ... It made a big difference because we now have superior technology that is not only not so dependent on numbers, it allows us to deploy men ... with a wider range of physical ability to operate a superior force, and that is a sweet spot.”

On what can be done to reverse the growing trend of social inequality in Singapore, Dr Ng made three suggestions: Investing resources to allow people to catch up, creating opportunities for all to flourish and having a greater “can-do” spirit.

On the issue of under-representation of Malays in the Navy, he stressed that progress has been made and that Malays are now deployed in every field.

“The organising principle is this — that you should not discriminate against anyone, whether it’s race, gender, other characteristics; that you promote based on ability. For a small population like Singapore, that would be a very important organising principle because you want to get the maximum out of everybody in the SAF,” he said.

Maliki: Malays have made significant progress in SAF
The Straits Times, 18 Feb 2015

MINISTER of State for Defence Mohamad Maliki Osman has weighed in on the issue of Malays in the Singapore Armed Forces, saying Malay servicemen have made significant progress.

"Our Malay servicemen have made significant progress in all the services in the SAF based on their capabilities and merits, and I am confident many more will do so in the future," Dr Maliki said, in comments to Malay language daily Berita Harian published today.

His comments came as Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said at a forum on Monday night that Malays now serve as sailors on board navy ships, and that the SAF does not discriminate against anyone and promotes men based on their ability.

Dr Ng had been asked why Malays were previously excluded from the navy. The issue of Malays not being deployed in certain Singapore Armed Forces units and under-represented among the SAF's top ranks has been an issue in the community.

Yesterday, Dr Maliki - the first Malay political office-holder in the Defence Ministry - said the Malay community continues to make positive contributions to Singapore, including in the area of defence and security.

"I have met many Malay servicemen in every service and formation in the SAF, including as fighter pilots, commandos, and naval combat systems operators," he said.

"Whether they are regulars, NSFs or NSmen, all of them serve with pride. Many have also contributed to the SAF's overseas missions in Afghanistan and Timor Leste," he added.

Dr Maliki also noted that at the recent SAF50@Vivo exhibition to celebrate Singapore's jubilee, he met several Malay servicemen serving in the navy.

He said: "Together with their non-Malay colleagues, they play an important role in keeping our sea and shore safe, round the clock."

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