Since September 2017, there have been four deaths involving three NSFs and an NSman. Safety timeouts were instituted after each incident to allow the units to review their safety practices and to look into potential blindspots in their safety SOPs. Nevertheless, this did not stop further accidents from happening.
In the latest incident, a COI has been convened to investigate the factors leading to the death of Aloysius Pang.
It beggars believe that yesterday, Mindef issued a statement highlighting that the late Aloysius Pang was the first instance of a death or injury involving the Singapore Self-Propelled Howitzer (SSPH) since it was first commissioned in 2003.
So what? What was Mindef's objective in letting the public know that fact?
Regardless of whether it was the first or one of many such instances, a life has still been lost. This fact does not alleviate the grief and lost that the family must surely be feeling.
The COI needs to be allowed to investigate the incident thoroughly. If there are any systemic lapses, faults with the design of the SSPH, or human errors, they need to be identified with certainty. Only then can clear and proper solutions be implemented.
Until that happens, public confidence in the ability of Mindef and the SAF to keep their sons and daughters safe, will continue to be eroded. These sons and daughters of Singapore are fulfilling their obligations as citizens of the country. They are acutely aware that in times of war, they may have to put their lives on the line, for the country.
In times of peace, it is a different matter.
For now, Mindef needs to rebuild the trust and goodwill between the citizens, the organisation, and the institution of national service. It can begin by ensuring that its units improve their safety culture and practices, and not put itself in a situation where it can be accused of victim-blaming.
The writer, Kelvin, is in a reflective mood.