A majority of Singaporeans feel the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has not been transparent enough when dealing with National Service training-related casualties, according to a new poll commissioned by Yahoo News Singapore.
Most of the survey respondents also said the recent spate of training-related deaths has affected their confidence in the SAF’s ability to safely train enlistees.
In the survey conducted by market research consultancy Blackbox Research from 14-26 February this year, some 908 Singaporeans were asked, “Do you think the SAF is sufficiently open about training-related injuries and deaths?”
In response, 61 per cent said “No”, while 23 per cent said “Yes”. Another 16 per cent chose “Don’t know”.
Respondents were also asked the question: “Has the recent spate of national-service training-related deaths affected your confidence in SAF’s ability to safely train soldiers?”
An overwhelming 85 per cent of them said the fatal incidents have affected their confidence to varying degrees, with 29 per cent of them saying “a lot”, 35 per cent “somewhat” and 21 per cent “a little”.
A smaller group of Singaporeans, at 12 per cent, said the incidents have not affected their confidence while the remaining two per cent expressed no opinions as they had not been following the issue.
The respondents were also asked for their responses to this statement: “It is reasonable to expect a small number of serious injuries and deaths during national service. There are risks which cannot be avoided or anticipated when it comes to any type of military training.”
About 60 per cent of them agreed with the statement, with 13 per cent “strongly” agreeing and 47 per cent “somewhat” agreeing.
The remaining 40 per cent disagreed with the statement, with 18 per cent “strongly” disagreeing and 22 per cent “somewhat” disagreeing.
The 908 respondents were evenly split between men and women, with those aged 50 years and above being the biggest group at 38 per cent. About 29 per cent of respondents were aged 35-49 years, while a quarter were aged 25-34 years. Those aged 15-24 formed 8 per cent of the respondents.
In terms of ethnicity, 78 per cent were Chinese, 14 per cent were Malay, 7 per cent were Indian, while the remaining 12 per cent were of other ethnic origins.
Training safety issues were thrown into the spotlight after the death of local actor and national serviceman Aloysius Pang, 28, in a training accident in New Zealand in January. It was the fourth SAF training-related fatality in 16 months and led to a public outpouring of grief.
A Committee of Inquiry has been established to investigate the circumstances surrounding Pang’s death. The SAF has also set up an Inspector-General’s Office to scrutinise and enforce safety processes across the three services.