These comments from a grief-stricken mother are so very heart wrenching to read. Let me quote:
Dom, in these past 3+ years, I have been worn-down, beaten and defeated by the very government I taught you to trust; worn-down, beaten and defeated by the very system I counseled you to have faith in; worn-down, beaten and defeated by the very people I advised you to respect and honor.
Dom, forgive me. I taught you wrong.
The above was triggered by a recent court ruling. Private Dominique Sarron Lee’s mother, Felicia Seah, has sued the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), and his platoon commander as well as the chief safety officer of the exercise, alleging negligence on their part.
According to this article on the Straits’ Times, the defendants then applied to strike out the claim on the grounds that “there is no reasonable cause of action and that the suit is frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the court process”, according to a provision in the Government Proceedings Act. The defendants argued that they are indemnified from being sued for negligence for deaths and injuries if the acts are certified to be attributable to service.
Judicial Commissioner Kannan Ramesh accepted that the arguments applied to this case and ruled against Mdm Seah.
As if that is not bad enough for the family, the court also ordered Mdm Seah to pay legal costs, amounting to some $22,000 to the defendants.
When I read that, it is almost as if Mdm Seah was stabbed twice. At the second stabbing, someone has even applied salt to the weapon (see picture) and then twisted it before pulling it out again.
According to this press release, the Committees of Inquiry concluded that the Training Safety Regulations (TSR) were breached. It is written in the press release that the Chief Military Prosecutor will determine if these personnel should be subject to a General Court Martial (GCM), to establish their degree of culpability and if found guilty, mete out the appropriate punishment. Police investigations are also on-going to determine whether to prosecute the personnel involved in Civil Court.
None of the news reporting this case gave me any information on whether any of the negligent persons was at the very minimum even reprimanded, if not punished in a GCM. Posting them to another position is not punishment. And what was the outcome of the police investigations? I would have accepted that the suit is so-called “frivolous, vexatious and an abuse of the court process” if I had known that some of those have already been punished, somewhat.
Unfortunately, I cannot help but feel outraged at this court ruling thanks to the really deplorable standards of journalism in Singapore. Then again, maybe it’s not an issue with the standards, but rather the ever lower ranking Singapore gets in the Press Freedom Index every year (153 out of 180 in 2015). Those reporting on such matters simply did not dare to dig too deep.
Perhaps because the death of Pte. Dominique Lee has happened more in 2012, the Internet reaction was far more muted compared to that of the school boy who plunged to death after police investigations into an alleged outrage of modesty case. It was of no surprise to me why we Singaporean males have very little pride in NS. Compare our indifference to the well being of our conscripts, and the public reaction in Taiwan over the deaths of one of theirs.
No, I am not suggesting anyone break the laws here. But there has not even been a protest or a vigil held at Hong Lim Park.
I guess some of us would have simply shrug and said, “Too bad.” But this could have been anyone’s son, or brother. Or even someone’s husband or father doing his in-camp training. This could even have been me.
So I guess, I wouldn’t be audacious to say: Je Suis Dominique.
Frankly, I cannot imagine what it would have been like for my mother if it was me. I know she would be devastated, but I can only imagine how she could have managed to live on.
~ * ~
Have you ever wondered?
Why must we serve?
Because we love our land
And we want it to be free,
to be free, yeah
This is part of the lyrics of a song we often sang during route marches and jogs when we were conscripts. There was a time I believed what I was singing and I deeply believed this is my country, my way of life and I should defend it with my life. I have not wavered from my belief many years since, even when I certainly isn’t cut to be a soldier.
Now, I’m not so sure anymore.
Was those years worth it, for what Singapore has become?