SINGAPORE: Both officers involved in the death of full-time national serviceman (NSF) Dominique Sarron Lee were punished in accordance with military law, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament on Thursday (Mar 24).
Responding to a question by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament (NCMP) Dennis Tan, Dr Ng saidin general, the punishment must match the offence. In this specific case, the officers were punished through fines and delays in promotions consistent with past penalties for similar offences.
As a result, they suffered a "significant" monetary cost amounting to about half of their total annual salaries, he added.
JUDICIAL SYSTEM DECIDES WHETHER TO PROSECUTE NSMEN
The Defence Minister said that like civilians, Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) servicemen can be charged and punished in civilian criminal courts for acts committed in the course of their duties.
"Each time an injury or death occurs, we must ensure that independent and impartial investigative process are instituted to determine the key facts, arrive at appropriate conclusions and take the corrective measures to ensure mistakes - if any - are not repeated. This includes punishing those held responsible for reckless and negligence acts that have led to the death or injury.”
He reiterated that it is up to the criminal courts to determine the level of culpability and convention punishments, he added.
“Every injury or death to one of our servicemen is an occasion marked by sadness and regret for the whole SAF family,” said Dr Ng. “Our SAF commanders know that the sons of families entrusted to them during National Service are precious. So, even if they are responsible to train them, to raise and maintain a credible and decisive SAF to defend Singapore, our commanders are clear they need to do this to as safely as possible.”
However, he pointed out that in Mr Lee's case, the AGC decided not to prosecute anyone as the coroner had found that the cause of death was an unforeseen allergic reaction that was "unlikely to have been predicted". Instead, the SAF officers were charged under military law for breaching training safety regulations, as advised by the AGC.
Dr Ng added: "The two SAF officers involved will carry with them the pain of this incident for the rest of their lives. But I do not believe that they started that fateful day intending at all to harm the soldiers under their charge."
ASSISTANCE AVAILABLE FOR NSMEN WHO SUSTAIN INJURIES
Addressing a separate question by Member of Parliament Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap (Aljunied GRC), Senior Minister of State for Defence Maliki Osman said that MINDEF and SAF ensure that NSmen who are injured in the course of service receive the "necessary assistance and support".
The defence bodies pay for all medical expenses incurred for the treatment of service-related injuries at Government and restructured hospitals or clinics, including the cost of medical supplies and equipment, said Dr Maliki.
This applies as long as treatment is required, even after the serviceman has left service or if the injury recurs, he explained.
Dr Maliki added that SAF will also provide compensation if the service-related injury results in permanent disability. He said: "This will be equivalent to the lump sum compensation prescribed under the Work Injury Compensation Act (WICA).
"The amount is doubled for disabilities that result from military training or operations. Additional amounts are also provided for total permanent disability."
There are two grants under the SAF Benevolent Fund. The Benevolent Grant is a one-off S$12,000 grant to meet the financial needs of families of servicemen who have sustained permanent injury.
The Welfare Benevolent Grant gives mid- to long-term assistance for injured servicemen, with financial support of up to S$42,000 per year. Additional assistance for education and medical needs may also be provided.
Dr Maliki said eligibility for the Welfare Benevolent Grant is assessed every two years, with no limits on the number of renewals.
Two more grants are provided under the SAF Care Fund - Helping Hand Grant and Care Support Grant. The Helping Hand Grant is a one-off grant of up to $5,000, while the Care Support Grant gives a monthly amount of $300.