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SAFTI @ 50 & The Leaders Produced

SAFTI’s 50th anniversary is a celebration for me personally. I spent my BMT, SISL and SMC at SAFTI while transiting from teenage to adulthood. PM Lee lauded it for producing past and present military leaders who have built and transformed the SAF.

My family ‘contributed’2 years of our youngest son’s young life to SAFTI, all in the belief that he has to do his “duty to ensure that Singapore will always be secure, so that your families, and all Singaporeans, can always be confident of our future together.” But so many of his cohort found it ludicrous to abide by that conviction when they could see sons of PRs and naturalized citizens steal a 2-year march on them (many with taxpayers’ money) to university and to plumb jobs and higher salaries. Some they’ll be reporting to or asking a job from later in their lives.

But my question for us today is: What do the records show of the SAFTI-produced leaders since year 2000? Here are the notable ones:

  • Former Chief of Defence Force (2003-07) Major-General Ng Yat Chung, recent last CEO NOL (fr Oct 2011)
  • Former Chief of Defence Force (2007-10) Desmond Kuek Bak-Chye,President and CEO SMRT (since Oct 2012)
  • Former Chief of Army (2010-11) MG Chan Chun Sing, Minister (since May 2011)
  • Brigadier-General Tan Chuan Jin, Minister (since May 2014)

Peacetime field performance, sand-model strategy prowess and medals do not reliably indicate actual performance during wartime or periods of national unrest. None, no not one, of our SAFTI leaders have even fired a shot at an actual enemy or terrorist.

Just ask ourselves. What’s happened to NOL since 2012, a precious state asset? What about SMRT since 2013? Any notable policies from ministries helmed by the generals since they were elevated? No ifs, no buts, what do the quantifiable and quantified results of the units they CEO-ed say of the above SAFTI-produced leaders?

Why are taxpayers paying $million$ for non- or dismal performance or pedestrian ones?. And other than Rear Admiral Liu, has anyone voluntarily gotten out of his way for his lackadaisical performance?

But sadder still to see that less-than competent leader-type has now ‘progressed’. I save the best for last.

The most recent addition and transition from SAF to full minister in one superman (PAP-style) step, is the ex-Chief of Defence Force LG Ng Chee Meng.

He’s the only defence honcho – ever – who claims his army is capable of ‘one-shot, one-kill’, under his watch, no less. Google and you won’t find even armies with recent and extended boots-on-the-ground experience (USA, UK, France, Netherlands, Israel, to name a few with similar modern weaponry) dare make such a boast.

Even more astonishingly, he claimed his entering politics is ‘giving back to society’, paying back his ‘indebtedness’. O! how far the values of our leaders have fallen! What does he mean by giving back to society – leaving behind a S$300k to S$400k SAF job for a 3-4X higher S$1.2mil minister post?

Giving back by taking more from society’s tax coffers?

Be afraid. Be very afraid – of such a system producing such leaders with such track records and boastful or “giving-back-to-society” values.

I have no personal dislike of any generals mentioned here. Not least, Ng Chee Meng. In fact, he appears personable, like Tan Chuan Jin. I have been repeating this observation of Ng’s ‘giving-back-to-society’ claim primarily for what his words mean – or would mean – to citizens and especially to younger Singaporeans observing how the PAP leaders of today compare with yesteryears’ (such as ex-Law Minister E W Barker who faced difficulties servicing his semi-d loan, according to LKY). What do their words and actions say of the idea and ideal of sacrificial, self-less (if not selfless) patriotism? From Grace Fu complaining about her salary cut previously to now Ng claiming to be giving back – by taking in more for himself – what example are we setting for our young?

LAW Kim Hwee