After the High Court ruled that the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) cannot be sued for damages in a smoke grenade incident which saw the SAF breaching safety measures, the SAF and two other individual SAF defendents now demand the deceased NSF family to pay legal costs up to S$22,000. In their judgment, the High Court ruled that the plaintiff is to bear the legal costs incurred by the would-be defendents.
In the official media statement, the SAF spokesperson, Brigadier General Chan Wing Kai, also tried to divert blame from the army saying that the deceased Private Dominique Lee had under-declared his asthmatic condition which resulted to his death. BG Chan also justified that the smoke grenades have not resulted “any adverse outcome from the exposure to the smoke” and that the same grenades have been in used since the 1970s. BG Chan continued his own defence saying “Pte Lee’s death…is the first on the SAF’s records in over 30 years of use”.
BG Chan then carried on to say that the Ministry of Defence had waived the legal costs in a previous pre-action discovery application filed by the deceased NSF family, to justify why the SAF is now no longer waiving the recent S$22,000 legal costs. BG Chan also highlighted that the undisclosed compensation awarded to the family is more than sufficient because they are “generally two to four times that of amounts provided under the Work Injury Compensation Act”. However BG Chan did not explain how are incidents in National Service are related to employment compensations when servicemen are not “employees” but conscripts of the army.
BG Chan then claimed it is not true SAF servicemen cannot seek recourse under military rules, however he said this is at the discretion of the Attorney-General’s Chambers.
After months of silence, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen has however suggested the SAF “should” waive off the legal costs on his Facebook, but there is no confirmation.