Photo of Ng Eng Hen from Straits Times Mark Cheong

According to the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF), a full-time national serviceman (NSF) conscript died while training in Australia’s Shoalwater Bay on Friday (Sep 15). In the MINDEF’s press release, 3rd sergeant Gavin Cheng Hiang Cheng was crushed when the Bionix vehicle he was guiding toppled while travelling on a “difficult terrain” and landed on it’s side. The extent of injuries were not reported but the comatose NSF died later in the evening.

There is however no mention of compensation or who to be held responsible for the NSF death. Commanding officer of the 41st Battalion Singapore Armoured Regiment was unavailable to comment on the incident, and neither the Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen nor a MINDEF spokesperson issue any official apology to the NSF’s family.

It is also not known how much compensation the deceased family will receive, but they will at least receive S$150,000 in insurance compensation under the MINDEF Group Insurance scheme. However, insurance payouts should be differentiated from compensation as the latter is an adoption of responsibility by the military compared to a profitable premium pool-funded insurance scheme.

NSF conscripts in Singapore are paid as low as S$560 a month, and are often used as cheap labour compared to maintaining a professional army. Conscription laws dictate that Singaporean males serve 2 years full-time and a 10-year cycle of reservist training. As new citizens are excused, many Singaporeans are disgruntled by the unfairness and felt condemned for being born in Singapore.

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