Photo of Melvyn Ong from Mediacorp

In a state media interview with Straits Times, Chief of Defence Force Melvyn Ong said that he joined the army because his grandmother always complained about the Japanese Occupation during World War 2:

“My grandmother used to complain about her bad memories of the Japanese Occupation. From that time, it seared in me the fact that we must never go the way of how it was back then. It showed the importance of defence… of being in charge of your own fate. It highlighted the importance that you must be able to defend what you have, and if you don’t, it’s not yours.”

The army general who took over as Chief of Defence Force also gave his comments on the death of National Service conscript Dave Lee, who died from a heat stroke during training. Major-General Melvyn Ong said that an external review panel found two weaknesses in training protocols, but refused to elaborate further what they are. The army general said to wait for the official report that is ready only in a few months.

Army general Melvyn Ong also refused to address the “tekan” punishment practice in the army, where conscripts are given excessive corporal punishments:

“There has to be purpose, there has to be training directives, there has to be safety coverage, and if these are absent, and especially absent of purpose and reason, we will not tolerate this.”

As Chief of Defence Force, Melvyn Ong is in-line for a luxurious career in one of the state-owned companies like his predecessors outgoing SMRT CEO Desmond Kuek, SPH CEO Ng Yat Chung and incoming SMRT CEO Neo Kian Hong. Under the Lee Hsien Loong administration, military cronies are welcomed in politics too like Minister Ng Chee Meng, Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan Jin and Minister Chan Chun Sing.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has created a “circle of trust” in key ministerial and government appointments so he would not be prosecuted for corruption after he step down from his PM position. The current Attorney General is his personal friend and former lawyer, Lucien Wong, and the Deputy Attorney General is his ex-subordinate Hri Kumar. The new President, who was his former subordinate for 20 years, was arranged into power through disqualification of her opponent contestants.