Photo of NSF funeral from Mediacorp

Addressing the death of National Service conscript Dave Lee, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen admitted wrongdoing from the Singapore Armed Forces and revealed that bullying, known as tekan, killed the conscript.

“Lapses and breaches of Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) regulations were uncovered in full-time national serviceman Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee Han Xuan’s heat injury death. Unauthorised physical punishment of about 30 minutes was meted out to the full-time national serviceman’s platoon the night before his fast march, compromising the required rest time. The next day, there was inadequate on-site casualty management after CFC Lee’s fast march, and his evacuation to the medical centre was delayed.”

On April 30 this year, conscript Dave Lee collapsed after an 8km fast march. The Singaporean conscript was then under medication for nose infection, and did not get sufficient sleep the previous night as his platoon was bullied by the camp commanders. A Committee of Inquiry (COI) found that the resulting accumulated fatigue and insufficient rest contributed to his heat stroke the following day.

The COI also found that the army did not render immediate medical attention to Dave Lee, which worsened his heat stroke:

“However, the COI’s preliminary assessment was that the likely reasons for CFC Lee succumbing to heat stroke were inadequate on-site casualty management and delayed evacuation to the medical centre.”

Minister Ng Eng Hen revealed that the Bedok camp commanders deliberately intensified the training schedule a day prior to the 8km fast march and not gave the conscripts enough rest in the evening:

“First, during a training run a day before the April 18 fast march, CFC Lee ran a slightly faster pace than required, with a shorter rest time in between each lap than stipulated in the lesson plan. These deviations were a breach of training safety regulations. The reason given was that the commanders wanted to enhance fitness and foster greater cohesion by keeping the platoon intact, and the soldiers running at the same pace, not in groups. Second, unauthorised informal punishment was dished out to CFC Lee’s platoon the night before the fast march.

This meant that the seven hours of uninterrupted rest required was compromised.

The scout platoon were told to assemble in their No. 4 uniform and assault bags, as the commander had wanted to punish them for a perceived lack of teamwork and the use of mobile phones after lights out, despite repeated warnings.

At about 9.45pm, informal punishment was given for about 30 minutes in the form of physical exercises, such as bear crawls, sprints, leopard crawls, push-ups and crunches. They also had water poured over them during the session, which ended with the troopers reciting the Guards creed a few times in a high kneel position.

They were sent back to their bunks at about 10.30pm. The COI noted that the relevant commanders did not seek prior approval for the conduct of this informal punishment or inform their superiors after the punishment.”

The mother of Dave Lee has hit out at the SAF and called for the immediate stop to unofficial punishments known as tekan in the army.

The SAF and the Defence Minister did not respond, and refuse to make any statement to stop tekan. There is also no official compensation or apology from the Singapore government.