Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Military Justice, Singapore Style

Mindef spokesperson Colonel Darius Lim said that only the most serious breaches of military conduct result in jail time. Last year, “less than 5 percent” of the people sentenced in court martials and summary trials ended up behind bars, he said.
So how did Private Marcus Ng end up being one of 150 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) regulars, full-time national servicemen and operationally ready NSmen, hand-cuffed and incarcerated in the dehumanising cells of the SAF Detention Barracks in remote Kranji? Did he steal a rifle for Al Qaeda, hi-jack one of the general’s Mercedes for a joy ride, or disclose top secret data about the White Horse special treatment for kin of favoured elites? No, his crime was for SPEAKING AGGRESSIVELY to a 50-year-old female 2nd Warrant Officer K Saraswathi in the private confines of his unit’s Operations Room. By comparison, Chee Soon Juan got off easy for yelling loudly, “Where’s the money, Mr Goh” in a very public market place, while directing his query at then PM Goh Chok Tong about the billions promised to Suharto, when Indonesia was a bit cash strapped.
A busybody Master Warrant Officer Ger Ah Kee, a trained Commando, apparently saw the altercation, intervened, and actually laid his grubby hand on the private’s physical body. When Ng shrugged off the Master Warrant Officer’s offending limb, he was slapped with two more charges: one for insubordinate behaviour after the Operations Room argument, and another for improper conduct.
Ng’s defence lawyer, Mr Wendell Wong from Drew & Napier, said a jail term was “the harshest punishment I’ve ever seen for this sort of offence”. Further, the lawyer pointed out to the appeal court that the prosecution had failed to provide relevant documents or offer prosecution witnesses to Ng.
“Nothing undermines morale and discpline more than a widespread perception, rightly or wrongly, that military justice is unfair,” chimed in Dr Bernard Loo, assistant professor in war studies at the Nanyang Technological University.