Singapore defended the city government's conscription system on Monday after the recent death of four soldiers, including a popular young actor, led to much criticism.
As a small state surrounded by larger neighbors, the founders of Singapore decided to base themselves on conscription as an important part of its defense strategy after the country became independent in 1965.
Male Singaporean citizens and permanent residents must have two years of military service after their 18th year, either with the army, the police or the emergency services. They are also regularly called for further training in the following years.
Some have called, however, to change the conscription system after the death of four soldiers – three of them in their first two years of service, and a fourth of those in reserve training – in a flood of accidents in the past 17 months.
The cause of the biggest controversy was the death of Aloysius Pang, a 28-year-old actor, who sustained deadly injuries during artillery repair when taking part in exercises in New Zealand last month as part of compulsory reserve training.
"Stop exploiting our young men in the name of the national defense," social media CJ Leo wrote under an article about the current system. "A full-time force will do the job more effectively."
In a statement to parliament Monday, Secretary of Defense Ng Eng Hen stressed that Singapore "should never give up the national service, which forms the backbone of our SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) for national defense".
Ng apologized for the dead and said that the SAF and the Ministry of Defense had taken extra security measures.
But he also urged Singaporeans not to ignore the reason why male citizens had to undergo military training – to protect the country.
"Without NSMs (national military personnel), we can not have the SAF or the home team that can stop terrorists from attacking Changi Airport (the main airport in Singapore) … or injuring innocent civilians in shopping centers, in crowded places," he said.
"Without the NS & # 39; ers and the SAF, potential attackers will not shy away from entering and occupying the rich Singapore as Iraq did Kuwait," he added.