I just added a snap poll here (read entry here). Apparently there are various opinions on this issue and it’d be interesting to know what is the general feel of Singaporeans about this issue. Some think that this is pure wayang. Some think that there is injustice in punishing 2Lt Li. Some feel that SAF is ran in a high mysterious manner and nothing can change that, while others are simply indifferent.

How about you? How do you feel about this? (poll on side bar) 🙂

Reader's Comments

  1. DK | July 13th, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    I feel that the punishment is too light. While I agree with his comments and POV in the email, the method he use is wrong. He should have followed the chain of command. Since the OC of the person did not take action, he should follow up with the OC’s boss who is the CO.

    Verbal warning is way too light punishment.

  2. Simply Jean | July 13th, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    Hmm… I didn’t consider that (about the punishment being too light). I heard/read that in most cases, the serviceman would have already been shot in the head (not literally, of course) for this.

  3. Kev | July 13th, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    I agreed with what he did. Not that he hasn’t try the chain of command, but his OC simply can’t be bother.

    What I don’t agree is the fact that he broadcasted it to a whole lot of people who are not related… He goes out to shame, but ended up getting shame too…

  4. squawks | July 13th, 2007 at 6:44 pm

    to DK:

    you know that if he had gone to his CO he would have effectively been declared to have broken the chain of command as well. his OC would simply need to reply that he is ALREADY working on it. and it would effectively shoot 2lt lee back in his face and the matter might have been hushed up there and then and we would not have been able to learn of such atrocities happening in this age in the SAF.

    therefore it was the right thing to do to bring it all the way up. only then can something be done because then it would reach the “no choice” stage where something has to be done because all the people who receieved the mail and thus now being kept in the loop would also demand for a proper accounting of this “incident”.

    in my opinion, smart move, hongyi. and hence he ought to be protected. not punished.

    if you called the saf hotline to complain about something, and you have a serious and valid grievience, and you get punished for it? ridiculous.

  5. s | July 13th, 2007 at 6:50 pm

    Too light. He also ruined someone’s career without having first talked (again) with immediate superiors in his unit.

  6. szhcornan73 | July 13th, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    If all the email content was true, I would rather call him fearless and brave (hopefully not because he has a PM dad).

    He may not be politically correct. But being young, we all have our days of burning Enthusiasm. Just like many kopitiam story of the dad in his younger days.

    If he has to be that politically correct, he could have told his PM dad.

    Then people will say “Oh, PM’s boy complaining watch out, watch out…”

    What if he went all the way to G1, or any higher enchelon, or whatever secret units and still finding it getting nowhere? Then the casualty number could be even higher?

    From what I personally understood, SAF reporting system sucks – I’ve been placed into situations before. Or else, we could have saved many fellow countrymen’s life from improper training procedures or oversights whether due to ignorance, or hot balloons.

    In SAF, one has to be also careful of being charged for Insubordination. If one have to jump level, jump high then. Freedom is not free. Rights are neither free.

    Not considering the BIG picture and repercussions IS the true wealth of being young and fearless. As someone with many life and work experiences, we tend to become smarter, more shrewd, and cautious. That’s our asset and also liability. We also tend to give too much 2nd-thoughts and wrong the supposed right in many self-doubts.

    We all pay a price for our lessons. Questions is, how much? Most NS-folks will …. “Ai-ya… Serve And Fuck-off (stands for SAF) lah… why rock the boat? Me no Minister of Defence or General mah…”

    How many of us face our own integrity and challenge our values?

  7. a piglet | July 13th, 2007 at 8:02 pm

    To add some more info.
    In the army enlisted men (cpl/sgt) are often disciplined impartially with punishments severely as a sign of discipline.However this line is blurred when this involves regular (professional?) soldiers , they are given a slap on the wrist (informal punishment extra duties/confinement).Why? because this will affect their career while NSF will do their two years and f@@@ off.These punishments may not be served by offenders as regulars help regular code of ethics are in place. U help me i help u network.
    Those NSF servicemen officers are often ranked below regulars (same for enlisted men), thus they will often feel disgruntled as different standards applies.
    I felt that Li Hongyi opened a can of worms when he crossed path with LTA X ( Mr Tua Si lang),swapping his duties with somebody.
    LTA X should sell his duties to others, which is prevalent in SAF (under table swap for favours/money) to NSF servicemen but not to white horses like Li HongYi.
    The supervising OC(Bo tao nao) covered for LTA X should be impartial and get him to do extra duty immediately for 3-5 days so to show others what u will get for running off from duty.But he did not.
    I approve and Mr Li Hongyi for opening this can of worms for us to see that SAF has not changed at all so much for increased pay,benefits for Mindef personnel or civil servants, still has double standards for regulars and nsf servicemen , do the same job get different pay, different punishment(informal for regulars,formal for nsf servicemen),different offdays (no off for nsf even u are going to ORD,planned offdays for regular,unofficial MC,see mother to hospital,etc etc).
    Why is this so? because nobody blows the whistle on them (the regular i help u u help me network.

  8. ClappingTrees | July 13th, 2007 at 11:33 pm

    This is beginning to feel like wayang. Does Hongyi’s superior know who he is? Assuming that he does (just like almost everyone else), why did he choose to ignore the complaint of the PM’s son and take the side of a much less powerful man? Are there other facts in this incident that are not made known?

  9. pfft. | July 13th, 2007 at 11:53 pm

    Why should we care if it’s wayang or not. The important thing is someone(doesn’t matter if it’s PMs son or Mr X’s son) actually has the guts to stand up and be counted, someone who actually wants the SAF to become more efficient, honestly I reckon most of us who have served in the army know that such things happened but nobody dared speak a word but often wished there was someone to speak up against such injustice, so why are we wishing for him to “kena jialat jialat” for doing something many of us wished we had the guts to do?

  10. ClappingTrees | July 14th, 2007 at 12:00 am

    If this is wayang, this is not real. No one to praise or wish “jialat” then.

  11. ljl | July 14th, 2007 at 12:36 am

    Its a lesson learnt. its good to be khiang and not be gei khiang.

  12. GaMerZ | July 14th, 2007 at 2:05 am

    No link to topic but thanks for using my polls =D

  13. Ed | July 14th, 2007 at 2:43 am

    The directing of complaint to immediate superior has already fallen on death ears. Not to mention, he had previously confronted this fellow officer before. Chance given, but he wasted it. Under this scenario, from the time we climb the hierachy until it reaches the top, how long would it take?

    Mindef’s refusal to comment on the contents of the email, is questionable. This is not a simple case of an officer jumping the hierachy for an unimportant issue, but an officer with a very serious reporting of offence. The delayed execution of punishment to the LTA poses question marks too, especially when 2LT Lee is due for disruption. Whether is it a time-delay strategy to shove the whole issue under the carpet, we will never know the true intention. It remains as my own speculation. But taking into account the contents of the email until the point 2LT Lee’s “publicity” for his non-compliance of General Orders, but yet at the same time – the offence of the LTA’s AWOL is not publicised… this is my biggest question mark now.

    A slap in their own face… in their attempt to show their impartiality. The way the whole issue was handled, is a complete disgrace. Who can hold trust in their superiors now… when we know senior officers will cover each other when punishing surbordinates at the same time? Respect? Earn it!

  14. squawks | July 14th, 2007 at 3:16 am

    Actually I can almost say for sure that nearly every single Singaporean male who has gone through National Service would have been able to come to the conclusion of how wonderful/sucky the organisation is by his own experience. And the decision would be largely unanimously negative, save for some exceptions.

    This incident however, has managed to show to the WORLD and the rest of the Singapore population exactly how screwed up a bunch of people are responsible for the safety and souvereignty of our nation. Well done!

    To “s”, who typed:
    Too light. He also ruined someone’s career without having first talked (again) with immediate superiors in his unit.

    I cannot believe that you have any shred of sympathy for this joke of a commissioned officer.

  15. Pubed | July 14th, 2007 at 7:03 am

    Aren’t officers supposed to be more matured? Awol twice and still get to keep his rice bowl? Pls, you think his grandfather’s army?

  16. Defector | July 14th, 2007 at 7:51 am

    While he did the right thing by bringing another erratic officer to case, he should have followed the system in place and by all means, “Summary Trial” isn’t a small thing at all. Its just a smaller name compared to court martial which that AWOL officer got.

    The poor guys is the two other people who get warning letters (stated in ST 13 Jul) when they weren’t even approached by Author of the mail. That’s command responsibility. Anyway, there are always punishment guidelines for cases, and definately the punishment awarded is in accordance to the guidelines without favouritism or biases.

  17. chai | July 14th, 2007 at 11:21 am

    It is all wayang and maybe engineered by the PAP or daddy PM’s image marketing company. If the complaint was by anyone else, do you think that it would have got the same results?

    All of us we have gone thru NS know that the SAF officers are certainly not all up to mark, and that the SAF organization as a whole is not “that wonderful” to begin with.

    Just imagine that it is a typical civil service structure that is 10 times worse because of its hierarchical nature and military ranks, as well as “following orders without questioning” and its frequent and arbitrary punishments kind of environment.

    The call of duty to the country applies in the civil service as much as in the military, except that the soldiers (besides the top generals) are underpaid, unappreciated, fully expendable and treated with contempt.

  18. Signaller | July 14th, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    To Defector (July 14th, 2007 at 7:51 am):

    I think you’d made a mistake in your comments. There are no ‘poor guys’ in this episode. The 2 idiots who got the warning letters for exercising poor judgement are LTA X’s supervising officers a.k.a. the OC & the 2IC of the unit. 2LT H.Y. Li had already spoken to them & raised the issue of LTA X’s M.I.A. on 2 occasions when LTA X should be in camp and doing D.O. duty – and surprisingly nothing was done. Note that M.I.A. during D.O. duty is a GRAVE offence.

    In case you do not know how efficient a S.D.O. and the camp chief clerk can be with putting an errant officer on D.O. extras, let me tell you: it is with immediate effect and NO delays. Back in the late 90s, there was a minor incident in a certain camp and the culpable officer was immediately referred to the S.D.O. by his OC, charged – and made to do D.O. Saturday & Sunday until he ORD-ed.

    The reason why 2LT H.Y. Li cc-ed everyone in Signals + ALL the big fish is simple: if he’d followed the chain-of-command, the next step is the CO (since the OC already closed one eye to his own man). What makes you think the CO wouldn’t side with his own permanent staff i.e. the OC & his 2IC? When you think of the big picture, you’d realise that unless the NCOs are copied (and thus, made the officer corps accountable to the men they are leading), nothing will be done.

    Like what Rockson said in his post, unless other battalions are informed, chances are the following would have occurred if the chain-of-command was adhered:
    (1) 2LT H.Y. Li complain to his immediate superior (LTA X) that LTA X’s M.I.A. during course of duty is not acceptable. LTA X ignores him.
    (2) 2LT Li goes up the chain and complain to 2IC & OC (since they are of the same level). 2IC & OC don’t care.
    (3) 2LT Li is the never-give-up Energizer bunny and goes to the unit CO. Unit CO calls up OC & 2IC. The 2 jokers feign ignorance & say that issue has been dealt with via verbal warning to LTA X i.e. NO PROOF, HAHA.
    (4) 2LT Li, by now, is hopping mad & frustrated but goes by C-o-C. He informs Chief Signal Officer. CSO listens to the complain, calls up the unit CO, OC & 2IC, and they leave for a game of golf. After that, he goes home, tell his wife about it. And case is forgotten & closed when they get to bed.

  19. Cryogen | July 15th, 2007 at 2:23 am

    I personally feel that the issue could have been managed better. Signaller pointed out a few points on why it would be useless to follow the chain of command and why the either formation needs to be informed before the desired effect could be achieved. I agree with some but have a different view on some.

    First i think if the mail is sent to the defence minister and all the big shots actions would highly likely be taken, even without sending the email out to the entire formation. Especially given his family background

    Second, i think the example of how efficient it is to administer punishment was described in a different context. Cause in this case (correct me if I am wrong), the culpable officer was not charged but was just give extra duties and the processes are different and it was possible for administrative lapses to occur. Not that it is acceptable, but just to point out the difference in context.

    Third, I do not think it is fair to assume that the CO or CSO would just pay lip service to the complain and close the case. As Signaller has correctly pointed out, the offence committed was a grave one and as such why would the big shots just pay lip service and not ensure that sufficient attention is given, again especially when the person who made the complain was not an ordinary servicemen?

    Fourth, I just want to point out this incident did indeed show that not all officers in the SAF are of good quality. But which organisation does not have black sheeps. To condemn the entire organisation might not be very fair. We all been through NS. Everyone’s experiences are different. I am sure we all met some good, responsible, hardworking, competent officers. I know I have and I am grateful for it.

    Just like how everyone everyone wish that they have the courage to flag out the bad officers they encountered during their NS times. I ask now who has the courage, in this situation, where everyone is so ready to put SAF officers in the slaughterhouse, to touch their heart and say that there are some pretty good quality people in the SAF.

    Just five cents worth 🙂

  20. Pte (NS) Jefri | July 15th, 2007 at 10:54 am

    I salute him for his action. At least the e-mail which is the last one for a decade to furthur his studies got the attention fast. That means he wanted to go by the proper channel but that will take months and he ran out of it. But still the case and all the bad sheeps of officers will not get away with it lightly. And will make it to deter future officers from doing that too. 2LT Li is still young and will grow to maturity in time to come and became just like father and his uncle BG(NS) Lee hsien Yang, who is my former unit commander in HQ 2 SIB. Soft approach yet firm. So he gets the top attention in short notice, and the action had been taken to all involved including him.

    As an IT personnel, the best he can do is instead of CC, he can BCC as all ISP will hide the BCC but it will still reach the recipient. CC only the top and BCC those who needs to know without releasing their identity in view. Reading the email, i can feel the frustration that comes with it that needs to be addressed. Maybe he wanted them to change the system before he becomes the PM, or else i think he will sign on as regular like his uncle or be the Chief of Defence.

    Last but not least, i think it is time for the SAF to take action on everyone including officers, to keep the image as a fighting force with discipline. No war does not mean we can slack our duty right? Regardless of whether we have rank or not. We don’t need this saga to wake us up. Do you mean no boss you slack, and when boss comes into office you act busy? Definitely NO.

    As you see, my rank is still PTE, and still proud of it serving SAF as NSman and serving my unit commander as runner. What we want is just to serve and get the job done when needed and finish our time in service in peace.

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