Princeling (太子), that’s what the author in the online forum called him. Personally, I found it strange that for someone to AWOL that often (2x), he’s still holding his rank and moving about. I am aware that these things happen within an organization, but I’d have thought that the SAF is rather regiment about such things and it’s a place where insubordination gets you charged before you are demoted or fired. In the private sector, you probably can just turn your back and leave. Hmm…

Was officer who went AWOL a ‘princeling’?

I REFER to the article, ‘PM Lee’s son in NS reprimanded by SAF’ (ST, July 13).
The question some readers like me would want to ask is who is the officer from the same unit as Second Lieutenant Li Hongyi who went absent without leave, or AWOL, not once but twice, and yet his supervising officers did not take appropriate disciplinary action against him.

Reading the article, one is troubled by whether the officer is the son of some hotshot who thought he could get away with such a serious matter as AWOL. And were the supervising officers so concerned about their careers that they rendered ‘poor judgment in administering inappropriate action’? So much so that it took the Prime Minister’s son to stick his neck out and expose such goings-on, even though in the end he was himself ‘formally charged and administered a reprimand after a summary trial’.

While it is understandable that the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) would not want to divulge names, still it should say whether the AWOL officer is the son of some high-level politician, big-shot businessman or some other very important person – in other words, a ‘princeling’. This is so that the public can be satisfied, and senior officers in the SAF will take to heart, that no matter how privileged one’s background is, such a serious transgression as AWOL will not go unpunished, and that it shouldn’t take a prime minister’s son going to great lengths in order for such things to be exposed. If it were an ordinary soldier, he would have been charged and put under detention for AWOL without anyone batting an eyelid.

If indeed the AWOL officer is a ‘princeling’, I am sure readers will join me in commending 2nd Lt Li for taking a courageous stand in ensuring that justice is done, even though at much trouble to himself. If the officer had got away with AWOL twice, what else would he have tried getting away with in future?

So, even though 2nd Lt Li himself is from a privileged background, he has contributed significantly to ensuring that Singapore does not go the way of India and China, as well as other countries, where it is reported that the sons of big shots could get away with blatant abuses. He is the kind of people we need in Singapore’s next generation of political leaders.

Chan Hwa Loon

And oh, for some reasons, no comments were showed after this letter in the forums.

Reader's Comments

  1. DK | July 17th, 2007 at 4:09 pm

    I think its more of a regular looking after another regular case.

    But then, if the person who lodge a complaint is the son of PM and grandson of MM, who would still have the guts to cover up for another person? This is really a strange case. Seriously…. something doesn’t seems right.

  2. Simply Jean | July 17th, 2007 at 11:55 pm

    Actually I had been pondering on this too: Doesn’t the LTA know that the 2LT is 龙的传人? And yet he made such a mistake? And why are the other officers (OC included?) covering up for the LTA as well? This is really puzzling…

  3. Ken | July 20th, 2007 at 3:07 pm

    One broader question to ask is: How many people go AWOL each year and why?

  4. Simply Jean | July 21st, 2007 at 2:39 am

    @Ken: Maybe we should differentiate AWOL into 2 categories – major AWOL (1 day or more) and minor AWOL (less than 1 day). Major AWOL committed because of lack of official leave and minor AWOL committed because of chance-taking or the feeling that 1/2-day leave is a waste of leave?

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