Tony Tan’s Defence Medical Scientist Son

From ‘Netizens allege Tony Tan helped son escape NS’, 29 July 2011, article in

…In a post dated 27 July, netizen “Jessica Tan” wrote, “Elected President candidate Dr Tony Tan helped his son to escape military National Service. He had arranged for his son to do civilian work (research work at National Cancer Center) and be paid NS salary. It is legally right but morally wrong.’…can Dr Tony Tan verify the above statement?”

Dr Tan posted a response to “Jessica Tan”, saying that she is mistaken. He goes on to explain that his son attended Basic Military Training, Officer Cadet School, and disrupted his National Service to attend an overseas medical school. His son was then assigned to become a defence medical scientist and performed research at the National Cancer Centre.

Dr Tan goes on to explain that his son received an NSman’s salary and “fulfilled all requirements of NS such as IPPT and in-camp training”.

In response, another netizen “Mohammad Nizam TransformingPap” comments, “Then it is very strange. I also disrupted from NS, I took up a PSC (Public Service Commission) scholarship and did my Master of Science in Biological Sciences”.

He continues, “I was sent to mop floors at a sick bay after that, as a medic for 11 months. I wonder why your son has such treatment, whereas for me, I can’t do research in the defence lab, instead, I had to mop floors”.

…The indignant netizen adds that together with a fellow doctor (who served NS as a combat Medical Officer), they are both not aware that disruptions are possible for overseas medical studies. “Only local”, he explained. In addition, he says there is also no such vocation as a defence medical scientist.

He finished off by asking, “Is this fair? “

See what happens when you get a Facebook account Tony Tan, presidential hopeful and now accused for sheltering your son from the rigours of NS. Facebook is not an ally, it’s your worst enemy! What do these netizens expect really, and aren’t they afraid of being sued for defamation? You will never find yourself crawling in the mud or digging a trench with a white horse. Nevermind what people say about equal treatment or how they have fulfilled their NS obligations as Dr Patrick Tan has (see below), it’s common knowledge that sons of VIPs are usually spared the worst of physically strenuous activities by being posted to cushy vocations that sound like the noblest job in the army like ‘defence medical scientist’, in a lab out of the hot sun wearing goggles and tinkering with test tubes, being intellectually stimulated and carving a career for himself, while his BMT mates are donning sweaty helmets and scraping M16 barrels with a five piece rod, wasting their lives away, some of whom could be equally capable, if not more brilliant than Patrick Tan himself. He also felt it imperative to defend himself via HIS FATHER’s Facebook account, issuing a statement which Daddy gladly posted as follows:

After completing my A-levels in 1987, I joined my cohort entering National Service in 1988. After completing Basic Military Training and Officer Cadet School (Junior Term), I was awarded a President’s Scholarship and a Loke Cheng Kim Scholarship to study medicine in the United States…I made my case to the Ministry of Defence and was granted permission to pursue this course of study.

 I attended Harvard University (late 1988-1992) for pre-medical studies and moved on directly without interruption to Stanford University, where I completed an MD-PhD degree under the highly-selective Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP).

…After graduating from Stanford, I returned to Singapore in 2000 ready to complete my National Service in whatever post I was assigned. I knew that I had this obligation to complete. My father had since become Minister of Defence, but if anything that made it all the more important to carry out my duty.

 At that time, melioidosis (also known as “soil disease”) was a serious concern to MINDEF as it had been affecting soldiers in the field and is a potential bio-terrorism threat… I was attached to what is now the Defence Medical and Environmental Research Institute (DMERI, then called DMRI) to research Burkholderia pseudomallei, the bacterium that causes melioidosis. This research involved an organism called C. elegans, which had been the subject of my PhD thesis.

…Throughout my National Service, I received an NSman’s salary and fulfilled all requirements of NS including IPPT and subsequent reservist obligations such as in-camp training at the rank of 3rd Sergeant.

According to Patrick Tan’s statement, he began his NS stint in 1988, going through BMT and subsequently Officer Cadet School. He then requested for disruption, which was granted.  In THE SAME YEAR, he was already in Harvard, and spent the next 12 years getting his PhD, coming back only in 2000 to serve his NS in DMRI. He then served reservist time as 3rd SERGEANT. But let’s face it, white horse or not, NS has always been unfair. Some guys go through all 2 years not having to wear the damn uniform, if not getting to dance, sing or play drums as the SAF entertainment troupe, so having someone like Patrick here disappearing for more than a decade and coming back to do experiments on worms shouldn’t surprise anyone. Melioidosis is no laughing matter though, according to the paper ‘Melioidosis in a Tropical City State, Singapore‘ published in the CDC website:

…An increase in the number of cases in March and April 2004 was preceded by heavy rainfall, strong winds, and flash floods. A total of 23 cases of melioidosis were reported with onset of illness during the 5-week period between March 7 and April 10 (epidemiologic weeks 10–14). The proportion of cases with the pneumonic form of melioidosis during this period was 82.6%, compared to 47.8% for the remainder of 2004. The case-fatality rate was 52.6% and 36.4%, respectively. Only 4 of the 23 case-patients (17.3%) reported occupations that had exposure to soil, e.g., construction workers or gardeners.

It goes on to explain the risk factors accounting for the 112 deaths in the 10 year period between 1998-2007:

…75.5% had co-existing diseases, with diabetes (47.9%), hypertension (26.4%), renal impairment (13.3%), and ischemic heart disease (12.0%) being the most common. Patients with co-illnesses had a significantly higher case-fatality rate (19.3%) compared to those without (6.5%) (p<0.0005).

How many NS men you know have diabetes, hypertension, renal impairment and heart disease? Or more specifically, how many NSmen have actually contracted melioidosis, not to mention die from it in recent years?  According to ST in-house doctor Andy Ho in a 2004 article ‘A deadly mimic raised by the rain‘, 23 SAF members were infected between 1987 and 1994, with 4 deaths (17%). 17% looks scary until you realise that translates to 4 deaths spread out over 8 YEARS. How many NS men have died from otherwise random accidents during that period? (According to this Senang Diri blog, 42 servicemen and women died between 2000 and 2010 alone) The bacteria responsible is also sensitive to antibiotics like doxycycline and amoxicillin/clavalunate, and with an overall case fatality rate of 16.2% (over 10 years), how useful is this as a bio-terrorism weapon really? How many Singaporeans slosh through paddy fields or trek muddy hills for fun?

I was surprised to discover that there really was an official ‘white horse system’ in the army (See below, White Horses faced tougher medical checks: Minister, 19 Nov 2003, Today),  with the ironic sounding acronym WHIMS (White Horse Identification and Monitoring System). Alternatively, it could have been named the White-horse Identification of Ministers’ Precious Sons (WIMPS). Its objective was to prevent spoilt brats from using the influence of their parents to skive, ensuring that if they’re combat fit they end up in combat units (The White Horse Credo, 22 Nov 2003, Today).  The WHIMS was eventually done away with in 2000, because the army was confident that it could remain status-blind to all enlisted boys, uncannily the same year that Patrick Tan returned to Singapore to serve, when Tony Tan, his father, was already MINISTER OF DEFENCE (1995-2003).


5 Responses

  1. excellent piece! Well researched and written. 🙂

  2. Can someone confirm this: Unless I am wrong, I had check wikipedia recently and did not read any mention of TT being the Defence Minister. I had wondered then. Was I mistaken? Has the info always been there, as it is now?
    Any way to check wiki on when an entry or revision was included?

    • It is in Wiki – 3rd paragraph of “Political Career”:

      Tan subsequently left OCBC and rejoined the Cabinet in August 1995 as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Defence. In August 2003, he relinquished the Defence Minister’s portfolio and became the Co-ordinating Minister for Security and Defence, while retaining the post of Deputy Prime Minister.

  3. 1988 to 2000 was a long period of absence from NS.

    Who else has/have been given this similar extended absence from NS.

    If you know, please disclose.

  4. […]…scientist-son/ some i spoonfeed some people clearly belong to the 60.14 group here __________________ Disclaimer: The above posts are purely for entertainment and should not be taken seriously by anyone […]

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