MINDEF-SAF personnel forced to download SGSecure app

From ‘All Mindef-SAF personnel required to download SGsecure app’, 28 July 2017, article in Today

All Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and Ministry of Defence (Mindef) personnel are required to download the SGSecure application on their mobile phones and complete the e-learning modules within, the ministry said on Friday (July 28) amid online complaints from users who said they had been forced to install the software.

The app, which enables the police and the Singapore Civil Defence Force to send alerts to the public in times of emergencies, and for the public to report suspicious activities, is part of the SGSecure movement launched in 2016.

…Mindef and MHA’s comments came amidst online complaints by users who alleged that they had been threatened with disciplinary measures if they did not install the app. Many of the complaints were written in the reviews section of the app.

One user, Mr Dylan Leong, wrote: “Got forced to download if not disciplinary actions will be placed against us.”

Mindef did not directly address queries on the alleged punitive measures faced by those who refused to install the app.

“Global and regional terror threats are persistent and long-term issues that should not be taken lightly. Singapore is just as susceptible to these threats as any other country,” the ministry said in its statement.

Total defence calls for totalitarian measures, though it doesn’t mean people will end up using the SGsecure app, preferring to park it in a folder so hidden that in the rare event that you do really need it, you would get discovered and killed while the app is still loading or your phone is struggling to detect Wireless@SG.

An anti-terror app sounds sexy and all, but we shouldn’t rush into technology without considering human elements. There are some common sense scenarios where you SHOULDN’T use your phone when hiding from a terrorist raid. Take this scene from the Run. Hide. Tell Crimewatch promo, for example, when our protagonist decides to sms the police in a dark room, which is basically telling your enemy ‘YOOHOO I’M HERE’.

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But terrorism is no joke, of course. So as an inactive NSmen myself, I decided to give the app a go.

The first notification I got was to enable location services and I was immediately reluctant to do so. Not only was my privacy at stake, but it would deter users from making reports that may be perceived by the defenders of Singapore as frivolous or pranks. What if they hunt me down and arrest me for making a false bomb alert which I thought genuine? On the flipside, the app makes it almost TOO EASY to troll the authorities. Which means more time spent on investigating false alarms than doing important work like, you know, catching rapists and shit. Personal Batman beacon, this is not.

I also checked out the e-learning module, which is basically scrolling down some infographics and watching two Youtube videos. Once you’re done, you need to ‘register completion of e-learning’, which means giving your personal info in a form. Now you’re a qualified SGSecure expert!Yay!

But what’s really telling about the whole concept of the app, and bugs me like hell, is that it has NO FEEDBACK OPTION. You can’t tell MINDEF how to improve the app, even if it sucks one-star donkey balls. What the app would be useful for, though, is tracking missing persons, with the right incentives. If we had this app during Mas Selamat’s escape and rewarded users with cash prizes, he wouldn’t have made it past the beach with his makeshift raft. We would have the whole of Singapore manhunting like Pokemon Go.

You know who we should really force this upon instead? Convicted upskirt voyeurs. With their talent for stealth filming they would make excellent reconnaissance agents. They could sneak up close and personal with suspicious characters like a ghost. We could also reduce their jail sentences for their penance in return for their heroic deeds. And if they get caught, well, too bad you sick pervert!

Good effort, MINDEF. But if I ever find myself in trouble, I’ll stick to the tried and tested method of calling 999. By the time I dig out this app, fiddle with the glare settings, skip the time-wasting opening tutorials, and swipe for the emergency contacts, I’d probably have my head lopped off by then.

 

 

 

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NSmen given free rides for NS50

From ‘Make it easy for NSmen to take free rides’, 26 June 2017, ST Forum

(Elvis Zhang Haowei): As part of the NS50 celebrations this year, all individuals who have performed or are performing national service will be given free rides on public transport on Friday if they wear their uniforms.

While the intentions behind this initiative are certainly good, the execution on the day itself could present several difficulties. According to official instructions given by SMRT, NSmen who wish to take the LRT free should contact the station staff through the intercom beside the fare gantries, both for entering and exiting the station. At MRT stations, NSmen have to physically approach station staff, who will then open the gantry for them to pass through.

If participation is enthusiastic, the potential logistical nightmare is obvious. How will there be adequate staff at each station at any given point in time to deal with the many requests from NSmen? We will end up with frustrated uniformed men stuck behind long queues. 

Given the advent of the warmer months and the thickness of the uniforms, the frustration can only get worse.  Many NSmen may foresee the immense hassle and choose not to take part in the scheme.

It would then likely lead to lukewarm participation, throwing into doubt the sincerity behind the initiative. For effective execution, SMRT could consider reserving at least two gantries at each station for the NSmen’s entry and exit respectively; only a small handful of station staff will be needed to perform quick inspections and ensure that only properly attired individuals pass through the gantries.

Alternatively, SMRT could consider simply having a free travel day for everyone, which is rather appropriate in view of the reach of NS.

Even though not everyone in Singapore serves NS, the benefits are extended to everyone residing within the nation, regardless of gender or nationality.

Wearing a No.4 in public comes with a certain weight of responsibility. Muddy boots are a no-no, you can’t indulge in the basic vices such as chewing gum, smoke or drink alcohol. If a baby in the train is having cyanosis, bystanders look to you to save the day. If you take a seat and stare at your phone, some idiot will take a photo and complain about it on Facebook. God knows what would happen if you are found sitting down on the MRT floor – Someone may file a police report.

If you dress like a chow recruit on the train, passengers will instinctively run and hide, assuming that you stink after a day’s jungle training. In fear of contaminating the seats, you stand for the rest of your arduous journey from Tuas Link to goddamn Pasir Ris. Serving the nation forever alone.

Given the level of mental and physical suffering expected of a man in uniform, would anyone in their right mind don the No. 4 JUST for one day’s worth of free rides? Or pose as an imposter if they’re not actually NSmen? What’s the worst that could happen if you’re a non-NSman borrowing your buddy’s uniform for a free ride? You, *gasp* pay the fare, that’s what.

So yes, if you think about it, why reserve just one day (June 30) for NSmen to get unlimited free public transport if they wear uniform? Let’s salute our everyday heroes and give it to them FOC – or at least discounted rates – all day EVERY DAY, whether in uniform or in T-shirt and sandals. After all, they are practically volunteer train/bus marshals. If a fight breaks out between uncles over a priority seat, they’ll be there to intervene. If someone faints, they’ll attend to the victim. If some China national leaves a suspicious luggage near the toilet, they’ll tackle him to the ground with an anaconda chokehold. In fact, they are already talks of them being activated during a train breakdown to control crowds. I mean, you could stop paying THIS guy for his superhero services already.

Forget about reserved gantries. NS50 committee, if you’re serious about recognising our NSmen, please issue a special access EZlink cum credit card instead of crappy vouchers. Give the poor sod below something to look forward to after 2 shitty years of NS.

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Foreign workers removing bus stop for airforce exercise

From ‘Don’t rope in construction workers for military exercises’, 17 Nov 2016, ST Forum

(Tan Yulin): I was disappointed to see construction workers removing a bus stop to turn Lim Chu Kang Road into a runway for the Republic of Singapore Air Force’s Exercise Torrent (“Turning road into runway“; Nov 12).

Getting construction workers to do the work defeats the purpose of the military exercise. Besides testing the operational abilities of the air force to launch aircraft in a short period of time, it is also important to test the capabilities of our soldiers to convert a road into a runway.

It would have made the exercise more authentic if combat engineers had been activated to remove the bus stops, guard rails and lamp posts, without the help of construction workers.

Doing so would also have served as a test of the different forces working together in times of threat. Besides building teamwork and understanding among the different forces, such exercises should be a test of the operational readiness of our multi-disciplinary armed forces. I hope this can be taken into consideration for future airforce exercises.

Foreign workers have always been a key ‘shadow army’ behind the SAF machine, and if the writer herself had a boy going through NS, she would have been complicit in their invisible work as well. If not for maids, who would help lug our NSmen’s duffel bags home after a hard day’s training, or wash the mud off their No. 4s and boots?

Dismantling bus stops aside, the packing of parachutes has also been outsourced to non-soldiers, with some alleging that PRCs are behind it. With our dismal birthrate and shortage of manpower, it would be unrealistic to stretch our army’s capabilities right down to the most basic of logistics. That includes washing tanks and feeding the army in times of war. Though contracted to ‘civilian’ companies, I’m pretty certain that foreign workers will be involved.

Even the SAF and Police rope in foreign workers. In order to test SCDF’s anti-riot capacity following the Little India incident, actual dorm workers were roped in as part of a simulation exercise, right down to awkward reenactments of throwing projectiles at armed SCDF personnel. A much easier job than pulling bus stops out of the ground if you ask me.

Then Minister of National Development Khaw Boon Wan said in a FB post that the mock riot was ‘well received…by foreign worker ambassadors‘, and that it was a ‘meaningful collaboration’. Likewise, you could say the use of construction workers to prepare a runway for the RSAF is a cost-saving optimization of resources so that our airforce can focus on their flying stuff and our combat engineers can focus on their bridge-building/demolishing stuff.

It’s time we accept that foreign workers have contributed to our military operations in some way or another, from the rations that soldiers eat to the airborne equipment that keeps them from going splat on the ground. Or maybe the RSAF had intended for actual soldiers to do the dirty work in preparation for the exercise after all, but our boys were activated to other soldierly duties: Managing crowds during a MRT breakdown.

Retiring Chief of Defence Force entering politics

From ‘Chief of Defence Force LG Ng Chee Meng to retire this August’, 31 July 2015, article by Neo Chai Chin, Today

In a move set to spark speculation on whether he will enter politics, the Chief of Defence Force, Lieutenant General Ng Chee Meng, will retire from the Singapore Armed Forces on Aug 18. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had announced LG Ng’s retirement on Facebook.

On his plans moving forward, LG Ng said: “While I do not rule out the option of returning to the Administrative Service or entering politics if the opportunity presents itself, my immediate focus is on handing over my duties to the incoming Chief of Defence Force.”

Dr Ng said on his Facebook post that there would inevitably be questions asked about LG Ng’s future plans. “Given his tested leadership and proven capabilities, I would not at all be surprised, if indeed he is (entering politics),” wrote Dr Ng, who is also the People’s Action Party’s organising secretary.

According to the book ‘Singapore Politics Under the PAP’, military scholars in the early seventies were second choice to ‘academic and professional’ talents when it came to recruiting new blood for the ruling party. What was once the domain of lawyers, architects, bankers and doctors has given way to Brigadier Generals and Rear Admirals. Our second PM Goh Chok Tong was reportedly ‘aware that having too many military men’ in government was BAD for Singapore’s image, and Cabinet should not have a majority of so-called ‘paper generals’ with the same military mindset. Goh, incidentally, was once a TROOP LEADER in the Boy Scouts.

Hmm, I wonder what kind of impression that a government dominated by ‘scholar-soldiers’, some of whom get promptly appointed Minister of States after elections, would give the rest of the world.

Nevermind that the captain of the Singapore ship is the shining example of the military-PAP-public service complex, the youngest ever Brigadier General at the tender age of 32. Our DPM Teo is another, so is the current Secretary General of NTUC and the Minister of Manpower, a man who knows more than a thing or two about cardboard exercise. They even got an army guy as Auditor-General. Which turned out to be not a bad thing after all.

But it’s not just Parliament loading up with SAF powerhouses, military men have been snagging top positions in public transport operators and statutory boards as well, the most prominent one hogging the limelight at the moment being the ever apologetic Desmond Kuek, former Chief of Army and now SMRT CEO. Incidentally, Minister of Transport Lui Tuck Yew also happens to be a former Chief of Navy. Their combined military prowess could not prevent salt water from causing one of the worst train breakdowns in history.

Your retirement money is also in the safe hands of a military man. Earlier this year, Ng Chee Peng, former navy chief was appointed chief executive of the CPF board. He also happens to be Ng Chee Meng’s brother. Rear Admiral Ronnie Tay was chief of NEA and then IDA. BG Tan Yih Shan spearheaded IPOS. Chew Men Leong, ex Navy Chief, helmed PUB and is currently the head of LTA. So, assuming that men drilled in the ways of the warrior have the skill-set and discipline to deliver with clockwork precision, it’s inevitable that your money, your drinking water, your internet, mobile phone, car, even groceries all somehow have links to the SAF hydra. If an SAF scholar ever takes the chair at MDA, you can kiss your porn goodbye.

Maybe we should reserve our SAF scholars for something more befitting of their calibre than running ministries. Like saving our country from an alien invasion, a doomsday asteroid or Ebola. Like this badass below.

Schizophrenic NSman slapped with 14 extras before suicide jump

From ‘Coroner rules out foul play in NSF’s death’, 12 April 2014, article in CNA

A Coroner’s report has ruled out foul play in the death of a 22-year-old man who was serving national service last year. Full-time national serviceman (NSF) Pte Ganesh Pillay – who has schizophrenia – was found dead at the foot of his condominium in Sengkang last July.

His father has raised concerns over how the army deals with soldiers with mental conditions. The Coroner’s Court heard that Pte Ganesh’s supervisor did not know the full extent – and effects – of schizophrenia.

…Pte Ganesh was diagnosed with schizophrenia when he was 18. But his father said his son’s condition had stabilised with medication. He said: “When the army told him that he cannot be exempted, but he will be downgraded to PES E, I was rest assured that the army will take care of him. I trusted the army.

“In fact, I trusted that much to the very last day. I still have that trust, until the time he died, then I start to figure out what went wrong.” On the day Pte Ganesh died, he was unwell and had returned home from camp.

His supervisor — Captain Jessie Goh — had earlier issued Pte Ganesh with 14 extra duties as punishment for, among other things, unsatisfactory work and improper bearing. Mr Reganathan said Captain Goh seemed oblivious to his son’s condition.

In a similar suicide case in 1979, Cpl Tan Cheng Eyong leapt to his death 2 days after consultation with a camp psychiatrist. He had obsessive-compulsive neurosis and ‘reactive depression’, a disorder reportedly triggered by his O Level exams.  A 1987 report on the incidence of mental illness among NSmen revealed that between 400 and 500 required psychiatric help each year, of which 10 to 15% suffered from schizophrenia, 30-35% with ‘stress related conditions’ and the rest from ‘depression, anxiety, HOMOSEXUALITY and various other NEUROSES’.   What was less reported in the 80’s was the phenomenon known as ‘possession-trance’, (40 cases referred to Woodbridge from 1979 to 1981) where the authors of a study published in 1986 discussed the effect of a stressful life event like NS on this ‘hysterical dissociation’. I would expect the rates of mental illness to be higher today, though it’s unlikely that there are any official statistics on this matter. Most boys escape NS unscathed of course, but some, like Ganesh, may have flown way over the cuckoo’s nest.

Ex military psychiatrist and colonel Ang Yong Guan identified schizophrenia as the MOST COMMON psychotic illness among NSmen, with only a minority of those diagnosed able to qualify to work in non-combat positions provided their disease was under control. 19 year old Julius Chan, today a peer specialist dealing with mental patients, wanted to pursue priesthood and avoid NS. He ‘prayed a lot, asking God to take away this time’ for him, went too far, suffered a schizoid breakdown and was eventually exempted from conscription. The most well known case of an NSman going berserk is Dave Teo, who went AWOL with a SAR21 rifle and ammo after his girlfriend broke up with him and eventually jailed for 9 years. He was suffering from behavioral problems including suicidal thoughts and depression, and also ‘began to HEAR VOICES of people who were not there’, aural hallucinations being one of the signs of schizophrenia. Thankfully, no one was massacred in Orchard Road where Dave was caught.

Then there are the other neurological diseases. Jonathan Lim Chong Ping, who drowned in the Singapore River over Christmas in 2013, had sought treatment for ‘adjustment disorder’ while serving NS.  Harmoko Julianus, 22, was suffering a relapse of bipolar disorder when he made a bomb hoax at the British embassy and only exempted from NS after the incident. Maybe the best management of mental disorders in young men is not helplines or risperidone, but a PES F status, whereby you’re medically unfit for any kind of service altogether.

Andy Ho of ST believes that NS, which takes the schizophrenic away from his family, stigmatises and punishes him for symptoms of his illness, should be exempted altogether (Exempt these young men from NS, 13 April 2014, Sunday Times). In any case, is clerical work so important that we need to desperately fill these vocations with boys with mental illness if we have to? What’s the value of fulfilling NS obligations for the sake of it if they don’t do anything productive or in Ganesh’s case, make things worse?

It is not clear when exactly an 18 year old Ganesh became schizophrenic, but only a study examining the onset of schizophrenia among Singaporean men will provide some insight as to whether the regimental rigours of NS has anything to do with aggravating the disease, adjusting for other factors such as family history. Any researcher, however, would be MAD to even propose such a hypothesis for a complex disorder, one that happens to manifest around the same time as NS enlistment. Also, we don’t have a base of non-enlisted men to compare to since NS is mandatory. A 1968 study by Steinberg and Durrell, however, showed a striking increase in admissions for schizophrenia among men joining the US Army, especially within the first month. Those include men who WILLINGLY signed up for war.

What’s unacceptable here is that for such a prevalent mental disorder among NSmen, someone of the rank of Captain would have totally no clue about what schizophrenia means. It doesn’t help that society also often downplays the term ‘schizophrenic’ as reference to anything that’s ‘unpredictable’ or mixes it up with ‘multiple/split personality’. Singapore’s Urbanism has been described as ‘schizophrenic’, and artist David Chan calls his exhibition about humans with animal heads ‘Hybrid Society: Schizophrenia‘.  It has also been misused to describe spouses, friends or bosses who are ‘extremely temperamental’. To an uninformed layperson like Jessie Goh, a ‘schizo’ attack may not be any more severe than someone throwing a really bad tantrum.

One of the extras dished out to Ganesh was for ‘failure to sign a logbook’. To lash out 14 extras on a human being, schizophrenic or not, is also a sign of mental disturbance, that of a sadistic psychopath. And there are probably more of these in the military than people hearing voices and thinking of killing themselves. The commando head dunker, the dog abuser, or the encik who insults your mother. Maybe all these nuts should get their heads checked as well.

SAF ‘Shades of Green’ ad demeaning to women

From Aware Facebook page and omy.sg, 7 Sept 2013.

Women, interested in a career with the Army? Quick, get out your eye-shadow palettes and pick your favourite shade of green, because that’s what will land you the job!

These packages went out to women in Singapore, advertising the Army Women’s Seminar 2013. It comes complete with a fake mirror and eye-shadow palette.

We want to let the Army know that make-up doesn’t stir our patriotic sentiments. Can you help us think of a creative, effective way to send them a message? The seminar is on the 14th of September, so we’ve to put our strategy together soon. Leave a comment on this post if you have a good idea.

Shades of Sexism

Shades of Sexism

SAF needs women badly and they’re on a recruitment spree to meet their target of an additional 500 female officers by 2018. If not for AWARE complaining about their marketing blitz being sexist, I wouldn’t have known about this Army Women’s Seminar. By harping on the Army objectifying women through the gimmick of green eyeshadow, AWARE has inadvertently given ad agency Mandate an unlikely helping hand in promoting the event. Any AWARE AGM would make a military seminar for ladies look like a flower arrangement workshop in comparison.

I’m sure AWARE fully supports the idea of having more ‘Girl Power’ in our armed forces, but maybe they should be ‘sending a message’ to the Army about the lack of female generals (the highest ranking female today is still Colonel) rather than picking on an ad for favouring provocation over patriotism. Personally I thought this fake makeup kit isn’t half as bad as the ‘trophy boyfriend’ ad some years back which suggested that women ovulate in squealing ecstasy at the sight of men in uniform. It’s also a novel way of getting women interested, instead of using models that suggest that female soldiers are supposed to look in a certain way that combines grace, dignity and steely courage, as below:

I see a woman wearing makeup

Or that they would fare well in the army by looking downright intimidating, like a discipline mistress in school.

Your future boss, ladies

I think the intention of the ‘Shades of Green’ ad is to portray an army career just like any other worth pursuing which involves dolling up as most professional women do, be it a high-flying corporate executive, an OL or an SIA stewardess. It also busts the stereotype that you have to look like a women’s judo champion, or a GI Jane, in order to serve. If a lady CEO dresses like a slut in public, AWARE is unlikely to complain, but if a female SAF officer dabs on lipstick in front of her male colleagues, it’s sexual oppression, nevermind if she does it while in full battle order and a rifle in hand.

It would be very helpful if AWARE actually does constructive creative work of their own and run some gender-neutral campaigns to support such events themselves, or better still volunteer to secure the frontline in the event of a real war. Those talons would come in really handy then.

Bullying recruits the only good thing about army sergeant’s job

From ‘SAF investigating allegations on Facebook comments’, 14 Feb 2013, Channel News Asia

The Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) said it has begun investigations into allegations that a third sergeant had boasted about being able to vent his anger on recruits. The third sergeant is believed to have posted the comments on Facebook four days ago.

Screen grabs — believed to have been taken off his Facebook page — have been making their rounds on the internet. When contacted, SAF said it cannot comment further, as investigations are under way.

Angry 3SG

I thought this was sourced from the SAF Confessions Facebook page, but those are supposedly anonymous, protected and moderated. It’s not clear from this post HOW this guy shows his anger, so it’s rather premature to accuse him of recruit abuse unless it involves physical battering or ear pulling. Maybe he just hurled some vulgarities, stomped his feet or slammed some doors. If you look closer at the text, you’ll see that he’s vague on the source of the anger (‘show my anger when I’m pissed…at the recruits’). He could be pissed with an unrelated personal matter, or pissed off AT the recruits. So ‘venting his anger’, which suggests the former, may not be the accurate term to use here.

Anyone in the position of authority would be naturally inclined to bully, or ‘tekan’ others on a bad day if given the chance. Some teachers, for example, would threaten to sodomise you with a bat if you’re cheeky. But unlike proper professions that invoke authority and mentorship such as educators, nuns or doctors, the role of a sergeant in the army is mainly of command and control. As one who’s been through his own share of verbal abuse during NS, there’s no ‘code of conduct’ among army specialists to speak of, and you won’t lose your ‘job’ if you spend half a day ordering your boys to carry a locker up and down the stairs just for the heck of it. The trick, perhaps, is to act like you’re in foul mood on a permanent basis, so that we can’t tell the difference if you’re teaching us a lesson or your girlfriend just ditched you for another guy because you’re such a angry bastard outside of camp anyway.

Like most viral Facebook screengrabs, I believe this incident has been blown out of proportion. People exploit and abuse each other everyday without being reported about it. Your boss doesn’t approve your leave because his wife rejected sex. Your teacher calls you ‘stupid’ when she’s having her period. Your orientation camp leader makes you do push ups on top of girls you hardly know for no damn reason. It’s even harder to remain ‘professional’ when you’re a 3SG serving your time like the rest of your recruits. This guy got picked on because abuse in the army is a particularly sensitive issue, in fear of causing accidental death, psychological damage or worse, suicide. He also chose to voice what most guys in his position secretly relish inside. At the risk of vengeance attacks, notwithstanding.

The SAF Confessions page contains far worse, explicit depictions of abuse and juvenile tomfoolery if they to be believed. A pissed off sergeant would take a shit on your bed, for example.

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Figures of authority are not spared the wrath of their charges though. Some underlings ejaculate into their officer’s coffee.

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The army sure does crazy, extreme things to the mind, having to subject oneself to an atmosphere of regimented violence, confinement and blind obedience. I don’t see this going anywhere beyond a counselling session and maybe extra weekend duties at most, but my advice to this guy is to keep a really close watch on his canteen and coffee mug from now on.