SAFTI & The Leaders Produced

SAFTI’s 50th anniversary is a celebration for me personally. I spent my BMT, SISL and SMC while transiting the end-70’s into the 80’s and from teenage to adulthood. The PM has lauded it for producing past and present military leaders who have built and transformed the SAF.

In the last 2 years, my family has ‘contributed’ our youngest son at SAFTI. All in the belief that he has to do his “duty to ensure that Singapore will always be secure, so that your families, and all Singaporeans, can always be confident of our future together.” But, like so many of his cohort, it’s tough to be abide by that conviction when they see sons of PRs and naturalized citizens steal a 2-year march on him to university (many with our tax money) and to plumb jobs and higher salaries therefrom.

But my question for us today is: What do the records show of the leaders SAFTI has been producing since the dawn of the 21st century? Here are the notable ones:

  • Former Chief of Defence (2003-07) Major-General Ng Yat Chung, recent last CEO NOL (fr Oct 2011)
  • Former Chief of Army (2007-10) Desmond Kuek Bak-Chye,President and CEO SMRT(fr Oct 2012)
  • Former Chief of Army (2010-11) MG Chan Chun Sing, Minister (since May 2011)
  • Brigadier-General Tan Chuan Jin, Minister (since May 2014)


Peacetime field performance, sand-model prowess and medals do not reliably indicate actual performance during wartime or periods of national unrest. None, no not one of our SAFTI leaders have even fired a shot at an actual enemy or terrorist.

What’s happened to NOL since 2012, a precious state asset? What about SMRT since 2013? Any notable policies from ministries helmed by the generals since they were elevated? No ifs, no buts, what do the quantifiable and quantified results say of the above SAFTI-produced leaders? Other than Rear Admiral Liu, has anyone voluntarily get out of his way for his lackadaisical performance?

Well, the leader-type has now ‘progressed’.

I save the best for last, the most recent addition and transition from SAF to full minister in one superman (PAP-style) step, the ex-Chief of Defence LG Ng Chee Meng.

He’s the only defence honcho – ever – who claims his army is capable of ‘one-shot, one-kill’, under his watch, no less. Google and you won’t find even the weapon manufacturers or armies with recent and extended boots-on-the-ground experience (USA, UK, France, Netherlands, Israel, to name a few with modern weaponry and respected soldiers and vets) dare to make such a boast.

Even more astonishingly, he claimed his entering politics is ‘giving back to society’. Would you believe how far the values of our leaders have fallen? What does he mean by giving back to society when he left behind a S$300k to S$400k Chief of Defence job for a S$1.2mil minister post?
Giving back by taking more from society’s tax coffers?

Be afraid. Be very afraid – of such a system that produces such leaders with such track records and such boastful or “giving-back-to-society” value.

I have no personal dislike of any of the generals mentioned here. Not least, Ng Chee Meng. In fact, from afar and what I have read, at the personal level, he appears personable and likeable, like Tan Chuan Jin. I have been repeating this observation of Ng’s ‘giving-back-to-society’ claim primarily for what his words mean, would mean to citizens and especially to younger Singaporeans reading and seeing how the PAP leaders of today compare with yesteryears’. Does not their words and actions betray the ideal of sacrificial, self-less (if not selfless) patriotism? From Grace Fu complaining about her salary level previously to now Ng claiming to be giving – by taking in more for himself. Maybe, the message will get thro’ and prick their conscience. Or awake a few of the 70% voters.



Law Kim Hwee is a former sales and marketing manager. He blogs at 2econdsight to reach out to fellow younger citizens, those who are about to or already retired and the many, many more in-between.

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