Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wah.....3 officers have broken bonds since 2000

New Paper
15 April 2009

3 officers have broken bonds since 2000

Death of scholar prompts queries over SAF HR policies in parliament session

By Low Ching Ling

IN RECENT weeks, the family of the late Captain (Dr) Allan Ooi have engaged the Defence Ministry (Mindef) about his death in newspaper forums.

The incident prompted MP for Tampines GRC Irene Ng to raise questions in Parliament about bonded Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) officers.

Here is the exchange between Ms Ng and Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean :

Ms Ng: Can bonded SAF officers apply to leave the service early?

Mr Teo: All officers who... take up sponsorship are aware that they have a moral obligation to serve out the full period of their... bonds, which goes beyond the legal obligation to pay back liquidated damages if (they do) not fulfil the bond.

An officer who wishes to be released early while under bond can submit a formal application through the proper process.

Under what circumstances will approval be granted?

The application will be assessed on a case-by-case basis and the officer will be counselled and interviewed by his superior officers.

How many applications have been made and approvals granted over the years?

Since 2000, we have allowed three officers to be released prematurely from their bonds.

Can the Minister review the way the SAF contracts army personnel to make sure that, before a person signs... the contract terms are clearly explained to him, and to... his parents if he is below 21?

First, if anyone is signing a sponsorship deed and needs clarification on its terms and conditions, he can and should seek these clarifications, which Mindef has and will continue to provide.

The individual signs the deed voluntarily and is not compelled to do so until he has fully understood the terms of the sponsorship or scholarship.

This is particularly the case when it is an in-service officer who may well already be in his 20s or 30s, and decides to take up a scholarship or a sponsorship to go on for a course for further career development.

Second, most of our sponsorships or scholarships require two sureties to also sign the deed.

These sureties (are) usually one of the parents, a close relative or someone whom they know well... Mindef also provides clarification to these sureties.

While the bonded officer has a moral obligation to serve his bond, the SAF... also has a moral obligation to... make him want to stay... Do the SAF's HR policies ensure that?

In the case of sponsorship, Mindef has already taken the first step, which is to provide sponsorship for the course, sometimes with salary for the officer while he is on course.

So, Mindef has already fulfilled a fairly major part of the obligation towards the officer by sponsoring him for the programme.

These programmes may be six months, or as long as six years in the case of medical scholarships.

The SAF invests substantial public funds and time to train these officers. There is an expectation that such officers will... fulfil their moral obligation to serve the organisation in return.

The SAF is not an unreasonable organisation. The terms and conditions are quite fair and reasonable and that is why we do have people who are prepared to come forward to serve the SAF...

There are many interesting and challenging jobs in the SAF... In most cases, because the officers whom we choose to sponsor are our better officers, they do have a pick of the better positions available.

Given that Mindef has convened a Board of Inquiry and made findings that the matters related to Capt (Dr) Ooi's service were managed appropriately, would the Minister consider making the findings public or at least available to the family?

Mindef has been in contact with the family since Capt (Dr) Ooi went Awol in October last year. We will continue to do so.

If the family were to request for the findings... Mindef will make available a summary of the findings to them.

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