Mindef Speaks, All Listen

The late doctor’s bond must have been scary since he was supposed to be chained up for 15 years.  But I’m sure he signed up for the bond and job eyes open, just that how the job turned out did not meet his expectations. The troubling thought is that the job was supposedly so terrible that he decided to commit suicide in a foreign country.  A doctor, possibly with a bright post-SAF career after him, chose to end his life because he hated his work is a sign of an irrational decision if you ask anybody on the street. There is probably more to the tragedy. There is something not being said by both sides despite Mindef’s attempt to exonerate itself.

Mindef clarifies reports on Capt (Dr) Ooi

Mindef clarifies certain facts regarding media reports on Capt (Dr) Ooi’s service in the SAF and his scholarship bond.

Mon, Mar 23, 2009

THE Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) extend our deepest condolences to the family of the late Captain (Dr) Allan Ooi Seng Teik.

Mindef wishes to clarify certain facts regarding media reports on Capt (Dr) Ooi’s service in the SAF and his scholarship bond.

Capt (Dr) Ooi joined the SAF in January 2000 and was sponsored under the Local Study Award (Medicine) for his medical studies at the National University of Singapore, and completed his housemanship in April 2006. Thereafter, he completed the SAF’s Medical Officer Cadet Course and was commissioned in August 2006. He then served for 11/2 years in the Air Force Medical Service. He was sponsored by the SAF for further specialist training in Aviation Medicine in Britain in January last year.

Upon completing this course in July last year, he was posted to the Aeromedical Centre to perform clinical and staff work. He was scheduled to go for his hospital posting at the end of this year.

While serving at the Aeromedical Centre, Capt (Dr) Ooi informed his superior that he was unhappy at work and was considering leaving the SAF. On Oct 3 last year, his superior offered him the option of posting to an appointment he would be interested in. He agreed to consider this option and get back to his superior in two weeks’ time. However, he did not do so. He also did not submit any application to leave the SAF. He went Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL) on Oct 15 last year.

Recipients of the Local Study Award (Medicine) are required to serve a 12-year bond after completing their housemanship. Of these 12 years, six years will be spent in hospitals to acquire clinical competency in fields needed by the SAF. The other six years will be spent in command and staff positions with the SAF Medical Corps, performing duties such as the clinical care of SAF servicemen and professional development of military medicine.

SAF officers who take up sponsorship have a responsibility to serve the full period of their bonds as substantial resources and time have been devoted to training them. Otherwise they will leave gaps in key positions in the SAF.

Nevertheless, if an officer wishes to leave the service early, he can submit an application through a proper process. Approval to leave the service will be granted only in strong and extenuating circumstances.

Colonel Darius Lim
Director, Public Affairs
Ministry of Defence


“Stupid” and Reading Between the Lines

With the rioting over the use of the Malay language in pedagogy in Malaysia, the insistence on English and Mandarin being the lingua franca for the Singapore Chinese is also an emotive topic on identity and language. The Principal Private Secretary to MM Lee’s comments on the exclusive dominance of Mandarin over Hokkien, Teochew, Cantonese etc (also of Tamil over Malayalam, Hindi etc and Malay over Boyanese, Javanese etc) must not be seen in a vacuum. This month, the book on One People, One Language, Many Mother Tongues which is sanctioned by MM Lee himself, will be available. This timely controversy and unusually strong language by the MM Office is good publicity as the backdrop for a book launch. Any marketing guru can tell you that.

Foolish to advocate the learning of dialects

I REFER to yesterday’s article by Ms Jalelah Abu Baker (‘One generation – that’s all it takes ‘for a language to die”). It mentioned a quote from Dr Ng Bee Chin, acting head of Nanyang Technological University’s (NTU) Division of Linguistics and Multilingual Studies: ‘Although Singaporeans are still multilingual, 40 years ago, we were even more multilingual. Young children are not speaking some of these languages at all any more.’

To keep a language alive, it has to be used regularly. Using one language more frequently means less time for other languages. Hence, the more languages a person learns, the greater the difficulties of retaining them at a high level of fluency.

There are linguistically gifted individuals who can handle multiple languages, but Singapore’s experience over 50 years of implementing the bilingual education policy has shown that most people find it extremely difficult to cope with two languages when they are as diverse as English and Mandarin.

This is why we have discouraged the use of dialects. It interferes with the learning of Mandarin and English. Singaporeans have to master English. It is our common working language and the language which connects us with the world.

We also emphasised the learning of Mandarin, to make it the mother tongue for all Chinese Singaporeans, regardless of their dialect groups. This is the common language of the 1.3 billion people in China. To engage China, overseas Chinese and foreigners are learning Mandarin and not the dialects of the different Chinese provinces.

We have achieved progress with our bilingual education in the past few decades. Many Singaporeans are now fluent in both English and Mandarin. It would be stupid for any Singapore agency or NTU to advocate the learning of dialects, which must be at the expense of English and Mandarin.

That was the reason the Government stopped all dialect programmes on radio and television after 1979. Not to give conflicting signals, then Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew also stopped making speeches in Hokkien, which he had become fluent in after frequent use since 1961.

Chee Hong Tat
Principal Private Secretary
to the Minister Mentor