Senior commanders reprimanded when things go wrong in Israeli and Taiwanese military but not SAF

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On Thursday (14 Mar), Secretary-General of People’s Voice Party Tean Lim shared a link on Facebook reporting about how the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) Chief-of-Staff Lieutenant-General Aviv Kochavi punished the entire chain of command after a training death occurred two months ago.

In January, IDF Sergeant Evyatar Yosefi drowned in the Hilazon stream during a navigation exercise after a strong current swept him away. At that time, he was involved in a training on how to navigate and survive in the wilderness. Investigations later found that the commanders of the exercise had acted negligently.

The investigations also showed that a spirit of arrogance prevailed and that there were clearly several points at which intervention by any of the various commanders could have prevented Yosefi’s death. They did not identify any of the overt shortcomings and did not observe the rules of military discipline.

IDF Lieutenant-General Kochavi then decided to punish the entire chain of command. The Brigade Commander was reprimanded and five officers at all ranks under him – from the Paratroopers reconnaissance team commander to the commander of the brigade’s reconnaissance battalion – were dismissed from their posts.

Taiwan Defence Minister resigns following death of conscript from heatstroke

In Taiwan, it was even more severe. The Defence Minister had to resign over the death of a conscript.

In 2013, it was reported that Taiwanese Defence Minister Kao Hua-chu was replaced by Andrew Yang as part of a cabinet reshuffle following the death of conscript Hung Chung-chiu who had suffered from a heatstroke after being forced to undergo vigorous exercises and solitary confinement.

Subsequent investigations found that 13 officers were responsible and were handed prison terms of up to eight months. Former Taiwanese Premier Jiang Yi-huah said at the time, “The reshuffle is aimed at responding to the general public’s expectations.”

Senior officers and Defence Minister are spared the rod in Singapore

In Singapore, it’s usually the junior officers who would be punished while senior officers including the Defence Minister are spared the rod when something goes wrong in SAF.

Take the case of Private Dominique Sarron Lee, who died in a 2012 training exercise when training safety rules were breached. Two junior officers were “punished” with only “fines and delay in promotions”. No senior officers, let alone the Defence Minister, were reprimanded.

MINDEF even defended the 2 junior officers, the exercise’s chief safety officer and Private Lee’s platoon commander. It said it would have “overstepped its powers and be legally challenged” if it had punished two of its officers beyond the level of their offence.

During training, Private Lee died from an allergic reaction to fumes from smoke grenades, but that was also because his PC had used 6 grenades, instead of two, going against training safety rules.

MINDEF said it had taken disciplinary action against the 2 servicemen with penalties “consistent with other servicemen who have committed similar offences, including fines and delay in promotions”.

The family had tried to sue the SAF for negligence but failed due to Section 14 of the Government Proceedings Act (GPA).

In another case last year, an SAF captain in-charge of a fast march was charged when a 19-year-old soldier died of heatstroke. He was charged with causing the death by performing a rash act, including failing to evacuate the victim in a timely manner.

Corporal First Class (CFC) Dave Lee collapsed following the fast march. He died 2 weeks later in the hospital.

No senior commanders were reported to have been reprimanded.

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