Ministry of Defence Committee of Supply 2017 – Cuts by WP MPs and NCMPs

(Delivered in Parliament on 3 March 2017)

Military Ties with Malaysia and Indonesia – Pritam Singh

Mdm Chairperson, at the recent 7th Malaysia-Singapore Leaders’ Retreat, PM Lee and PM Najib reaffirmed their commitment to further strengthen bilateral relations and reiterated the importance of defence cooperation between the two countries and to strengthen bilateral defence cooperation. A month earlier, the latest in a long series of the Semangat Bersatu joint military exercises between the Malaysian and Singaporean armies was successfully concluded. While it remains important to remember that such exercises were halted when relations turned sour in the past, the reality of the geopolitical environment today emphasises the importance of greater defence cooperation and not less, so as to improve bilateral and regional security. To that end, is the Ministry considering the induction of newer confidence-building initiatives with both Malaysia and Indonesia in addition to the Malacca Straits Patrol (MSP), the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA) and ADMM and ADMM+ frameworks? In previous cuts, I have suggested pursuing the prospects of joint peacekeeping initiatives and training for international assignments. Is the Ministry considering newer areas for military-to-military collaboration with Malaysia beyond those like Semangat Bersatu so as to take advantage of the goodwill arising out of the political relationship with a view to more durable ties in future.

In contrast, while the political relationship with Indonesia is more complex as a result of the politically diverse and more representative democratic terrain today, the military relationship appears to be an all-weather one, despite occasional political turbulence.

Yet, 2017 marks the 10th anniversary of the yet to be implemented Defence Cooperation Agreement (DCA) between Singapore and Indonesia. As members would remember, the DCA was linked to an extradition treaty between both countries. In 2007, Indonesia sought to make review the DCA after agreeing details with Singapore, while Singapore insisted that negotiations were complete. All this resulted in a package agreement that was stillborn.

In April last year however, Jakarta confirmed that it was intensifying cooperation in law enforcement in lieu of an extradition treaty and was reported to have given Singapore a list of fugitives for follow-up and assistance. In light of the 50th anniversary of Singapore-Indonesia diplomatic ties and the signing of the Eastern Boundary Treaty, what is the Ministry’s perspective of initiating fresh discussions on the DCA in the name of renewed military cooperation and stronger diplomatic links between both countries?


Transport Allowance for NSmen – Dennis Tan

I understand that full time National Servicemen may be allowed to make transport claims such as taxi claims, for the purpose of odd working hours, to facilitate travel between their unit and home on working days. I believe that this is meant to assist to defray their transport costs given their limited NS allowance.

For NSmen, not all NS units have a ‘stay in’ policy during their In-Camp-Training (ICT). Madam, there are NSmen who are not given the option to stay in or could not stay in for good reasons. Some of these NSmen may still be required to book-out very late or book-in very early due to the demands of their NS roles. I would like to ask the Minister to consider allowing some of such NSmen to be eligible for transport claims, namely full time students or NSmen who are unemployed at the time of the ICT.

In last year’s COS debate, Second Minister for Defence, Mr Ong Ye Kung, mentioned that students in local universities are called up for ORNS training while studying. These are full time students and may be no different from full-time NSF personnel in that they are not working and do not have income. I would also like to ask the Minister to consider allowing this benefit to NSmen who are full time students studying private courses and NSmen who are unemployed at the time of ICT. Their commanders can help administer such claims in accordance with suitable conditions to be stipulated by MINDEF.

I believe that allowing such transport claims will assist some of our NSmen to cope with booking out and booking in at odd hours without having to shoulder any unnecessary financial burden.