#39: Yet another tragic military training-related death.

Welcome to another week of #wethecitizens! I’m going to kick this week off with a little bit of self-promotion to say that my essay The Silhouette of Oppression is now available for pre-order with Epigram Books. It’s the first time anything I’ve written has been published as a standalone, so it’s all very exciting. It’s an essay that tries to distil things that I, my friends and family have observed or experienced in Singapore over the years—I first wrote it in 2016 and have since revised and updated it, and it’s a piece that’s very close to my heart.

If you’ve been forwarded this newsletter, click here to subscribe and get updates sent to your inbox every Saturday morning. If you have any feedback, just hit reply!


RIP Aloysius Pang

I feel like I’ve written this far too often: for the third time since #wethecitizens began, I’m writing about a National Service death. 28-year-old actor Aloysius Pang died after being crushed between a howitzer gun barrel and the cabin while he was on reservist in New Zealand as part of an annual Singapore Armed Forces exercise. His profile as a local celebrity drew even more attention to this tragedy, with some journalists exhibiting some despicable behaviour hounding his grieving partner and her family.

The Ministry of Defence says an independent Committee of Inquiry will be convened to investigate the circumstances that led up to Aloysius’ injury and subsequent death. They’re also going to look into further safety improvements. But with every death these assurances provide less and less comfort, and Aloysius’ case is the fifth fatal accident since September 2017. Apart of Aloysius, there was also 21-year-old Gavin Chan, 19-year-old Dave Lee, 33-year-old Muhammad Sadikin Hasban, and 22-year-old Liu Kai.

There have been responses calling for men to be more aware of safety and to report breaches, but others have pointed out the problem with placing the onus on the individual (often the person with the least power in the chain) than focusing on the overall safety culture and design.

Tan Cheng Bock makes his political comeback

Tan Cheng Bock is returning to politics; he announced on Facebook (where pretty much all of Singapore politics takes place these days) that he’s applied to register a new political party, which will be known as the Progress Singapore Party. It’s become part of an increasingly politicised Lee family feud, especially after Tan received an endorsement from Lee Hsien Yang, which I’m sure Lee Hsien Loong isn’t thrilled about.

Personally, I’m not super enthused about yet another political party on the scene, although it does completely make sense that Tan would start his own rather than join one of the existing ones—he has, after all, cultivated a brand for himself 2011. Given his PAP MP past, his crossing over the opposition is also notable; it could make voting opposition seem more “respectable” and imaginable for some long-time PAP supporters who might have had their faith shaken by things like the family feud and the unhappiness over the last presidential “election”. He’s definitely going to be one to watch come the general election, although I’m sure no one will be watching closer than the PAP!

Academic freedom (of lack thereof) in Singapore

As mentioned last week, TODAY wrote an article in which it interviewed academics formerly at the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University, which then vanished off the site because of a “legal challenge”. So it appears as if NUS is seeking legal advice because the article has “affected its reputation”. Funnily enough, hearing this about NUS makes me think a little bit less of them as an institution. Perhaps they should seek legal advice against themselves.

Another challenge to S377A

Another challenge to S377A has emerged! Bryan Choong, the former executive director of Oogachaga, has filed a case against the Attorney-General stating that 377A is inconsistent with the Constitution. There can’t be enough challenges to 377A, so good on Bryan! ✊🏼


I’ve been so rushed off my feet I haven’t been able to keep track of events or announcements at all, so I’m going to leave you with this piece on the future of Malay fiction in Singapore—it’s also available in Malay and Indonesian. Please share it far and wide (and if you would like to join New Naratif as a member, that’s even lovelier).