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Military CP - July 1975
Straits Times, Singapore, 30 July 1975
Murder charge soldiers can be court-martialled
SOLDIERS accused of murder, culpable homicide not amounting to murder, waging war against the Government and committing offences against the President can now be court-martialled.
This is provided for under the Singapore Armed Forces (Amendment) Bill approved by Parliament yesterday.
Moving the second reading of the Bill, the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Dr. Goh Keng Swee, said that provision had also been made in the Bill to ensure that the President of a court-martial trying the offences should be a judge of the Supreme Court appointed by the Chief Justice.
Dr. Goh added: "Courts-martial inflict sentences of between two months and 24 months' detention for absence without leave, depending on the length of the AWOL.
"Detention for insubordination, disobedience, etc. is also for similar lengths.
"It is doubtful whether long detention sentences are appropriate for these offences, taking into account the nature of the offender, usually a poorly educated teenage national serviceman.
"Keeping large numbers of soldiers under detention is also costly in terms of food they consume and the administrative staff to house and look after them.
"In view of these facts, the Bill provides that such offenders will be sent to a disciplinary barrack for a short stint, where they will be subject to a harsh regimen.
"Such detention would serve as a more effective deterrent than present detention under conditions of well-fed idleness."
Dr. Goh said that detention in the disciplinary barrack which could be awarded by court-martial would be for short periods not exceeding three months.
He added: "A harsh regimen in the disciplinary barrack is bound to encounter resistance and unless these instances were handled firmly, the system will break down.
"In view of this, the Bill empowers the officer-in-charge of the disciplinary barrack to inflict corporal punishment for offences such as mutiny, escape or attempted escape, assaulting a disciplinary barrack officer, etc.
"This power is similar to that given to the Superintendent of Prisons under Section 54 of the Prison Act.
"Certain safeguards, however, have been provided when corporal punishment is to be inflicted."
Dr. Goh stressed that national service intakes covered all strata of society, including those of low education and intelligence.
Past experience showed that recalcitrant offenders belonged to this group and that existing forms of punishment had not been adequate as a deterrent.
He said: "In view of this, apart from detention in the disciplinary barrack, the Bill provides for corporal punishment of incorrigible offenders committing the offences of prolonged absence without leave, desertion, escape from custody, disobedience of order, disobedience of general orders and insubordination.
"Care has, however, been taken to ensure that punishment administered under these regulations will not be of the kind administered to hardened criminals.
"Firstly, such punishment will not cause bleeding or leave permanent scars.
"Secondly, the Bill provides that all such punishment must be approved by the Armed Forces Council before it is carried out."
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