Jan 16, 2009, The Straits Times Breaking News
Family wins suit By Selina Lum
THE parents of a former full-time national serviceman, comatose for more than three years after an incident in camp, have won their lawsuit against the Defence Ministry. The High Court decision paves the way for the family of Jeremy Tan, now 26, to seek disability compensation and medical benefits from Mindef.
On Aug 3, 2005, Mr Tan, then a corporal rostered as duty storeman at Seletar East Camp, was found unconscious at the foot of a building where his bunk was located on the third-level. The ministry classified Mr Tan's injuries as non-service related and stopped paying for his medical treatment at Tan Tock Seng Hospital from March 2007. But Justice Tay Yong Kwang ruled at the end of a four-day hearing that Mr Tan's injuries were 'attributable to service' and he was therefore entitled to a payout.
The case hinged on the interpretation of a provision in the Singapore Armed Forces (Pensions) Regulations, which provides for payouts to disabled servicemen. Lawyer Lau Teik Soon, acting for Mr Tan's parents, argued that when he was found with injuries at 6pm, Mr Tan's tour of duty had not ended. But government lawyers argued that even though Mr Tan was performing his national service, he was not doing anything related to his duty at the time. He was not at his place of duty and was last seen resting in his bunk. But Justice Tay said that the words 'attributable to service' can cover injuries caused while a serviceman is on standby duty and was not doing any particular work.
If Pte tan were to lose this case, can we conclude that our soldiers' working hours are from 8am to 5pm? I think Mindef needs to take a stand on this and spell it out clearly that a soldier is a soldier and not a clock watcher. Once he is in uniformed he is on duty and subject to military discipline even when he is on his way home. I could not believe that this case could reach a civil court for justice. What is going on man? We are going to depend on our soldiers and NSmen to fight 24/7 365 days a year and now we are quibbling when he is on duty and when he is not.