Friday, September 08, 2006

Post No. 84: 3G SAF, 1G Rules & Regulations?

If you all have been reading the newspapers lately, you all would surely be aware that, recently, it was reported in the Sunday Times that there have been various video clips on which have been recorded by Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel inside camps & training areas with their camera handphones. And, in case you all are not aware, there is a standing ban on the possession of information storing devices & image recording devices (e.g. video cameras, cameras & camera handphones) by SAF personnel when they are in camps and the training areas, for security reasons. Thus, it was reported in the article that the SAF personnel who recorded these video clips are not only violating the ban on camera handphones but, due to the nature of the events recorded in the video clips, are also causing harm to SAF’s image.

Well, when I first read the report, my initial reaction was that the SAF personnel involved must be somewhat lacking in intelligence (no offence to them, of course). I mean, it’s one thing to record down your NS life on a camera handphone for memory’s sake but it’s another to actually upload the video clips onto a website which is accessible to everyone and anyone; to me, that’s practically inviting trouble! By doing so, they are in effect contravening the “8th core value” of: “Do but don’t get caught” (here’s a little bit of context for those who have not served NS. Officially, SAF has a set of 7 values which they call as “7 Core Values of SAF” and which, due to me being forced to shout them out loud before every water parade during my BMT days, are strangely drilled into my memory already. Unofficially, and as a joke, SAF personnel, especially NSFs, have added another 2 “core values” to the official set of core values and they are “Do but don’t get caught” & “Get caught, act blur”).

On a more serious note, it seem to me that this continued ban on the possession of camera handphones by SAF personnel within camps & training areas would run contrary to the Ministry of Defence’s (Mindef) plan to transform the SAF into a 3rd Generation (3G) SAF, that is one which fully utilise the latest technology in its operations. In other words, it seems to me that while Mindef wants a 3G SAF, due to its 1st Generation (1G) rules & regulations, it is not allowing its personnel to have 3G handphones (i.e. camera handphones).

Do not be mistaken. I fully understand the rationale behind Mindef/SAF’s ban on camera handphones. However, I think that, with the advent of technology, it would become increasingly difficult and perhaps even impossible to enforce such a ban for a continued period of time into the future. I mean, just think about it, most (if not all) models of handphones available on the market now comes equipped with a camera function. Also, handphones are fast becoming (if they have not achieved such a status already) an indispensable tool of communication for people nowadays. In fact, recognising the latter fact, Mindef/SAF has started to inform its personnel about callups (and other important announcements) through SMS, besides resorting to the usual means of communication.

Furthermore, speaking from experience, it is not a secret that most of my NS acquaintances “smuggle” their camera handphones into camp by using the ruse of showing the guard personnel a handphone not equipped with a camera function, while hiding their camera handphones somewhere deep in their bags, during security check (of course, it was not necessary for me to do this as I only owned a non-camera handphone when I served NS). Thus, it may be seen that while there is a ban on camera handphones, people are circumventing this ban (hopefully, I’m not “spoiling market” for anyone).

Hence, it is my opinion that, instead of forcing SAF personnel to try ways & means to circumvent such a ban, Mindef/SAF should (if it has not done so yet) attempt to review the ban on camera handphones in such a way that does not compromise on security and yet still accommodate the possession of camera handphones by SAF personnel. It would not be easy but it would necessary to do so, in my opinion anyway.

In the end, we all need to see that it is not possible to have a 3G SAF while holding on to outdated 1G rules & regulations. Hopefully, we will soon move towards a 3G SAF that has 3G rules & regulations.

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