Full-time national serviceman (NSF) Dave Lee Han Xuan, 19, died on Monday after being hospitalized on Apr 18 for heatstroke. The guardsman trainee had just completed an 8km fast march at Bedok Camp when he collapsed from heat injury — something that could have been prevented, according to an individual who claimed to be from Lee’s battalion.
In a viral Facebook post, the anonymous individual accused his superiors and senior commanders of cruelly overworking the battalion the night before the fast march, putting trainees through grueling activities for no other reason than to toughen the men up. Hours before the march, Lee and his fellow trainees were allegedly forced to crawl to the Standard Obstacle Course grounds and made to roll in the sand with water poured on them.
The term used for these punishing bouts is known as “tekan sessions” — the Malay word “tekan” meaning “press”, but is commonly used to describe being abused and mistreated. “Tekan sessions” are typically conducted across all vocations by older NSFs to build up endurance in recruits. And also as a sort of hazing ritual.
The claims aren’t verified yet though. Following Lee’s death, an independent investigative body called the Committee of Inquiry has been convened to investigate the circumstances leading to the incident.
But while the investigations are currently pending, it should come to no surprise that the family of the deceased is concerned about how the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) are conducting their training, and what safety precautions are put in place to prevent these deaths — especially young conscripts like Lee. In a brief interview arranged by the Ministry of Defence at the teen’s wake yesterday, Lee’s parents spoke to the media for the first time but reserved their comments about the rumors and accusations about his death.
“We are born of the selfsame root”
According to various media who attended the press conference, there was one highlight. When asked if she felt that the support provided by the Ministry of Defence was enough, Lee’s mother Jasmine Yeo said this: “What is enough when the boy is not making his way home?”
This morning, Yeo had more to say about the alleged circumstances surrounding her son’s death — taking issue with “tekan sessions” in general.
The translation of the Chinese sentence:
“We are born of the selfsame root /
Why should we hound each other to death with such impatience!”
The vague affirmation shows how the mother is holding back from expressing wild emotions or making accusatory statements in public.
Lee, posthumously promoted to the rank of Corporal First Class, donated his cornea in death. The teen had intended to further his studies after National Service, and already received offers from the National University of Singapore and Nanyang Technological University. According to Yeo, the teen enjoyed his time training as a Guardsman and tried his best to do whatever task he was given.
“I’m proud of him,” the mother said.
Meanwhile, the Singapore Armed Forces put out their own tribute to Lee.