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No compensation accepted, says family of NSF in smoke grenade case

SINGAPORE — The family of the late Private Dominique Sarron Lee has clarified that it has not accepted any compensation from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), apart from a grant to defray their son’s funeral costs, as it raised further questions surrounding Lee’s death following a Singapore Army statement.

Photo: MINDEF

Photo: MINDEF

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SINGAPORE — The family of the late Private Dominique Sarron Lee has clarified that it has not accepted any compensation from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), apart from a grant to defray their son’s funeral costs, as it raised further questions surrounding Lee’s death following a Singapore Army statement.

In a post published on a Facebook page dedicated to Lee at around 1am on Tuesday (March 8), the family said: “(We have) repeatedly rejected offers from MINDEF/SAF to discuss monetary compensation,” the family said, using the acronym for the Ministry of Defence.

“We have only accepted a funeral grant to defray the cost of the funeral on the same day Dominique was sent back home in a coffin. This grant, according to the SAF, is not part of the compensation.”

The statement came after Commander of Army Training and Doctrine Command Chan Wing Kai on Monday wrote on the Singapore Army Facebook page that MINDEF and the SAF have disbursed welfare grants and made an offer of compensation to the family.

Lee, then a full-time national serviceman, collapsed with breathing difficulties in April 2012 during a training exercise involving six smoke grenades — thrice the limit specified in the Training Safety Regulations.

The coroner’s court found that Lee, who was 21, had an acute allergic reaction to the zinc chloride in the fumes that was “unlikely to have been predicted”.

His family brought a civil suit against the SAF and two officers involved in the exercise, but it was dismissed last week, with the judge ruling that the defendants were indemnified from negligence suits if the deaths or injuries occurred during service, due to a provision under Section 14 of the Government Proceedings Act.

The court also ordered the family to pay damages, but Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Monday the costs should be waived.

No criminal charges were brought against the two officers — a platoon commander and a chief safety officer — but the SAF said the duo have been punished according to military law.

In its statement, the family pushed for clarification, calling for details of the punishment to be made  public.

“We are not out to persecute the two officers, nor (are we) asking for them to be crucified. We do not believe in an eye for an eye. We are only asking for MINDEF/SAF to be accountable.”

The family added: “Please inform the public how the two officers have been ‘punished according to military law’ so that the public can see for themselves that justice has been served, and not just know it to have been served.”

Urging transparency, it also called on MINDEF and SAF to reveal the compensation it had intended to offer.

The SAF, citing respect for the family’s privacy, had not revealed the compensation amount, but said compensation quantums are generally “two to four times” that of amounts provided under the Work Injury Compensation Act for incidents arising from training and operations.

Under the Act, the maximum limit for claims for deaths resulting from workplace accidents before January 2016 is S$170,000. 

“Please be transparent. We do not think that Dominique’s death is in any way a matter of national security that requires secrecy.

“While you’re at it, kindly, with our permission, reveal to the public the compensation that you had intended to offer the family, so that all Singaporeans will know how much the life of a promising young man is worth to MINDEF,” said the family.

When contacted on Tuesday, MINDEF declined to respond to specific queries on the statement, such as details on the punishment for the two officers.

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