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Singapore Armed Forces Act comes into effect 15th Jun 1972

The Singapore Armed Forces Act 1972 was introduced to strengthen, and improve the management of, the nation’s defence forces. The act unified the army, navy and air commands into a single force known as the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), and established the Armed Forces Council.[1] Chaired by the minister for defence and comprising members appointed by the chairperson, the Armed Forces Council oversees all administrative matters pertaining to the SAF.[2] Prior to the enactment of the act, the defence forces of Singapore, which comprised the Singapore Army and the People’s Defence Force,  were administered separately under the Singapore Army Act 1965 and People’s Defence Force Act 1965 respectively.[3] These two legislations were repealed following the enactment of the SAF Act on 15 June 1972.[4]

Apart from administrative matters, the SAF Act also contained provisions to improve the disciplinary structure of the SAF. Prior to the enactment, there was a lack of uniformity in this area, as disciplinary laws of the military were scattered across a number of legislations including the Singapore Army Act and the People'’s Defence Force Act.[5] Furthermore, since the laws were conceived before the enactment of the National Service (Amendment) Act 1972, their relevance were limited to an army that was made up of regular professional soldiers or volunteers rather than operationally ready national servicemen.[6] Therefore, this created an outdated and ineffective military disciplinary system, resulting in a number of indiscipline cases.[7]

The SAF Act brought about key changes to the military’s disciplinary system. For example, a system of trial by disciplinary officers – made up of junior disciplinary officers, senior disciplinary officers and superior commanders – was introduced to replace the system of trial by company commanders and commanding officers.[8] Empowered with the authority to award strict punishments, including detention to servicemen, these officers could now deal with cases of indiscipline more expeditiously at unit level.[9] Furthermore, they were vested with the power to authorise officers to investigate offences without seeking the permission of the commanding officer.[10]

In addition, the legislation contained provisions that simplified the court-martial process by establishing a two-court system under the subordinate military courts – comprising the general courts-martial and the field-general courts-martial – to handle trials of all servicemen irrespective of rank.[11] The Military Court of Appeal was also created to enable an aggrieved party to appeal against decisions made by the subordinate military courts.[12]

Under the act, the Armed Forces Council was empowered to review sentences meted out by the courts.[13] Additionally, the act also consolidated military offences provided in other military law enactments into a single list. Offences ranged from milder ones like looting and insubordinate behaviour to severe ones punishable by death, such as assisting the enemy and misconduct in action.[14]

References
1. Republic of Singapore. Government Gazette. Acts Supplement. (1972, April 7). The Singapore Armed Forces Act, 1972 (Act 7 of 1972, p. 148). Singapore: [s.n.]. Call no.: RSING 348.5957 SGGAS.
2. Government Gazette. Acts Supplement, 7 Apr 1972, pp. 148–149
3. Republic of Singapore. Government Gazette. Acts Supplement. (1965, December 31). The Singapore Army 1965 (Act 13 of 1965, p. 154). Singapore: [s.n.]. Call no.: RSING 348.5957 SGGAS; Republic of Singapore. Government Gazette. Acts Supplement. (1966, January 6). The People’s Defence Force Act (Act 23 of 1965, p. 19). Singapore: [s.n.]. Call no.: RSING 348.5957 SGGAS.
4. Government Gazette. Acts Supplement, 7 Ap 1972, p. 148.
5. Singapore. Parliament. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report. (1972, March 23). Singapore Armed Forces Bill (Vol. 31, cols. 1091–1092). Singapore: Govt. Printer. Call no.: RSING 328.5957 SIN.
6. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 23 Mar 1972, cols. 1091–1092.
7. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 23 Mar 1972, cols. 1091–1092, 1094, 1098.
8. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 23 Mar 1972, col. 1093.
9. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 23 Mar 1972, cols. 1093–1096.
10. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 23 Mar 1972, cols. 1097–1098.
11. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 23 Mar 1972, col. 1096.
12. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 23 Mar 1972, cols. 1096–1097.
13. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 23 Mar 1972, col. 1095; Government Gazette. Acts Supplement, 7 Apr 1972, pp. 216–217.
14. Parliamentary Debates: Official Report, 23 Mar 1972, col. 1092; Government Gazette. Acts Supplement, 7 Apr 1972, pp. 150–166.

 

The information in this article is valid as at March 2015 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

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