‘Radio Silence’ by Laremy Lee
‘An Act to provide for the raising, maintenance and discipline of the Singapore Armed Forces and for matters connected therewith.’ This opening line heralded the enactment of the Singapore Armed Forces Act on 15 June 1972, which unified the army, navy, and air forces into the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF). More crucially, it also contained provisions to tighten the disciplinary structure of the SAF. It consolidated an exhaustive list of military offences and gave additional powers to officers on the ground to investigate offences.
Today, the SAF has repeatedly come under fire by the public after entering the spotlight due to fatal accidents that have cost the lives of several full-time National Servicemen (NSFs). Aggrieved parents and some concerned members of the public blame these lapses on the lack of attention to safety during military training. Others blame them on the struggle NSFs face between obeying their commanders or strictly observing safety protocol, as the charge of insubordination is a constant fear faced by those serving their time. Whichever the case, the issue of conforming to regimental discipline versus compliance to safety, despite possibly going against a commander, has always incited much debate.
‘Radio Silence’ by Laremy Lee, an alumnus of the NUS Department of English Language and Literature, is a play that centres around the issue of deference to authority in the army, even when it may not seem logical. An officer and his driver get lost in the jungle and despite their obvious lack of direction, the officer insists that they are not lost to preserve his facade of a competent officer. Lee’s play also provides a window into real-life examples of how obeying authority may conflict with critical thinking during National Service, highlighting an issue that is often joked about but seldom discussed seriously.
‘Radio Silence’ is part of a larger anthology of plays, Voices Clear and True: New Singapore Plays Volume 1, published in 2012 by Checkpoint Theatre as part of their 10th anniversary celebrations.