SINGAPORE - The strong negative reactions towards a publicity stunt last Friday, which featured actors dressed as national servicemen taking commands from passers-by, show the public's pride in the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), said defence experts yesterday.
The stunt at Raffles Place was organised by the National Geographic Channel to promote its documentary, Every Singaporean Son 2: The Making Of An Officer.
Last Friday, the Singapore Army said on Facebook that it was "very disappointed" with the stunt, because it was "disrespectful of our soldiers, and undermines the dedication and commitment of all our soldiers who have served dutifully in the defence of our country".
It added that the Army was not informed of the stunt or the use of its uniforms.
Many people also voiced their disapproval of the marketing campaign, calling it demeaning to Singaporean soldiers, The Straits Times reported.
But Dr Bernard Loo, associate professor of strategy and war at Nanyang Technological University's S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, told My Paper that it was "heartening" that the stunt received such strong reactions from the public, as it showed that the SAF is highly regarded.
"Three generations of Singaporeans have gone through national service (NS), so it is only natural that Singaporeans are proud of it and the institution. It is the most important rite of passage for young men," said Dr Loo.
Mr Ho Shu Huang, a defence analyst at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, said that the public reaction was a reflection of Singaporeans' strong feelings towards NS. He added that the marketing stunt was probably viewed as an "over-simplistic" portrayal of servicemen and that that may have upset the public, particularly servicemen who feel that their efforts have been misrepresented.
Full-time national serviceman Ted Soh, 19, said that while the public may have viewed the act as "disrespectful" towards soldiers, it was still able to showcase their discipline.
The National Geographic Channel here apologised for the stunt last Friday on Facebook, explaining that the stunt was "conceptualised to let normal Singaporeans understand how an army officer's job is really difficult".
"We realise that it can come across as an insult by letting ordinary citizens try their hand at commanding a platoon. We certainly didn't mean it that way," it said.
According to the Decorations and Uniforms Act, any person who misappropriates an SAF uniform or part of it, or anything nearly resembling it, can be fined up to $400 or jailed up to three months.