Maid Carrying Soldier’s Pack Sparks Row

Post date: Apr 4, 2011 5:32:48 PM

March 30, 2011

Agence France-Presse

A photograph of a maid carrying a soldier's rucksack as she walked behind him has sparked outrage in Singapore and concern that recruits to its armed forces are a pampered lot.

The picture, published in the Singaporean media and on the Internet this week, showed the male soldier in military fatigues and combat boots strolling on a footpath.

His female maid followed a step behind with the military-issued rucksack slung over her left shoulder.

Reactions to the photograph, which was first posted on Facebook, ranged from amusement to anger and claims that Singapore's current generation of soldiers were "softies".

"Behind every successful SAF [Singapore Armed Forces] soldier, there is a maid," Chinteresting wrote, tongue in cheek, on Twitter.

"SAF should find the maid fast. Enlist her to the Army, she's strong!" tweeted Rod_Man14.

"If he can't carry his own field pack, how to depend on this kind of soldier to defend Singapore," Heavencry09 lamented on the chat forum of news portal xinmsn.

Singapore maintains a conscript-based military. Every able-bodied male citizen and permanent resident 18 years old and above must undergo two years of military training.

News reports have published criticism that current training drills are not as tough compared with what older generations had to undergo because of complaints from parents.

Analysts, however, said the rucksack photograph was not a fair representation of today's armed forces.

"This was one incident, I think the only conclusion we can generally make is that that soldier does indeed come across as soft and pampered," said Bernard Loo, an expert on military affairs at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies.

But he said it was unfair to generalize the picture, and that current servicemen were actually fitter than their predecessors.

"I think the statistics probably would tell us that by and large, the average national serviceman is physically fitter today than his counterparts were, say 15, 20 years ago," Loo told AFP on Wednesday.

The defense ministry said it was investigating the matter, as online design wags went to town with parodies of the photograph.

One superimposed the image of the burdened maid onto a poster of a soldier firing a rocket inside a military vehicle.

Another had the maid with the backpack striding across a battlefield behind a tank as a soldier fires his gun into the distance, with the caption in capital letters: "My Maid, Our Army."

Local daily the New Paper also surveyed 23 national servicemen and found that 22 of them had their maids wash and iron their army uniforms, while 17 had their domestic helpers clean their rooms for them.

Close to 200,000 maids -- largely from Indonesia and the Philippines -- were estimated to be working in affluent Singapore last year.