Wednesday, November 26, 2008

National service in Singapore

National service in Singapore

Last December, ex Singaporean British world renowned pianist Melvyn Tan became famous. He became more famous by being a dodger than by being a pianist.

It became a joke in the city state that if you don’t want your son to join the army, give him piano lessons. The law changed after that when people complained that he got off lightly. In Canada, I have friends who were dodgers, they could never step on Singapore soil again. They travel to Johore Bahru, a Malaysian city across the border, their parents go across to see them.

I also have friends, though they served NS aka National Service with a grudge, say that they would shoot the dodgers if they had guns. NS is compulsory also for male children whose parents have become Singapore Permanent residents. Many of these boys leave before the call up. My son who is a Kiwi Malaysian is a PR in Singapore, from a young age has been saying,” I am not going to the army, please”. Sam is a sissy boy, may be the army will make a man out of him. In an overseas country, I met a family from Singapore with four boys. Though they have migrated to that country, they retained their Singaporean citizenship. When it was time for the first boy to return to serve NS, the boy who grew up in a foreign country begged and pleaded. The mother said, “Son, we put a big deposit as a guarantee, if you don’t return to serve NS, your three brothers will want to do the same, where am I going to find all that money?” Beside, the Singapore government would not let a minor give up his citizenship.

Mindef is going back to the basics in its policy of allowing deferments from National Service for school leavers. Since December 2006, no more deferments were allowed for those who want to pursue a university degree, tp://

My friend’s son was due to start university in September, in a prestigious university in America, too bad if he hasn’t finished his NS until November. He was told the new ruling meant he had to wait a year to start his university education. On 25 May 2006, the Ministry of Defence ( Mindef) of Singapore rejected an appeal from a violin prodigy Ike See to defer his national service to pursue his music studies. Mindef reiterated its stand on deferments. Ike’s situation attracted of letters to the forum arguing for and against his case.

Footnote 4: National service in Singapore
In Singapore, National Service (NS), since its introduction in 1967, has been defending our nation and helping our people bond. By bringing Singaporeans from diverse backgrounds together, NS has helped foster greater cohesiveness and understanding across the different ethnic groups. All male Singaporeans are required to serve National Service (NS). Since its introduction in 1967, NS has become a way of life and the common experience binding male Singaporeans. Under the Enlistment Act, all male Singapore citizens are liable for NS. The acquisition of foreign citizenship (dual citizenship) does not exempt a Singapore citizen from his NS obligations. Like all other male Singapore citizens, dual citizens are required to register for full-time National Service (NSF) upon reaching 16 ½ years of age, and to enlist for NSF upon reaching 18 years of age. It is an offence to evade NS (Section 32 of the Enlistment Act). Anyone attempting to do so shall be liable, on conviction, for imprisonment of a term not exceeding three years, or a maximum fine of S$5,000, or both.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Ann,
It is really interesting to watch how the Singapore government insist on this National Service issue. Honestly I think they got more to loose than gain. Considering the benefits derived from those people who leave. (Melvin Tan for example, besides I personally know of numerous families in USA, NZ, Australia, Canada and UK.)

Besides it would have been interesting to know the volume of benefits Malaysia has attained from the exiled Singaporeans, visiting form across the border.

It is ironic to think that NS help

foster greater cohesiveness and understanding across the different ethnic groups
develop patriotism and loyalty to Singapore and (post-NS Singaporeans are just as bigots as ever! Racial harmony? my toes laugh!)

that NS is also seen as a rite of passage to manhood, is absolutely absurd!

I have heard of some saying about the benefits derived from Singapore education system, yah da yah da yah … well? how about all the benefits they have derived from the adopted country, is Singapore going to repay these countries for the difference? If the child leaves Singapore at 10 years old, then studied in NZ as a resident of NZ until he is 18 years old, there is cost incurred by the NZ government for its residents, who’s paying for the value Singapore benefited from the outstanding 9 years? I’ve never heard of Singapore paying NZ or Australia or Canada for educating their Singapore NS men when they return to SERVE Singapore!

As for those that say: “that they would shoot the dodgers if they had guns”, seem to be simply sour grapes, venting looser frustrations.

Forcing the people back to serve the NS is only going to make matters worst, in fact creating enemies from within, resentful nationals are excellent spies, perfect traitors and double crossers, double agents. There are plenty of them already in Singapore without even trying. Besides these are people with external resources, focus groups are evolving with detrimental effects. This is going to be fun to watch.