Fairness for Singaporean Men for their National Service Duty to the Nation

Video Courtesy: The Straits Times

It is timely that our Rio Olympic gold medalist Joseph Schooling called for a national dialogue on managing expectations of athletes undergoing National Service, after the completion of his sixth SEA Games.

He related to the media the challenges of serving NS and trying to excel in the pool at the same time, and the expectations from the public to perform.

NS has been a rite of passage for most Singaporean males in the past 55 years. The issue of deferment remains contentious. However, Singapore today is different from the days when NS started in 1967, after the National Service (Amendment) Bill was passed in Parliament for conscription of Singaporean male citizens at age 18.

The standard of various sports has progressed over time. Expectations of the Singapore athlete to excel and win competitions have gone up in tandem. Unless one is a full-time professional athlete, he cannot expect success on the world stage. It is noteworthy that the two years of NS come at almost the prime of an athlete’s development and will adversely affect the progress of his chosen sport.

Is it appropriate to consider NS in other forms, other than the usual 2-year full-time NS and 10-year NSmen service, for some of our outstanding and world-class Singaporean athletes?

A national dialogue should be initiated to discuss NS deferments and the criteria for such. Clarity on these will better prepare the athlete’s expectations and career timeline as he seeks sporting glory for our country.

The national dialogue should also discuss the issue of whether the burden of defence is shared equally between local and foreign-born citizens as our demographics have changed drastically over the last 20 years.

Is it fair for foreigners to be given citizenship without doing NS while our locally-born Singaporeans have to serve NS despite having valid reasons to defer?

All male citizens whether born here or otherwise must serve NS. This is a fundamental obligation to our country. If there are conditions for exemption or deferment, these should be explicit, transparent and fairly implemented.

I have raised this issue of sharing the burden of national defence in the last Parliament sitting on 9 May, and will be pursuing this again at the July sitting.

Singaporeans deserve better!

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