Enlistment Act: Why No Updates to Statutory NS Liability?

Mr Speaker Sir,

The Progress Singapore Party (PSP) welcomes the move by the Government to update the Enlistment Act.

While we have no quarrel with the updates proposed in the Bill, we note that the Bill does not make any amendments to the statutory length of liability to render full-time NS, as provided in section 12 of the Enlistment Act 1970.

Since Independence, our Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), Singapore Police Force (SPF) and Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) have become world-class institutions, and this success has come on the backs of generations of full-time NSmen who have given two or two-and-a-half years of their lives to serve the nation. This sacrifice in youth comes at significant cost to the individual. Therefore, the duration of full-time NS must be carefully calibrated and reviewed from time to time, based on our nation’s defence needs.

Even after amendments made in section 4 of the Bill, the statutory full-time NS liability remains at up to two-and-a-half years for anyone promoted above the rank of Lance Corporal in the SAF or SCDF, or Special Constable 2 in the SPF, which, in practice, covers every enlistee.

The duration of full-time NS was last reduced from two-and-a-half years to two years in June 2004. At the time, Senior Minister Teo Chee Hean, who was then Minister for Defence, explained in a Ministerial Statement that this was possible because of the SAF’s technological transformation to the Third Generation SAF and a 15% and 20% increase in the annual intake of full-time NSmen over 10 years starting in 2006. Senior Minister Teo also told the House that MINDEF had concluded that the two years of NS duration will be able to be sustained over the long term even after this 10-year surge.

Thus, I would like to ask the Minister several questions.

One, are the considerations and conclusions made by Senior Minister Teo in June 2004 still valid?

Two, if yes, why has the Bill we are debating today not included an amendment to reduce the statutory length of full-time NS liability from two-and-a-half to two years, even though this has been the practice for 20 years, which is practically one generation?

Three, by retaining this provision in the Enlistment Act, does this mean the Government expects that the duration of full-time NS may be reverted to two-and-a-half years at some point in the future?

PSP calls on the Government to continue reviewing the duration of full-time NS based on operational needs, demographic changes and technological advancements. Where possible, without compromising on operational readiness, training standards and the ability of our uniformed services to achieve their mission, we would support further reductions in our dependence on large numbers of full-time NSmen and further reductions in the duration of full-time National Service.

Sir, notwithstanding my clarifications, I support the Bill.

For Country For People

Headshot of Leong Mun Wai is marked with CC0 1.0

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