'Patrick Tan did not get preferential treatment during NS’

Alicia Wong

President Tony Tan’s son Dr Patrick Tan did not receive preferential treatment during his national service, said Singapore’s Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Thursday in Parliament.

"There was no preferential treatment given to Patrick Tan, or any other individual who has disrupted (their service), because of their 'connections', Ng was quoted as saying by Channel NewsAsia.

Responding to questions on the younger Tan’s NS disruption, Ng said, "I would like to further assure Singaporeans that Mindef implements a policy of selective disruption for university studies fairly and openly, in accordance with existing criteria.”

He added that Mindef would publish a list of all who disrupted for university education annually for public scrutiny.

During the Presidential Election in August, Patrick Tan’s prolonged disruption from full-time NS as well as his deployment to the Defence Medical Research Institute (DMRI) when he resumed service was a hotly debated topic.

Both the president and his son have denied any preferential treatment.

Ng explained that since 1973, full-time national servicemen (NSFs) were allowed to disrupt for medical studies in Singapore. In 1981, they were allowed to study medicine overseas.

From 1992, however, NSFs were not allowed to disrupt for overseas medical studies because the number of local medical graduates had met the Singapore Armed Forces’ needs, said the minister.

A total 86 applicants were disrupted under this scheme, including Patrick Tan, who went to the U.S. to study medicine in 1988.

He deferred his NS for 12 years because he had to complete his premedical course from 1988 to 1992, before taking his combined medical degree and PHD programme.

In 2000, he re-enlisted and was deployed to the DMRI. Ng noted that other NS men have been posted to the same institute before.