There are no “valid grounds” to approve the application for National Service (NS) deferment by Harvey Davis for his footballer son Ben as there is “no commitment to serve Singapore or our national interests”, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen.
Addressing Parliament on Monday (6 August) in response to queries on the issue from Members of Parliament, Ng added that granting the 17-year-old deferment would be “unfair to the many others who have served their NS dutifully as required, and not at a time of their choosing”.
The minister also said that doing so would erode the basis on which the courts have upheld the Enlistment Act passed by Parliament and punished those for not fulfilling their NS liabilities to pursue personal pursuits.
Ben Davis, who has signed a senior contract with Fulham Football Club, is the first Singaporean to be taken on professionally by a top-flight English football club. The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) has rejected his request to defer his NS enlistment date. This decision is currently being appealed by the Davises.
Ng claimed that Ben Davis is playing for Fulham as an English national, not a Singapore citizen. “Mindef is not privy to the contract signed between them, but we assume this published information is correct and that the father must have his reasons for doing so.”
Harvey Davis, who runs the JSSL football academy in Singapore, has “consistently refused” to indicate when his son would return to serve his NS if he is granted deferment, Ng said. He cited the father’s response to the Ministry of Culture Community and Youth, Sport Singapore and the Football Association of Singapore, that stated, “We are unable to commit to a date for his return should he be playing professional football in the UK or Europe…There are a lot of variables all dependent on his development and progression.”
Harvey also indicated that his son would still proceed to sign the contract with Fulham even if he is not granted deferment. “The reason given by the father was that his son would only return to fulfil his NS commitment if he is unsuccessful in his professional career,” Ng said.
“If Mr Ben Davis will not give up his senior contract, which provides for an allowance of a few hundred pounds a week, to serve his NS, it is even more unlikely that he will return to serve NS if he subsequently gets offered a contract worth many times more,” he added.
Davis senior has been “quite open” about his goal to further his son’s professional career first, to the extent that he would consider the option of his son renouncing his Singapore citizenship.
“Singapore and her interests, including his son’s NS obligations, are secondary consideration, if at all. There has been no indication, commitment or plans as to how Mr Ben Davis would help football standards in Singapore, if deferred,” Ng said.