Singapore blogger calls NS ‘slavery’, draws passionate response

Singapore National Service recruits in training. (Yahoo file photo)

[UPDATED, Tuesday 9 October, 2105: added more quotes]

Want an instance of "modern day slavery" in Singapore? Look to National Service (NS), claims local blogger Alvin Lim.

Last Friday, he launched into a brutally frank and honest anti-NS tirade on his Alvinology site, saying he was "very sick and tired" of the discriminatory NS system and its reservist system.

The marketing professional, 33, was moved to blog his distaste for Singapore's forced military conscription after reading a BBC report mentioning a certain Alex Liang, who renounced his Singapore citizenship to settle in the United Kingdom

Pointing to NS as his primary reason, Liang told BBC that "Singaporean males (are) discriminated against by the government because of compulsory national service and many years of reservist obligations afterwards".

This clearly touched a raw nerve with Lim, who criticised the IPPT system; the "silly school boy" hair checks conducted during in-camp trainings (ICT); the reminder letters when he failed to notify MINDEF of his overseas travel ("I am not a criminal") and having to serve reservist until the age of 40 ("likely near to my 40s before I can get discharged from this slavery system"), among other requirements of NS.

He said not everyone was born fit and that his own health and fitness "are my own choices in life". He lamented that the "18 to 20 weekends a year" he spent doing Remedial Training could have been used to bond with his son.

"I am not a full-time soldier. I did not sign up for a career in the army. I was conscripted. Not everybody like being soldiers or take well to regimentation. Two and a half years in the army was more than enough for me," he said, adding that he finished his full-time National Service in 20o1.

He qualified that while he "still love this country and my family, friends and work here more than the cons of NS discrimination", he said that if he ever chose to "migrate...MINDEF and SAF are highly responsible".

He also asked, "Google defines a slave as 'a person who is the legal property of another and is forced to obey them'. Does this definition reminds you of NS and reservist?”

In conclusion, he called for a "serious review" of the NS and reservist system.

The post attracted over 230 comments on the article itself, more than 8,000 Facebook shares and "over 100,000 page views over the weekend", according to a follow-up post by Lim on Monday.

Blog post strikes raw nerve

Responses to the article streamed in thick and fast, with the bulk echoing Lim's call for a makeover of the NS process.

"Male Singaporeans are effectively handicapped – first by the 2/2.5 years spent in full time NS and then thereafter by the annual ICTs," said reader "rytt".

Another commenter, "voice of people", agreed that the NS method of punishment by "charging people who (do) not obey, is the same as whipping slaves into their bidding".

However, a number spoke up in defence of NS, such as "Average singaporean dude", who argued that "those two years brought me lessons, lifelong friends, skills and fitness that few other countries can give".

After the weekend, Lim wrote a response to clarify his stance on NS. Among other points, he mocked the ideology of "nation before self" while admitting to looking out for his own "self interest and comfort".

Lim then drew the same conclusion of NS as "modern slavery" and repeated his demand for a review of the system.