The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) said that while it recognises Benjamin Davis’ achievement in securing a senior contract with English Premier League club Fulham, the 17-year-old Singaporean’s actions are meant to further his own professional career, not national interest.
Speaking on its decision to reject Davis’ application to defer from National Service (NS), Mindef said in a statement on Wednesday that NS deferment is granted for exceptional sportsmen to represent Singapore’s national interest. His application does not meet the deferment criteria and was therefore turned down, it added.
“When asked during the deferment application process when Mr Davis intended to return and serve NS, Mr Davis’ father would not commit to a date and expressed that he would put Mr Davis’ professional career first.
“Mr Davis went on to sign the contract despite the rejection for deferment and his father has publicly stated that he would encourage Mr Davis to renounce his Singapore citizenship in order to pursue his career,” Mindef said.
In an interview with Yahoo News Singapore, Harvey Davis, Benjamin’s father, said his son may switch nationalities if his appeal for NS deferment is not granted by Mindef.
“If the deferment request isn’t accepted… then we wouldn’t really have a lot of choices and we’d be forced into a situation where we have to make a decision we don’t want to make,” said Harvey, 49, who runs the JSSL football school in Singapore.
Mindef said, “They have no intention of returning to fulfil their son’s NS duties, especially if Mr Davis is given a full professional contract after the two years of his senior contract. To allow deferment for this type of appeal, would severely undermine the ethos and sacrifice of Singaporeans who have all put aside their personal interests to complete their NS duties.”
Many talented sportsmen, including footballers, have completed their NS first before pursuing their professional careers, Mindef said.
There are schemes during full-time National Service to enable such sportsmen to continue training to retain and improve their skills and training opportunities for them in the lead-up to major games such as the Southeast Asian and Olympic Games, it added.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) has expressed its strong support for Davis to defer his NS, as it feels that his case merits “serious consideration” by Mindef.