SINGAPORE — Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Tuesday (2 August) highlighted data on new citizens and permanent residents (PRs) who are doing national service (NS) to correct “misleading” statements by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leong Mun Wai on the issue.
Delivering his Ministerial Statement in Parliament, Dr Ng said that of all full-time national servicemen enlisted each year, 20 per cent of them are PRs and young male new citizens, an increase from about five per cent in the early 2000s.
His statement was to rebut Leong’s previous comments in Parliament that “citizens by registration are not doing national service”. Leong also repeated the misleading comments in two Facebook posts in May and July, Dr Ng added.
In July, Dr Ng replied to a parliamentary question by Leong on the eligibility criteria for deferment for male Singaporeans with potential to accomplish significant successes in the sports and arts fields.
Under the Enlistment Act, all male Singaporean citizens and PRs between the ages of 18 and 40 for non officers and 50 for officers are liable to serve national service.
Dr Ng reiterated a previous statement by the Ministry of Defence that males who receive citizenship as mature adults, typically in their 30s and 40s, are not enlisted as they are not suitable for full-time NS at that age and did not receive any related benefits prior to becoming Singaporeans.
New male citizens who have stayed in Singapore when young and enjoyed benefits of citizenship are enlisted for NS when they are 18 years of age or older. On average, they number 3400 each year, or about half of all new male citizens registered each year, Dr Ng said.
“Let there be no doubt that for every young male citizen, whether by birth, registration, or descent, the NS liabilities are the same. We do not differentiate,” he added.
Without injection of new citizens and PRs and given the smaller birth cohorts, the Singapore Armed Forces’ manpower needs will be affected more acutely, according to Dr Ng.
It is important to correct Leong’s misleading statements as they “strike at the foundations of equity and universality”, Dr Ng said.
“Just think about it, if pre-enlistees are misled into thinking that new citizens of their age are exempted, where will they have the heart to serve national service?”
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