NSF jailed 5 years for going AWOL for more than 13 years

Amir Hussain
Senior Reporter
Singapore’s State Courts (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

From 2003 to 2004, a full-time national serviceman with the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) went absent without official leave (AWOL) on four occasions in the span of a year, a district court heard.

After being released from the SCDF detention barracks in 2004 – for going AWOL for a continuous period of more than three months – Saleh Lamri then decided to evade his national service obligations again, this time giving the authorities the slip for more than 13 years.

At the State Courts last Friday (26 October), Saleh was jailed for five years, having pleaded guilty to one count of desertion under the Civil Defence Act.

Saleh, now 35, is appealing against the prison term. He is currently behind bars.

In his decision grounds, District Judge Ng Peng Hong said, “The accused is now about 35 years old. He would probably be too old to fully fulfil his national service obligations. By the time he is to be released from prison, he would probably be close to 40 years old.”

Serial deserter

The court heard that Saleh enlisted for national service on 17 September 2002. Three months later, on 29 December 2002, he was posted to the SCDF’s National Service Training Institute at 91 Jalan Bahar.

The next year, Saleh went AWOL for seven days from 16 September to 22 September 2003. He was sent to the SCDF detention barracks for 12 days for the offence.

The next month, he was jailed seven months for desertion.

Less than five months later, Saleh went AWOL for more than one month, from 3 March to 11 April 2004. He spent 40 days in the detention barracks.

Three months later, Saleh again went AWOL. He deserted his national service duties for one month from 6 July to 4 August, and for more than three months from 20 August to 29 November 2004. He was sent back to the detention barracks for 40 days.

Saleh was released from detention on 29 December 2004. But the next day, he again failed to report for duty. The SCDF looked for him at home on three separate occasions on 1 August 2006, 11 July 2007 and 20 August 2008, but to no avail.

Saleh was arrested on 22 March this year after a police spot check.

The total period of his desertion, from 30 December 2004 to 21 March 2018, was 13 years, 2 months and 21 days.

The prosecution asked for five years’ jail, in line with sentencing guidelines laid down by the High Court for national service defaulters.

Meanwhile, Saleh, who did not have a lawyer, said he was the sole breadwinner of his family.

For desertion, Saleh could have been jailed for up to 10 years.

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