Senior counsel's younger son jailed 12 weeks for NS evasion

Nigel Chin
SAF national servicemen seen at the Army Open House event held at the F1 Pit Building in May. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman / Yahoo News Singapore)

A man who defaulted on his national service (NS) obligations and remained outside of Singapore for more than six years without an exit permit was sentenced to 12 weeks’ jail on Wednesday (11 October).

Tan Yang En Isaac, the younger son of senior lawyer Tan Chee Meng, was found guilty in the State Courts on Friday on three charges under the Enlistment Act. In February, Isaac’s older brother, Jonathan Tan Huai-En, was found guilty of defaulting on his NS obligations for 10 years, 4 months and 13 days. He was jailed 16 weeks.

The court had heard on Friday that Isaac migrated to Canada with his brother, sister and mother in December 2000. He was only eight years old at that time. Isaac’s father, the family’s sole breadwinner, remained in Singapore due to a lack of job opportunities in Canada.

Isaac subsequently failed to obtain a valid exit permit when he turned 16 and a half years old. He also failed to register for NS despite several notices sent to his father’s lawyers.

He was told by his father about his NS obligations only after he turned 18, but Isaac still did not return. Instead, he returned only on 6 August 2015 – after a period of six years, four months and 21 days without a valid exit permit. During this time he had also completed his degree in a university in Canada.

He enlisted into NS on 29 October 2015, said Deputy Public Prosecutor Tan Zhongshan. Before meting out his sentence, District Judge Marvin Bay said that national security is crucial to Singapore’s survival as a nation. Because of that, Isaac’s punishment had to be “sufficiently severe” to not undermine the issue.

DJ Bay also said that “there was no urgency on Tan’s part to return despite several notifications”.

“He did not make attempts to return to Singapore on his own and remained in Canada, returning only after he completed his university studies,” DJ Bay said. However, Bay also added that he took Isaac’s mitigation plea into account.

Isaac’s lawyer, Josephine Choo, had argued that Isaac is not a combatant and holds a C-grade Physical Employment Standards (PES) status because of a skin condition he has suffered since he was young.

Offenders who are convicted of remaining outside Singapore without a valid exit permit can be jailed for up to three years and fined up to $10,000.

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