A 25-year-old Singaporean man who evaded his full-time national service obligation for more than three years was jailed for seven weeks on Monday (11 February).
Zaley Cheng Xi Xiong, 25, pleaded guilty at the State Courts to one charge of remaining outside Singapore without a valid exit permit for three years, three months and 11 days – from 19 May 2014 to 29 August 2017.
Another count of failing to report for enlistment for a total period of three years, 2 months and 21 days – from 10 June 2014 to 30 August 2017 – was considered in his sentencing.
On 7 April 2014, an Enlistment Notice was mailed to Cheng’s home, informing him that he was required to report at the Basic Military Training Centre on 10 June 2014 for enlistment into full-time national service.
Suffering from “medical issues” and having heard “stories about national service”, Cheng was afraid of sustaining injuries, Deputy Public Prosecutor Kwang Jia Min told the court. Details of his medical issues were not elaborated in court.
Cheng decided to evade enlistment without his parents’ knowledge and told them that he was going to Brunei for a holiday. He left Singapore on 19 May 2014.
But once there, Cheng confessed about his intentions and said he wanted to migrate to Australia. He then made his way to Australia, despite his mother’s attempts to persuade him to return.
After completing his bachelor’s degree in Australia, however, Cheng decided to return as his father was diagnosed with prostate cancer.
On 22 August 2017, Cheng called the national service call centre to inform them that he will be returning to serve national service.
The next day, the Central Manpower Base (CMPB) e-mailed Cheng about his offences and advised him to return as soon as possible. Cheng replied with his flight details a week later.
He returned to Singapore on 30 August 2017 and reported to CMPB the next day, as instructed.
Cheng was enlisted into full-time national service in the Singapore Armed Forces on 26 January last year. He is currently serving his full-time national service obligations.
For his Enlistment Act offence, Cheng could have been fined up to $10,000 and jailed up to three years.
In September last year, Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said that over the last 10 years, there have been an average of 350 NS defaulters each year.