Singaporean who grew up in Malaysia admits to defaulting NS for almost 10 years

Wan Ting Koh
·Reporter
·3-min read
Close up of wooden gavel isolated on white background
(PHOTO: Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — A Singapore-born man left for Malaysia at the age of 1 and continued his education there until he left to study at a UK university.

Basil Lim Boon Hoh failed to fulfil his national service (NS) liabilities and defaulted for a total of nine years, 11 months and 16 days, a court heard on Thursday (1 October).

Lim, 28, admitted to the offence under the Enlistment Act.

The prosecution said that Lim was aware of the need to serve national service as his father, who is Singaporean, had informed his son before the boy turned 10. His mother is a Malaysian.

Lim was first issued a Singapore passport when he was three weeks old. He was issued a second passport when he was nine years old. By then, Lim had travelled out of Singapore using his Singapore passport on around 10 occasions. He had also applied for and was issued a Singapore identity card in 2007 as his mother wanted him to have a choice in where he worked in the future.

Despite being a Singapore citizen, Lim did not study in Singapore. He was educated in Malaysia from 1996 to 2009 and later went to London for university. Lim gained Malaysian citizenship when he was 10.

When Lim was 16, his mother told him that he could ignore his NS liabilities as he had Malaysian citizenship.

By the time Lim turned 16.5, the liable age for national service, he had not attained a valid Exit Permit and failed to report for national service registration.

In 2009, several Further Reporting Orders were sent to Lim’s birth address, and to his addresses in Malaysia which his mother provided. When Lim still failed to register for NS, a Stop List and Police Gazette was raised against him.

In 2016, Lim’s lawyer sent representations to the Central Manpower Base (CMPB) requesting for a composition of Lim’s offences and to allow him to renounce his Singaporean citizenship.

CMPB rejected the representations and advised Lim to return to Singapore to resolve the issue.

Lim next responded on 19 March 2018, e-mailing CMPB to inform that he will return to Singapore on 27 March 2018. Lim did so and enlisted in National Service at the Singapore Civil Defence Force on 14 August 2018. He completed his NS on 13 August 2020.

Lim has since said that he wishes to keep his Singapore citizenship as he does not speak Malay well and intends to work here instead of Malaysia.

While the prosecution sought five months and 18 days’ jail for Lim, his lawyer argued for one month instead.

The lawyer, Lim Kia Tong, said that his client had pleaded guilty to put a close to the matter that was brought about to some extent by the actions of his mother.

In an email to the lawyer, Lim’s mother stated that she did not know much about NS and that Lim’s father had left the family in 2003. She said that she had the mailing address changed to an old address as she did not want her son to see any letters about NS. By then, the apartment at that address has already been sold.

“I never told Basil anything about this or NS because I wanted him to stay with me and not go back to Singapore,” said the mother in the email.

After completing university, Lim then realised he had to resolve this issue and had several disagreements with his mother before returning to Singapore.

According to the lawyer, Lim was diagnosed with anxiety and depression stemming from his worry about the NS issue.

He has been receiving treatment in Malaysia and later at the Institute of Mental Health in Singapore since completing his NS.

Lim is expected to be sentenced on 15 October.

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