The Straits Times
4th Sept 2001
NS deferment limits set for fairness
(Young-pap: though the date of this letter is 2001, it is talking about things that happened in 1993, which is exactly the time period we are interested in)
I REFER to the letter, “Inflexible policies could lead to brain drain” (ST, Aug 23), by Dr Ronald Paul Ng.
The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) understands the desire of Singaporean males to pursue their university studies prior to national service (NS) enlistment.
However, this has to be balanced with the duty to serve NS.
For Dr Ng’s son, Mindef had exercised flexibility by granting him deferment from NS to pursue his overseas undergraduate studies.
However, there is a limit to how long a person’s NS obligations can reasonably be deferred when others in his cohort have already been enlisted and some have even completed their NS.
In our universal conscription system where equity is a key tenet, Mindef has to apply its policies fairly and consistently.
When Dr Ng applied for NS deferment for his son in 1993, he was aware that further NS deferment could not be granted for his son to pursue a postgraduate degree after his undergraduate studies, and had agreed to this in writing.
COLONEL BERNARD TOH
Director Public Affairs Ministry of Defence
Indeed, "how long [can] a person’s NS obligations reasonably be deferred"?
Well, the answer clearly depends on who "a person" is.
If "a person" is a nobody, then 3 to 4 years is a reasonable period.
But if "a person" happens to be Patrick Tan Boon Ooi, son of Minister Tony Tan Keng Yam, 12 years is a reasonable period!
Oh, by the way:
The Straits Times
14th August 2006
Mindef lets violin prodigy defer NS
Violin prodigy Ike See, 17, will get to study at the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music in the United States after all.
The talented youngster, who was twice turned down by the Defence Ministry (Mindef) when he applied to defer national service training to pursue a three-year course, has opted for a two-year diploma programme instead.
He will leave for Philadelphia late this month to make it in time for the institute’s placement examinations, which decide which classes he will attend. His studies are fully paid for by a Curtis scholarship, but his family will have to post a bond of more than $75,000 for the NS deferment.
Ike’s music career was the subject of much debate in May, when Mindef rejected an appeal to defer his military training until after his university studies.
Mindef’s position was that it allowed students to attain educational qualifications up to A levels, polytechnic diplomas, or their equivalent, before requiring them to do national service. Deferments to pursue university studies were granted only under very exceptional circumstances, and such cases were rare and could be considered only for ‘exceptionally strong reasons’.
Mindef maintained that allowing Ike to defer his NS would have been unfair to others who put their personal aspirations and goals on hold to serve NS. There is no change in this position.
Colonel Benedict Lim, Mindef’s director of public affairs, explained that, in the latest appeal, Ike had sought deferment for a two-year diploma programme, which Mindef had assessed to be a non-degree course that is equivalent to GCE A levels or a polytechnic diploma.
What a fool Ike See is!
Instead of downgrading from a 3-year bachelor degree to a 2-year diploma, he should have done the opposite: upgrade to a 12-year PhD cum MA cum BA package!
That will ensure his success in getting a deferment.
After all, there is precedent in the form of Minister Tony Tan Keng Yam's son - Patrick Tan Boon Ooi, who was granted a 12-year disruption from NS for his PhD cum MD cum BA studies.
And as we all know from the 1st letter, "In our universal conscription system where equity is a key tenet, Mindef has to apply its policies fairly and consistently."
Tony Tan for President?
He will have to Tan ku ku (wait long long) for my vote!