Tan Kin Lian, a candidate at the 2011 Presidential Election, has called for national service (NS) to be shortened from the current two years to a year.
In an online petition posted three days ago, the former CEO of NTUC Income also called on the government to reduce the call-up for reservist and remedial training.
The petition has gathered close to 900 signatures as of Sunday morning. His goal is to hit 10,000 signatures.
While Tan acknowledged that national defence is important for Singapore, he said the government should review the approach to “make sure that the budget and resources are effectively used to produce the desired outcome”.
“Two years is too long,” said Tan, adding, “In many countries that have conscription, they are able to achieve their training within 12 months.”
He also pointed out that many conscripts have noted that the actual military training could be completed within 12 months.
“They spend a large part of the remaining period idling, doing general cleaning, being involved in National Day Parade preparations and waiting to be discharged. Their effectiveness would not be compromised, if they are discharged earlier,” added Tan.
He also acknowledged that conscripts who are selected to be trained as officers need to spend more time on their training – an additional six to 12 months.
However, he said, these conscripts should be paid a higher allowance to make it worth their time.
Tan added, “If there are insufficient NS men who are keen to be selected as officers, this role should be performed by career soldiers. It is costly to train an officer and this investment can get better results when they are given to career soldiers.”
Reservist, remedial training
In the petition, Tan also pointed out the need to review the regular call-up for reservist training.
“This is a heavy strain on the work and family life of the NSmen. It is also a disadvantage to them, when they have to compete for jobs against non-citizens who do not have to be called up. Many employers do not like to see the disruption to their work schedule and prefer to employ non-citizens,” said Tan.
He said that currently, NSmen can be called back for reservist training over a period of up to 15 years.
It is stated on the Defence Ministry’s website that the NS journey comprises 2 years of full-time NS and 10 years of Operationally Ready NS (ORNS), more commonly known as reservist training.
Tan also called on the government to review the remedial training (RT) that NS men have to do for failing the individual physical proficiency test (IPPT).
“It is unfair that non-regulars have to meet the same passing requirements as professional soldiers. Professional soldiers use working hours to keep fit but the non-regulars cannot ask their employer to give them time within working hours to keep fit,” said Tan.
Meanwhile, there’s also an online petition posted on Sunday for people who wish to maintain the current arrangement for NS.
It also has a goal of 10,000 signatures and as of Sunday morning, it has one signature.