I would like to examine the issues surrounding the coupling of National Service (NS) and emigration in the city state of Singapore.
These are my premises:
1) The PAP wants to build a safe haven for the people of Singapore
2) The PAP wants to continue to stay in power
3) The PAP wants its ministers to continue to be paid in millions
To achieve the above mentioned, the PAP needs to ensure that:
1) There is a military force in Singapore that can be reckoned with and feared by its neighbours
2) Import new citizens by the plane load so they would vote for PAP
3) Increase population by making it difficult to emigrate so that population can increase in order to increase GDP
Let’s examine each issue to see how the PAP or any opposition parties can improve on the current model that is the current Singapore state of affairs.
1) NS might have been necessary in the past when Singapore first became independent. Without financial and human resources, it made sense to move forward with the model of conscription. And yes, it might have helped in nation building. However, times have changed. Singapore is no longer the kampong it once was. Its people are now highly educated, well travelled and technologically savvy. According to the PAP, its coffers are overflowing with riches. It is time to introduce a professional army to contend with security issues. Reward those soldiers who truly want to be part of the military, and not force it upon unwilling participants who would be better served in other areas such as improving the economy, sports, and the arts. Forcing citizens to do something is NOT the way to make them more patriotic. Rather, if the government is seen as caring and compassionate, forgiving and sensible, people are more willing to follow them into the trenches, and ultimately vote for them the next time round. And let’s be honest, if Indonesia or Malaysia truly want to invade Singapore, it would be a matter of days before the whole city state is overrun. Hence, diplomacy with our neighbours, and bilateral relationships with the US and UK are paramount to security for Singapore.
2) Personally I find that 50 years is more than enough for any political party to be in power. Absolutely power corrupts, especially when there are no checks and balances. Introducing schemes such as GRC, bankrupting political opponents and importing immigrants by the masses in order to stay in power are indeed deplorable. I understand all political parties run for election to get into power and stay there. However, please do so in a manner that is fair to the other opposition parties and to Singaporeans. No need to sue Roy until he is bankrupt for wanting to discuss an important issue such as CPF. No need for LKY to chastise and threaten voters for not voting for the PAP. Come on, this is not 1965. With the power of the Internet and social media, this is definitely not an avenue any sensible and modern political party would want to go down on. This shows how out of touch the PAP is with the masses. However, the PAP has done such a good job of scaring the shit out of Singaporeans to such a point they don’t dare speak up. Either that, or they just uproot their entire families and leave Singapore the first chance they get, NS liabilities or not.
These highly paid ministers botched on the “Stop at 2” policy. OK, maybe it’s just LKY’s fault. Nowadays they freely give out citizenships and PR’s to such a degree that foreigners make a significant percentage of the population. That’s not the way to build a nation, PAP. You increase immigration slowly in order not to destroy the fabric of the nation. Not only that, these new PR’s are subjected to different NS regulations, while locally born Singaporeans have no choice but to serve NS or else do not step back in Singapore ever again, even for a visit.
You want to increase loyalty in your citizens, PAP? Then make it right by Singaporeans! Many have emigrated because of stifling policies that do not make sense and cause hardships for them. Don’t hide behind your army of lawyers and introduce laws that serve just to keep you in power. Do it for the greater good.
Then, and only then, would the perception of Singapore improve in the eyes of many emigrated Singaporeans. And please don’t call these people quitters. They have a right to better lives. One other thing: by having Singaporeans abroad, they not only experience different philosophies and governments, but they could one day come back and make things better for Singapore.
3) Right, so the PAP incumbents like their million dollar salaries. Who doesn’t? But it begs the question, did they get into politics to get rich, or to serve? Again these types of remuneration are handled out due to a lack of checks and balances. If LHL and Teo Chee Hean are so smart and capable, let’s see them perform in the real world. Let’s see LHL slap his CFO in the face for disagreeing with him. These insane salaries are plain wrong, period! If the leaders of the US and UK are being paid $400K USD or less, please LHL, you cannot be making more than them. Otherwise Singaporeans expect perfection from you and your team. But we all know your performance is far from exemplary, let alone PERFECT!
Let’s go back to NS. The policies introduced for NS and emigration work extremely well for the PAP. The vast majority of conscripts are required to serve by 18 years old, but they are not allowed to vote yet. To top it off, even if these young men decide to emigrate, they need to serve NS prior to being able to renounce. Between the ICA and CMPB, they cannot make up their mind as to who’s the boss. ICA would not let you renounce because CMPB says you haven’t satisfied your NS liability. CMPB would not clear your NS liability because ICA cannot let you renounce even if you have dual citizenship, which is technically illegal in Singapore. Make up your mind!
Let’s be clear. Emigration is TOUGHER than NS. The challenges of surviving in a new country, with new people, culture and language, are not insurmountable, but it can be very difficult. On top of these issues, these overseas parents have to worry about if their sons are breaking NS laws if they do not go back to Singapore to serve. I mean, come on, these people have decided to leave. Why make them swear allegiance to a place they are leaving behind??? It makes no sense… unless you are the PAP, trying to make life impossible for these families in the hopes to secure, what, legacy and power? For young Singaporean children trying to adapt to their new countries, it takes time, sometimes a long time. Now to pluck these young men who have lived abroad for many years, and forcing them to come back to serve NS with Hokkien Pengs (nothing against Ah Pengs, but just to show the cultural divide), it’s just inhumane and cruel! Look around at your 17 year old sons and nephews. How many of them are truly capable of making any important decisions that can alter their lives? Not too many. Especially when it comes to serving NS and the implications of not serving, thereby being branded a defaulter.
Even South Korea has a more forgiving system of deferring NS, even though the threats they face are more imminent and sinister. I list their criteria below:
Persons who are staying or residing in foreign countries may postpone the draft physical, conscription, or call of persons.
An overseas Korean subject to compulsory military service shall be deemed to have obtained permission to stay on an overseas trip till he reaches 35 in case he falls under any of the following cases before he turns 25:
① Where he or his parents have acquired either a permanent resident status (excluding any conditional permanent resident status) in a foreign country or an indefinite stay status or a long-term stay status of not less than 5 years in a country that does not enforce any permanent resident status system and have thereafter resided in the nation to date;
② Where he or his parents have acquired such resident statuses as special permanent residents or permanent residents in Japan;
③ Where he was born in a foreign country and has acquired the nationality or citizenship of country of birth and has been residing overseas to date with his parents;
④ Where he or his parents emigrated to any foreign country in accordance with the 「Emigration Act」and has been residing overseas to date; or
⑤ Where he left Korea along with his non-expatriate parents when he was under the age of 18 and has been residing overseas with them to date.
Now PAP, if your million dollar ministers can introduce policies that benefit Singaporeans and those who choose to emigrate, and be humane about it, I promise more of these overseas Singaporeans might actually return with their new worldly perspectives and potentially contribute to Singapore in the future. Look at Chen Show Mao. Instead of attracting that many immigrants from China and India, perhaps it would be wise to treat Singaporeans and ex-Singaporeans well enough so they may one day return, with good impressions and sentimental nostalgia, rather than resentment with policies that hurt rather than help.
Make no mistake about it. Even with its skyline and prosperity, the perception many world leaders and foreigners have of Singapore is that it is a totalitarian state without much freedom, and definitely none for those who disagree with PAP’s policies or question their ideologies. It’s time to relax your policies on human rights and NS. Allow NS defaulters to come home.
In conclusion, Singapore has lots to offer in terms of its economy and liveability. PAP has performed admirably in the last 50 years to advance Singapore to where it is today. However it is time to make way for a new guard (either new PAP ministers, or opposition coalition parties) who can adapt to the times and craft policies and regulations that benefit the populace and that sustain the economic prosperity, thus resulting in a brand new Singapore admired for its laws, civility and prosperity by Singaporeans, ex-Singaporeans, new immigrants, and the world.