19 year-old Brandon Smith was born in Singapore but moved to New Zealand when he was 8. Being a citizen of both Singapore and New Zealand, he was called up for his pre-enlistment medical screening in lieu of his national service duties.
However, the teenager has refused to return for his screening. He says that National Service in Singapore is “difficult and pointless”, but he is stuck with the responsibility because he can only relinquish his Singapore citizenship when he turns 21.
“I don’t see the point of it, really. It’s sort of a waste of time to go there and just come back anyway,” he told reporters. He added that the NS allowance he would receive was not enough to cover food and rent while he stays in Singapore, and that he did not want to impose on his family. He also complained that he fears he would be ostracized by other Singaporeans because he cannot speak Mandarin.
If Mr Smith does not comply, he faces a jail term of up to 2 years and a $10,000 fine if he ever returns to Singapore.
His father, Mr Shane Smith, is a former airman who served in the New Zealand Air Force. He married his Singaporean wife, Cindy, who holds a permanent residency in New Zealand. Shane has stopped at nothing to help his son avoid NS, according to a news report by New Zealand paper stuff.co.nz.
He claims that he has approached MPs and various authorities in Singapore, but received only rejections.
“Absolutely no one would accommodate us. It was always the same answer; ‘we regret to inform you that Brandon has to serve National Service’,” the father said.
“Obviously for Brandon, it’s not what we want. If he doesn’t go back to Singapore to serve his NS, then he can never enter Singapore because he runs the risk of being arrested.”
The family turned to New Zealand’s Dunedin South MP Clare Curran for assistance in September last year. She, in turn, appealed to Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully in a letter.
“I think it’s a really good case for New Zealand to be sticking up for its citizens,” Ms Curran reportedly said.
In a statement released on Saturday (Jan 23), Mr MCully said he is intending to take the matter up.
“While the Singapore Government is responsible for determining their own citizenship policies, I have considerable sympathy for the situation this family has found themselves in,” he said.