Despite having a Canadian citizenship, Jonathan Tan Huai En, 28, whose family left Singapore for Canada and are now citizens there, returned to Singapore to plead guilty to defaulting National Service.

The reason? He wanted to return to Singapore to visit his sick grandfather but was informed he could not do so as he would face arrest.

In 2000, Tan was 12 when he moved to Canada with his mother and his 2 siblings. They were unable to cope with Singapore’s compulsory education in a second language. Tan and family became Canadian citizens shortly after in 2005.

Tan is the son of senior counsel Tan Chee Meng, who also went to Canada with his family but had to renounce his citizenship there because of a failure to find appropriate job opportunities.

2 registration notices were sent to Tan’s father in 2005 and 2006, but only the third, sent in June 2006, reached him. When Tan failed to register for NS, a police gazette was raised against him in November the same year. In 2009, Tan’s father contacted the Central Manpower Base (CMPB) to inform it that Tan intended to renounce his Singapore citizenship. As he had not fulfilled his NS obligations, he was not allowed to.

In 2013, Tan learnt that his grandfather had fallen ill and attempted to return. However, he was advised against it by his mother. In 2014, he decided to return and enlist, braving jail so that he could complete his obligations.

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