In a recent parliamentary session on Tuesday (9 Jan), Mr. Leong Mun Wai, a Non-Consituency Member of Parliament and Secretary General of the Progress Singapore Party, raised a pointed question concerning the National Service (NS) obligations of male Permanent Residents (PRs) in Singapore.
Mr Leong asked the Defence Minister for specific figures on the number of male PRs who had renounced or lost their PR status without fulfilling their NS obligations and were later permitted to work or live in Singapore.
Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen’s written response, however, did not directly address the specific inquiry.
Dr Ng reiterated the government’s stance on NS obligations, stating, “Citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs) who are liable for National Service (NS) must fulfil their duties, or be subject to penalties if they do not do so. Over the past decade, no PR who evaded his NS duties by losing his PR status after enjoying significant benefits has been granted the right to work or live in Singapore thereafter.”
Yet, the minister did not provide the requested data on the number of PRs who had bypassed NS duties and were still allowed re-entry into Singapore.
This exchange adds to a series of questions raised by Mr Leong regarding the NS obligations of new citizens and PRs. His persistent inquiries have raised questions about the broader issue of equity and accountability in the enforcement of NS duties.
In July 2022, Mr Leong made a statement claiming that “citizens by registration are not doing NS,” which Dr Ng later refuted, citing that, on average, 3,400 new citizens serve NS each year.
Dr Ng’s responses in these instances have often focused on the broader principles and policies regarding NS, but have sometimes left specific queries, like those posed by Mr. Leong, without direct answers. For instance, while Dr. Ng acknowledged the exemption of mature adult male citizens from NS, he did not address the underlying concerns about potential loopholes that might allow some individuals to avoid NS obligations.
Furthermore, Dr Ng’s rebuttals to Mr Leong’s assertions about new citizens avoiding NS have been firm. He emphasized the contribution of PRs and young male new citizens to Singapore’s national defence and criticized Mr Leong’s statements as misleading.
Yet, questions linger about the exact numbers and circumstances of those who might have circumvented NS duties, a detail critical to Mr. Leong’s line of inquiry.
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