Tag Archives: reddotwinston

On National Service – Part 2

Since my previous posts on National Service generated so much attention, I feel obliged to blog about the recent slew of news from the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF).

To recap on the conversations, read my previous posts:

On Alex Liang, a Singaporean who gave up his Singapore citizenship

On National Service

Blogger slammed for calling NS a “slavery system”?

Dr Lim Wee Kiak: Serving two years NS privilege belongs to Singaporeans

On Joseph Schooling’s NS Deferment

The government has granted Singapore top swimmer, Joseph Schooling’s request to defer his National Service obligation, enabling the 18-year-old to focus on training until after the 2016 Olympics. He is due for enlistment in 2014 but has been granted deferment until 31 August 2016.

I think this is the first time such a deferment has been granted and I applaud MINDEF for making this decision. I am very happy for Schooling and I believe it is a step in the right direction for greater flexibility in deferment.

On IPPT changes in 2014

Mixed feelings on this one. We asked for a review of the IPPT system and we got it. The 2.4km run has been upgraded to 3.2km. Be careful what you wish for… to be fair, details remain sketchy on the exact amendments. Running a longer distance, but with a more reasonable timing for non full-time soldiers may not be a bad thing and may be a fairer assessment of health level. Not everyone is a Spartan, but I do agree a minimum level of fitness is good for everyone.

I have no qualms on setting high standards for IPPT for full-time NSFs and regulars who signed on for a career in the army on their own accord, but I think the expectations for NSmen should be fairer, taking into account that we are just part-time conscripts, not career soldiers.

On Volunteer Corps for Women and Foreigners

You want to volunteer for this and reservist obligations till over 40 years old?
You want to volunteer for this and reservist obligations till over 40 years old?

Seriously?

My utmost respect goes to those who step forward and volunteer. I am highly skeptical that the number will be even more than a 3 digits figure though.

Overall, I do get the impression that MINDEF seems to be making some efforts to improve itself and the whole NS system.

The one thing I really wish MINDEF can look into is to shorten the ten ‘work year’ reservist system. Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe Singapore has the longest reservist and IPPT system in the world for conscripts. Is this really necessary?

What can we do in the meantime?

Just suck thumb and hope for the best and that MINDEF really gets it this time.

I am not going to complain anymore in case another surprise like the 3.2km upgrade for IPPT pops up again.

Dr Lim Wee Kiak: Serving two years NS privilege belongs to Singaporeans

Who voted this guy into parliament?

I love this quote from Dr Lim Wee Kiak, Member of Parliament for Nee Soon GRC, on the results of the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) survey on National Service (NS):

“What you realise from this survey is that majority are not asking them (PRs) to serve exactly the same two years system. In fact, serving the two years is a privilege. I am quite glad that many Singaporeans realised that and that should be a privilege that belongs to Singaporeans.”

Serving two years NS is a privilege?

I have always seen it as a necessary sacrifice that falls on the shoulder of Singapore-born males. Thanks for enlightening me that it should be seen as a privilege.

Here is a definition of the word privilege from Dictionary.com: “a special right, immunity, or exemption granted to persons in authority or office to free them from certain obligations or liabilities”.

The key words here are “free from certain obligations or liabilities”.

By this definition, it seems to me that to give PRs the option to volunteer and choose whether they want to serve NS fits better as a “privilege”  because they have a choice to be free from NS obligations and liabilities.

For those of us who have no choice as conscripts, wouldn’t enslavement and slaves be better words?

By the way, Dr Lim Wee Kiak is the same brilliant doctor who said this on a revision of ministerial pay:

“If the annual salary of the Minister of Information, Communications and the Arts is only $500,000, it may pose some problems when he discusses policies with media CEOs who earn millions of dollars because they need not listen to the minister’s ideas and proposals, hence a reasonable payout will help to maintain a bit of dignity.”

Strange.

I consider serving as a MP or a Minister a privilege. In fact, a very huge privilege.

You can choose not to run for elections or serve as a MP or a Minister. That is a privilege. I cannot choose not to serve NS/ICT/RT/IPPT/IPT. 

If NS is considered a privilege, using the same logic from our good doctor, it is sad that many NSFs will feel that they cannot defend the country when faced with professional, career soldiers from other countries like the United States as they are drawing a measly allowance compared to these mercenaries. We need more pay for dignity. Would the good doctor agree on this?

I wanted to stop blogging about the NS issue as I know it will get nowhere except me getting more unnecessary and unfair attention.

Thanks to Dr Lim Wee Kiak, I am drawn to write another post by the sheer intelligence of his comment.

This is the same doctor who insulted his senior in parliament, Mr Low Thia Khiang  with a totally uncalled for remark on his hearing aid

“I will quote (from your speech then) one more time. And maybe your hearing aid has to be (turned) up a little bit.”

Wow.

Back to the NS issue – I have to concur with Alex that a NS review will not take place. The system is not going to change if you look at the way the whole issue is being framed and discussed, following the results of the IPS survey.

People like me calling for a review of the NS system will always be brushed aside as a so-called “vocal minority”.

Why can’t I fight this?

It is because those serving or who have served NS are in the minority in the first place!

With 16 new immigrants and only 5 new births a day, the NS minority will just keep shrinking in the years ahead
With 16 new immigrants and only 5 new births a day, the NS minority will just keep shrinking in the years ahead

Subtract the women, subtract the foreigners and you find that you have way less than half of the total Singapore population who have served or are currently serving NS.

Among these are those who truly love NS (I am happy for them and am sure they will continue to give their service even if NS is abolished one day), army regulars and such. Subtract these people, how many are there left?

I am very sure majority of us who have served or are currently serving feel a review needs to be in place to make the system more relevant to today’s globalized economy and work fairer for us in the workplace and in the civilian world.

However, if you conduct a survey across the entire population, this result will never show.

A fellow blogger, Reddotwinston, did a good dissertation on the flaws of the IPS survey. Here is one highlight I pulled out:

“Defense is a public good. Wait… national defense is a PURE public good. By that, it means that the consumption of the Good (in this case, defense) is non excludable and non rivalrous. By non excludable, it means once defense is provided, even people who don’t pay/contribute, cannot be excluded from the consumption of it. By non rivalrous, it means that your consumption of the good is not going to prevent/reduce my consumption of the good. The problem with goods that are public good especially those that are non excludable is the free-rider problem. Basically, people who don’t contribute/pay are still able to enjoy the benefits of it.

Now if you remember the story I had right from the start, all the gatherers in the village are all for sending 10 young strong hunters to the monster because they get to enjoy the benefit of clean air without having to pay the cost of living with the monster. By asking servicemen and public whether “NS is necessary for the defense of Singapore” and having 50% of your respondents being women, you kind of bias the response towards an agreement.”

Having a NS system build up a defense force which keeps Singapore safe. There is no argument to this. If you ask those who do not have to serve NS if a NS review is necessary, there is no reason for them to say no as they get to enjoy this benefit without having to put in anything. Ask them if they support the current NS system if they have to serve two years full-time and at least ten years part-time NS upon saying yes. Let’s see how the results will change.

Anyway, I accepted defeat.

I will just suck my thumb and shut up because I will always be deemed as an insignificant “vocal minority” – even though NSmen and NSF are an actual minority in this country and even though my opinion may represent the majority among this minority.