Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Value of Citizenship ---- $5000?

The Value of Citizenship ---- $5000?

The recent STORM of a pianist Melvyn Tan getting off the hook of NS liability simply by paying a mere fine of $5000 is flooding internet forums fast.

On my personal side, as an infantry logistic officer, I really do not know how would I face my men when I go back to my next ICT! Although I think the primary problem lies with the Value of Citizenship, but the $5000 fine is really an insult to the many sacrifices made by many NS men all over Singapore. This incident will surely affect the morale of all military men (being current soldiers or reservists) in Singapore. An army with low morale is an army doomed to lose a war.

Ultimately, I think the root problem lies with the value of our citizenship. This is especially critical in the face of huge army of foreign workers competing for jobs in Singapore?s small market.

The recent moves by PAP government in increasing polyclinic fees for PRs and foreign workers are targeted to arrest this growing perception that there is no value in our citizenship. Foreign students are only paying 10% more fees than local students in universities, despite the fact that they have serve 2 years of National Service.

This growing subtle discontent of Singaporeans have suddenly exploded in the face of this ?outrageous? ?exception? made for Melvyn Tan.

People are venting anger at Melvyn Tan (one who has decided to quit Singapore in his early life but chose to come back 30 years later) but I say, they should instead look at the issue with cool logic. The problem lies with the very low esteem and value of our citizenship.

How would one feel if the NS policy states that for all of those who have completed NS and serving reservist, they will be fully subsidized for their medical bills? This is turning NS from a liability to each individual into an asset to those who have served them!

Thus, to me, the question doesn?t lie in how severe the punishment has been meted out to people like Melvyn Tan, but rather, what is our INTRINSIC value of our citizenship!

Besides, if we could increase the value of our citizenship, there will be less people willing to emigrate out. This is a very realistic aspect of life. PAP government has tried to enhance our values of citizenship by embarking on ?asset enhancement scheme? back in the 90s but failed miserably. It has created a property bubble instead and subsequently negative assets for many people.

If PAP government has not been that ?stingy? on benefits for Singaporeans at large, I think Melvyn Tan saga would have been a non-issue.

I would encourage Singaporeans to think beyond the emotional knee jerk reactions to Melvyn Tan?s case and see clearly the root of tbe problem lies in the low value of our citizenship. And the only way to make PAP government realizes that they need to enhance the value of our citizenship is to squeeze them more via the ballot box.

The following are some of my replies and thoughts expressed in Sammyboy forum.

Dear lambaste2,

Sorry that I gave you the wrong impression.

Although this issue could "anger" alot of Singaporeans at large, but I am asking this question to form a logical conclusion.

What is the main difference between a person like him who is now no longer a Singapore citizen and do not need to serve NS or reservist and a person who gave up his citizenship?

The main mistake he made was not to surrender his citizenship "EARLIER" to avoid the NS liability. But wait, it is an offence not to heed the NS call for the 2.5 years service even when you decide to surrender your citizenship, but it is ok for Singaporean to call it quit and avoid the reservist liability half way of his life (even though he has served 2.5years)? Does it really make any difference between avoiding 2.5 years of NS as compared to possibly 10 to 15 years of reservist liability?

Take it this way, for every year of reservist liability, you have to go back for about 2 weeks each year. Thus, it would be 20 weeks for 10 years. 20 weeks is about 5 months. So it is not an offence to avoid the 5 months life long reservist liability? For officers, it would be worse as technically speaking their potential liability goes up to 55 yr old.

My point is that if we are not going to charge any individuals who avoid his potential reservist liability of 5 months when he become citizen of another country, is it consistent to charge any individuals that avoid 2.5 years of NS liability?

Of course, the law is written such a way that you could commit a crime if you avoid 2.5 years NS liability by becoming citizen of another country but not the reservist liability but is this law logical and consistent in any sense? It doesn't matter when or at what age you give up your citizenship but the fact is, you would be avoiding NS or reservist liability in doing so. But one is punishable while the other is not?

I am not making any stand here yet, if some of you want to jump the gun and accuse me of anything.

To me, it is pretty straight forward. If one would go to the extent of giving up his citizenship for whatever opportunities or monetary rewards else where just to escape NS or reservist, his heart is not with Singapore. Period. It is totally irrelevant with regards to when he gave up his citizenship.

I understand the emotional side of many of us who have gone through NS and still struggling with the every year reservist recall. You feel angry, unfair and mentally unbalanced...whatever, but we should look at this from another perspective.
The system is flawed and the law is flawed.
The value of citizenship does not lie on how severe the punishment is meted out to those who desert their service to our country. Instead, the value of citizenship depends on the benefits we enjoy as a citizen as compared to non-citizens. If one chose to give up his citizenship just because he does not want to do NS, so be it. Why need to punish him for something that he is not willing to do and willing to sacrifice his benefits as a citizen?
Thus the next question, WHAT IS THE VALUE of our citizenship? The $5000 fine is an insult to our service to our nation as NS men. It should not happen that way at all. It practically means that our life long service as NSmen (including the 2.5yrs) is worthless. Comparing to some of us in Singapore who are willing to be jailed for 3 years just because they are not willing to do carry arms, this law is totally flawed.

The value of our citizenship is how much our govt takes care of us in return. This is the social contract. I think most Singaporeans who have done NS won't be that angry if they enjoy more benefits in return for the National Service that they have done for Singapore.
This is the key and root of the problem. It all starts with the Value of Citizenship.

Goh Meng Seng

Dear mips4,

Why would one "owe" the country the obligation of National Service if he is willing to give up his citizenship? This is crux of the matter.

If there are many people who are willing to give up their citizenship just because they do not want to do NS, what does that mean?

1) This country is not WORTH their effort in defending
2) They feel that there are better options than being Singaporeans
3) He is just a whimp that is just too afraid of "hardship" in NS

Whatever the reasons, it simply means that Singapore's citizenship "WORTH NEXT TO NOTHING" in their perspective. You actually expect these people to "defend" your family in the event of war?

Fighting a war is not about having the number standing in the firing line. The strength of the soldiers' psyche normally determines the ultimate outcome.

You must always remember there is a difference in your rhetoric...yes, every citizens agree that we should do NS. But those who refused to do, have given up their citizenship and technically, they are no longer citizens.

You must also remember that it is not just $5000 that he has given up to exchange not to do NS; he has given up his citizenship as well.

I would agree that one is to complete his part in NS if he wants to be part of this nation. But that does not mean that you are "slaves" to this nation just because you are born in Singapore. If one chose not to become the citizen of this nation, you also expect him to oblige to do NS for this nation? Such logic is flawed.

Well, whatever moral authority one has over the others, the bottom line is, we must make our citizenship ATTRACTIVE enough for others to feel the WORTH to make sacrifices for it. This lies in the value of citizenship.

Goh Meng Seng

Dear techpk88,

I do agree with you totally that it is an insult to our effort in serving NS by putting a fine of $5K on him.

Thus, my personal stand is the system is flawed and inconsistant. I would say that if you want to be "fair", then one would be allowed to decide whether he wants to keep his citizenship and complete his NS or that he gives up his citizenship and thus, no need to do NS. Alot of other variables could exist. In fact, in a way, the present system gives you the option, really; you could just refuse to come back to Singapore for NS and then give up your citizenship just like what he did. On top of that, exile is imposed on these people. The system is flawed in the sense that the exile part has been breached by the simple fine of $5000. And of course, to insult us further, he is being appointed to our Arts Council. We are sending the wrong signal that you could be a quitter but at the end of the day, our country could stay "beg" your return even if you abandon the country and refused to oblige to the country's standard NS liability.

The question is, even if the govt allows people to give up their citizenship in exchange of not doing NS, how many people have the ability or could well afford to do just that? I believe that this is no easy question.

I believe this is a very emotional thing for everyone who has gone through NS, same for me. But dispelling the emotions aside, you look at the situation with cool logic, you will see where the problems lie.

A simple example: If the govt say all those who have serve NS plus reservist will enjoy more subsidies for their medical fees, will you feel as angry as you are now?

NS cum reservist right now are being considered as "liability" instead of "assets" to us. If we change them into "assets" to everyone who have gone through them, who will complain?
Thus, the root problem is here and the whole system that make NS and reservist as "liability" to us is totally flawed and inconsistent.

Goh Meng Seng


Anonymous said...

hi meng seng,
fully support ur view on the medical fees. however think you certainly need numbers to show that it is feasible and beneficial.

all the best.

Anonymous said...

you kept harping on the value of citizenships and the need for the government to give us more value.

My take is - why should the government? If you are not happy with what the govenment is providing you as a citizen, you are free to leave the country.

Anonymous said...

yeahhhhhh yeahhhh if he nt happi leave simple as tht y dun he rite? onli kaopeh kaobu lol

rodney said...


Global Citizen said...

I have come to a realisation at an early age that it's not that I do not fight what what I believe for this country but the people here are too fearful/selfish to fight for even what they want. Conscription is an age old method of warring states to ensure that they have sufficent men to go to war. It is a state- bullying tactic that I will have no part in. Call us to National Service when the country is ready to show us some communal benefit of such service. Otherwise... just call it slavery of the men who were born to the land.

Why should I protect the land/government/state which does not value my membership/ values my membership very little. If the 90% of the benefit of the defence on such a state goes to the leaders then, I choose not to serve. There was a time we fought to be free, we fought be keep the fruits of the land to ourselves. We enlisted men together to ensure that to happen and over time the leaders have forgotten... They have forgotten that this land belongs to these people and why they fought in the 1st place.

Call us greedy/materialistic/whatever, but I fight only because I believe this land is mine. Not because I was born here, not because some king/minister/leader tells me so, and definitely not because I will go to jail otherwise... I fight to be free. Not 2.5 years not 5 months. If I am to be held for even a single day against my will. This is called... Injustice. This is Rape. This is will be held in my heart and in the generations to come and one day... we will fight the very chains that bind us. We will fight the REAL enemies that take our freedom.

I may one day when I'm older forgive... but I'll never forget.