Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Will there be a tomorrow?

MindefOn Monday, 16 January 2006, Singapore's Defence Minister, Mr Teo Chee Hean, proposed to Parliament to amend the relevant laws that will increase the punishment to those who default their National Services duties. This is both fair and sensible. Fair because we cannot allow defaulters to go away feeling that they have cheated the system by paying a relatively light penalty (S$5,000 and/or bond), which can easily be recovered in less than a year of hard work while also at the same time accumulating relevant working experience.

One of the most moving points he made was whether there will be a Singapore to return to if its able-bodied boys are given exceptions to 'opt-out' of serving in the National Defence force. This point bears repeating here:

Several Members have expressed sympathy for Melvyn Tan. Sir, I ask them to consider: who will shed a tear for Singapore if there is no Singapore for such people to return to, because the institution of National Service has been undermined, young men do not serve, no one defends Singapore and Singapore is no longer there for them to return to? Who will shed a tear? Mr Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Defence in his speech in Parliament. See below.

Surely, this is the most important point of it all. Defence is a shared responsibility. I protect your house and family and you protect mine. Who will protect the families of those who have willfully evaded their obligations and left the country, perhaps leaving their aged parents to fend for themselves? Worst, does the evader expect others to do that which he is unwilling to do? We need to be ready at any moment to defend our land, our homes and our families, come what may, because we have no other home to go to.

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13

What does talent count for if there is no conducive environment to nurture it, and display it? How much talent was lost in the World Wars last century we can only speculate, but you will agree with me that it is not insubstantial. The first order of things, surely, is the protection of our livelihood. Talent, and the opportunities that will grow and nurture it, will then naturally follow, will it not?

Those who are overseas and who do not want to serve, then like some MPs suggested, let them leave and only return on the pain of serving a jail term and a fine. That is only fair.

Defence Minister's Speech in Parliament on this issue

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