Friday, July 15, 2011

Irresistible Defense: Out of Tekong into the tragicomedy of Singapore

Irresistible Defense: Out of Tekong into the tragicomedy of Singapore

The report that an SAF recruit had tried to swim out of Pulau Tekong has stirred some interest and much amusement even though there is something decidedly macabre about the whole episode and something truly disturbing in the way few people are disturbed by the state’s power in conscript which too many Singaporeans have come to respect as natural, normal and thoroughly acceptable.

If we were to simply look at the situation a little more closely and see what the main concerns the authorities have, we would see that the key individual, the human person involved, is sidelined in place of the power of the system. The absolute power of the state is what matters to the authorities (and for all likelihood, most people under the control of the authorities). It has been said that the young person (perhaps we should refrain from calling him a recruit—surely there’s more to him than an empty identity foisted upon him by the repressive state apparatus of conscription) may have problems coping. Perhaps he was not adjusting well to dehumanization renamed as regimentation and military discipline. Perhaps he was simply not able to cope with the physical demands. But he does not matter.

All matters to the state is that its power must not be compromised even in the symbolic terms of a soldier attempting to run away (or, more literally, swim away). In the article, “Recruit tried to swim out of Tekong camp,” The Straits Times (July 13 2011) reports that “Colonel Tan [the Mindef spokesperson] would only say that the recruit has been ‘disciplinarily dealt with’.” We must be aware of at least two problems.

The first problem that comes to mind is how the immediate concern of Mindef (and I dare say it is the sole concern, in the short- or long-term) is discipline. Not only is Mindef concerned about punishing the soldier, discipline is the only issue Mindef is willing to address in public. It is presumptuous in telling the public that disciplinary action has been taken. It is shaping the mindset of the public by imposing discipline as a concern they should have when it could well have addressed the public by saying that measures have been taken to help the soldier adjust (especially given that he is a very new recruit).

The next significant problem is the media. The de facto state newspaper cum PAP newsletter appears to be consciously aligning its report to downplaying of maladjusted soldiers. From the article, one realizes that the attempt to swim out of Tekong took place in December 2010. It is not July 2011. It is unclear how such a matter goes unreported for more than half a year and why it is suddenly reported. But the length of time is significant to us—clearly, Mindef and Colonel Tan could have said more about the issue after seven months—for the sake of accountability if nothing else. But the paper is not interested in pursuing this. If it did pose Colonel Tan questions about how Mindef treats enlistees who cannot take the ridiculous oppression of enlistment which he declined to answer, these are not mentioned in its report.

Are Singaporeans not disturbed by the possibility that a forcibly conscripted soldier (I find the tautology here necessary in order to emphasize the point to a Singaporean readership) who takes the rather drastic measure of swimming out of Tekong because he is unable to cope? Are Singaporeans, instead, disturbed by how military discipline and control could possibly be compromised? Have we gotten our priorities totally wrong or is the state-controlled media deliberately portraying and shaping our focus in a way that would facilitate the forgetting of the fact that we are dealing with a human being, only eighteen years old, who has no choice but to be enlisted? (Of course I may be holding certain flawed assumptions. Perhaps he holds a foreign citizenship and enlisted so that he can be a Singapore citizen. But the same concerns about conscription should remain.)

What The Straits Times would rather do, though, is to end on an odious note, quoting former military psychologist, Stanley Chua. First, it reports that Chua “said he hoped this incident would not spark talk that today’s enlistees are softer or that national service (NS) is easier than before.” I am inclined to agree with this simply because I do not believe anyone should expect eighteen-year-old teenagers to be “tough” (whatever it might mean) simply because there is NS for them. Neither do I think that anyone should say that NS is easier simply because that is not the issue anyone should raise when a recruit tries to escape. (It is totally illogical to go, “A recruit can’t take anymore and swims out of Tekong! NS must be so much easier now!”) However the final paragraph is to me tantamount to manslaughter:

He [Stanley]added that it is not the Singapore Armed Forces’ job to prepare young men for NS: ‘The BMT commanders and buddies will only know the recruit for a few weeks… The onus is on parents, who have brought up their sons and should know better how they cope with difficulties or stress.’

No, Stanley (or ST?). If I have a son and I know how he copes with stress, what can I possibly do if I know that he is unable to cope with the sort of stress that NS comes with? You may say that it is not the SAF’s job to prepare young men for NS and help the organization disavow any responsibility or obligation. But, from another perspective, why should it be anyone’s responsibility to prepare their children or themselves for NS? It is as good as telling people, “I’m going to throw shit on your face. You had better prepared to lick the shit. It’s not my job to do anything to prepare you. And no, you are not allowed to run away.” The problem? No one should be throwing shit on anyone’s face. And it is perfectly understandable if the victim does not accept shit being dumped on his face; to “prepare” for the terrible act is to accept it indirectly. Should a person not have the right to resist when someone wants to treat him as a toilet bowl?

Of course, the analogy above would be shitty to most Singaporeans, always charmed by the seductive rhetoric of defense as a masculinity-endowing necessity, who will definitely say that NS is not shit and how it is important and necessary.

Is basic human freedom not equally or more important and necessary?

We want defense to protect a nation. And nations are made of human beings. If in the process of national defense, human beings are dehumanized, is defense itself not anti-human and anti-defense? But we would rather indulge in self-defeating militarism, turning defending subjects into objects of defense.

True inescapability is when people no longer recognize their entrapment. This is the epitome of the debilitating Singaporean condition that goes beyond NS to the heart of post-independence Singaporean milieu.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Rope in women, new citizens for health-care 'NS'

Equal misery for all sexes or Nation Building? Or further exploitation of 'cheap' NS labor under the guise of 'Nation' building?

Jun 14, 2011

Rope in women, new citizens for health-care 'NS'

IT IS heartening to learn that the Ministry of Health is looking into the manpower needs of the health-care industry ('Industry weighs in on nursing home review'; yesterday).

Given that health care and long-term care of our elderly are two important issues our country is facing, perhaps we should accord them the same importance as our nation's defence.

We could consider introducing national service in the public health sector for our women and for new citizens who are beyond the age of military service. They could then take on auxiliary nursing and health-care roles.

We could have a health-care sector modelled after our military, with regulars who are full-time professionals providing the expertise and leadership, and the rest making up the bulk of the 'caring' force.

This will provide a long-term solution to the industry's manpower needs, reduce our reliance on foreign labour, potentially lead to lower costs, and allow women to contribute to the nation's Total Defence.

Lim Pei Qin

Monday, April 18, 2011

National Service being insulted

National Service being insulted

In a brief few days, the national institution of NS has been insulted over and over again by people who are pleasantly disposed to FTs and new citizens. And this hurts, it hurts very badly to all NS men and ex NS men. The years of sacrifice that they gave to the country now seems meaningless. In just a few days, NS is no longer as important as it was. The rite of passage for all young Singaporeans is being brushed aside as something lesser, as little as any economic activity.

For a start, a doctor claimed that his role as a doctor to treat his patients is as good as doing national service. This has infuriated many Singaporeans, especially the doctors that served as MOs. They must be wondering why are they so stupid when by the nature of their job, they are now doing national service. So what the heck, to don on the uniform for 2 to 3 years, and with reservist liabilities for another 20 plus years, when they don’t really need to? And for new citizens who have not don on the uniform, they can be found to be more deserving to be political masters of the country. Is that insulting?

Now another one is saying that all kinds of activities in the country that benefits the country is as good as doing NS. Foreigners/PRs/new citizens who are contributing to the economy of the country, never mind if they did or did not serve NS, also can. I think he got a point. Our forefathers were immigrants and did not do NS also. So new talents, do or no do NS, same as our forefathers, immigrants. Immigrants have privileges too. Citizens?

As an ex NS man, I am pissed off by the degrading of National Service as something as common as any economic activity. The amount of trouble and inconveniences to the NS men and their families, and their careers, are now being pooh pooh as just another mundane economic activity.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reform Party’s Guest spot: National Service

Reform Party’s Guest spot: National Service

Recently someone sent me a link to a funny video on politics entitled, ” Sex Appeal and Jokes …..So this is our humble attempt at getting the first time voters to be actively involved in the local political scene.

The link is here,
Whilst very funny it also contained a VOX POP segment interviewing real youth on the streets who identified several concerns, including National Service. National Service is an area where we should not be afraid to debate the issues openly and hear everyone’s opinions. RP Policy on National service says that we aim to reduce NS to 18 months initially followed by a further reduction to one year. This is covered under Point 13 of our election manifesto which can be found here. (
I was sent this set of proposals Written by a Gordon Lee, an undergraduate at The University of Warwick currently studying Economics, Politics and International Studies. I don’t know the author and he is not an RP member but guest spot is all about turning the blog over to guest authors and opening up a space for debate. So here goes!
Proposal for the Reform of National Service Facts (according to CIA world factbook, amongst others):
The Singapore Armed Forces is a conscript-based military that has an active size of 60,500 which is supported by 312,500 reserves. Military spending is 4.9% of GDP, and ranked according to spending as part of GDP, Singapore ranks 20th in the world. Singapore also has one of the longest military service periods in the world at 24 months, with a reserve obligation to age 40 or 50, depending on rank.

“The government’s stand since independence is that conscription is necessary for Singapore’s national defence because the country is unable to afford a fully professional force. Over the years, it has also marketed National Service as being an opportune time to “bond” male Singaporeans together, regardless of their respective backgrounds.

Conscription takes away two years of a citizen’s freedom in the name of “national interests”. Unfortunately, in the case of Singapore, where tensions are cool, these “national” or “security” interests do not outweigh two years of the lives of every male citizen. Even though the government often compares Singapore with Israel, South Korea and Taiwan as being small vulnerable states, the fact is, they live in much tenser situations and have fought wars with their neighbours in their recent history. It is also to be noted that Taiwan intends to end conscription by decreasing the number of conscripts by 10% each year from 2011, and replacing them with professional soldiers.

In addition, conscription is also systemically biased against males, as females do not need to serve in the military (or to contribute in any department of the government). This creates a situation where males are disadvantaged as compared to their female peers, by two years.

The government’s pro-foreigner policy (under which many foreigners have entered Singapore such that the citizen population is just 63.6% of the total population) also causes citizens who serve NS to be penalised not just in the job markets because they lack two years of experience, but also by employers because of the NS reservist liability which includes yearly call-ups and in-camp trainings. There have been cases of employers openly discriminating against Singaporeans through their advertisements of job vacancies.

Whilst the lack of affordability of a fully professional force may have been a problem in the early days, it is hard to imagine that the same problem still exists today. Even when corrected for inflation, the IMF estimates Singapore GDP to be 25,117 million dollars in 1980, and some 235,632 million dollars in 2008. That is a ten-fold increase from 1980, and the affordability problem was mentioned during 1967, when the NS (Amendment) Act was passed. Imagine how much more Singapore is able to afford a professional force now, compared to then! If anything, a conscript army based on the problem of affordability is a serious anachronism that does not stand true today.

Whilst there is certain “bonding” that takes place during NS, my experience fails to show me, contrary to what is claimed, that NS improves feelings of loyalty to the country, nor that the “bonding” that takes place during NS cannot be achieved outside of NS. If anything, Singaporeans are just further trained to blindly obey instructions from their superiors – which would probably also be to the benefit of the government. This culture is detrimental to society as a whole, and seems to affect creativity in the society, which is important for the spirit of free enterprise and global corporations. Surely two years of a person’s life is more important than this “bonding” that presumably takes place?

The active size of Singapore’s military of 60,500 compares with Australia’s 55,000, the Netherlands’ 53,000, Cuba’s 46,000, Austria’s 35,000, Lao’s 29,000, New Zealand’s 9,000 and Brunei’s 7,000. Singapore’s total military force (active, reserve and para-military) of 470,000 compares with Philippines’ 403,000, Japan’s 297,000, Malaysia’s 172,000, Canada’s 112,000 and Australia’s 81,000. The size of Singapore’s military is clearly too large, but we should not allow ourselves to be deceived by the government’s rhetoric that it is either this number or nothing at all. My proposal will be set out later on.

Only a fixed number of personnel is needed to defend Singapore effectively, regardless of GDP or the population, since military strategy largely revolves around covering land – the area of which is a constant. As one of the wealthiest states in the region, having this professional force will be easily affordable. On the contrary, having a conscript army instead increases the costs of running the army because the larger the population (which grows over time), the more conscripts there are, and the more money has to be spent on their allowance, on training facilities, training equipment, and many other miscellaneous expenses – not to forget the hidden economic costs of not having them otherwise contributing to the economy.

27,000 males enlist annually, making that a total of 54,000 males serving their two years of NS annually. Assuming that they all get a recruit’s allowance of $420 per month, that works out to $272 million a year. Not only does the government spend that amount, but by the government’s own statistic of $53,192 as being GDP per capita, these 54,000 males could have otherwise contributed some $2.8 billion per year. That puts the total economic cost of the labour required for the conscript system at over $3 billion per year, even before considering all other expenses that concerns the training and administration of these 54,000 males. Government revenue (mainly through taxes) is currently just above 10% of GDP, in other words, the almost $3 billion increase in GDP from having these people in the workforce can also increase government revenue by almost $300 million. This money can then be better spent on healthcare, education or supporting the needy.

Yes, the size of Singapore’s military is artificially huge because of the number of conscripts on which it is overly reliant. Singaporeans just need to ask around for anecdotal evidence on training standards, training alongside foreign troops and the incidence of malingering to get an idea of the true quality of the troops disguised behind a number.


I propose that conscription be gradually phased out over a period of a few years, and the $272 million of allowances, and hundreds of millions more from training and administration costs be used instead of increase the salary of regular personnel (whose wages are depressed by the influx of conscripts), and with this higher salary, the SAF can afford to hire more and better regular soldiers than it currently has. From the savings from allowances alone, the SAF can afford to hire an additional 5,500 regular soldiers at an average monthly wage of $4,000.

With better salary, and also with training and equipment funds used on a smaller pool of soldiers, the SAF can be more selective on recruitment for the force, and will also be able to provide the force with better equipment and better training. Leftover funds from training facilities, administration and equipment can also be channelled to hire more soldiers, or to purchase more strategic weapons like long-ranged missiles, which do not generally cost more than $100,000 each, and serve an equally strong, if not stronger, deterrent. These equipment are much quicker to mobilise and attack, making this deterrent even more effective, and less labour-intensive.

In addition to having a larger professional force, the SAF should also have a military reserve force not from conscription, but as part of a contract – just like the United States and the United Kingdom. This military reserve force will also be leaner than our current 300,000 (which is clearly excessive), but also better trained as they are contracted. This works by offering potential recruits a generous pay package for a period of military training (just like the current National Service term), after which they can go on to fulfil their civilian role and take on a job, whilst still going for monthly military trainings on weekends during their bond period.

This dual system of bulking up the professional force in numbers and quality, whilst reducing the number of reserves (but improving their training) will go a long way in addressing the problems and injustice identified with the current system, and also make the military more effective and efficient – spending money wisely and having a larger workforce contributing to the economy.

I recognise that citizens who have served National Service might have certain reservations over this proposal either out of nostalgia or injustice (that they were forced to serve, but future generations need not). I put it to them that the conscript system is a seriously flawed system especially in the modern Singapore context, and that this degenerate system should not be allowed to perpetuate and continue to harm future generations, the economy and our society. I hope that even after decades of spewing propaganda about the absolute necessity of National Service, the government will have the political courage to recognise that it is no longer relevant, and take actions to correct this harmful policy.

I welcome any corrections on figures, and for information on figures which I do not currently have.”


Gordon Lee

The writer is a student of University of Warwick currently studying Economics, Politics and International Studies

The article below first appeared at

See also:

Monday, April 11, 2011

On Fertility and Defence

On Fertility and Defence

Kelvin Teo

Photo courtesy of An Honorable German, Flickr

The figures for Singapore’s fertility rate is at a low of 1.23, far below the population cut-off of 2.1 that is required population renewal. This would have obvious implications and one of them would be manpower for our national defense. Singapore is currently among the countries with compulsory military conscription together with Turkey, Switzerland, Taiwan, Israel and others.

The duration of service in the Singapore Armed Forces used to be dependent on rank – corporals and above used to serve 2 years and 6 months before 2004, whilst Lance-corporals and below served 2 years. After 2004, everyone regardless of rank are required to serve for two years.

Now, with our population renewal below the desired level, maintaining defense manpower at current levels will be difficult in the near future, assuming Singapore sticks with compulsory conscription. Questions regarding the decreasing numbers of renewal by future cohorts and its implications will be raised: 1) Will the length of national service be increased from the current duration of two years to make up for reduced numbers of renewal? 2) Will the length of reservist term, frequency of reservist call-ups and duration of reservist service during call-up increase?

Increasing the term of national service, prolonging reservist term, increasing frequency and duration of reservist call-ups are mere treatment to the symptoms of decline in renewing manpower. There is another popular measure, something which some male counterparts have always raised in the spirit of ‘gender equality’ – requiring females to serve in the military. Female conscription is practised in Israel for instance. Females do not necessarily have to play a combat role; they can play a supportive role. That being said. all the aforementioned measures go against popular sentiments, and supporting plus implementing them will lead to mass disapproval and unhappiness. It is also disruptive to firms to have their employees reporting for reservist call-ups at greater frequencies and for longer durations. It will be even more disruptive to have both male and female employees reporting for their reservist cycles.

Thus, what other alternatives are there? One popular alternative is to modernise our defense force in a way that our military capability is projected with a smaller manpower base. Coincidentally, our ASEAN neighbours also embarked on a goal to modernise their defense forces as far back as the past decade under the perception of a common threat from China and apprehension of its intentions, according to a document from RAND corporation, a global policy think-tank on defense issues.

It goes without saying that the modernisation of our defense forces will require an increased defense expenditure, which means we may possibly have to maintain our defense budget at current levels or even expand on it if we were to modernise our defense forces.

Besides the alternative of modernising our defense forces, there is another option we can pursue – a military alliance with our ASEAN neighbours. The advantage of a military alliance is the achievement of economies of scale in the provision of defense, i.e. lower defense expenditure per capita is required to achieve the same level of protection. The prospects of an ASEAN military alliance materialising becomes a possibility when just recently, Indonesia called for increased synergy of ASEAN defense forces chiefs in order to respond to various challenges and threats to regional stability. The issue of synergy was one of the topics of focus at the 8th ASEAN Chief of Defense Forces Informal Meeting from March 30 to April 1 2011 in Indonesia.

“Defense forces chiefs must be more synergic and productive to be able to respond to various challenges and threats that could endanger regional security.”

“Based on monitoring security in the South China Sea is now escalating following a shift of issue to the region.”

- Indonesia’s defense forces commander Admiral Agus Suhartono in a meeting with defense attaches of ASEAN countries

Although scholars maintain that Singapore plans its defense strategies on the basis that Malaysia and Indonesia are its primary sources of threat, the recent developments in the South China Sea with respect to China may be the stimulus for the formation of an ASEAN military alliance. The source of conflict with China lie in the multiple overlapping claims to the South China Sea. China, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan have asserted claims to some of the islands in the sea. The 3.5 square kilometres body of water is resource-rich with minerals, oil and natural gas reserves, especially the Spratly and Paracel chains of Islands. Besides being a potential source of oil and natural gas, the islands are a source of valuable fishing grounds and straddle shipping lanes.

How possible is an ASEAN military alliance and what would be its consequence? According to the aforementioned RAND document, there have been increased mutual use of military training facilities and joint military exercises among ASEAN nations with a focus on air and naval operations in maritime scenarios, even going back as far beyond the past decade. Excerpts of examples of military cooperation between ASEAN nations are appended below:

The Thai and Singapore air forces train together in the Philippines, and Singapore has also had access to excellent training facilities in Brunei.

Malaysia and the Philippines have a bilateral defense cooperation agreement that provides for regular joint military exercises, military information exchanges, and the possible use of each other’s military facilities for maintenance and repair.

Singapore cultivated defense ties with Indonesia and reached agreements that allow Singapore to conduct naval exercises in Indonesian waters and to use air combat ranges in Sumatra.

- The Role of Southeast Asia in U.S. Strategy Toward China, RAND

The consequences of an ASEAN military alliance is a belligerent response from China. As far back as March 2010, Beijing declared the South China Sea a “core national interest” which in diplomatic parlance is tantamount to the use of military means to defend it. It has already established a base in Hainan Island that will place its fleet closer to the South China Sea. It is also currently developing a new missile, the Dong Feng 21D, designed to hit an aircraft carrier from a distance of 1500 kilometres.

That being said, a belligerent response can be mitigated with diplomatic overtures or confidence-building measures with Beijing. Such a point is not lost on Beijing as it has used economic enhancements to improve ties with ASEAN especially in its proposal of the China-ASEAN Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and its subsequent materialisation, making the former ASEAN’s largest trading partner. Under the auspices of the FTA, tariffs for imported goods from various product categories will be reduced to zero, in effect, it means a reduction in tariffs of ASEAN goods sold in China and that of Chinese goods sole in ASEAN.

Thus, in conclusion, the issue facing Singapore’s below expected rate of population renewal would have implications on the manpower of its future defense forces. Extending the duration of full-time national service, increasing frequency of reservist call-ups and duration of reservist training or even enforcing mandatory female conscription are temporary measures to make up for the lack of manpower but such will not go down well with populist sentiments among locals. Therefore, one alternative will be to modernise our armed forces to the extent that the same military capability can be projected with a smaller manpower. However, modernising our armed forces will mean a possible increase in our defense budget. The other option we can pursue is the possibility of a military alliance with our ASEAN neighbours, that allows us to achieve the same defense capability with lower expenditure, with the benefits of preserving regional security. Such a move may not be perceived in a positive light by our Chinese counterparts, but can be circumvented with ASEAN-Chinese diplomatic overtures for instance, in facilitating greater economic cooperation. After all, trade is the most rational preference over conflict where parties involved stand to gain economically.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Modern NS Experience.

The Modern NS Experience.


The last couple of days, the big hooha making the facebook rounds is the picture of the NSF making his maid carry his fullpack for him.

As usual, there’s a big fuss on facebook and stomp carrying on and on about the end of civilization as we know it.

Everyone just need to calm the fuck down.

Look, its nothing to be proud of that’s for sure. But then again, I don’t think most NS men wear that uniform with pride anyway. Most people would just prefer not to do NS at all and if they had to do it, most would prefer to do the whole SAF thing which is “Serve.And.Fuckoff”.

And you can’t really blame the prevalent attitude these days because NS seems nothing more than an unfortunate burden reserved for the luckless males of singapore. Its NS for citizens, jobs for FTs. The SAF itself already don’t treat the average NS man with much respect, so it is not surprising that the NS man will not wear the uniform with much pride and self respect. Mess boy, carpark attendant, usher, I’ve done it all. And that is as a red beret wearing- supposedly elite soldier. Fuck, if a so-called member of a supposedly elite branch of the army can be treated in such a shameful manner, than I don’t see how wearing this uniform means much or if anything at all for the average grunt. For the soldier to treat the uniform with respect, he first have to be treated with respect. You treat the soldier like shit, the soldier will treat the uniform like shit.

Hell, just look at Janil Puthucheary- parachuted by PAP to represent singaporeans enjoying all the rights and privileges without ever serving a day of NS. If Janil is dead serious about serving singapore, why not donate the generous MP allowance to charity and collect the monthly paycheck of a chow recruit- that is if he ever gets elected.

Anyway, I digress.

For people who thinks this is embarrassing, for a soldier, how is this any more embarrassing than any one of the majors or colonels that makes their runner carry their shit for them whenever they go on exercise. If a an NS man carry a major’s fullpack, than a maid carry an NS man’s fullpack. If anything, a maid may make more money as a maid than what a private will make as a grunt in the infantry. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander I’d say.

Fact is, I have personally witness a major strutting around the jungle like a king with his runner carrying his field chair behind him. And whenever the major stopped, the runner had to unfold the field chair so that major can rest his precious golden backside without ever touching the muddy jungle floor. Picture this in your mind if you will- how is this anymore embarrassing than the picture above.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New Male Citizens Can Aspire to Political Office Without NS

New Male Citizens Can Aspire to Political Office Without NS

The first official batch of PAP candidates to be unveiled included Dr. Janil Puthucheary which became a citizen in 2008. According to media reports, he settled in Singapore in 2001, presumably got his PR sometime between 2001 and 2008 before being sworn in as a newly minted Singapore citizen.

This is not new, the Health Minister Khaw Boon Wan is also a ex-Malaysian who became a Singapore citizen and is now in the cabinet.

It is interesting to note that in Singapore, it appears not to be a liability to standing for political office if you have not served your country in the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force or the Singapore Civil Defence Force as many of us born and bred Singaporean male citizens have.

In the US, previous President George W Bush was in the National Guard. President John F Kennedy served in a patrol boat in Vietnam and Senator McCain who was the Republican nominee for the US Presidential elections in 2008. US politicians who have served their countries military typically have in their campaign publicity materials trumpeting this fact as evidence of their record in serving the country.

We currently have many ex-SAF generals/admirals in the likes of Foreign Minster George Yeo, DPM Teo Chee Hean etc.

Only in Singapore do we have aspiring politicians who gun for public office not worrying too much that they have never served their country under its mandatory conscription policy. In US, many who volunteer to serve in the US military do so in order to obtain citizenship. Over here, you can aspire for political office under the auspices of the PAP even if your citizenship tenure is shorter than the average 10 years served in reservist plus 2 to 2.5 years in full-time national service by most Singaporean male citizens.

Majullah Singapura.