Monday, December 15, 2008

The Guise of National Service

The guise of National Service?
Sunday, 14 December 2008
Andy Tang Guest writer

National Service is a rite of passage for all Singaporean males, and the controversial issue of conscription has never been far from Singaporean minds. For a long period the defence of national security has been invoked to justify conscription.

However, growing shifts in official stance from the original "national defence" argument to the more current "common NS experience to build a more cohesive society" argument has increased suspicion as to whether NS is just a guise for another social engineering tool in the Government's arsenal.

Under the argument of defending national security and protection of secrets, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) has made use of the SAF Act, which governs all NSmen, to silence any opposition or criticism. There have been reported cases of servicemen being forced to remove blog entries, and even entire blogs, because of alleged violations of the Act.

Disciplinary action have been taken against these "offending" entries. A deeper look at cases reveal disturbing parallels between the use of libel lawsuits to silence political opposition and the use of disciplinary actions to silence criticism from its own servicemen. Singapore is known for its use of its libel laws to silence political oppositions, and has come under heavy criticism from international bodies like the International Bar Association and Amnesty International.

Servicemen are being taken to task for writing critical entries on the Internet about the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the SAF. Some have spoken up against the censure but many more have chosen to remain silent for fear of further reprisal.

The double standard of selective punishment points to the undeniable fact that MINDEF is only interested in punishing servicemen who criticise SAF but ignore those that do not paint a negative picture of the organisation even the complimentary ones still violate the Official Secrets Act (OSA). A look at many online blogs and networking sites reveal many pictures taken of SAF camps and/or their activities.

According to the OSA, the revelation of SAF activities is a threat to the nation's security and is a punishable offence. However, MINDEF turns a blind eye to all these, focusing instead on warning bloggers about negative postings and punishing those that they can find when many of these blogs or entries did not reveal any security-related information.

This leads to several questions. Is MINDEF and SAF allowed to violate international laws and rights by having laws and punishing servicemen for having negative or critical views of the organisation? In this developed world, which organisation punishes its own people for holding dissenting views?

Given that MINDEF and SAF are public organisations, what right do they have to control what the public thinks about them? On the contrary, should they not be subjected to even greater public scrutiny and criticism given that they take up the biggest portion of the national budget?

By silencing the opposition and servicemen, is the Government trying to censor questions about the real intent of NS in today's Singapore? Are the authorities bent on keeping out discussion on whether NS exists solely for national defence or does it exist to serve a "greater" purpose? More broadly, is NS being used to build a nation of followers rather than thinkers, a society of compliant and unquestioning Singaporeans? Is NS a Government tool to perpetuate a climate of fear in our youths?

MINDEF and SAF have come a long way since 1967. Cover-ups that were common in the past are increasingly not accepted by Singaporeans who demand a safer training environment for their sons. It is time that MINDEF and SAF examine their roles in Singapore today, and re-evaluate their policies of banning servicemen from voicing out criticisms publicly.

The notion of "dirty linen should not be washed in public" should be discarded. If the Government has nothing to hide and everything is above board why fear criticism, especially from their own people?

Public accountability should be of paramount importance when it comes to asking citizens to risk their safety and lives in defending the country, and spending huge amounts of the public's money. In this regard, draconian bans and punishment on servicemen airing their views in public should be removed.

Andy Tang recently completed his fulltime National Service stint and contributed this article to the website.

A comment on this website:

exSINgaPOORean - Open Secret. Mon, 15 Dec 2008 3:12 pm

This article is writing the "obvious". That's the reason why I emigrated bec. I do not want my son to be suject the same type of systematic brainwash from kindergarden to the young adulthood when doing his N.S.The resevist training is just revision lessons of brainwashing.

I challenge the SAF to come to Edmonton, AB in 103 Ave and 97 Street to arrest me and my son for him not serving the damn army.

When I was back in Singapore this Aug 2008, why no SAF army dare to arrest me.

Stupid Singapore army who only know how to bully its citizens.

Let's put it this way, all Singapore needs is 30,000 stong full-time army to defend the island as it has allowed the US navy to use its harbour. Just allow the USA to base its 2 fleet of its carrier in Singapore and I bet Malaysia and Indonesia would not dare to attack Singapore.

Canada is 13,000 time the size of Singapore and yet we have less than 70,000 full -time army and less than 20,000 reservist or part-timers.

30,000 full-time Singapore army personel can consist of:
3,000 in the airforce.
5,000 navy
22,000 land soldiers (with 1000 commandos to fight terrorist)

There can be about 10,000 reservists for those who like army training but want to earn their money int he outside world.

This would free alot of Singaporean males develop like the Hong Kong males, instead of wasting 2 years of their precious time.

If Sillpore still want some sort to military training, then OK, just 1 month of basic training for all the males (yes 1 month)..basic shooting, a short 2 night camp, drill, train to fight in jungle and built-up area and firing of 3 rounds etc 2 days of first-aid training..and of course a full day of paint-ball shooting.

Send the full-timer to Somali water to fight the pirates for real experience...would be political neutral. Singapore can design a small aircraft carrier so that it can transport its F 16s to the Somali water to fight the pairates. After two years all the full-timer (part timers or reservists can be included on a voluterr basis) will have batter experience. Perhaps, Dufur would be another good training ground.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Elitism and the war for talent

Just a reminder whenever the MIW claim that we must pay for talent crap.

Elitism 401 : Elitism and the war for talent.

Elitism 301 is found here.One day an outstanding resume landed on my desk from a graduate student from MIT. I called his HP number immediately to arrange for an interview. The student said he had already found another job but had not signed his employment contract yet. I told him my company paid competitive wages and may be able to match or better what he was offered provided we selected him after an interview. He told me that it was unlikely that an engineering firm would be able to pay what he was offered. I curiously asked him how much he was getting and my jaws dropped when he told me his offer. He was getting paid what engineers in my firm were getting after working for 8 way I can possibly match that. Defeated in the battle for this talent, I wished him all the best and asked him if he mind saying which company was going to.....his reply : LEHMAN BROTHERS.

" have to pay the market rate or the man will up stakes and join Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers or Goldman Sachs and you would have an incompetent man and you would have lost money by the billions....." - MM Lee April 2007

There was certainly no lack of talent at Lehman Brothers but it collapsed. The economic problems of the world today are caused largely by investment banks who were known to hire to best people who were paid the highest salaries. It turned out the high salaries didn't buy didn't even buy competence and a basic sense of responsibility. It was this collection of "talents" with a lot hubris that brought so much economic pain the world. Lehman failed because they believed they were so good they could do no wrong. When the bank collapsed the former CEO Dick Fuld went to Washington and denied any wrongdoing, put the blame on everyone except himself and kept his millions in salary. A few days later a woman punched him in the face at a gym : [Link] - I guess she was just disgusted. See that is hubris, when the ordinary people can see that something is wrong but they refused to fix it thinking they have the monopoly on wisdom.

Look around you - do you see any other group of men that are just as arrogant...believing they are the only talents in our society that can do what they do? You better becareful because they too will bring you pain. They too will deny their mistakes and blame you for all that has gone wrong. They too will pay themselves obscene amounts of money and do a bad job. They will hide their mistakes from down to you...take away the check and balance, risk our past successes on bad ideas because they don't listen and lead us down the path of destruction - the same path that Lehman Brothers took....after that they are so arrogant they might blame you for not being good enough to support their broken system....afterall they are the "best" men for the job so it has to be others that let them down.

Someone left an interesting article on the war on talent [Link]. It is a paper entitled "FIGHTING THE WAR FOR TALENT IS HAZARDOUS TO YOUR ORGANIZATION’S HEALTH". We all want the best talents for our organisations to do what we do better but we have to be careful not to foster a culture of arrogance that can breed hubris. There is one thing I observe in people - passion, honesty and hardwork can overcome the lack of talent. If we as a society believe that results can be bought with money, just pay money to solve our problems with human resource- we are guaranteed to end up like Lehman.--------------------

What happens in a war for talent?
There is:
• An invariable emphasis on individual performance (rewarding the individual stars), thereby diminishing teamwork, creating destructive internal competition, and retarding learning and the spread of bestpractices inside the company;.
• A tendency to glorify the talents of those outside the company and downplay the skills and abilities of insiders, leading to a loss ofmotivation on the part of those inside the firm and to their turnover(thereby ensuring that the recruiting challenge will be even greater asthe company tries to replace those that has inadvertently sent packingelsewhere);.
• The creation of a self-fulfilling prophecy where those labeled as lessable become less able because they are asked to do less, given fewerresources, training, and mentoring, and become discouraged, in theprocess ensuring that the organization has way too many people whoare in the process of dropping out of the competitive fray;.
• A deemphasis on fixing the systemic, cultural, and business process issues that are invariably much more important for enhancingperformance, as the company seeks success solely through getting the right people in the door;.
• And finally, the development of an elitist, arrogant attitude—once you have successfully competed in the war for talent, you have the best people—an attitude that makes building a wise organization almost impossible; in wise organizations, people know that they know and they know what they don’t know. Companies that think they are winning thewar for talent think they are so full of smart people that they know everything!"

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

What Does NS Mean to You, Me and Singapore

what does National Service mean to me, and you, and Singapore

“He who joyfully marches to music in rank and file has already earned my contempt. He has been given a large brain by mistake, since for him the spinal cord would fully suffice. This disgrace to civilization should be done away with at once. Heroism at command, senseless brutality, and all the loathsome nonsense that goes by the name of patriotism, how violently I hate all this, how despicable and ignoble war is; I would rather be torn to shreds than be part of so base an action! It is my conviction that killing under the cloak of war is nothing but an act of murder.”
- Albert Einstein

This came from a German-Jewish scientist who played a critical role in helping American develop its Atomic Bomb in the Manhattan Project, which ended the World War II. He disliked war intensely and he later regretted his contributions to the project.

Einstein is one of the world’s most eminent scientists of all time. I am nothing but a citizen of Singapore, a citizen of this huge world.But I agree with him entirely on his view on war, and his view on patriotism; that patriotism need not translate into taking up arms or anything along the lines of violence. This would necessarily mean that I am against the very notion of conscription itself.

Conscription is nothing more than slavery
In Singapore, all Singaporean males must go through National Service(either in Singapore Armed Forces, Singapore Police Force or Civil Defence), devoting two years of his life to the service of the nation. To me, conscription is nothing more than servitude, nothing more than modern-day slavery. Singapore, as a signatory to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, has violated no less than five articles by upholding its Conscription laws and imposing draconian penalties if violated.

Article 4.
No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms.
All forms of conscription by itself is a form of slavery. Citizens are forced against their will, and paid little, or nothing, to “serve” the interests of the nation. I quote: “Slavery is the systematic exploitation of labour. As a social-economic system, slavery is a legal or informal institution under which a person (called “a slave”) is compelled to work for another (sometimes called “the master” or “slave owner”).

In the SAF, higher ranks order lower ranks to carry out their instructions. Any failure to do so could result in a wide-range of punishments, ranging from warnings to detention in SAF Detention Barracks, not unlike the olden days where the owner would flog the slaves. If this is not modern-day slavery, what is?

Article 23.
(1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.
(2) Everyone, without any discrimination, has the right to equal pay for equal work.
(3) Everyone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.
(4) Everyone has the right to form and to join trade unions for the protection of his interests.

I think Article 23 is self-explanatory. Conscription by itself violates clause (1). The meagre wages SAF pays and the huge amount of work and commitment they demand, which includes being on stand-by 24/7 because we are FULL-TIME National Servicemen violates clause (2). Needless to say, (4) is not allowed under SAF laws. Any form of association with any political parties constitutes an offence under the SAF Act.

Article 19.
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

This is the very reason this article will appear only after a certain day and why the author chose to remain anonymous. Many servicemen have been punished for voicing out criticism of the SAF or writing negatively about SAF. Since when can negative writings or criticism be punished under the rule of law, especially when it is the truth? SAF and MINDEF as public organisations must be held fully accountable and must not suppress criticism or negative comments. They must never forget that the reason for their existence, if one attempts to justify, is to defend Singapore. They are and will always remain public servants to Singaporeans, and answerable to Singaporeans for their actions. By attempting to suppress criticism and negative writings of the SAF or MINDEF, this is in every way a clear violation of Article 19. If a public organisation is not receptive to feedback, negative or positive, and instead focuses on shutting down negative feedback and resorting to self-praise, I think that such an organisation’s existence must be questioned.

National Service must not be a social engineering tool
Singapore has frequently tried to justify National Service as helping to turn boys into men, building a sense of responsibility in them and promoting social cohesion when males of every sector of society come together to share a common experience. That itself is a very flawed argument of National Service. National Service can barely justify itself when one uses the argument of national defence since it is nothing more than slavery, much less as a social engineering tool. In today’s world, ANY form of social engineering tool must be treated with scepticism and rejection, for they have no more place in modern society. When anyone tries to justify conscription as a form of building up a world that fits his/her ideals, it becomes very very very dangerous. This is simply because one will know no boundary after that, a classic slippery slope argument. Today it can be conscription to build a cohesive society. Tomorrow, it could be forced marriages. The next day?

This also begs the question: By claiming that National Service turns boys into man, are they saying that people who do not go through National Service are immature, which is basically the vast majority of the world?
Another question: By using “building social cohesion” as a reason, are they saying countries that do not have National Service have divisive and fragmented societies, that will disintegrate in the face of trouble?

National Service as a social engineering tool is a failure
Much as the government tries to claim its success, one must take their claims with a huge tablespoon of salt. The system of choosing people as officers and sergeants still places its belief on education, which leads to a very skewed proportion of officers coming from JCs and Polys while the less educated remain as men to be led by these people. The argument of highly-educated people makes better leaders will now face off against the argument of National Service as a social engineering tool to build a cohesive society. These people will become officers, the elites of the SAF. They enjoy privileges and power that is not available to men, by virtue of their education. Where is the so-called shared experiences now?How many actually remember their men they lead ten years later, or truly know them and immerse into their world? If the argument of “highly-educated people makes better leaders and thus should become officers” hold, then the argument of “NS as a social engineering tool” must fail. One cannot have their cake and eat it too.

The truth is that many of my peers are officers and they remain close to their school-friends, rather than friends they made during NS. Much as one vehemently deny that, and then claim that one has made many friends because of NS, my counter-argument is easily this: you can make the same amount of friends outside if you don’t do NS. How many of these NS “buddies” remain as “buddies” one year after ORD? If you ask me, a better word here would be acquaintances. Much as you can remember the time where you “insert experience here” or “insert another experience here”, I would really question the significance and appliance of those experiences in real life.

Some proponents of NS also claim that NS toughens people up and “turn boys into men”. I oppose such views. Military experience by and large is tough. It is accepted and meant to be that way.But I do not accept the forcing of military experience on anyone. I do not deny that NS will toughen people up, but to what extent and at what costs? Some say that they test their own limits when they “insert tough experience here”. How relevant is the “testing of limits” in the future? Are they saying that NS is the only way they can test their limits? By that argument itself, are they also insinuating that without NS in many countries, one would not toughen up or know his potential leadership abilities and is doomed for failure?

National Service need not be the only solution to National Defence
Policy-makers also say that NS is critical and necessary to our nation’s survival. Much as I agree that there are things such as necessary evils for eg taxes, I do not believe National Service belongs to that group in Singapore’s context. Singapore is in peacetime. One cannot justify such a huge army in peacetime, unless one assumes that our neighbours are eyeing us hungrily and will not hesitate to wipe us out anytime should SAF cease to exist. This brings me to my next point about diplomacy and soft power. Attempting to mend and build better relations with our neighbours and not appear as arrogant or condescending would do more to our national defence than any army could. This is what Obama has accepted about America, that soft power can do more for any nation than any army could. This is something we must really learn instead of merely talking about it.

I am not proposing a demolition of the SAF. I am an idealist and I wish for a world free from wars, diseases and poverty. Unfortunately, this is not true. What I can accept is that SAF becomes a truly professional outfit, that all SAF personnel are regulars only. By removing conscription and adding up the total costs saved, which will definitely be significant, SAF can do much more to attract people who are truly committed to its cause, either out of love or money. That would definitely be better than having a ragtag army who looks forward to the next book-out or next long holiday just so they can escape from its grips.

In the past, Singapore could not afford a professional army. Today, I think they have more than enough financial muscle to do so. Hence their point about a professional army is moot and invalid today. If they have the ability to raise a much bigger conscripted army, that can only mean two things. Either they pay these people really really low(see the first point made), or that they can afford to raise a professional army, just that they don’t wish to due to cost savings.

National Service is wasting everyone’s time and money
The inefficiency of the SAF, the redundancy and sheer incompetency of many regulars in there, the senseless rules…I could go on and on forever. I have many examples, and I am sure others would have even more. Just that day, I heard a NSman verbally bashing his reservist unit commander for being stupid to his wife. I do not wish to go into specifics. Let’ just say that his verbal bashing was not unjustified, judging from what I hear. Rushing to wait, waiting to rush. Such anecdotes are common and everywhere in the SAF.

In today’s world, many countries have either abolished conscription or are drastically cutting down. It is pretty ridiculous. It takes 10 weeks to complete a US marine course, but it takes 2 years to train a Full-time National Serviceman to be a clerk, storeman, rifleman, armourer etc. If this is not inefficient, I do not know what is. The economic cost of such inefficiency is huge, given that many males are in the prime of their lives, and should be pursuing their further studies or contributing meaningfully in many ways instead.

When cuts should be made but not made, when things can be done much faster but not so, Singaporeans who pay taxes to an organisation and a Ministry that takes up the biggest proportion of the national budget should seriously question where the money is flowing to and how it is being used in the most cost-efficient way. Cost-overruns, the exceeding of budgets, buying things that are for decorative or cosmetic purposes..once again, I can go on and on. As taxpayers, Singaporeans should scrutinise and question the budget for SAF and MINDEF, especially in the wake of a bad economic climate worldwide. How much of the 16 billion poured into MINDEF every year is wasted on things that are not required, which could have been better spent elsewhere?

The unfairness of National Service
Given Singapore’s growing numbers of non-Singaporeans, I do not feel that it is justified that Singaporean males should give up two years of their time to defend these people, as these people treat Singapore like a hotel. What is the difference between Singaporeans and non-Singaporeans? non-Singaporeans do not pay significantly higher taxes or education fees than Singaporeans. Many do not serve NS. Singaporean males have to face with reservist issues that lead to much unhappiness from employers. Is there any wonder why employers would very much prefer foreign workers given the unfair treatment meted to Singaporeans? It seems as if Singaporeans are punished for being male and born into Singapore and having to go through NS, as non-citizens enjoy the fruits of our labour. Yes, Singapore has laws that make the children of PRs to go through NS. However, there are ways of circumventing the rules, as I have seen with my own eyes. There was this serviceman who actually gave up his PR after having enjoyed 12years of education here. There was nothing Singapore could do, except to accept it. This serviceman was a top student in a top school and is in US furthering his studies, at the expense of Singapore’s taxpayers.
If Singapore really buy into the social cohesion argument, why not make it a pre-requisite for all non-citizens to spend some time with SAF before they are allowed citizenships or PR-ships since they say that there is a lack of integration between non-Singaporeans and Singaporeans? Let’s see for ourselves how many would give up their PR-ships or citizenships once we impose that rule. Let’s see for ourselves just exactly how much these people love Singapore, or love Singapore for the money and benefits they milk from it at the expense of locals? I hear the shouts of “xenophobia”. I assure you that I am anything but xeno-phobic. I do, however, believe in equality. Since Singaporeans do it, why shouldn’t foreigners who take up Singapore citizenship do it too? Others point to the globalisation and claim that it is good for Singapore to accept foreigners and stuff. Yes, my dear. However, other countries do not have conscription for their own citizens do they?

In conclusion, attempting to justify national service is the same as attempting to justify conscription, and the same attempt as justifying slavery. If you do not believe in slavery, why would you believe in conscription and NS?

That would be the meaning of NS to me: slavery. servitude.
Einstein’s words still echo around my mind.

Patriotism … is a superstition artificially created and maintained through a network of lies and falsehoods; a superstition that robs man of his self-respect and dignity, and increases his arrogance and conceit.
- Emma Goldman

Thursday, October 2, 2008

J.B. Jeyaretnam died of Heart Attack

Is is a sad day for Singapore as an opposition icon has passed away on the morning of the 2nd Oct. Singapore will surely miss him and his love for Singapore.

SINGAPORE (AFP) — The grand old man of Singapore’s tiny political opposition, J. B. Jeyaretnam, died early Tuesday just days before a constitutional challenge he hoped would propel him back into parliament, his family said.
Jeyaretnam, 82, died from a heart attack in Singapore, a relative told AFP from the family home in Johor Bahru, Malaysia.
Singapore’s pro-government media flashed news of the veteran politician’s death. There was no immediate reaction from government leaders.
Jeyaretnam, one of the rare few to speak out against the ruling People’s Action Party (PAP), made political history in 1981 when he became the first opposition politician elected to parliament, dominated by the PAP since 1959.
He was declared bankrupt in 2001 after failing to pay libel damages to members of the PAP, including a former prime minister.
Last year Jeyaretnam, a lawyer, cleared the bankruptcy status which had prevented him from running for political office, and then formed the new Reform Party, saying Singapore had been “enslaved” by its rulers.
The opposition plays only a marginal role in Singapore, where it complains of limited access to the pro-government mainstream media and restrictions on public assemblies.
Jeyaretnam was to appear in the High Court on October 15 to seek an order that a by-election be held for a seat that is currently vacant.
G. K. Pamela, another of Jeyaretnam’s relatives, said the court challenge was related to Jeyaretnam’s desire to enter parliament again.
“That was his wish,” she told AFP in tears. “Such a good man. Why did God take him?”
Besides Jeyaretnam, the most vocal opposition to the PAP has come from the Singapore Democratic Party (SDP).
SDP activist Chee Siok Chin said she was shocked at the veteran opposition figure’s death.
“There’s no doubt about it. Mr. Jeyaretnam has been the icon of the opposition here and it’s a great loss,” she said.
Jeyaretnam’s niece, who gave her name only as Kavinia, said he had not been feeling well for the past three weeks.
But as recently as July, when he hosted a dinner to launch his new party, Jeyaretnam still appeared strong.
Sporting his usual lamb-chop style sideburns, Jeyaretnam stood before the crowd and, in typical style, spoke for almost an hour.
“Come, walk with me, let us walk together… for peace, justice, truth… fearing no one except God,” he urged the gathering.
Source: AFP

Friday, September 5, 2008

Give up citizenship? Brothers must do NS first!

Give up citizenship? Brothers must do NS first
August 25, 2008 takchek-->

THREE brothers, born to a Norwegian father and Singaporean mother, want to give up their Singapore citizenship.
But the Ministry of Defence has said no. Not until they do their national service.
The Bugge brothers - Thorbjoern, 33; Ingvar, 31; and Frode, 30 - left Singapore when each turned 18 and have tried and failed several times for over a decade to renounce their Singapore citizenships.
They want to renounce their citizenship so they will be free to visit their parents - Mr O.M. Bugge, 65, and his wife Margaret, 55 - who still live here.
They cannot return here because they have been classified as NS defaulters and risk arrest on arrival.
They were all born here and are considered Singapore citizens. But they also hold Norwegian citizenships, like their father.
They first left Singapore when they were five, three and two years old respectively, and lived in Norway for 10 years before returning here.
But each left Singapore after their O levels, and just before they could be called up for national service.
Mindef sent them NS enlistment letters, but in turn, each brother ignored the call-up. Instead, they enlisted in the Norwegian armed forces for a 19-month national service term.
All three decided to renounce their Singapore citizenship when they turned 21, but Mindef rejected their initial bids to do so.
They tried several more times over the years, writing to the ministry, then-prime minister Goh Chok Tong and the late former president Ong Teng Cheong to explain their case.
Their parents have also met staff from Mindef.
But all their attempts have failed.
When contacted, Mindef’s director of public affairs, Colonel Darius Lim, said: ‘Only persons who have emigrated at a very young age together with their families, and who have not enjoyed the privileges of Singapore citizenship, will be allowed to renounce their Singapore citizenships without serving national service.’
He said the three men are Singapore citizens and are required to fulfil their NS obligations. Their requests to renounce their Singapore citizenships can be considered only upon completion of full-time NS.
The brothers said they were disappointed by Mindef’s position.
When asked, they maintained that they did not leave Singapore to avoid NS. They preferred to be in Norway, they said, and their enlistment there showed they were not shirkers of NS, they said.
Mr Frode Bugge is a career soldier with the Norwegian army and has seen action in Kosovo and Afghanistan.
Brother Thorbjoern is also a career soldier, while Ingvar is a postman.
For now, they will have to continue meeting their parents in Malaysia. Their mother spends six months in Norway each year.
Their father, a marine consultant, said he cannot afford to spend extended periods in Norway because his business is based in Singapore. He tries to visit his sons once a year.
He said: ‘My sons’ cases are about a choice of citizenship, and not a case of national service…They would like to get this matter cleared up and be able to travel to Singapore for a visit like any other Norwegian.’
He is hoping that the law will be changed.
‘My sons’ situations may seem unique now. But as more foreigners marry Singaporeans, there will be more of these cases,’ he added.
NS defaulters can be jailed up to three years and/or fined up to $10,000 if convicted.

NS regulationsWHO NEEDS TO DO NS# All able-bodied male Singapore citizens.# Those holding concurrent citizenship in Singapore and one other country, because Singapore does not recognise dual citizenship.
EXCEPTIONS# Those who emigrate at a very young age - the exact age is not specified by Mindef - with their families and have thus not enjoyed the privilege of Singapore citizenship. Such persons can apply to renounce their Singapore citizenship without serving NS.
PENALTIES FOR NOT SERVING NS# On conviction, NS defaulters are liable to be jailed up to three years and/or fined up to $10,000. The exact sentence will be determined by the courts.# Defaulters will also have to serve NS if they are still liable for it.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Singapore's success not about PAP or opposition
Singapore's success not about PAP or opposition
I AM from the same senior-citizen generation as Mr Lee Choon Wah, who wrote the laudatory letter last Saturday, 'Opposition yet to show it can deliver'.
In the past few decades, this generation lent its unquestioning support and blind loyalty to the ruling People's Action Party (PAP) Government.
Taking its place will be a new generation of younger, better-educated and Internet-savvy Singaporeans who can think, read between the lines and add two and two to make five.
The PAP Government can rightly claim some but not all credit for Singapore's success so far.
Its hardworking people, favourable time zone and geographical location have also contributed to its development as a financial centre and an air and sea hub.
Put simply, had the PAP governed Timbuktu in Africa, would the outcome have been similar?
Singapore's continued survival must depend ultimately on the collective input and teamwork spirit of its politicians, civil servants and people. No one group has a monopoly on ideas or can claim all credit for Singapore's achievements. Each group makes its share of contribution, big or small.
The necessary ingredients for good political governance are:
Caring politicians, who know they are answerable to the people to earn public respect, as well as encourage people to speak up freely to understand their concerns and tap their contributions.
Competent civil servants, who try hard to serve the public better and accept responsibility for mistakes.
Active citizens, who must overcome their fear of speaking up to highlight society's shortcomings and know there are more important things in life than making money, asset enhancement and HDB upgrades - such as good health.
Only when people can speak freely will they have a sense of rootedness as citizens of Singapore. They will then not be 'quitters' but 'stayers' and will not be indifferent and leave everything to the Government.
This is one critical challenge facing Singapore. Politicians must make up their minds once and for all whether to continue breeding 'yes-man' citizens who will let them govern 'their country their way', or sincerely nurture thinking Singaporeans who will team up with them to govern 'our country our way'.
See Leong Kit

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reservist's Disadvantage

The two years wasted on our conscription is one big issue, the other is also how the long reservist training each year is affecting Singaporean's job prospects and bonus.

1. Companies are reluctant to employ Singaporean males compared to PRs or WP Work Permit holders because of the disruption to their business. Although taxpayers make up for the salary, what cannot be quantified is the loss of business and for some, opportunity. Business or opportunity waits for no one. The civil service mindset cannot understand this as they have never operated a business and many of them never worked for the private sector.
2. Although businesses are required by law to release these reservist for training, what is there to stop them from reducing performance bonuses or promotion prospects? Can the law stop businesses from having a employment preference for foreigners due to this disruption?
3. Many senior managers or employers are foreigners, can they understand the sacrifice of our NSmen. Some even put pressure on our reservist for having to do training every year.
4. Many businesses also expect reservist to return to work during off period or when they book out to continue with their work or projects. These reservist are carrying the extra burden of training and work at the same time. Probably, 10% of reservist take the training as a break from work. Given the ease of employing foreigners without this reservist disruptions, how long more can they hold their jobs without a pay cut?
5. Even in large corporations, result orientated work teams with more Singaporean men achieve lower results due to their disruptions although their colleagues are supposed to take over their duties. Their colleagues are already busy up to their ears with work to bother about other duties. Can a civil servant understand this? Because of lower results, the team members lose out on performance bonuses and promotion opportunities as the corporation will ultimately look at the financial results and not your sacrifice to the nation.
6. Singaporean men who have families also carry the responsibility for their small children such as ferrying them, emotional support of their spouse and children. These are lost every year.
7. How many reservist need to take time off every week for failing their IPPT and have to do RT?

Silence of the Lambs

"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”
Bishop Desmond Tutu

“And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and whereever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
Elie Wiesel

“Cowardice asks the question, Is it safe? Expediency asks the question, Is it politic? But conscience asks the question, Is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but because conscience tells one it is right.”
Martin Luther King, Jr

By keeping silent about issues whether it is political or family, you are also an accomplice to the crime.

“A most insidious form of fear is that which masquerades as common sense or even wisdom, condemning as foolish, reckless, insignificant or futile the small, daily acts of courage which help to preserve man\'s self-respect and inherent human dignity.”
Aung San Suu Kyi

“I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of rights.”
Bishop Desmond Tutu

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
Martin Luther King, Jr

“To avoid making a mistake, say nothing, do nothing and be nothing.”

“The ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.”
Martin Luther King, Jr

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”
Theodore Roosevelt

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers and for a time they seem invincible but in the end, they always fall - think of it, ALWAYS.” Mahatma Gandhi

“Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope and, crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.”
Robert F. Kennedy

“Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear--not absence of fear.”
Mark Twain

Friday, June 13, 2008

Swiss Do Total of About One Year Military

Swiss men spend only a total of about ONE year in their 30 year military life.

Today, military service for Swiss males is universal. At about age 20, every Swiss male goes through 118 consecutive days of recruit training in the Rekrutenschule. This training may be a young man's first encounter with his countrymen who speak different languages. (Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian and Romansch.)

Even before required training begins, young men and women may take optional courses with the Swiss army's M57 assault rifle. They keep that gun at home for three months and receive six half-day training sessions.
From age 21 to 32, a Swiss man serves as a "frontline" troop in the Auszug, and devotes three weeks a year (in eight of the 12 years) to continued training. From age 33 to 42, he serves in the Landwehr (like America's National Guard); every few years, he reports for two-week training periods. Finally, from ages 43, to 50, he serves in the Landsturm; in this period, he only spends 13 days total in "home guard courses."

Over a soldier's career he also spends scattered days on mandatory equipment inspections and required target practice. Thus, in a 30-year mandatory military career, a Swiss man only spends about one year in direct military service. Following discharge from the regular army, men serve on reserve status until age 50 (55 for officers).

More NS Deaths in Singapore

Time to relook at our NS system? After all, it has been 4 decades and the world has changed since then.

SAF suspends physical training after two deaths in two days
By Valarie Tan, Channel NewsAsia Posted: 12 June 2008 1715 hrs

SINGAPORE: In an unprecedented move, the Defence Ministry declared a three-day halt to all physical and endurance training activities in the army, navy and air force. The 'time-out' from 12-14 June follows the death of two servicemen in training within two days. 20-year-old Officer Cadet (OCT) Clifton Lam Jia Hao, a pilot trainee with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF), died on Wednesday, one-and-a-half hours after he collapsed while he was undergoing jungle orientation training in Brunei. A day earlier, 20-year-old army recruit Andrew Cheah Wei Siong died after he fainted while taking part in a two-kilometre walk training activity on Pulau Tekong. Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean said the suspension will allow the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) to review and re-focus on training activities to ensure that proper procedures are in place before training resumes. "While the SAF needs to carry out realistic training, this will be done without compromise to safety," added Mr Teo. The minister also extended his condolences to the families of Mr Cheah and OCT Lam. "I am saddened by the loss of two young and precious sons of Singapore," Mr Teo said in a statement. - CNA/ir

Checkout Joel's take on this saga.

& Molly Meek
Specters of Unnameable Soldiers: On Necessary Deaths & Singapore's Tragic Modernity

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

NS stint may hinder job prospects for S'poreans

ST Nov 20, 2006 (Published in Straits Times)

NS stint may hinder job prospects for S'poreans

WHEN I started business in the motor trade a couple of years ago, I was surprised that many companies are reluctant to employ Singaporeans for several reasons. One of the main ones is that most male Singaporeans have to serve two to three weeks' reservist training every year.As a Singaporean, I understandably want to support my own people and give our men an opportunity. So my company went against the grain by employing one permanent resident and one Singaporean where most other companies go with PRs.Both were equally hard working and resourceful. However, the Singaporean had in-camp training and when he failed his individual physical proficiency test (IPPT), he had to go for further training which meant that he had to leave work early. No such thing with PRs.Although the Government reimburse the employee during reservist training, a company employs someone because of his contribution to its profitability. Does the Government take loss of business into consideration?Small companies do not have the financial strength to bear the loss. Does this mean male Singaporeans can work only in large companies?

Reservist discrimination in

Mr Wang Say-so

Monday, March 24, 2008

Taiwan's NS reduced to 1 year from 2008

Taiwan's NS period has been reduced since 2005 and from 2008, NS is One year. Yes, you got is right! One year!

Singapore's Generals cannot escape from the 'Siege Mentality' and Singaporean males pay the price.