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.