Give up citizenship? Brothers must do NS first – Norwegian trio’s bids rejected (Alfresco forum)
Only those who haven’t enjoyed privileges of citizenship exempted, says Mindef
By Amelia Tan
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.
They were born in Singapore in the middle of the “Two is Enough” or “Stop at two”-period (1975-78). As such they had to follow the Father’s citizenship and was included on my passport within weeks after birth to avoid being deported as “illegal aliens”, although the Singapore Constitution gave them the right to a Singapore Citizenship.
As they got older they got their own Norwegian Passports, which had to be endorsed with a “Dependent Pass” to allow them to remain in Singapore. A letter from the Norwegian Embassy here confirms the facts.I was running my own small P/L company in Singapore at the time and held an Employment Pass.
We left Singapore in 1980 and moved to Norway in order for the boys to learn how to be Norwegians. They arrived there at the tender age of 4 1/2, 3 and 2 years.
None of them spoke a word of Norwegian but, thrown into a Kindergarten with all Norwegian kids, they quickly learnt. Within 6 months you could not hear the difference between them and their playmates, but we kept them speaking English at home.
In 1990 we moved back to Singapore to give them a grounding in their other identity. They arrived here as Norwegian Citizen and received a Social Visit Pass in their Norwegian Passport, like any other visitor. This was renewed a few times as we applied for places in Government Schools for them. But that stranded as they were not Singapore Citizen and required Student Pass to be accepted. They actually lost a full year of schooling in the process.
One day an Immigration Officer asked; “why do you apply for Student Pass for your sons, they are entitled to dual citizenship until 21, which give them the right to stay and study in Singapore until they are 21″
A few minutes later they had a stamp in their Norwegian passport to the affect. Nothing said that they would expose themselves to NS liabilities, or be refused their right to choose.
We managed to enrolled two in a private, but government sponsored school here. (Seventh-day Adventist School) The oldest studied for his O-levels as a private candidate.
Now we made a big mistake. They were offered Pink ICs, which we accepted on the understanding that they would be able to choose which citizenship to hold and which to renounce at 21 per Singapore Constitution and Citizenship Laws. Little did we know that this would be interpreted as an acceptance of NS liability later.
As the first son finished his O-levels, he left to further his study in Norway as a Photo Journalist.
While he was there the first letter from MINDEF rolled in. I replied that he was a Norwegian Citizen and was studying in Norway and to please defer him from NS registration until he returned to Singapore, which was granted.
At the time it was not clear to me which citizenship he, or his brothers, would chose at 21 as they had been groomed to make up their own mind when the time came.
On completion of the one-year course he enrolled in the Norwegian Army to do his National Service. Shortly after we were informed that he had volunteered for service in the Norwegian peace keeping contingent in Bosnia. He has later served in Lebanon, Kosovo and Afghanistan and is due to go back to Afghanistan to train the Afghan Army soon.
His youngest brother has followed in his footsteps and are due back in Afghanistan for the fourth time. He has also been in Kosovo twice earlier.
It therefore became quite clear that he had made up his mind which citizenship he wanted to retain and which to renounce. As he became 21, he sent in an application to renounce his right to Singapore Citizenship, which was promptly refused by MINDEF. He has not been back in Singapore since and he will be 33 in a few days time (9. Sept)
The other brothers also left on completion of O-levels and returned to Norway, as none of them found Singapore to their liking at the time. After all they had grown up with wide open spaces, mountains and the sea, and found Singapore to be too restricted to their liking.
As the youngest brother turned 30 earlier this year, they all sent in an application to renounce their right to Singapore Citizenship again, with the same result.
MINDEF insisted that they were defaulters from NS and should return to Singapore “to face the music”.
I have had numerous meetings with the person in charge of such cases at CMPB, sent letters to the Minister of Defence through our MP at the time and later through a Lawyer. I have also sent letter to the Registrar of Citizen, the Prime Minister (then Goh Chok Tong) and the President (the late Ong Teng Chong) but all letters were replied by the same person at CPMB, with the stock reply, NO.
This is NOT first and foremost a question of NS and where, or whether, it should be served. It is a question of the right of a person born with two citizenships to have the right to choose which to keep and which to renounce at the age of 21.
Once he/she have made their choice they will have to comply with whatever obligations that goes with it, whether military service or others.
To deny anybody this right is against UN Charter of Human Rights, and against the Singapore Constitution.
As it stands, our three sons are unable to visit family in Singapore without risking 3 years jail and S$ 10,000 fine, although they have complied with the law and renounced one of their two citizenships as required, and served National Service in the country to which they belong.
This may not affect all that many yet, but with the number of mixed marriages in Singapore today it will be more and more of a problem.
I have spent most of my life here and has a very clear understanding of the need for a strong defence, but to force foreign nationals to serve in SAF does NOT improve military readiness or moral.
We allowed the interview in Straits Times in the hope that we could get a discussion going on this subject, but the article published was angle in such a way the it appeared that our sons had left Singapore “just before they could be called up for NS” and joined the Norwegian Army to obtain Norwegian Citizenship.
Nothing could be further from the truth, which raises a question about the agenda of the Journalist, and her Editor.
This thread is not about migrating. This is for those who have made the decision and looking for help with some aspects. Others are welcome to throw in their view and experiences
Do note that things change over time.
Those with boy migrating and who leave these shores before their boys reach the age of 11 yrs are not obliged to do NS but have to follow the necessary procedures to get exemption. Passports expire at the age of 11 and that should be an indicator.
Once you have left, do not renew the passport, apply for NRIC etc as one is deemed to enjoyed the privileges of citizenship and NS become mandatory.
At age 13, apply to CMPB for exit visa stating that your family has migrated and the kids is enrolled in a school in the new country. No bond is required. CMPB uses an outsourced agency to handle call centre matters and they have no clue about migrant cases. Go directly to CMPB.
At age 16.5, you need to register for NS ( an interesting term as you are actually seeking deferment). You can do it by post to CMPB again citing that you have migrated, acquired new citizenship and the kids is schooling. You will be given deferment until the age of 21 where the kid must decide if they want to hold on their Singapore citizenship. If they do, than NS must be served. If not, exmeption for ever.
All Singaporeans, male and female cannot renounce their citizenship until age 21, and if they have acquired new citizenship, they will be dual citizens.
In the meantime, one can travel in and out of Singapore without bond and using the passport of their new country.
Those who left after 11 years, unfortunately are obliged to serve.
Note: If your child’s Singapore passport expires at the age of 11 and the family is not eligible for new citizenship, the kid will not be able to travel. Do resist the pain of not visiting Singapore unless you want him to serve NS. Do not let friends and extended family members make decisions for your kids.
Whatever it is, do be careful so that your kid can travel in and out of Singapore when he grows up and not be banned.