Sunday, June 6, 2010

Problems in deferment for NSMen

Problems in deferment for NSMen

Readers of TR,

I believe I am not the only person doing his best to balance between reservist, work, family and study life. The government encourages us to study and so I did a part-time degree in UniSim with government grant.

However I am experiencing such difficult and unreasonable situations with my reservist deferment unit. Ever since I started studying last year, I found out that I’m not eligible for deferment because it is not a local university like NTU/NUS/SMU. However, in order to be eligible for grant, it has to be a local university in which UniSim is recognised by the Government. But its not a university recognised by Mindef. I wonder why is there a difference in view between Mindef and the Government?

depressionMindef officers later called me to work out with my commander(CO), I believe them at first. On the first day, I was told by CO that I should planned out my study without affecting my NS work. He does not understand that studying part-time(night class) in Unisim also have to do the assignments and submit them. If I’m not able to leave for class, how am I able to study effectively and submit assignments which will affect my grades? He does not have an answer and was bent on NOT working with me.

On Mindef’s website, they mentioned that if you have ROMs/local wedding, you can get deferred. This year is a good year for me to get married. Therefore I applied for deferment. However, I get a different opinion once again from my Unit and Mindef views. The same commander and other officers rejected my marraige deferment this year. They said I have to work out with my commander again. I doubt that is going to happen.

For 2 straight years, I get caught in these kind of situations. I have not been following much on army news but I recall Mindef is transforming. However, all I see is that it is transforming into a more harsh, critical and less understanding organization and that the peoples’ best interests are not served.

So much of the talk about growing Singapore’s population.


Discourage Singaporean

Editor’s note: Letter was published verbatim.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Issue of NS for Singaporean Men Part II

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Issue of NS for Singaporean Men Part II
Well, I have to said that NS is good for Singapore, but there are many ways for PRs to "Siam" or dodge NS using many methods. I quote an Anonymous who commented:

" It's been like that for 40 years already. Just that the problem is much more acute now due to much harsher competition in the real world. 30 yrs ago, you can still fully pay your HDB flat within 10 years and raise a family of 2 kids even though you don't even have full 'O'-Level qualification. Today even if you have degree, you still need to stay with your parents until 33, 35 yr old in order to save up enough to pay the deposit for the govt pigeon-hole in the sky. If you don't have degree, be prepared to live like foreign workers and S-Pass workers in your own country.

This thing about male PRs has been on-going for over 20 years already. I have a neighbour where whole family took up PR almost 20 years ago. Both parents hold high-paying jobs in the finance sector, so S'pore govt probably begged them to take up PR. My neighbour also quietly told me that PR allowed him practically all the benefits of citizenship e.g. subsidised school fees for his 3 children, subsidised fees in govt hospitals, ability to buy resale HDB for investment etc.

The real kicker came when this neighbour's son completed 'A'-levels. Immediately the son gave up his PR, and was sent to US university to study. This boy and his family enjoyed all the privileges similar to citizen, and yet when it came time to reciprocate responsibility, they packed the son off overseas without any punishment or repercussion. The rest of the family -- father, mother and 2 grown-up daughters -- still keep their PRs as they have no NS-liability. That son worked 2 years in US after graduation, and recently came back to a high-paying job in S'pore as a foreign talent, earning over $150K a year at age 25. At 25 yr old, most of our local guys have only just graduated and have to fight tooth & nail with China and India "FTs" for $2K-$2.5K jobs."

Really irony isn't it? So we used to said in Camp "Squeeze balls"! But this thing not camp issues or instructors or officers make us Squeeze balls, but our PR loop holes :(

Thursday, June 3, 2010

And You Tell Me A Singapore Passport Is Priceless!

And You Tell Me A Singapore Passport Is Priceless!

So sorry to just jump up on all of you like that after close to a month of not posting and then diving deep into a chant-like rant. But really, the impetus for this post is this nagging frustration I have had over the past 10 years and a sudden desire to transcribe the abstract ideas into prose.

Well, it just happens that I am about to collect my new passport (it’s still a red one, unfortunately, if you happen to make some remote connection) tomorrow and have been flipping the pages of my old one. It is a respectable booklet which has served me well, in my honest opinion. It has identified me to numerous customs officers, gained me entry to many countries, and unbelievably survived 6 separate trips to the singapore immigrations and customs authority (aka passport office) for extensions to its validity.

“6 trips to the passport office in 10 years?!” you must be thinking now, “is this person a criminal or what?”

I’m sure that the common person’s experience with passports is a simple one: collect passport from passport office, use it till it expires in, perhaps, 10 years time, done deal. No, I apologise, not for me. My passport was issued in October 2000, and expired in July 2001. Yes, however impossible, that’s what’s written on its photo page.

Which is the reason why I always get one, if not two, stares from customs officers each time I travel. I do not blame them – just imagine if you were the officer at Washington Dulles who, in March 2010, was presented with this passport which has ‘expired’ for 9 years!

Continuing on with the customs officer role play, you would then be told by none other than myself to “flip down a couple pages”. What you will subsequently see confirms your suspicions of my ‘criminal past’.

~~~flips 2 pages~~~
- 9 month extension in March 2001
- 2 year extension in May 2001
~~~flips another 2 pages~~~
- 2 year extension in October 2002
- 2 year extension in June 2004
- 2 year extension in November 2005
~~~flips another 2 pages~~~
- 3+ year extension in May 2007

By the time you actually flip to the correct “passport extension” stamp, you would not only be irritated, but also puzzled all the same. “Why was this young man given a restricted passport? What crime did he commit?”

Truth be told, I have never committed any crime. This passport pain in the butt is also not an isolated case. In fact, every Singaporean male of my era (they scrapped passport restrictions on NS-liable Singaporean males in 2006) has experienced it before.

The incredibly long afternoon queues at the passport office (which really were incredibly long) just before an overseas trip to extend our passports; the odd stares from customs officers in foreign lands; the hassle of not being totally sure of our passport’s expiry date each time we fill those customs forms out on claustrophobic airplane seats. That was the price we paid since age 11 for the paranoid and autocratic policies of our government.

Yes, when I was only 11 years old, my government was so afraid of my leaving the country to escape military conscription that they issued me a passport which was only valid for 9 months. It signals paranoia when the government of a country which is not at war forces all males into 2 year conscriptions. A panic attack occurs when such a government pre-empts AWOL attempts and implements unnecessarily strict passport restrictions on all 11 year old males.

I’m not here to effect any changes – those passport controls have been abolished since 2006. I, however inappropriate this may sound, am just here to rant. You may be a Singaporean female or non-Singaporean, and do not know how being issued a passport which is valid for 9 months feels like. Let me tell you straight in the face now: it sucks.

Many people have ridiculed my every attempt at bringing up the topic of migration. They typically centre on one main argument: that the red little booklet gains you visa-free access to a buffet selection of countries. They then tell anecdotes of non-singaporean friends having to go through the troublesome motions of applying for visas, and expect me to conclude that a singapore passport is best. Well, haven’t I been experiencing that all this while? If we summed up the total amount of time I spent queuing at the passport office for passport extensions, I think it would be enough time to apply for all the visas I would have ever needed in the past 10 years. And how about my 2 year conscription? 2 years is definitely enough time to apply for all the visas the world can offer you ten times over.

And now you tell me a singapore passport is priceless? So sorry, I must be blind!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Monday, May 31, 2010

Risking Life and Limb as a Conscript in the Lion City

The recent news of how not just one but two SAF servicemen (one a regular, the other a full-time NSF) were shot and injured by Thai farmer discharging his shotgun shows how one risks life and limb in mandatory conscription in the Singapore Armed Forces.

It was fortunate that no-one was killed but the regular serviceman now has a serious eye injury. The NSF is now living with pellets embedded in his skin possibly for life. How is he going to be compensated (if any) by the SAF for this accident?

Again it shows up how the scale of benefits and responsibilities is tilted against the Singaporean male citizen who has to serve full-time and reservist national service in the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Police Force and Singapore Civil Defence Forces.

Our young male citizens are risking life and limb; protecting us with their lives and in return, they are amply rewarded with Safra/Home Team Club memberships (which they have to pay their own subscriptions) and get the few thousand tax relief (and not rebate!). Do you think that human life is worth a few hundred dollars in tax savings and the additional $50 or $100 top-ups from the Government that occurs on the occasional year?

Do you think this is a fair exchange given that female citizens do not serve the same responsibilities and neither do first generation male Permanent Residents, female PRs and foreigners who enjoy the economic benefits of working and living in Singapore but none of the requisite responsibilities imposed by this archaic and wasteful system of conscription?

Is duty, honour and country the only thing male citizens can cling to in understanding why there is an uneven playing field for competing for jobs in Singapore Inc?

Why are we still clinging on to an out-dated system of mandatory conscription when many developed countries have either shortened their NS liabilities (e.g. Taiwan, South Korea etc) and even our neighbours Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand depend mostly on regulars and supplemented with a small group of conscripts (Thailand by lottery) or volunteers (Malaysia)?

Don't give me the old propaganda/national education spiel about Singapore being too small to deploy a fully professional force type of argument. When your defence budget of about $13 billion annually is 2-3x your neighbour's, you can afford to plough some of that budget into funding a fully professional army. It should be noted that our Navy and Air Force is staffed mostly by regulars or professional soldiers.

Conscription is an anarchronism in today's world. It is less about mobilising the citizenry to military defence than a mechanism to enslave the young male citizens to a system of compliance, obedience and fear of authority.

Why else do we have a system when clearly there is sufficient money to fund a fully professional army that is more suited to fight the low intensity conflict that is characterised by the war on terrorism?

Majullah Singapura.