Monday, August 30, 2010

Citizen NSmen to get $9k award

Sun, Aug 29, 2010
my paper

Citizen NSmen to get $9k award

By Gwendolyn Ng

SINGAPORE citizens who have served their national service will each receive $9,000 through a new award to be given by the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

The National Service Recognition Award (NSRA) will help to fund the cost of operationally ready national servicemen's (NSmen's) education and also help them buy a home. Commanders will receive a larger sum.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, who announced the implementation of the award at the National Day Rally yesterday, said: "It is a significant tangible recognition of the sacrifices, efforts and contributions of our national servicemen. It's for Singapore citizens only."

This will be a token of appreciation for the time and effort citizens give to serve national service, he added.

Mr Lee said: "National service makes a heavy demand on male residents and, I should say, on their spouses and families, too."

He elaborated that male Singapore residents not only have to serve two years of full-time national service and many more years as an NSman, but also try to build their careers and raise their families.

The sum will be paid in tranches at significant milestones of an NSman's service.

It will be deposited into their Post-Secondary Education Accounts and Central Provident Fund accounts.

Mindef will announce details of the award soon.

The award is one of the measures Mr Lee highlighted in a bid to assure Singaporeans that citizens come first.

He added that permanent residents who have completed their national service will receive the award when they take up citizenship.

He was addressing the issue of competition from foreign talent, where he pointed out that it was "not practical to make foreign workers and adult immigrants do national service".

However, Mr Lee pointed out that many PRs and first-generation citizens also do their part by serving national service.

Other ways in which the Government recognises the contributions and sacrifices of NSmen is through providing them with Safra clubhouses, allowances, tax reliefs and top-ups in government bonuses.

The award is good news to 20-year-old NSman Benjamin Huang, who said: "It's good to know that the Government is appreciative of our efforts.

"This will definitely help me pay my school fees when I go to university next year."

Read also: PM Lee's $9000 "Carrot" is an insult!


MINDEF unveils details of NS recognition award

Will $9000 make NSmen STFU and vote PAP?

Welcome the new: frack the old nsmen!

NSmen 'benefited from the peace and prosperity they've helped create'

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

National Service: View from a foreign mum

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

National Service: View from a foreign mum

If you cut through the platitudes, Ms Aarti Giri's letter (The Straits Times 20 August 2010) emphasizes several issues that defence information managers should not lose sight of even after 43 years of National Service.

The first concerns the gulf in attitudes towards NS among Singaporeans. Another red flag is the perception that NS is a sacrifice capped at the duration of a full-time National Serviceman's service to Singapore.

As increasing numbers of foreign-born citizens approach conscription age, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) and the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) - which account for the bulk of defence manpower - have little time to lose in calibrating their messages properly.

Every family that sinks its roots in the Lion City brings essentially the same mindset, outlook, fears and prejudices towards NS that Singaporeans harboured when conscription began in 1967. This gulf in attitudes between New Citizens and long-time citizens (Old Singaporeans?) is not easy to bridge.

Dumb down defence information messages for New Citizens and the tone of the messaging could be seen as smug and patronising by older folk.

Calibrate it for Singaporeans who have embraced full-time NS and you risk losing the New Citizens who have yet to buy into the lofty ideals of nation-building and national security.

More worrying is the fallout MINDEF/SAF will be saddled with should a New Citizen NSF end up as a training fatality. Going by probability and the rules of chance, it is only a matter of time before a training accident/incident/glitch that involves a New Citizen NSF triggers the proverbial wake-up call.

When the clarion call is sounded, will New Citizens be rattled?

And how will New Citizens who hail from caste-based societies react when their sons are commanded by someone from outside their social circle? Will centuries-old prejudices undermine their commitment to defence?

Chinese parents in the 1960s knew of the old saying that good sons do not become soldiers, just as good iron is not used as nails. After years of public education more or less erased that point of view, in comes the influx of foreign talent. The wheel has turned full circle and defence information managers may find themselves back at the start line, educating and engaging New Citizens with zero exposure to the military.

This is why MINDEF needs a Public Affairs Directorate (PAFF) at the top of its game. In my opinion, the time for rebuilding will have to begin in earnest after the Director Public Affairs (Designate), Colonel Desmond Tan Kok Ming, formally assumes command of PAFF next month.

Ms Giri's letter is useful because it exposes how expatriates feel towards NS.

She wrote: "I have often come across expatriates discussing how they can help their children avoid NS. To me, it is only fair that if one wants to become a permanent resident or call Singapore home, one should willingly serve because that is what every Singapore male does."

For Singapore's sake, one hopes her point of view is not in the minority.

If Ms Giri keeps it up, her attitude and pro-NS letters may, someday, win her a Total Defence Award.

Be that as it may, even converts such as Ms Giri seem to cling on to fallacies about NS.

She noted that "sacrificing two years of a man's career is a small price to pay for Singapore's safety and security".

This statement ignores the sacrifices that Operationally-Ready NSmen make every time they are called up for NS. It is an obligation that stretches till 40 for other ranks and the age of 50 for officers and key appointment holders.

So New Citizens will need to know, appreciate and accept the stark reality that NS is really a life-long commitment.

NS in Singapore is not a limited tenure, 24-months stint in which citizen soldiers serve and forget.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Free museum admission for NSmen: What good is that?

Free museum admission for NSmen: What good is that?

The government announced today that all NSmen will be granted free admission to NHB museums from August 1.

Minister Lui Tuck Yew said 'These visits will broaden your knowledge and enable you to share with friends and relatives why this country is special.'

Is this all the government can do to recognise our NSmen? Increasing an existing 50% discount to 100% free?

Yes, the announcement was concerning museum attendance and not NS benefits. But it shows what the government considers acceptable as benefits for NSmen/NSFs.

Back in August 2009, the RECORD committee set up to look into ways to recognise the effort of NSmen came up with lame suggestions like fitness corners, vouchers for the Singapore Discovery Centre (full of NE propaganda), clubhouses (with payable membership) and mementos (like the infamous NS watch).

Is that how we recognise the years of sacrifices, injuries and lost youth; with vouchers, free museum admission and fitness corners?

This is a government of the cheapest order.

Just look at how President Obama speaks to the wounded veterans of the various American-led wars (watch video below). Note that the US military is comprised entirely of those volunteering on their own free will. Yet, they are so well taken care of and highly recognised (personally and monetarily) and respected for their bravery and service to the nation.

The SAF is a forced-conscription military. Singaporean males cannot choose whether they want to give up two years of their prime youth and weeks of reservist duty. To add insult to injury, the government misuses the NSFs as free labour during NDP parades and shows.

With the influx of PRs and new citizens exempted from NS, the government will continue to face increasing anger and outrage from disaffected citizens used so callously in the name of national security.