Wednesday, March 2, 2011
I read the news report on the Straits Times that the Second Minister for Defence says that there's, "no operational needs to justify drafting women for National Service".
The Minister was further reported by the Straits Times, "Dr Ng also said national service is based on the three fundamental principles: National security and survival, universality and equity. And to impose conscription unnecessarily on a large segment of the population would dilute its purpose."
I am amazed at how the Minister can claim mandatory conscription as being equal and universal when it only applies to male citizens and second generation male permanent residents (PR)? Female citizens and permanent residents as well as first generation male permanent residents are not subject to national service. Can we say something is equal when it is not applied universally regardless of sex and to some extent, nationality or residency status?
Mind you, national service is MANDATORY for male citizens and 2nd generation male PRs. There is no such thing as conscientious objection and serving in another capacity. If you do that you will be charged under the Enlistment Act and jailed for three years using Jehovah Witnesses' detainees in Kranji Detention Barracks as the "market" for the penalties for not complying with the Enlistment Act.
What universality are we talking about in a system that forcibly conscripts 18 to 20 year olds male citizens (and 2nd generation male PRs) into service into the Singapore Armed Forces, the Singapore Civil Defence Force and the Singapore Police Force?
What equality are we talking about when male citizens have to go through 2 years (previously up to 2.5 years) of full-time national service followed by 10 year (previous 13 years) reservist obligations that requires one to:
- Take and pass annual individual physical proficiency tests (or be subject to remedial training regime) and also risk dying from running the 2.4 km (a soldier from my reservist unit died during in-camp IPPT).
- Be away from work or business ranging from 2 days to 3 weeks for annual in-camp training which does not help your career or business when competing against foreigners who compete with you for your job.
- Join the workforce or go for further studies in the university two years later than your female peers and foreign peers.
- Report to Mindef Notification Centre every time you leave Singapore for more than 24 hours.
- Subject to annual operations manning and have half to three-quarters of a weekend burned to report for mobilisation exercises.
- Waste 2-2.5 years in national service doing fatigue (i.e. odd jobs) in the camp such as area cleaning, weeding, cleaning drains, manholes, washing staircases, cleaning the cookhouse in between training exercises and actual soldiering.
There is no EQUALITY and UNIVERSALITY to speak of in NS. It only applies to some extent within those of us who are male citizens and 2nd generation PRs. And this group is closer to 25-30% of the population given that only 60+% are citizens and half are male. Effectively, only 1 in 3 serve for protect the rest of Singapore.
That is why many NSmen are asking the fundamental question that has been festering in our minds since our first reservist ICT to the last before we were transferred to Mindef Reserve.
What are we fighting for?
What equality does the Minister speak of in a system where the rights and responsibilities are skewed AGAINST the male citizen. We bear the brunt of national service obligations and duty but are not granted any really significant privileges. The recent election budget only doles out an additional $100 for the Growth Dividends. Do you think it is worth risking your life for the system that doles out that little $100 extra (during election years)? When the reality in the workplace is that 1st generation PR or foreigner on employment pass is competing in your face without any of the obligations of national service to take him away from the job for 2 days-3 weeks? (Update: I note that the Government will give $9,000 to NSFs and NSmen depending on their NS cycle but this only applies to those who have not finished their operationally-ready national service cycle. Those of us "old" NSmen who are in Mindef Reserve or demobilised are not entitled to this CPF top-up of $9,000).
Let's ask the families of those NSFs/NSmen who died in their service to duty, honour and country. Would they think NS in its current form is based on equality and universality?
Source: The Straits Times (3 March 2011)
NS for women? No need, says minister
Second Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said there were no operational needs to justify drafting women for National Service.
THE Singapore Armed Forces will not draft women for national service because there are no operational needs to justify doing so, said Second Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen yesterday.
Dr Ng also said national service is based on the three fundamental principles: National security and survival, universality and equity. And to impose conscription unnecessarily on a large segment of the population would dilute its purpose.
'From time to time, there have been calls to extend NS beyond this remit, to fulfil social objectives or otherwise. While these objectives are laudable, we must not dilute the restriction of NS only to critical needs of national security and survival, and base it on the three fundamental principles.
'At present, there are no operational needs that justify imposing upon women to serve NS,' he said.
Dr Ng was responding to Nominated MP Viswa Sadasivan's call to let women volunteer for NS. Mr Viswa described such a move as a 'meaningful gesture' that would 'send a potent signal'.
'The numbers may not be large, but I am confident we have a critical mass of Singaporeans who will step forward,' he said during the debate on the budget of the Defence Ministry.