Heheh. Funny and sharp, this Ben Leong person. However, he also missed an important point. Read this part of his letter carefully:
Nov 29, 2005
Moral of story behind Mindef reply on NS case
I REFER to Mr Ben Nadarajan's commentary, '$5,000 fine for skipping NS? That's just not fine' (The Sunday Times, Nov 27), and the numerous articles and letters which have expressed indignation and unhappiness over the fact that pianist Melvyn Tan was slapped with only a fine of at most $5,000 for skipping national service.
It seems that the main point of contention is that given the market rate of time in the detention barracks (DB) for full-time national servicemen who go absent without official leave (AWOL), the imposition of only a fine on Mr Tan seems completely unfair. Or is it?
Mindef tried to explain the sense in this madness in the letter, 'Pianist dealt with, though he's no longer a citizen' (ST, Nov 24), but it seems that some people didn't get it, so I thought I would attempt to paraphrase its reply for their benefit.
Consider the following scenario: Suppose Mr Tan were born in the United States and he held dual citizenship up until he was 18. If so, he would have renounced his Singapore citizenship 31 years ago, gone on to become a famous pianist, and he would not have to pay the fine today. It so happens that he probably did not have dual citizenship 31 years ago and hence he did not have the option of doing what I described above (and finally renounced his citizenship only 27 years ago).
NSmen who go AWOL may get time in DB, but they also get to keep their citizenship and will enjoy government subsidies for secondary and tertiary education, HDB concession loans, IPPT monetary awards and New Singapore Shares. Mr Tan would probably have received only some educational and maybe health subsidies until he was 12, and none of the above.
This is the crux of the matter: $5,000 is neither the price of national service nor the price of citizenship. It really is the fee for renouncing Singaporean citizenship if you happen to be born to Singaporean parents in Singapore and delay renouncing your citizenship for four years - and, yes, you also have to throw in another 37 years of self-imposed exile to top it off.
This is the moral of the story: if you are a guy, get your parents to have you delivered in the US. Then, if you should later decide to renounce your Singapore citizenship just before the national-service call-up, you can save yourself $5,000 and a whole lot of hassle.
Ben Leong Wing Lup
The scenario which Ben describes is actually impossible. The sneaky Singapore government is too sneaky for that. See my comments in the comments section of my previous post about the Singapore constitution. The pianist Melvyn Tan could not have renounced his Singapore citizenship 31 years ago, because the Singapore government does not allow male Singaporeans below 18 to renounce their citizenship. At best Melvyn Tan could have tried to renounce his Singapore citizenship at age 21 (which the government may or may not allow, in the case of male Singaporeans who have not done their NS). If you do some calculations, you'll find that Melvyn indeed renounced his Singapore citizenship approximately as soon as he legally could try to do so. He probably initiated the process 28 years ago, upon turning 21. And the paperwork was probably successfully completed one year later (27 years ago) when he turned 22.Consider the following scenario: Suppose Mr Tan were born in the United States and he held dual citizenship up until he was 18. If so, he would have renounced his Singapore citizenship 31 years ago, gone on to become a famous pianist, and he would not have to pay the fine today. It so happens that he probably did not have dual citizenship 31 years ago and hence he did not have the option of doing what I described above (and finally renounced his citizenship only 27 years ago).
Also Singapore does not allow you to hold dual citizenship. You can have PR status in another country, but you cannot have dual citizenship. Article 134 of the Singapore Constitution says so. So that's another reason why Ben Leong's scenario could not possibly have happened.
Aren't you people glad that you have Mr Wang's blog to read? You learn so many things here that you would never learn from reading the Straits Times.
Mr Wang's Unusual Views
Earlier I had commented on this case from the legal perspective. Now I will consider it from a more personal point of view.
And I say this - I am happy for Melvyn Tan.
My opinion - and I fully acknowledge that others will have different opinions - is this:
What is good for the system is often bad for the individual. And while NS may be good or necessary for the state of Singapore, it is generally a waste of time and a lot of suffering for the individual male citizen. If Melvyn successfully escaped the system, then I, as an individual, am happy for Melvyn, as an individual.
I know that many people will disagree with my philosophy. Most of us Singaporean men know from experience that the poor souls who got abused and bullied the most in the army will often become abusive and cruel themselves. When they finish their training and graduate from their course and rise in rank to become instructors, they start to abuse new recruits and trainees the same exact way they were once abused - the same exact way they once found so utterly unacceptable and wrong. A sadistic streak suddenly manifests in their hearts, when they get a little bit of power in their hands. They derive some perverted sense of vindication and revenge in seeing the newbies suffer.
Mr Wang does not subscribe to this kind of philosophy. Just because you have suffered and been abused does not make it a good thing for other people to suffer and be abused as well. Extending this line of thinking a little further - Mr Wang does not think that just because the average male Singaporean has had the terrible misfortune of wasting two years of his life in NS, he has any real justification to get angry and jealous that another male Singaporean, namely Melvyn Tan, managed to "beat the system" and avoid that terrible misfortune. If every single person, without exception, suffers a terrible misfortune, no single person benefits anyway. The collective amount of misfortune simply grows bigger.
There are a few other things about Mr Wang, an INTJ, that you might not know. Mr Wang loves to see people beat the system. Mr Wang loves to see people chase their dreams. Mr Wang loves people who dare to shine. Mr Wang does not love the SAF. Mr Wang does not love conformists. Mr Wang does not believe in herd instinct. Mr Wang does not believe in wasting talent. In other words, Mr Wang is a classic INTJ. His personality profile is such that he cannot help but love the Melvyn Tan story. Well done, Melvyn, and congrats!
Go forth, Melvyn Tan, shine for the rest of your musical career, and do Singapore proud. You do Singapore a lot more good as a world-famous musician, than you could ever have done as just another faceless SAF cook / clerk / driver / rifleman / storeman / PTI / medic / GD man / lobo / tankee / RP /fatal-statistic-in-yet-another-ROC-training-accident.
Statistically, INTJs form less than 1.5% of the human race and Mr Wang is well aware that the more-common personality types in the male Singapore population will probably disagree with his views as expressed above.