New People’s Action Party (PAP) candidate, Dr Janil Puthucheary, says that he “felt it was important to step up and stand forward to advocate on behalf of those who can’t do so for themselves, or aren’t heard.” He was responding to a question posed to him on his Facebook page on what he thought of Mr Chen Show Mao (Workers’ Party’s potential candidate) serving his National Service (NS), while he did not.
“I did not do NS, Mr Chen did, those are the facts, yes,” he said.
Dr Janil is 38-years old and is a pediatrician. He received his Singapore citizenship three years ago.
Mr Chen, 50, was born in Taiwan and moved to Singapore when he was 11-years old. Mr Chen had volunteered to serve his NS before he became a Singapore citizen in 1986.
The comparison between the two men have led to criticisms of Dr Janil not doing what most Singaporean men are required by law to do – dedicating two years of their lives to serving the nation. As the criticisms mounted, Dr Janil finally responded in late March. According to the local press, he was reported thus:
“…As for criticism that he did not serve national service, as he became a Singapore citizen at the age of 35, the pediatrician said he has been in public service: ‘I’ve spent the last 10 years saving kids’ lives.’”
This led to further outrage as critics saw his answer as equating what he does as a profession to what Singaporeans do as an act of patriotism, besides the fact that as a pediatrician he is paid more than the average NSman.
In his reply on his Facebook page, while acknowledging that Mr Chen has done his NS and he did not, Dr Janil seems to avoid commenting any further than that.
National Service is not the only controversy surrounding the new PAP face who is expected to be fielded as a PAP candidate in Pasir Ris-Punngol GRC, under the wings of Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean.
In an earlier interview, he was asked if he was angry about the 10-month detention of his father, Mr Dominic Puthucheary, under the Internal Security Act (ISA) in 1963. Dr Janil said he “could not express any anger for that.” He said “it was something… that happened in the long history that we were told about. It wasn’t something that we lived with or we knew of ourselves.” He seemed to pledge support for the ISA, despite what his father had gone through, when he said, “The potential uses for that law after 9/11 are very different. I may philosophically argue with some aspects of policy. But the philosophy is not as important as the pragmatic implications for our state, security and country.” (Asia One)
His remarks were criticised, particularly by online commentators, for seemingly supporting the stand that things like the right to an open trial, access to counsel, and burden of proof, were not important as important as the “pragmatic implications for our state.”
On his Facebook page, Dr Janil also said he is giving his first speech (as an MP) “a lot of thought”. But he said “this is premature” as he has not been elected or even nominated yet.
He says his focus now is to “demonstrate” his sincerity and “earn the trust of the residents.”
Dr Janil’s latest comments on his lack of a National Service stint will probably fuel more criticisms. It is left to be seen if the PAP will address this head-on. The party has so far kept mum about it.