Mindef should spell out NS deferment criteria

This letter appeared in the Straits Times Forum.

DR PATRICK Tan’s deferment of his national service (NS) for 12 years (‘Patrick Tan on his medical studies’; last Saturday) brings to mind the stories of many other talented Singaporeans who were not allowed to defer their NS.

Some are talented musicians, sportsmen or artists who have qualified for prestigious schools or have trained hard enough to don national colours for competitions. The Ministry of Defence’s (Mindef) stock reply is that national servicemen are granted deferment only in rare and exceptional cases. After reading Dr Tan’s clarification, I cannot help but ask what the thus far unspecified criteria are that would allow for discretionary deferment.

Dr Tan’s case suggests to me that budding musicians, artists or sportsmen are deemed less important than future doctors or scientists. If Singapore is to be vibrant and enriching, talented citizens in any field should be supported.

What are the necessary conditions for deferment? Mindef’s transparency will set the record straight and help in future appeals.

Lim Guay Cheng (Ms)

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