By Brian Koh / Image from www.mindef.gov
Yesterday, on 1 July 2014, it was SAF Day - The annual celebration of the Singapore Armed Forces that also acknowledges National Servicemen, those on active duty, on reservist duty, and those who have completed their entire tour of duty, as well as the Regular Personnel in Singapore.
Funny, I didn't feel acknowledged or appreciated, because I feel like I've only been punished by this system.
Let's put it this way, I'm pretty pudgy around the edges and I've had problems passing my annual physical fitness test since I left active duty in 2003, and for the past 7 years as a reserve in the army since I started my annual obligations in 2007 after completing university.
This means that since 2007, I've been fulfilling my National Service (NS) commitment on all fronts. I attend the annual in-camp training that is usually 3 weeks long, I fulfill all my duties with no disciplinary problems and work with my teammates and unit. I also take my physical fitness test every year, I just don't pass it. And because of that I'm punished.
For the physically fit (if you pass the annual test), they lose 3 weeks of their civilian life. For me, I lose up to an additional 12 weeks doing remedial training. Add that up, and I spend close to 4 out of 12 calendar months being involved with the army in some way.
I find that unacceptable because the military system is severely disrupting my personal and professional obligations in the civilian sectors of society. But for the last 7 years of my life, a quarter of it belongs to the army and all their rules that come with it.
It's unacceptable because I don't cause any problems to my teammates nor my superiors. In the grand scheme of National Service, I'm just another statistic. Someone who did not pass the physical fitness test. A percentage of failure that gets taken into consideration by some Colonel or General whose metric of career success is the percentage of National Servicemen who pass their annual physical fitness test, so that they receive their bonus (with my tax paying dollars) and move on to the next stage in their career, and be happy with their professional superiors and comfortably provide for their families.
The point I'm trying to make is that the National Service system severely disrupts the lives of civilians who fail an annual physical fitness test, by increasing their obligation to National Service by almost 4 times! That's harsh and I would argue unjust. It does not take into account the record of service or the original expectation of our supposed duty to the country. I've probably spent more time trying to pass this test than actually being a military reserve for the SAF.
So I ask, is that fair? Is this how you acknowledge your supposed "Sons of Singapore"? Those of us who fail the annual physical fitness test might be a minority, but we've also fulfilled the SAME obligations as everybody else, and anything more is a punishment.
Scrap the remedial training program altogether. As a deterrent it is unacceptable to my rights as a citizen.
The four points below will outline my next discussion point / argument against the current NS system:
- All Singaporean men are "considered conscripts" of this country until they hit MINDEF Reserve (MR) List
- Military law applies to men until they reach the point of MR
- The only time military law doesn't apply to men is when they fulfill the annual reservist commitment (Call-ups and IPPT)
- Military law takes *precedence* over the rights as a citizen until men fulfill their NS obligations for EACH SAF work year until they are released from service.
Having Military law take precedence over my civilian rights for up to 10 years / cycles or more (differing time periods each serviceman is released) just because we are "combat fit" / conscripted is a very, very high expectation to uphold, and a very, very long obligation has to fulfill.
This means, that 50% of Singapore's citizen population is expected to be under 10 years of Military law.
50% of NS Men pass their IPPT, meaning 25% of Singapore's citizen workforce is subjected to Military law *INSTEAD* of civil liberties.
I find that unacceptable as a citizen (acting on my citizen right to voice an opinion as well), and I would ask other Singapore citizens as well: Is this acceptable to you?
Is having 25% of Singapore's citizen workforce subject to 10 full years of Military law acceptable & is having another 25% of Singapore's citizen workforce subject to part-time Military law acceptable?
Because the way I look at it, being under Military law hardly qualifies as quality of life for 10 years.
And THAT is what needs to be changed, and hopefully discussed in parliament before the next General Elections.
Writer's note - The updated portion to the post was inspired by one of the commenters in the original facebook note posting.
This post was first published as Brian's facebook note.