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New Zealand teenager to serve national service in Singapore or face jail-time and fines

In a report by Stuff.co.nz, it is said that Singapore authorities has demanded a New Zealand teenager to turn up for his pre-service medical check-up or face jail terms, or fines.

Brandon Smith, 19, was born in Singapore and had moved to Dunedin, New Zealand with his family when he was eight years old. Brandon's mother, Cindy was born in Singapore, now a Permanent Resident in New Zealand while his father, Shane is of New Zealand born.

Brandon currently holds dual citizenship of Singapore and New Zealand. As a Singapore male citizen, he is obliged by law to serve National Service.

Now Brandon is asked to turn up for his pre-enlistment medical check-up in Singapore or face two years in jail, or a fine of S$10,000.

In the report, Brandon was quoted to have said, "I don't see the point of it, really. It's sort of a waste of time to go there and just come back anyway," He has also reportedly said that he does not speak Chinese, and would be treated as an outsider since he is a New Zealand citizen.

He also pointed that the monthly wages would not be able to cover his expenses in Singapore as he would need to look for his own accommodation after the initial three months Basic Miltary Training phase and he would not want to impose on his family.

An application to defer his national service until the age of 21 has been declined on numerous occasions, despite the Singaporean authorities granting his younger brother Kristen a deferment.

Under the Singapore law, a citizen of Singapore can only renounce his/her Singapore citizenship if he/she is of or over the age of 21 years.

His father, Shane Smith, reportedly said that they have run out of options. "Obviously for Brandon, it's not what we want. If he doesn't go back to Singapore to serve his NS, then he can never enter Singapore because he runs the risk of being arrested," said Shane.

NS defaulters can also be arrested if they transit through Singapore's airport.

Shane has been corresponding with Member of Parliaments in Singapore and bureaucrats for years to help his son avoid conscription. He reportedly said, ""Absolutely no one would accommodate us. It was always the same answer; 'we regret to inform you that Brandon has to serve National Service',"

Clare Curran, a Member of Parliament in Dunedin South is said to have appealed to New Zealand's Minister for Foreign Affairs Murray McCully in a letter to help the family. She reportedly said, "We have a 19-year-old who has left school with his life in front of him, he considers himself a New Zealand citizen and has no identification with Singapore and yet he is expected to do a national service," and added, "I think it's a really good case for New Zealand to be sticking up for its citizens."

The Foreign Affairs minister said that he intends to take the matter up. Mr McCully reportedly said, "While the Singapore Government is responsible for determining their own citizenship policies, I have considerable sympathy for the situation this family has found themselves in,"

So far, many online commenters have lambasted Brandon's comments made about National Service, his desire to renounce his Singapore citizenship and his dual citizenship. However, many seem to not understand the fact that Brandon can only renounce his citizenship at the age of 21 and by default, require to serve National Service after the age of 16.

Apparently, parents could inform MINDEF of the above scenario if their child is before the age of 11. For more information, visit this NS dedicated page by Singapore Expats.

MINDEF gives no answers to number of NS defaulters

In 2014, then-Nominated Member of Parliament, Assoc Prof Tan Kheng Boon Eugene asked the Minister for Defence three questions about the National Service defaulters in Singapore.

He asked;

  1. What is the number of ex-PRs who did not serve their NS but are currently studying, working or living in Singapore or are now Singapore PRs or citizens;
  2. What is the justification for allowing these persons to be able to reside in Singapore, be re-instated as PRs, or granted citizenships; and
  3. What percentage of applications for renewal of Re-Entry Permits made by the parents and family members of ex-PRs who did not serve their NS had been adversely affected and, if so, in what manner.

In response, Minister of Defence, Dr Ng Eng Hen gave a pretty much non-answer to Prof Tan's question.

"Permanent Residents (PRs) who fail to register or enlist for National Service have committed an offence under the Enlistment Act. They are NS defaulters and must answer for their NS offences. Under the Enlistment Act, NS defaulters shall be liable on conviction to a fine or to imprisonment.

As previously stated, PRs who renounce their PR status before serving their NS liability also face serious adverse consequences when they subsequently apply for work and study. No such persons have been granted re-instatement of PR or citizenship in our records. For work and study, the policy has been progressively tightened such that no NS-liable PR who renounced his PR status in the last decade has been granted approval for work or study.

In addition, for ex-PRs who fail to serve NS, any immediate or future applications for renewal of their parents’ and immediate family members’ Re-Entry Permits may be adversely affected, including curtailment of the Re-Entry Permit."