The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has issued a second statement regarding Fulham footballer Benjamin Davis’ application for the deferment of his National Service (NS) duties.
In an official reply to media queries dated 18 July, MINDEF declared that granting the exemption to him “would severely undermine the ethos and sacrifice of Singaporeans who have all put aside their personal interests to complete their NS duties”, as the midfielder has “no intention” to fulfil his NS obligations.
The Ministry said that while they “recognise Mr. Benjamin Davis’ achievement in securing a senior contract with Fulham Football Club (FC)”, they have expressed their belief that Davis’ signing with Fulham is a personal pursuit, and not one that explicitly represents Singapore.
MINDEF said that “deferment from National Service (NS) is granted for exceptional sportsmen to represent our national interest and not their own career development”, such as in the case of Joseph Schooling, Singapore’s first-ever gold medallist for swimming, and in any sport, in the Olympics.
The Ministry also stated that during the deferment application process, Mr Davis’ father “would not commit to a date” and “expressed that he would put Mr Davis’ professional career first” when asked about Davis’ asked about his son’s date of return with regards to carrying out his NS duties.
MINDEF added that Mr Davis “went on to sign the contract despite the rejection for deferment” and that he has publicly declared that he would encourage his son to “renounce his Singapore citizenship in order to pursue his career”.
“As his father openly admitted, he is looking out for his son’s future, not Singapore’s. They have no intention of returning to fulfil their son’s NS duties, especially if Mr [Benjamin] Davis is given a full professional contract after the two years of his senior contract.”
“To allow deferment for this type of appeal, would severely undermine the ethos and sacrifice of Singaporeans who have all put aside their personal interests to complete their NS duties,” said MINDEF.
MINDEF concluded its statement by saying that “Many talented sportsmen, including footballers, have completed their NS dutifully first before pursuing their professional careers,” suggesting that Davis’ request for deferment is not at all necessary in their view.
This is because “MINDEF has in place schemes during full-time NS to enable them to continue training to retain and improve their skills.”
MINDEF also further highlighted the fact that NS obligations should not, and have not, halted the progress of many NSFs, as the Ministry has been providing “additional training opportunities in the lead-up to major games such as the Southeast Asian and Olympic Games, where our sportsmen represent Singapore and do us proud”.
Appeal to defer Benjamin Davis’ NS obligations must be based on new facts, otherwise rejected: MINDEF
Previously, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) has declared that an appeal made by footballer Benjamin Davis to defer National Service (NS) obligations will most likely be rejected if it is found that new facts are absent from said appeal.
Speaking at a visit to Tuas Naval Base on 17 July, Senior Minister of State for Defence, Mr Heng Chee How said: “All applications, all appeals have to be based on facts, and we will have to evaluate the facts. And if the facts are no different, then our position will be consistent.”
“On the subject of deferment, the criteria that MINDEF uses to assess applications have been transparent and have been consistent over time, so there is no movement of the goal posts on the part of MINDEF or the SAF [Singapore Armed Forces],” said Mr Heng.
He added that “we have got to make a good balance between our duty to this country and also our very genuine urge to enable everybody to reach their highest potential”.
Only three athletes – Joseph Schooling, Quah Zheng Wen and Maximilian Soh – have met MINDEF’s deferment criteria in the past 15 years, according to The Straits Times.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) have declared their strong support for Davis’ request to MINDEF to defer his NS obligations in a press release dated 17 July, and have also stated their willingness to assist Davis and his family in a bid to “persuade” MINDEF to accept the merits of his application, as well as to “assuage MINDEF’s concerns” over his NS obligations.
Davis’ application for NS deferment rejected due to failure to “meet the criteria for long-term deferment”
In a statement on 15 July, MINDEF announced that Davis’ application for NS deferment was not approved, as he “does not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from full-time NS”.
“As all male Singaporeans liable for full-time NS put aside personal pursuits to dutifully enlist and serve their NS, it would not be fair to approve applications for deferment for individuals to pursue their own careers and development.
“Very few applications have been approved over the years and based on criteria which are made known to the public.
In sports, deferments are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions like the Olympic Games and are potential medal winners for Singapore.
In the last 15 years, only three have met this criteria,” MINDEF explained.
The decision was made in consultation with the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth, according to MINDEF.
Davis and his parents were informed regarding the decision on 11 Jun.
“Mr Davis was also notified that he is due for enlistment and must dutifully serve NS along with others in his cohort,” said MINDEF.