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MINDEF’s new argument against Ben Davis: He will go AWOL if we defer his NS

MINDEF yesterday (18 Jul) now said that it rejected teenage footballer Ben Davis’ deferment request because there was no intention by the family to ensure that the 17-year-old will fulfil his national service (NS) duties. This was reported in ST today (19 Jul).

Replying to media queries, MINDEF explained that “when asked during the deferment application process when Mr Davis intended to return and serve NS, Mr Davis’ father would not commit to a date and expressed that he would put Mr Davis’ professional career first”.

MINDEF revealed that the Davis family was told about the rejection of Ben’s NS deferment request on Jun 11. But on Jun 29, Ben went ahead to sign a 2-year contract with Fulham FC even though he is supposed to return to enlist in December.

This suggested to MINDEF that “Mr Davis’ actions are meant to further his own professional career, not national interest. 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 Davis is given a full professional contract after the two years of his senior contract,” said MINDEF, which somehow is able to read the minds of Davis family members.

“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,” MINDEF added.

MINDEF earlier said Ben doesn’t meet long-term deferment criteria from NS

Earlier on last Sunday (15 Jul), MINDEF announced that it was not able to grant NS deferment for Ben as he “does not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from Full-time NS”.

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”, MINDEF said few days ago.

Thus, “it would not be fair to approve applications for deferment for individuals to pursue their own careers and development”.

In the last 15 years, only three have met such criteria, added MINDEF. One of them was Joseph Schooling.

Response from Ben’s father

In response to the latest accusation from MINDEF, Ben’s father, Mr Harvey Davis, said he had worked through the Football Association of Singapore, Sport Singapore (SportSG) and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) over Ben’s deferment, but had not met anyone from MINDEF.

Mr Harvey Davis said, “In my discussions with SportSG and MCCY, I was clear that Ben should do his NS, but the question is just when. This point was reiterated in an e-mail response which was sent to MCCY on May 15, 2018.”

It is noted that Mr Harvey Davis’ eldest son William had already completed his NS, which shows that the Davis family is all for NS.

“I agree 100 per cent that Ben should do his national service… My older boy has already completed his NS and both Ben and his younger brother Jai will also complete their NS. The only question is timing as we would like to give him the best opportunity to play at the highest possible professional level in the UK and Europe. If Ben does not get a renewed contract or new contract by May 2020, then he should return to serve his NS,” added Ben’s father.

He noted that in the e-mail to MCCY, he explained that they were unable to commit to a date for Ben’s return as there was a possibility the midfielder could be offered a new two-year contract next year “or that he could be sent out on loan or sold to another club”.

“As I have stated in my e-mail to MCCY on May 15, 2018, Ben will return to Singapore and serve his national service if he doesn’t get an extension of the current two-year contract,” he said.

MINDEF was not swayed. It said, “Many talented sportsmen, including footballers, have completed their NS dutifully first before pursuing their professional careers. Mindef has in place schemes during full-time NS to enable them to continue training to retain and improve their skills.”

But of course, a contract to play in a world-class EPL club may not be there anymore after Ben’s NS.

MINDEF continued, “We also provide additional training opportunities in the lead-up to major games such as the South-east Asian and Olympic Games where our sportsmen represent Singapore and do us proud.”

National sports agency SportSG which falls under MCCY headed by Grace Fu, continued to say it supports the decision from MINDEF, which comes under Ng Eng Hen.

SportSG then gave a rather incomprehensible and cryptic response to the media, saying it will work with national sports associations “to ensure that there are specific whole team strategies that would enable more coherent support to be delivered”.

MINDEF’s responses ridiculed

Popular financial blogger Leong Sze Hian went through some of MINDEF’s responses with his circle of friends and all had a good laugh. Some of the comical comments made were published on his blog:

“What does MINDEF expect his father to do – don’t sign the contract (and throw his son’s future into the drain!) – of course any father would just sign first so that at least he can appeal to MINDEF and still keep the possibility alive lah”

“This kind of reasoning and excuse from MINDEF is really lame lah!”

“What’s so wrong with a father saying that he is looking out for his son’s future – does MINDEF really expect him to wayang and jia jia say: ‘Oh I am looking out for Singapore’s future, more so than my son’s!’ ?”

“Double standard lah – can MINDEF please explain the apparent double standard in cases like Patrick Tan (Tony Tan’s son) was granted disruption for 12 years from NS in 1988?”

Do you think MINDEF’s latest response with regard to NS deferment of Ben Davis is ridiculous too?