Sunday, 1 October 2023

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Why does Mindef think that self interest and national interest are mutually exclusive?

Mindef has appeared to defend its decision in rejecting teenager Benjamin Davis’ request for deferment of his National Service (NS) by stating 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.” What is wrong with a father looking out for his son’s interest? Isn’t that normal? Is Mindef seriously suggesting that looking out for the future of one’s offspring is something that ought to be reprimanded?

Besides, why can’t something be both in Benjamin and Singapore’s interest? It is certainly not mutually exclusive. If Benjamin can play football for Fulham as a Singaporean, this would benefit both Singapore and himself. Why is Mindef so narrow minded? Must it be a choice between Singapore and personal interest if it can be both?

Mindef goes on to say that Benjamin has no intention of returning to Singapore to serve his NS as “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.” I don’t see that as an intention not to return at all. I simply see that as an honest reply to a question that cannot at this point be answered. The elder Davis is not saying that the younger Davis will not serve NS. He is simply saying that when he serves will depend on how far his career goes.

Football at a professional level has a short lifespan. Why can’t Davis serve NS after that is over? Asking him to commit to a date when the training hasn’t even really begun is like asking a toddler how old he will be when he is as tall as his father? The fact that he will grow is certain but as to when and how far, that is anyone’s guess. Isn’t that the same thing here? Davis will serve NS. He just doesn’t know the exact time as it depends on which direction his career will go.

Are we as a nation or rather is Mindef as a ministry so insecure and myopic that we cannot bear to give a youngster a chance at success. Would we rather curb his progress just because the rest of us are perhaps not as talented as he is at football? I am not trivialising the rest of the Singaporeans who have had to postpone dreams and passions for NS but a lot of our pursuits may not be as time sensitive as that of professional football and Davis’ request needs to be looked at from that time sensitive perspective. Professional football is a finite career.

Mindef is asking Davis to commit to a fixed time when its own government can’t even commit to when they would increase GST! Talk about pot calling kettle black!

I don’t agree with Mindef’s summation and perhaps we need to reconsider the necessity of NS in the first place!

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