Mr Sunny Lee, Director of Media Relations from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) responded to public enquiries about Kevin Kwan today ('No records of Kevin Kwan entering Singapore since 2000: MHA', 29 Aug).
Earlier, members of public Mr Liew Yeng Chee and Mr Sean Lim wrote to Straits Times, asking how Kevin Kwan, an NS defaulter, succeeded in giving Singapore authorities the slip by entering and leaving Singapore while on the wanted list.
Mr Sean Lim said, "It appears he (Kevin Kwan) managed to give the authorities the slip, and the various agencies need to explain why there is this loophole in the law."
"I was surprised that he was not even detected by our immigration officials, given the tight security and scrutiny at our borders," he added.
Kevin Kwan is the author of the book, 'Crazy Rich Asians', which was successfully adapted into a movie. Straits Times broke the story last week that Mr Kwan has in fact defaulted on his NS obligations ('Kevin Kwan, author of Crazy Rich Asians, defaulted on his NS obligations: Mindef', 22 Aug).
He failed to register for NS in 1990 and stayed overseas without a valid exit permit, MINDEF said. In 1994, his application and subsequent appeal to renounce his Singapore citizenship without serving NS were rejected.
But ST also revealed that Mr Kwan has returned back to Singapore on occasions.
"He does not often return to Singapore, although when he does, he goes in search of a good wanton mee, which he says is impossible to find in New York. His favorite hawker joint is Newton Food Centre," ST reported.
Too much work to search through archives
Writing on behalf of MHA, Mr Sunny Lee said, "Singapore does not allow dual citizenship. It is important that our citizens have a firm commitment to build a future here together. Allowing dual citizenship would dilute this commitment."
"As Mr Kevin Kwan has not discharged his national service (NS) duties, his previous attempts to renounce his Singapore citizenship were rejected, and the Government has not deprived Mr Kwan of his citizenship," the MHA spokesperson added.
"Mr Kwan remains a Singapore citizen who is wanted for defaulting on his NS obligations, and will be arrested if he enters Singapore. As far as we can ascertain, there are no records of him having entered Singapore since 2000."
But Mr Lee also added, "As travel records prior to 2000 have been archived on microfilm, it would require a massive manual search through voluminous records to ascertain if he had entered Singapore before 2000."
In other words, MHA would rather forgo searching through its archives to find out if there were indeed loopholes in their systems and conveniently tell the public that there were no records of Kevin Kwan having entered Singapore "since 2000".
It's not just NS defaulters who may take advantage of such loopholes, if any, to enter Singapore but the fear is that more serious criminals like known terrorists might want to take similar advantage too if they knew about such loopholes.
In any case, top Singapore civil servants like permanent secretaries are paid millions to do their job. If such simple but important matter like going through old archives to ascertain if there are loopholes in our border system is taken nonchalantly, perhaps they are not worth their salt.