ns defaulters: what is fair?
i watched the censored version of the debate on tv last night. not much of a debate actually. just some brief cuts here and there. the main issue from those for punishment is to make it equitable as ns is a vital national institution that cannot be undermined. the other side of the argument is to treasure every singaporean, defaulters or not defaulters. the latter group even go to the extent to saying, 'just tell me how much and we will pay' to default and escape ns. but there are the feelings of more than 700,000 ns men to contend with, and more along the way. any thought that anyone can buy themselves out of ns is a no go. i can appreciate the need to welcome back the prodigal son. no one shall be condemned to be exiled. the thought that the country may offer the route of pr for those who have taken up foreign citizenship and be allowed to return did crop up in my mind. be kind and generous and let them return in a different form, but not as a citizen. this option is good only if citizenship is so desirable, that citizenship comes with plenty of privileges, that people are craving to be citizens to be favoured by the nation. but unfortunately it is not. citizenship comes with a heavy burden and a big personal sacrifice. the cost of being a citizen is very high. a ns man actually gave away 2 to 2 and a 1/2 years of his life to the state. during this period he is owned by the state and have to go through all the training, regimentation, sleeping on dirt, braving the weather, playing with fire or weapons, and in the process, risk losing his limbs or life. and what did he get in return? pittance from the state that he probably had to ask his parents for pocket money. then another 20 years of reservist liabilities when his life can be disrupted by the call of duty. ippt, in camp training, overseas training, silent recall, on standby etc. and don't forget the military punishment, detention, extra duties for breach of discipline. can all these pains be worth it? is a fine of $10,000 or 3 years jail enough compensation? why would a man choose to pay so dearly for a title called citizen when he can enjoy practically everything a citizen has by just being a pr and without having to go through ns? is a $1 million bond good enough to pay? after going through the sacrifices a ns man has to go through, i think the new punishment is still not enough. there is no privilege being a citizen except the right to vote. to protect the institution of ns and the defence of the nation, the nation would have to live with losing a few prodigal sons. unless citizenship is so attractive that just being a pr is so disadvantaged that people would want to volunteer for ns. only then can the nation be generous enough to offer a pr route for singaporeans who still want to remain here and avoid ns. that is, when pr is a second rate resident while citizenship is first class with first class privileges.