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8/30/2008

Bugging Singapore

The Bugge brothers have been in the news lately, bugging Singapore to let them give up their Singapore citizenships so that they can come visiting their relations in a place they were born. Here we have 3 brothers who chose not to serve their NS and left for their father's country, Norway if I am not mistaken. Many people have read their case and are sympathetic to them. A letter from Yong Yin Min was published today calling for the govt to be less uptight and generous towards its ex citizens who have not served their NS and allows them to return. Such sentiments are fair and we should look at each case for its own merits. Given a choice, it is good to be generous in treating our ex citizens. But the administrators must also be very concern that it may set a very bad precedent and more will take advantage of such generosity and make those that don't look silly. Maybe we should do a time bar or moderate the punishment and not equate it to a life sentence. Let them return with some conditions attached so that no one should thing that this is an easy way out. In the Bugge case, there is a point which I find nauseating. They refused to serve our NS but willingly served in the Norwegian military service/NS. This is a kind of snub that is difficult to accept. Ang Moh tua ki huh? Having said this, the govt can still have a few choices to take. It has made its point by not allowing them to renounce their citizenship so easily. It may want to tweak this and allow them to do so at a certain age, maybe 35 or 40. Or it may just stay the rule and make this as an example to give notice to all not to diminish our laws or to spite us as an unworthy little red dot. As Yong Yin Min has said, we should welcome our children back as they were once a part of us. Many are still out there living a different life, some happily, some with a little regrets. We should find ways to accommodate them without upsetting our system and make many Singaporeans feel like suckers and a few jokers happier.

11 comments:

Anonymous said...

They were born in Singapore, but as Norwegian Citizen from birth, which did not come out clearly in the ST article. Hence they did not leave "just before they could be called up for NS" and they did not join the Norwegian Army to gain Norwegian Citizenship, they were called up because they resided in Norway when they turned 21, at which time they also requested to renounce their right to a Singaporean citizenship.
Maybe these facts change your point of view?

Anonymous said...

Sorry, my last came out at Anonymous. I am the Father of these three young men, who is NOT pointing their nose at Singapore, but is serving the Wold Community, which includes Singapore.

Anonymous said...

Here is the whole story FYI:
I am the Father of these three Norwegians who are the subject of much of this tread and would like to set a few facts straight.
They were born in Singapore in the middle of the “Two is Enough” or “Stop at two”-period (1975-78). As such they had to follow the Father’s citizenship and was included on my passport within weeks after birth to avoid being deported as “illegal aliens”, although the Singapore Constitution gave them the right to a Singapore Citizenship.
As they got older they got their own Norwegian Passports, which had to be endorsed with a “Dependent Pass” to allow them to remain in Singapore. A letter from the Norwegian Embassy here confirms the facts. I was running my own small P/L company in Singapore at the time and held an Employment Pass.
We left Singapore in 1980 and moved to Norway in order for the boys to learn how to be Norwegians. They arrived there at the tender age of 4 1/2, 3 and 2 years.
None of them spoke a word of Norwegian but, thrown into a Kindergarten with all Norwegian kids, they quickly learnt. Within 6 months you could not hear the difference between them and their playmates, but we kept them speaking English at home.
In 1990 we moved back to Singapore to give them a grounding in their other identity. They arrived here as Norwegian Citizen and received a Social Visit Pass in their Norwegian Passport, like any other visitor. This was renewed a few times as we applied for places in Government Schools for them. But that stranded as they were not Singapore Citizen and required Student Pass to be accepted. They actually lost a full year of schooling in the process.
One day an Immigration Officer asked; “why do you apply for Student Pass for your sons, they are entitled to dual citizenship until 21, which give them the right to stay and study in Singapore until they are 21″
A few minutes later they had a stamp in their Norwegian passport to the affect. Nothing said that they would expose themselves to NS liabilities, or be refused their right to choose.
We managed to enrolled two in a private, but government sponsored school here. (Seventh-day Adventist School) The oldest studied for his O-levels as a private candidate.
Now we made a big mistake. They were offered Pink ICs, which we accepted on the understanding that they would be able to choose which citizenship to hold and which to renounce at 21 per Singapore Constitution and Citizenship Laws. Little did we know that this would be interpreted as an acceptance of NS liability later.
As the first son finished his O-levels, he left to further his study in Norway as a Photo Journalist.
While he was there the first letter from MINDEF rolled in. I replied that he was a Norwegian Citizen and was studying in Norway and to please defer him from NS registration until he returned to Singapore, which was granted.
At the time it was not clear to me which citizenship he, or his brothers, would chose at 21 as they had been groomed to make up their own mind when the time came.
On completion of the one-year course he enrolled in the Norwegian Army to do his National Service. Shortly after we were informed that he had volunteered for service in the Norwegian peace keeping contingent in Bosnia. He has later served in Lebanon, Kosovo and Afghanistan and is due to go back to Afghanistan to train the Afghan Army soon.
His youngest brother has followed in his footsteps and are due back in Afghanistan for the fourth time. He has also been in Kosovo twice earlier.
It therefore became quite clear that he had made up his mind which citizenship he wanted to retain and which to renounce. As he became 21, he sent in an application to renounce his right to Singapore Citizenship, which was promptly refused by MINDEF. He has not been back in Singapore since and he will be 33 in a few days time (9. Sept)
The other brothers also left on completion of O-levels and returned to Norway, as none of them found Singapore to their liking at the time. After all they had grown up with wide open spaces, mountains and the sea, and found Singapore to be too restricted to their liking.
As the youngest brother turned 30 earlier this year, they all sent in an application to renounce their right to Singapore Citizenship again, with the same result.
MINDEF insisted that they were defaulters from NS and should return to Singapore “to face the music”.
I have had numerous meetings with the person in charge of such cases at CMPB, sent letters to the Minister of Defence through our MP at the time and later through a Lawyer. I have also sent letter to the Registrar of Citizen, the Prime Minister (then Goh Chok Tong) and the President (the late Ong Teng Chong) but all letters were replied by the same person at CPMB, with the stock reply, NO.
This is NOT first and foremost a question of NS and where, or whether, it should be served. It is a question of the right of a person born with two citizenships to have the right to choose which to keep and which to renounce at the age of 21.
Once he/she have made their choice they will have to comply with whatever obligations that goes with it, whether military service or others.
To deny anybody this right is against UN Charter of Human Rights, and against the Singapore Constitution.
As it stands, our three sons are unable to visit family in Singapore without risking 3 years jail and S$ 10,000 fine, although they have complied with the law and renounced one of their two citizenships as required, and served National Service in the country to which they belong.
This may not affect all that many yet, but with the number of mixed marriages in Singapore today it will be more and more of a problem.
I have spent most of my life here and has a very clear understanding of the need for a strong defence, but to force foreign nationals to serve in SAF does NOT improve military readiness or moral.
We allowed the interview in Straits Times in the hope that we could get a discussion going on this subject, but the article published was angle in such a way the it appeared that our sons had left Singapore “just before they could be called up for NS” and joined the Norwegian Army to obtain Norwegian Citizenship.
Nothing could be further from the truth, which raises a question about the agenda of the Journalist, and her Editor.
Capt.O.M.Bugge,
Proud Father.

redbean said...

hi capt bugge,

thank you for giving us the details of the case. we now have a clearer picture of what actually happened. it will be good that the media give your case a full airing so that everyone reading it understands what the issues were.

as i have stated, each case deserves to be considered on its own merits. from what you have said, my views are on your side.

my apologies if i have stated my position earlier that may not be too kind to your boys.

now there is something about this option at age 21 and the compulsory service at 16.5. the compulsory service comes first. this may be difficult as the option for citizenship only comes several years later.

now i am surprise that this case has dragged on for so long to your boys disadvantaged. for the facts given, unless there are things that i do not know from the govt's side, this should not be such a difficult case to decide and allow your boys to renounce their citizenship. there was the grey area of accepting the pink ic.

my earlier position that they have done military service in norway was interpreted as negative. with the new info, that should be positive as it proved that they were every inch a norwegian and willingly served their country of choice.

i hope this case can be settled to your favour asap.

cheers.

redbean said...

just to add, you were right that when we read the case reported in the local media, our impression was that they left just before being called up for ns.

the merits of cyberspace is that the full story can be told from all sides.

and i hope mindef would reply to capt bugge here, like they said, engaging the bloggers. this is an opportunity for all to say their piece. no limitation of space like the media. each can explain his position as much as he wants.

O.M.Bugge said...

My thanks to Readbean for his kind wishes. I challanged the ST journalist and editor to print my same comments after the original article appeared, but was told that they could not do so as "the same facts had already been published". You be the judge.

The fact is that this will be a bigger and bigger issue as the next generation of dual citizen grows up. Many parents move, or stay away from Singapore for this reason. How does that help Singapore retai, or attract talents, whether Foreign or Singaporean.

One tought; Let's say that two of these brothers is sent to this region on say an official UN assignment and arrive in Singapore as part of a Norwegian contingent, would they be arrested on arrival? If so, that could cause quite a diplomatic problem. I don't think that would go down well with either Norway or UN. Not to mention headlines in some not so friendly foreign media like: Singapore arrest UN Officers and force them to serve in their Army.

It is time to re-think the policy, or al least the way it is being applied by MINDEF, before it becomes a major insident, specially involving Indonesian, Malaysian, or US Citizens.

I have posted a proposal as to how this could be solved on some other Forum. Basicly, respect Citizenship Laws first and NS Rules second by allowing dual citizen their right to choose at 21Therafter they have to serve NS, if they choose Singapore. If they don't, punish them. Logical and according to International practise and UN Charter.

redbean said...

hi bugge.

the possibility of your boys serving in this part of the world cannot be rule out. it is a sticky situation if it happens.

the problem that i think needs to be resolved is the call up to serve at 16.5 before the exercise of citizenship. what it means, thus, is that every affected male must serve first and exercise later. technically, there is no escape for any male singaporean.

your boys'problem was, i think, the acceptance of the pink ic. and until recently, i don't think we practise dual citizenship.

i am not in a position to suggest any solution to this. leave it to those who are paid to solve it.

there must be many things being considered but i hope wisdom will surface and a solution be found quickly. or this is the best they could think off and case already closed.

i don't think there are many cases like this. anyone brave enough to make an exception with good reasons to turn this case around? it must be a tough decision for tough leaders to make.

keep your fingers crossed. the best we can do is to talk about it until good reasons prevailed.

it reminds me of the famous ex singaporean musician who is unable to return as well. but the facts are different.

O.M.Bugge said...

The basis for accepting pink I/C was was a "Chop" in their Norwegian Passport stating that they were entitled to enter and remain in Singapore under Chapter 133 Section 7(1) of the Immigration Act.

They never forfeighted their Norwegian Passport and travelled in and out of Singapore without any problems, although not all Immigration Officers appeared to be aware of what this was. Supervisors had to be called at more then one occasion at Check points.

Yes, with the benefit of hind sight I can see a lot of things that could and should have been done different, but who would believe that Singapore Law would be applied so rigoriously. and without any attempt at applying common sense. I realize that MINDEF have their hands tied, and clerks are not allowed to apply judgement, or common sense. But this case has been appealed to the highest authority in the land, the President. The reply came back from the same person at MINDEF.

redbean said...

hi bugge,

if this issue has gone to the president's level, it is unlikely that anyone can override it. someone may have said, it's over, let's move on.

your other option now is to take the legal course and challenge it in the court of laws for an interpretation. maybe the opening up of the legal business will bring in some top foreign legal eagles to take up this case.

oh, have they explain to you the technicality of this case?

O.M.Bugge said...

I'm afraid the President at the time, (the late Ong Teng Chong, RIP) ever got to see my letter.
It went straight to Mindef and the reply came back from there with the stock answer. A note from some Secretary at the President's office(obviously not meant for my eyes) was attached by mistake, stating that Mindef should not encourage anybody to give up their S'pore citizenship.

redbean said...

hi bugge,

other than taking this to court, the next best thing is to find a good reason that they can live with and will not upset the system. then present that reason to them to consider.

they must be working very hard to help you but still can't find a way out of this maze.