Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that PSP Leong Mun Wai’s assertion that “citizens by registration are not doing NS” is inaccurate and misleading.
New male citizens who stayed in Singapore when young and enjoyed economic and social benefits are enlisted when they reach 18 years of age or older. They number on average 3,400 each year since 2000, and constitute about half of all new male citizens registered each year.
Males who receive citizenship as mature adults, typically in their 30s and 40s, are not enlisted as they are not suitable for full-time NS at that age and did not enjoy any benefits prior to their citizenship.
This is not a new policy. In fact, it dates back at least to the early 1980s, Mr Ng said, adding that this long-standing policy has served our defence needs.
Over the years, PRs and young male new citizens have formed an increasing proportion of NS enlistees. In the early 2000s, young male new citizens numbered about 5% of all full-time NSFs enlisted each year. Today, they form about 20% of all NSFs enlisted.
Of the 20%, slightly more than half are citizens by registration, with the remaining as PRs.
“So, what Mr Leong asserts is not true. Many new citizens are enlisted for NS every year. New citizens and PRs are contributing to our national defence. And without that extra inject of new citizens and PRs, our smaller birth cohorts would have impacted SAF manpower needs more acutely,” Dr Ng said.
Dr Ng made clear in Parliament that the NS liabilities are the same for every young male citizen, whether by birth, registration or descent.
“We do not differentiate,” he said. The principle argument, he said, was equity and universality.
“I have decided that it is important to correct the misleading statements put out by Mr Leong, because they strike at the foundations of equity and universality that underpin National Service in Singapore. Just think about it – if pre-enlistees are misled into thinking that new citizens of their age are exempted, where will they have the heart to serve NS? The correct facts must be put out to reassure the National Servicemen in the SAF and Home Team.”
Despite the information given in answer to his question, Mr Leong insisted that the facts were not given to him. From asserting that ‘citizens by registration are not doing NS’, he claimed that he was asking for the number of new citizens who did not do NS.
This invited a rebuttal from the Defence Minister who described Leong as demonstrating all the characteristics of misinformants.
Dr Ng’s answers to Leong’s questions can be found in this sentence: