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Doing NS…and what about those who don’t?

One Facebook wag asked me if I thought the Committee to Strengthen National Service recommendations should be regarded as “perks’’ or “compensation’’. Man, how would I know? And while an organisation like Aware might want to look at “equity’’ issues (it had raised this in the past), I am not about to weigh in on why, or why, are people like me of the wrong gender are left out! No point. And most women have brothers, uncles and male cousins anyway who will (?) be glad with the recommendations.

So they get $6,000 more in their Medisave, on top of the current $9,000. More money if they are fitter, do well in in-camp training as well as if…ahhh, anything untoward happened to them during their stints in camp. They can indicate choice of vocation (whether get it or not is a different matter I reckon), don’t have to go through the hassle of informing Mindef whenever they are out of the country – unless its for more than two weeks and the unfit will get more time to clear fitness tests.

Oh. And there is an SAF Volunteer Corps set up as well to guard installations (do I get to carry a rifle) and in other aspects like medical care, psychology, information and so forth. Of course, there is some training time volunteers must set aside and time allocated for performing duties. The boys in blue, by the way, have had the same system for decades with its Volunteer Special Constabulary of more than 1,000 people. They wear the same uniform as cops and have the same powers. They get paid $3.60 an hour regardless of rank. Makes you wonder why we have to hire Cisco when the police can put out a call for volunteers …
Anyway, what the Committee did not give:
a. Shorter NS stint. (Apparently, two years is short enough)
b. Special priority for kids admission to primary school (Wonder if this had gone through, how priority will be allocated since every guy would have priority. Generals first?)
c. Increase in full-time NSman’s allowances. (Guess this is so as not to “cheapen’’ duty, honour country and turn it into a mere transaction)
d. Forcing new citizens and first-generation PRs to do NS.

I can appreciate that the committee wants to “strengthen’’ commitment to National Service and therefore wants to give a soft touch rather than a hard punch. No doubt, there will be arguments about the “perks’’ being too little, too late.

I just want to raise an unpopular thing. Much of the angst about NS is about the presence of those who skip or get away with not doing it I reckon. Only second generation PRs and progeny of new citizens have to do the stint. I recall a survey on integration last year on the differing views of the local-born and foreign-born citizens. Close to 70 per cent of the local born think the male child should do NS, compared to 43 per cent of the foreign born. There’s a difference in perception here which must bridged and the committee doesn’t seem to have quite looked into this aspect.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said there would be practical difficulties inducting first-generation PRs and new citizens into NS, adding that having them do NS shouldn’t just be “tokenistic or symbolic’’. Hence, the set-up of the Volunteer Corps. I don’t suppose the G is going to force anyone to sign up, but I do wonder why more isn’t made to “encourage’’ sign-ups among them.

This is especially since the guys always get upset at the ability of second-generation PRs to uproot and leave the country before their call-up. And Mindef has never been very clear about the penalties imposed or the numbers who are drained out of the system (I would be quite pleased to be corrected on this). The playing field doesn’t seem fair.

The thing is, NS as a value should not just be passed down through the generations, but also inculcated in those who decide they want to live and work here, and not back home. That they have a duty to do so, to honour their new home country.

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PS. In case some guy points out that the same goes for the women, let me point out that we can do one thing you can’t – bear children! And give us a break already. The Women’s Charter is already being reviewed…

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An ex-journalist who can't get enough of the news after being in the business for 26 years

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