Singapore-born New Zealand teenager faces fine, jail as he seeks to avoid national service call-up

Born in Singapore, 19-year-old Brandon Smith moved to Dunedin, a city in New Zealand's South Island, when he was eight.
Born in Singapore, 19-year-old Brandon Smith moved to Dunedin, a city in New Zealand's South Island, when he was eight. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM STUFF.CO.NZ

A 19-year-old who was born in Singapore but moved to New Zealand when he was eight is seeking an exemption from national service (NS), reported a local media outlet.

According to stuff.co.nz, the Singapore authorities have demanded that Mr Brandon Smith, who lives in the city of Dunedin, report for a pre-enlistment medical screening.

He faces a three-year jail term and a $10,000 fine if he fails to comply.

Mr Smith, who holds dual citizenship but can only relinquish his Singapore citizenship when he turns 21, was quoted as saying that spending two years doing NS was "difficult and pointless".

"I don't see the point of it, really. It's sort of a waste of time to go there and just come back anyway," he told reporters.

He added that the NS allowance he would receive was not enough to cover food and rent while he stays in Singapore, and that he did not want to impose on his family.

As he is also unable to speak Mandarin, he claimed that he would be treated as an "outsider" during NS.

Mr Smith's multiple applications to defer his NS call-up until the age of 21 have allegedly been rejected, even though his younger brother was granted a deferment.

His father, Mr Shane Smith, is a Kiwi who served in his country's Air Force. His Singapore-born wife, Cindy, is currently a permanent resident in New Zealand.

The senior Smith has been in contact with MPs and the authorities in Singapore for years to help his son avoid NS, reported stuff.co.nz.

"Absolutely no one would accommodate us. It was always the same answer, 'We regret to inform you that Brandon has to serve National Service'," the father said.

"Obviously for Brandon, it's not what we want. If he doesn't go back to Singapore to serve his NS, then he can never enter Singapore because he runs the risk of being arrested."

As a last resort, the family approached Dunedin South MP Clare Curran for assistance in September last year. She, in turn, appealed to Minister of Foreign Affairs Murray McCully in a letter.

"I think it's a really good case for New Zealand to be sticking up for its citizens," Ms Curran reportedly said.

In a statement released on Saturday (Jan 23), Mr MCully said he intends to take the matter up.

"While the Singapore Government is responsible for determining their own citizenship policies, I have considerable sympathy for the situation this family has found themselves in," he said.