Serving the country not a matter of convenience

The Ministry of Defence's (Mindef's) rejection of Ben Davis' request for deferment from national service has generated a lot of headlines and calls in support of Ben's deferment (No NS deferment for Davis: Mindef; July 16).

I, for one, stand firmly on Mindef's side. I applaud Mindef for its transparency and consistency in its approval and rejection of deferment requests over the years.

The defence of our country cannot be a matter of serving when it is most convenient.

It is a responsibility that every man must take seriously when called upon, regardless of race, family connections or financial status.

It takes personal sacrifice and putting the country before self. Otherwise, there will be no Singapore tomorrow.

If Mindef were to relent and approve his deferment, it would set a dangerous precedent.

Parents with kids who are blessed with other talents would similarly ask for deferment and exemptions.

If we approve deferment for a footballer, we will also need to do the same for musicians, artists and computer whizzes.

In fact, anyone who is accepted by any top university, club or institution will ask for a deferment or exemption.

It will open the floodgates.

Ben is able to develop his talent because his family has the financial resources to support him in pursuit of his passion.

Not many other Singaporeans can afford that.

Approving deferment for Ben will create a social divide - a situation we cannot afford in Singapore.

Familieswho can afford to send their children overseas to develop their talents will gain deferment, while those who cannot afford to do so will be left behind to serve.

I trust that Mindef will stand firm on its policy, and not waver in the face of public support for deferment.

Patrick Tan Siong Kuan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 20, 2018, with the headline 'Serving the country not a matter of convenience'. Print Edition | Subscribe