SINGAPORE - A 24-year-old man has ended up as the 18th national service (NS) defaulter to be jailed since the High Court set out a sentencing framework for such offenders in 2017.
Mohammad Sariyan Mohd Yazid was jailed for 10 weeks on Wednesday (Aug 11) after pleading guilty to one charge of leaving and remaining outside of Singapore without a valid permit for five years.
Another similar charge for remaining outside of Singapore without a valid permit for just more than a year was taken into consideration for sentencing.
Mohammad Sariyan, who is a Singaporean by birth, moved to Malaysia when he was 13 years old after his mother divorced and remarried a man in Malaysia.
His stepfather, who was described as a domineering figure, enrolled him in religious schools there but Mohammad Sariyan stopped studying when he was 16, and took on odd jobs in Malaysia.
When he turned 19, he moved to Johor. Mohammad Sariyan held two Singapore passports, which were valid from 1999 to 2008 and 2008 to 2014.
The passports were used to enter and leave Singapore on 43 occasions.
He failed to report for NS registration and pre-enlistment in 2014, when he was 16 years old.
But he returned to Singapore in 2018, enlisting in 2019 and served his NS.
His lawyer Sim Bing Wen, appointed to him through the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, said he was only able to return to serve NS after his mother divorced his stepfather.
"They were living under the shadow of a domineering figure who was not very cooperative in that sense," he said.
"This is not like many other cases where the defaulting was meant to secure some sort of advantage."
Mr Sim added that while he was urging the court to consider these factors for a lower sentence, he conceded that the framework set out by the High Court for defaulters focused in particular on factors such as voluntary return and an early plea of guilt.
The framework established a more structured approach to sentencing with regard to defaulters.
District Judge Christopher Goh noted that prior to the framework, a range of sentences spanning from jail terms to fines and probation was used.
He commended Mohammad Sariyan for his stellar performance in NS that was submitted in mitigation, but said he disagreed with the defence on a further reduction in sentence and took guidance from the framework.
"National service is not just to defend the country," he said. "Another reason for NS is to gel our population as one, to have a rite of passage for all of us, all the different races and all."
In 2019, a man who wilfully evaded his NS duties for more than four years so that he could pursue university studies overseas was jailed for nine weeks.
The Ministry of Defence takes a firm stand against those who commit offences under the Enlistment Act.
For remaining outside of Singapore without a valid permit, Mohammad Sariyan could have been jailed for up to three years and fined up to $10,000 for each charge.