Seven weeks' jail for NS defaulter

Zaley Cheng Xi Xiong "heard stories about NS" and feared "sustaining injuries".
Zaley Cheng Xi Xiong "heard stories about NS" and feared "sustaining injuries".

A youth with medical issues was so afraid of sustaining injuries during national service (NS) training that he fled Singapore in 2014.

Singaporean Zaley Cheng Xi Xiong later obtained his bachelor's degree in Australia and returned to Singapore only on Aug 30, 2017. Court documents did not give details of his medical issues.

Cheng, 25, was jailed for seven weeks yesterday after pleading guilty to remaining outside Singapore without a valid exit permit for more than three years - from May 2014 to August 2017.

A separate charge of failing to report for full-time NS enlistment was considered during sentencing.

The court heard that a notice was mailed to Cheng's Singapore home on April 7, 2014, and he was supposed to report at the Basic Military Training Centre in June that year. When he failed to turn up, an enlistment inspector went to his apartment on June 12, 2014, but realised that no one was home. The inspector slipped a notice under the front door, asking Cheng to report to the Central Manpower Base the next day.

A police gazette was issued on June 16, 2014, for Cheng's arrest when he failed to turn up for the second time, and travel records showed that he had left Singapore in May that year.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Kwang Jia Min said: "He heard stories about national service and was afraid of sustaining injuries during national service training. As such, the accused decided to leave Singapore so as to evade national service.

 

"The accused's parents did not know about his initial intention to evade national service as he lied to them by informing (them) that he was going to Brunei for a holiday."

But when Cheng got to Brunei, he confessed to his parents about his intention to evade NS and that he wanted to remain in Australia for good. He went to Australia soon after. His mother tried to persuade him to return to Singapore but he was reluctant to serve NS at that point of time, the court heard.

After obtaining his degree, he decided to return to Singapore in 2017 as his father had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

Cheng is now serving his NS with the Singapore Armed Forces, having enlisted on Jan 26 last year.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2019, with the headline 'Seven weeks' jail for NS defaulter'. Print Edition | Subscribe