Singapore PR who represented Malaysia in SEA Games jailed for defaulting on NS obligations

Lim Ching Hwang left Singapore in July 2015 and failed to report for his enlistment later that year. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - A Singapore permanent resident who represented Malaysia in swimming in various South-east Asia (SEA) Games over the last decade was sentenced on Tuesday (Feb 9) to eight weeks' jail for defaulting on his national service (NS) obligations.

Malaysian Lim Ching Hwang, 24, left Singapore in July 2015 and failed to report for his enlistment in November that year.

He only returned almost three years later in June 2018 and enlisted in April 2019.

On Tuesday, Lim pleaded guilty to two charges under the Enlistment Act, with another charge taken into consideration during sentencing by District Judge Ronald Gwee.

A search shows that Lim swam for the Malaysian team in the SEA Games in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017.

The court heard that he came to Singapore to study at the Singapore Sports School in 2010. He was granted permanent residency status on March 4, 2014.

In May 2014, he received a notice to register for NS but was also offered a scholarship by a private entity to pursue university studies in the United States from September that year.

Lim was later granted deferment from NS to pursue diploma studies at Republic Polytechnic. But he did not complete his studies and left the country in July 2014.

His family subsequently tried to apply for deferment for him to pursue his university studies but were unsuccessful.

"This was because the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) does not usually grant deferment for university studies," said Deputy Public Prosecutor R. Arvindren.

Lim's family continued to apply for deferment in late 2014 and 2015, but did not come up with the required bond for an exit permit to be issued to him.

In February 2015, the authorities informed Lim's father that his son was to book a date to undergo medical screening in preparation for his enlistment.

Lim later returned to Singapore on June 2, 2015.

"The accused admitted that he had complied with his medical screening... because he was worried that he would not be able to enter Singapore for the 2015 (SEA) Games... due to his Enlistment Act offences," said DPP Arvindren.

But he left Singapore and returned to the US on July 7 that year, and continued to apply for deferment from NS.

He later told his family that he wanted to renounce his permanent residency status as he was unhappy that his deferment was not granted.

The court heard that Lim failed to report for his enlistment in November 2015.

He eventually returned to Singapore in June 2018 after completing his university studies.

He enlisted in April of 2019 and completed his NS on Feb 2 this year.

On Tuesday, Lim told the court that he deeply regrets his actions and has decided to remain in Singapore. He also intends to apply for Singapore citizenship in the future.

His sentence has been deferred to Feb 23.

Lim's case brings the number of NS defaulters to 17 since the High Court set out the sentencing framework for such defaulters in 2017.

It would be unfair to the vast majority of national servicemen who serve their country dutifully, if Singaporeans or permanent residents who are overseas are allowed to evade NS or choose when they want to serve it, said Mindef in an earlier statement.

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