Arguments we found online for & against allowing Ben Davis’s NS deferment
There's a lot being said.
Singaporean footballer Benjamin Davis’s bid to get his National Service deferred has gotten many Singaporeans debating the merits of his case online.
NS obligations, according to the Ministry of Defence (Mindef), should be “applied strictly and fairly to all individuals.”
Mindef goes on to explain that, annually, it receives
“…requests for long-term deferment from Full-time NS, often with reasons that NS will impede their development and ability to fulfil aspirations. As all male Singaporeans liable for Full-time NS put aside personal pursuits to dutifully enlist and serve their NS, it would not be fair to approve applications for deferment for individuals to pursue their own careers and development.”
Go online and you’ll find people arguing for and against deferment, we curate some of the notable ones.
Five Stars and a Moon
Pro-Singapore website Five Stars and a Moon shared a meme that first appeared on 9gag featuring French 19-year-old football sensation Kylian Mbappe but the page gave it a Singaporean twist featuring NSFs who are presumably 19 years-old as well. The gist of the post can be summed up with these lines:
“Today, there is diversity of battlefields — wars are fought in more places: through boardrooms, through media and yes, even the football fields. We need different armies, fighting different wars for Singapore.
Perhaps not every soldier need to be armed with a rifle, at least not so strictly when he turns 18.
National Service will always be there. But the ability to compete in football, swim and dance…these have all the shelf life of a comb of bananas.”
Singapore Kindness Movement
SKM published a blog post saying it was Mindef’s prerogative to want Davis to serve NS rather than play professional football. However, its author Edwin Yeo goes on to critique Mindef’s public statement that explained why it rejected Davis’ application for deferment.
It took issue with this sentence:
“In sports, deferments are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions like the Olympic Games and are potential medal winners for Singapore.”
Yeo goes on to say that Singapore has a problem of being transactional — that deferment is awarded on the basis that there was a possibility of some achievement.
He adds that this transactional mentality with sports extends to all Singaporeans — arguing that Singaporeans only supported our local football team because it won.
An example of this? The fact that Singaporean parents:
“…only rushed to send their kids to swimming school after Joseph Schooling won the Olympic gold and proved that swimming might just be a viable career.”
The blog argued that a change in mindset was in order. That Singapore
“…rather than ask our elite athletes what they can do for our country, perhaps our starting point should be what we can do for them, and trust that if we take care of them, they will be more committed to bringing pride to the nation.”
SKM’s blog post called on Mindef to see how Davis can be supported and given every opportunity to succeed.
Football Association of Singapore (FAS)
FAS said on Tuesday, July 17, that it strongly supported Davis’s request for deferment.
In its statement, the FAS said it wishes for a “balanced approach to be taken, to promote and enhance burgeoning talent without at the same time compromising the integrity of the national service agenda”.
It noted that Davis is the first Singaporean to be offered “a professional contract by a club from one of the top six leagues in the world.” This, according to FAS, was a “reflection not only of the fact that Singaporean footballers have the potential to rise to the top of the profession, but also a recognition of the local coaching and development framework which Ben has come through.”
FAS also said that it believed that “the support for a Singaporean to play at the highest level will have benefits to the community and nation.”
DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam?
We place a question mark next to DPM Tharman Shanmugaratnam because we are unsure if he had intended to comment on the Ben Davis case.
DPM Tharman wrote a Facebook post about the French National Team’s World Cup win. He mentioned 19-year-old French player Kylian Mbappe, discussing how the French team was made up of sons of African immigrants who grew up poor.
He opined that France’s success had to do with the “French system of providing qualified coaches in the neighbourhoods, spotting young talents, and sending the best to France’s central football academy.”
He went on to say,
“It will take a lot more than a World Cup victory, and the unity seen in the celebrations back in France, to overcome the lack of opportunities and long-standing prejudices against those from these poor neighbourhoods. But it shows what is possible when a leaf is taken from the French football system, and every young person is encouraged and supported in developing his or her strengths.”
Netizens who read his post seemed to focus on his sentence about taking a leaf from the French football system of encouraging and supporting every young person to develop his/her strengths and tied it to Davis’ case:
Senior Minister of State for Defence Heng Chee How was approached for comment on Davis on Tuesday.
“We have conveyed the decision with regards to the earlier application, and all applications, all appeals will have got to be based on facts and we’ll have to evaluate the facts, and if the facts are no different then our position will be consistent.”
He added that the criteria Mindef uses to assess deferment applications has been transparent and consistent.
“…there’s no movement of the goal posts on the part of Mindef or SAF — this is known to applicants, certainly in this particular case, the family was informed of the considerations beforehand.”
Fabrications About the PAP
The pro-ruling party fanpage made several posts in relation to this issue and focused on talking about Davis’s and his family’s motives.
Ambassador-at-large Bilahari Kausikan
The ex-diplomat provided some insight to how policymakers think — that Davis’ pursuit is no different from another person’s private professional pursuit.
Former Nominated MP Calvin Cheng
In a post on Monday, July 16, Cheng pointed out the fact that renouncing Singapore citizenship actually isn’t an option for Davis, unless he was intending to break the law and become a fugitive who will be arrested if he ever returned to Singapore.
More on that here:
In a second post on Wednesday afternoon, however, Cheng said the government can afford to exercise a bit of flexibility on applications for deferments and disruptions — but only if Singaporeans are more understanding of them:
What can or cannot be done?
Read this to understand the differences between disruption, deferment and whether you can skip NS if you renounce your citizenship:
Top photo: screenshots from Facebook posts