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Heng Chee How: Mindef will reject Ben Davis’ appeal if there are no new facts

Hopefully, there are new facts available in the appeal after Davis' June 11 meeting.

Martino Tan | July 18, 2018 @ 12:54 pm

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It is as simple as that.

The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) will reject Benjamin Davis’ application to defer his National Service obligations to pursue professional football in the English Premier League, if no new facts are presented in his appeal, Senior Minister Of State for Defence Heng Chee How told Channel NewsAsia on Tuesday, July 17.

Heng is the first political office-holder to weigh in on the issue that has generated much online attention in Singapore over the past few days.

More than 2,500 signatures in 2 petitions calling for S’porean footballer Ben Davis’ NS deferment

Heng told the media at the sidelines of his visit to the 188 Squadron:

“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…

For a country like Singapore, we want to value every Singaporean and we want to develop our talent of course, but at the same time, we must also remember that the purpose for all this development is that we have a country and that all of us actually have a duty to one another and this country.

So we have got to make a good balance between our duty to this country and our very genuine urge to enable everybody to reach their highest potential.”

FAS strongly supported Davis’ request

In its public statement on July 17, the Football Association of Singapore said that it strongly supported Davis’ request to defer his NS obligations, adding that FAS made this known in its earlier communications through the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY).

Last weekend, Mindef revealed that it made its decision in consultation with MCCY, when it informed Davis and his parents a month ago on June 11.

FAS added that while it understands the concerns around making exceptions for a case like Davis, it “believes that a balance can be struck between player development and national service obligations in this unique case”.

Davis’ dad may consider forgoing his son’s citizenship

Unfortunately, things have taken a negative turn in Harvey Davis’ recent statement with Today on Monday, July 16.

Harvey Davis, Ben Davis’ dad, said that if they “have no choice”, they may consider giving up the Singaporean citizenship or asking his son to give up his dream.

NS deferments in sports are rare

Mindef told the media earlier that deferments in sports are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions and are potential medal winners for Singapore.

In fact, only three – swimmers Joseph Schooling, Quah Zheng Wen and Sailor Maximillian Soh – have met this criteria in the last 15 years.

In other words, all three who managed to defer were deemed by Mindef to have the potential to achieve immediate sporting glory for Singapore.

An open-ended deferment?

One interesting point that was brought up by FAS in its statement was that it believes that any deferment “cannot be open-ended”.

In other words, FAS stated that any deferment has to be matched with an assurance to see through Davis’s national service obligations and a commitment to use this opportunity to enhance the development of national football.

In a previous statement, Mindef said that Davis’ application was not approved as he “does not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from full-time NS”.

This may well one of the key variables in considering Davis’ appeal.

It is understandable even if — and a big if at that — Mindef wants to grant Davis a deferment, it will be be less keen to give Davis a “blank cheque” to pursue a football career.

There is an English football cliche: “Form is temporary, class is permanent”.

Just how difficult is it to get a professional contract at an EPL club?

In other words, neither Davis family nor Fulham football club can guarantee that Davis will succeed as a world-class footballer for Singapore.

While getting a professional football contract at an EPL club is an amazing achievement, the challenge is for a young player like Davis to maintain his current peak performance for a sustained period of time.

Perhaps one new fact would be to seek Fulham’s assessment if two years — and therefore a possible short-term deferment — would be sufficient to assess whether Davis can make the grade.

Top photo from Heng Chee How Facebook

About Martino Tan

Martino’s parents named him after an Italian priest, Vatican's 1st ambassador to S’pore. He's inspired by the lives of Robert Kennedy & Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the words of George Orwell & William F. Buckley Jr., & the music of the Beatles.

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