Malaysian national swimmer Lim Ching Hwang has been sentenced on Feb. 9, 2021 to eight weeks' jail for defaulting on his National Service (NS) obligations here in Singapore.
The 24-year-old pleaded guilty to two charges under the Enlistment Act.
Another charge was taken into consideration during sentencing.
Lim became the 17th defaulter to be jailed since the High Court set out a new sentencing framework in 2017 for those who evade NS.
He has since completed his NS.
However, in the past decade, Lim had competed as a Malaysian in the SEA Games in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2017, The Straits Times reported.
Should not have listened to parents
According to Yahoo, Lim told the judge in court that he succumbed to the "temptation" of studying "at a prestigious university" after he was given a Malaysian scholarship.
He also said, on hindsight, he should not have listened to his parents' ill-judged advice to finish his studies before serving NS, but rather, should have persuaded them to sort out his exit permits.
Still wants to be Singapore citizen
The court also heard that Lim intends to apply for citizenship in Singapore in the near future, as well as continue to compete for Singapore, CNA reported.
This was despite Lim having attempted to renounce his permanent residency status after he was ordered to serve out his NS obligations.
Lim said he has a girlfriend and job lined up for him in Singapore now.
He said: “I’m deeply regretful of my actions. I committed them as a boy and now that I am more mature, I have come back to face the consequences as a man.”
The court also heard from the deputy public prosecutor, who said that NS defaulters enjoy an unfair advantage over their law-abiding peers, even if they complete their service eventually, ST reported.
Lim also told the court that he experienced mental stress and was glad that he was able to complete his NS without creating any problems.
Lim's Singapore fling
Lim came to Singapore in 2010 when he was only 13.
He studied at the Singapore Sports School until 2013 under the government’s Foreign Sports Scholarship Scheme.
His training fees and education were subsidised at S$25,000 per year by the Singapore government.
He turned 18 years old in 2014 and was granted Singapore permanent residency under the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme in March that year.
His application to be a PR was supported by the Singapore Swimming Association then.
Lim was once considered one of the athletes to watch in the Malaysian swimming scene.
He went on to break his own national record for the men’s 200m individual medley at the Malaysia Games in 2016.
Had to serve NS after becoming a PR
In March 2014, two days after he was approved to be a permanent resident here, Lim received a notice to register for NS.
At that time, a Malaysian conglomerate, Sime Darby, also extended an offer to him to pursue university studies in the United States on a scholarship.
On May 29, he registered for NS two days before the deadline, and was granted a deferment until May 2017 to pursue a diploma at Republic Polytechnic.
But he left his polytechnic studies and Singapore on July 17 and started on a business degree course at the Ohio State University.
Mindef rejected request for deferment
The Ministry of Defence rejected Lim and his parents' request for an NS deferment to attend university, as deferment for university studies are not typically granted.
His parents also failed to put up a bond in order to secure an exit permit for Lim to leave Singapore.
Lim was told in February 2015 by the authorities via his father that he had to undergo medical screening for his enlistment.
Lim's father replied that his son would be renouncing his status as a permanent resident since his deferment for university was not granted.
Still returned to Singapore to take part in SEA Games
Lim eventually returned to Singapore in June 2015 for medical screening.
He did so as he was worried he would be barred from taking part in the 2015 Southeast Asian Games (SEA) held in Singapore that year.
He went on to compete at the SEA Games 2015 under the Malaysian flag.
He left Singapore shortly afterwards to return to the U.S. and failed to secure deferment despite applying for it.
Lim was notified in August to report for enlistment on Nov. 11, 2015.
Unhappy that he could not defer his NS obligations, Lim told the authorities that he wanted to renounce his status as a permanent resident.
A police gazette was issued against him when he failed to turn up for enlistment.
Returned to Singapore after completing university
Lim finally returned to Singapore on June 11, 2018, after completing university.
He enlisted on April 3, 2019 and completed his NS on Feb. 2, 2021.
Lim will begin serving his sentence from Feb. 23.
He could have been jailed for up to three years or fined up to S$10,000, or punished with both, for leaving Singapore without an exit permit under the Enlistment Act.
Top photos via Sime Darby & Facebook