Ng Eng Hen clarifies all young male new citizens are enlisted for national service, calls Leong Mun Wai's claims 'misleading'

Ng asked, "If pre-enlistees are misled into thinking that new citizens of their age are exempted, where will they have the heart to serve National Service?"

Sulaiman Daud | August 02, 2022, 06:46 PM

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Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen called out "misleading statements" made by Leong Mun Wai of the Progress Singapore Party (PSP) on national service (NS) done by new citizens.

In a special ministerial statement in the Aug. 2 sitting of Parliament, Ng gave numbers on NS participation rates, but also spent some time addressing and debunking certain claims made by Leong, the Non-Constituency Member of Parliament.

Leong Mun Wai's assertion is inaccurate and misleading: Ng

Ng began by referring to the previous Parliamentary sitting on July 5.

In a supplementary question following his reply on sporting privileges for national servicemen, Leong asserted that "citizens by registration are not doing national service".

"Mr Leong's assertion is inaccurate and misleading," said Ng. He revealed that since 2000, on average, 3,400 new citizens are registered each year, who have been or will be enlisted in national service.

All male Singapore citizens and permanent residents between the ages of 18 to 40 for non-officers, and 50 for officers, are liable to serve national service. However, males who receive citizenship as mature adults, typically in their 30s and 40s, are not enlisted.

They are not suitable for full time NS at that age, and they "did not enjoy any benefits prior to their citizenship."

Young male new citizens are enlisted

However, new male citizens who stayed in Singapore while young and enjoyed economic and social benefits are enlisted when they reach 18 years old, or older.

They number on average 3,400 each year, which constitute about half of all new male citizens registered this year.

Ng: Leong should've waited for Mindef's reply

Ng explained that the Ministry of Defence prepared the same reply in May because Leong filed a similar question then, but he withdrew because there was no sitting that month.

"Even before the July sitting, Mr Leong had been repeating these misleading statements in two Facebook posts, one in late May and the other in first July," Ng said.



Link to Leong's May Facebook post.

"Let there be no doubt that for every young male citizen, whether by birth registration or descent, the NS liabilities are the same, we do not differentiate," Ng said.

"On a topic as important as national service, Mr Leong should have waited for Mindef's reply, or sought the full facts," Ng added.

Increasing percentage of NS enlistees are new citizens and PRs

Ng also said that this policy is not new, at least 40 years old, and the relevant information is easily available online.

"This long-standing policy has served our defence needs. Over the years, permanent residents and young male new citizens have formed an increasing proportion of NS enlistees.

In the early 2000s, young male new citizens and permanent residents formed five per cent of enlistees. Today, they form about 20 per cent of all enlisted full-time National servicemen.

"So what Mr Leong asserts, is not true," Ng said, and continued, "I have decided that it's important to correct the misleading statements put out by Mr Leong because they strike at the foundations of equity and universality that underpin National Service in Singapore."

Ng added:

"Just think about it. If pre-enlistees are misled into thinking that new citizens of their age are exempted, where will they have the heart to serve National Service? Correct facts must be put out to reassure the national servicemen in the SAF and the Home Team.

National Service is the bedrock of the SAF and our national defence. MPs have the duty to ask questions and debate policies, including national service policies in this House, but they should not make misleading statements that can weaken National Service, the SAF and the Home Team."

Leong asks for more data

In his clarification, Leong asked a "fundamental question" about the number of new citizens who do not serve NS.

After some back-and-forth, Ng stated that the question has been "replied to", namely that on average since the year 2000, 3,400 new citizens are registered each year, who have been or will be enlisted. Also, 20 per cent of all NS enlistees are made up of both new citizens and PRs.

Leong said he would file a new parliamentary question in the next sitting.

Top image from MCI YouTube.