My response to Michael Gerard Hong, ‘Reward NSmen Who Served Earlier’.
I served my NSF from 1979 to 1981, 2.5 years. I wasn’t very active in ECA during school days and never made it directly to Officer Cadet School despite good academic results. But I did well enough to enter the 10th SMC (Standard Military Course).
My platoon mates ranked me #2, probably because they saw that I did what was right as the appointed Platoon Under Officer even when the trainers were not looking. The trainers ranked me #3, probably because I once explained what no one else did, why I’d rather trigger an attack in an ambush when the ‘enemies were retreating’ instead of advancing.
I never actually had a natural liking for military stuff but my attitude was to make the best of the situation. I did well enough to be commissioned amongst the top 10% and received a sword from then Defence Minister Howe Yoon Chong at the Istana with my parents attending. I was that ‘boh chap’ that it didn’t occur to me to capture that moment in print that I could use to help my career! Dumb ass.
Anyway, I’ve been following the discourse on the NSmen issue and have a definite view about ‘recognition & support’ in light of the calls by some to ‘abolish NS’. After readling the letter TRE published, I could no long hold back my thoughts….
“I read with dismay each time another ex-NSF comrade of mine raise his hand to ask for or suggest a different ‘reward’ or ‘handout’ for the time we spent in NSF.
To do so is to buy into and be trapped by the narrative that this government has framed the issue. Their true intent is to turn THE issue of ‘more support and recognition’ for us into one of ‘more handouts, more goodies, more rewards, more benefits’
Their true intent is to equate ‘recognition and support’ into tangibles whilst completing ignoring – and indeed, hoping to completely bury, snuff out the true cries of true Singaporeans NOT to cheapen what has been originally and always sold to us as a male citizen’s patriotic obligation that is in the same category as the citizenship that one inherits naturally.
I am not here to belittle or disregard the possible good of tangible reciprocity from the State that some or many of my fellow NSmen can do with. I am not here to begrudge the work of those who sincerely work to help give tangible meanings to the time, effort – and, really, a chunk of our lives – given to serve our country and countrymen.
I am here to call the bluff, the sleight of hand by the leaders to divert the true issue that has made us unhappy where once there never was. When was there ever such vocal cries to ABOLISH NS? When? When? When?
If there was never before such an outcry – one born of disgust and, perhaps, desperation even at how hopeless the idea of defending Singapore has become – then WHY? WHY? WHY?
And, WHY NOW? Why not when Singapore was barely a Third World city, when we had not yet all these physical trappings of a nouveau riche city, all the CPF money that belongs to us citizens, all that Singaporeans proudly identify ourselves with and as when we are asked our identity when overseas, when asked?
The TRUE ISSUE is not one of boosting the recognition of the NSman – it is in the cheapening of it.
– It is in the relegating of National Service to lowly citizens while non-citizens and newly-mint ones get to get a free pass to make more money, faster, without the NS incumbrance.
– It is in the denial of choice whether to be drafted while PRs get to decide whether or not to proceed, to sign up.
– It is in the slavery-like condition that is dug for our lives even as we give a chunk of our lives in the hope of being able to actually OWN a small part of the real estate that we have sworn and trained to protect…even as non-citizens swarmed down to scoop up what’s there on the cheap while we pay time and are paid pittance, unable to pay even the down-payment.
– It is in the discrimination that NSmen face from employers who could easily find cheaper foreign replacements…all aided and made possible by the very govt who seeks to offer more ‘recognition and support’ to us.
And yes indeed! It is in the sickening attempt to equate the intangible nobility of a cause with the cheap tangibles while completing ignoring the TRUE ISSUE.
Please NSmen all! DON’T BE FOOLED! You don’t need more handouts if food, clothes and shelter are not priced out of reach for and by the rich!
Tell them, “GIVE ME BACK MY COUNTRY AND EVERYTHING THAT IS MEANT BY THAT and I will seize that great honour to serve my National Service gladly AGAIN AND AGAIN! And so will my sons and my grandsons after him.”
Anything less is betrayal.”