Ladies and Gentlemen,
Singapore, a tiny county with a small population has been over the last few decades suffering from a serious impediment to its ambition of becoming a first world international city state. This is the problem of massive on going emigration to more developed countries by the educated and skilled of Singapore.
The reasons for Singaporeans wanting to leave are many, such as the search for better paid jobs; the political uncertainly of it's future since it is nothing more than a dictatorship with an ageing dictator; the uncertainty of whether Singaporeans will receive their retirement benefits since the government is repeatedly extending the age limit before which retirement savings can be withdrawn; and due to the lack of political freedom and human rights.
The Minister Mentor or the dictator Lee Kuan Yew has himself referred to this problem on several occasions locally and with him traveling abroad; appealing and begging overseas Singaporeans to return to Singapore, confessing that this exodus of Singaporeans leaving the country is beginning to hurt the very foundation of Singapore. On one occasion, out of desperation in Melbourne Australia when speaking to a group of Singaporeans who were determined not to return to Singapore, come Hell or high water; he began to passionately appeal to their consciences, reminding them that it was Singapore that educated them; enabling them to immigrate to Australia.
In their desperation, wrestling with this problem; the government of Singapore spends thousands of dollars, setting up Singapore clubs all over the world, throwing lavish parties and functions where free food and drinks are provided to overseas Singaporeans to somehow entice them to return to live and work in Singapore, in return for the free food and drink, at government expense.
We have also had government ministers traveling to these international locations at tax payer’s expense for this purpose. All this has come to naught. Not a single Singaporean has agreed to return. Their dislike for Singapore appears quite clear and they have made up their minds.
As if this is not enough, we have another problem. This time the involuntary draft dodgers who leave, never to return. I say involuntary because they were too young when they left to have any intent to become draft dodgers.
I am referring to young male teenagers, born in Singapore, who left Singapore, merely accompanying their parents who emigrated. These young teenagers, upon reaching 18, even though they are already settled overseas, are still required to return to Singapore to enlist and undergo national service for 2 years in the Army.
Since it makes no sense to be spending 2 years in the Army of a country where they have no intention of living, invariably these young men fail to surrender themselves for this purpose. And from that point of time, under the Enlistment Act, they become criminals or draft dodgers, who are liable to arrested on sight the moment they step foot on Singapore soil. And since imprisonment and a fine is their only reward if they return; they turn themselves into permanent exiles from Singapore with no prospect of ever returning to their country of birth. This adds to the already huge numbers of educated Singaporeans leaving.
This group of young men who are in essence in permanent banishment status, are the very ones which Singapore can least afford to lose; being the most educated capable skilled with international experience, all qualities that Singapore most desperately needs if it wants to achieve its aim of first world status.
Singapore's Enlistment Act requires all males born in Singapore to endure 2 years of national service upon reaching 18. Failure to report and submit to national survive requirements renders the offender to both fine and jail at Queenstown Prison. Only men have this requirement. Women do not have this liability.
With the present uncertain political situation in the country, the lack of social graces among its people, the lack of courtesy and manners, and not only that; the lack of human rights, a dictatorial government, the lack of an independent judiciary and the recent refusal of the government to give their citizens their retirement benefits held in the CPF, all make Singapore an unattractive place for those with means, education and skills.
Since these qualified people are accepted for emigration to Australia and other more developed societies, they leave Singapore taking their families with them including their sons who are born in Singapore.
These boys who accompany their parents to Australia are not the ones who decided on emigration since they are minors, less than 18 years and merely accompanying their parents to their adopted country to live. But it is these boys who will automatically become criminals under Singapore law if they did not return to Singapore to spend 2 years of their lives in the Army for national service.
Punishing these boys who turn 18, who happen to be living in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the USA and other places around the world, simply because they refuse to return to Singapore to serve in the Army, is completely illogical and harebrained. Firstly, it was not the boy who decided to leave Singapore to settle in Australia. It was his parents. By punishing the boy when he turns 18 is to punish the wrong person!
Second, since it is clear that having left Singapore the boy has indicated that he wants nothing more to do with that island, what is the point of insisting that he return to a country to spend 2 years in the Army, a country to which he has no desire to live at all?
Singapore is already suffering from a serious shortage of births. Not only that all attempts by the government to encourage people to marry have failed; the birth rate is so low, it is insufficient to replace the numbers dying. This is already causing a severe shortage in manpower for the 3 military arms of Army Air Force and Navy; it is also turning into a national security problem because of insufficient recruits.
As if all this is not enough, the government by their misconceived policies exasperates the already worsening situation by adding another class of disgruntled young men, who are now forced to become permanent exiles because through no fault of their own they have been turned into criminals and fugitives subject to being arrested on sight if they ever step foot in Singapore.
This not only causes very capable educated young men to be lost permanently to Singapore, it also causes extreme bitterness and hatred towards Singapore in the minds of these young men; circumstances where not only are these men lost to Singapore, they also turn out to become ambassadors of hate against Singapore.
If the Singapore government had any wisdom, which I doubt very much; they will reverse this self destructive and self defeating policy of requiring these men to serve national service in Singapore; where circumstances clearly show that they have no desire to return to the country.
So as not to lose their talents forever, since one day they may want to return to Singapore; the government should rescind the requirement for national service in this case; permitting them to retain their citizenship if they desire, devise some other mechanism whereby these overseas Singaporeans can discharge their duty to remain overseas Singaporeans; and to permit dual nationality such as the case in the UK, where citizens of Singapore can remain Singaporeans regardless of their accepting some other nationality.
Under the UK, British Nationality Act, a UK citizen remains a citizen regardless of his having acquired American or any other nationality. Just like the thousands of colonial Englishmen who settled in Singapore acquiring Singapore citizenship. In the end, they all returned to England. And England accepts them. This, I think, is the answer to the severely people strapped tiny island of Singapore.
If only they will listen.
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