Ladies and Gentlemen,
Singapore island today, a tiny piece of real estate 16 miles North to South and 26 miles East to West and slightly smaller at high tide, with a population packed like sardines, one on top of the other in high rise apartments, all 5 million of them, has a defense system based on conscription (national service) which for all intents and purposes is today totally dead.
They simply can't enlist enough people and the barracks are literally empty. In desperation, about a month ago, their state controlled newspaper Straits Times had reported accepting volunteers to serve in the army and a mere half a dozen had applied. As of today, it is uncertain whether even the six are still there or simply left. They had also said that women, hitherto exempt can volunteer if they want. About 6 women were reported, with a picture of one in jungle fatigues, to have joined but again, we are not sure if they too have left. Since that last report, we have not heard anything more from the state controlled newspaper. I assume the attempt has failed.
There are several reasons for this.
Although on paper, it is supposed to be a parliamentary democracy, it is in fact a fiefdom belonging to the Lee family and their relatives and friends. In other words they do anything they want. So, Lee Senior, who is now 92 and bedridden and about to die, some decades ago, decided, never mind the Constitution, that the ethnic Chinese population in the island has to be increased because like him, the Chinese race are hardworking, and smart while the other races are all stupid.
So he continues to bring in plane loads of Chinese nationals from Communist China to boost the numbers, resulting in today, the population is 75% Chinese, a tiny smaller proportion Malay and a small handful Indians. But he obviously forgot to think over this racial question when introducing conscription. The Chinese are coastal Chinese from China who traditionally were involved in small businesses and shop front retail business. They have a traditional dislike for all things military and getting a Singapore Chinese into a military uniform is like trying to make a cat take to swimming. As a result every single local Chinese male is trying his best to get out of national service.
Many go abroad for studies and never return. Others try to feign physical or biological incapacity or illness. I came across one ethnic Chinese gentleman this year who met me in my Fremont California office. He said he got away because he was able to be declared mentally unsound. He did this by working up a history with his doctor over a full year finally convincing the army medical board that he was indeed mad. One Malay gentlemen escaped during service this year and is presently in California. He tells me he has no intention to return. I advised him that Singapore cannot obtain his extradition.
The other cause is the shrinking population. According to CIA statistics on fertility, Singapore has the world's lowest, which is 1.2, meaning that a couple has either one child or none at all. Singapore's true native population, by which I mean people born in the island whose parents and grandparents came to the island, is at most 1.5 million if not less. There are other Singapore citizens who were brought in recently within the last ten years. Other than them the others making up the balance of 3.5 million are all foreigners. With this demographic pattern, in just one generation, the entire true blood Singapore citizens will die off completely leaving hardly anyone to be conscripted. They are trying to increase the numbers of immigrants and force their children to serve, but the records show that half of these immigrant children simply give up their residence status to avoid service and those who do serve do so very reluctantly and eventually get way anyway.
You can see the fallacy of this policy. Immigrants come to Singapore looking for work. They have no intention of serving in the army for 2 years. Naturally if you force them, they are either not going to come or find every way possible to get out of it. Which is precisely what is happening today.
Also Singapore is no Israel which has arguably a historical political religious and nationalistic reason which makes conscription attractive to many. Singapore on the other hand has none. It has no enemies and it is run by a father and son dictatorship.
And then you have the phenomenon of ethnic Chinese women in Singapore who treasure marrying European or American men so as to settle in the West. It appears that some of these Western men have some difficulty in getting wives where they are, and go to Asia like Singapore where Chinese women are aplenty waiting for the opportunity. So when they marry, they go the West and have children there which means one less Singapore male for Lee's army.
I receive numerous letters from these Western gentlemen, who have either children born with their Chinese wives in Singapore or children of the woman from a prior marriage, who now want no part of national service because they have no intention of living in the island.
And who can blame them. If you can live in Frankfurt Germany and raise your children there, why in Heavens would you want to bring them up in Lee Kuan Yew's Singapore for the brainwashing to be turned into an imbecile at the end of it.
What happens in these cases almost always is that the government remains firm in demanding they serve, which means that if they are in Singapore, they somehow try to leave the island and never return or if they are abroad, never return to the island. If they do, they know they will be arrested and jailed. In this manner, there is no doubt that Singapore loses a large number of young men, highly educated in foreign universities because they have not done national service and are afraid to return.
The other reason why national service is failing is Singapore's political system. It is a compete one party dictatorship devoid of any fundamental human rights, no free speech, no right to free expression, no free press, no rule of law; simply an island where the Lees and their friends can do anything they want. Young men who are increasing educated, and have travelled and have the Internet, are aware of their lives in Singapore, no better then slaves. Why should they, be spending time to serve these dictators?
Also they see the injustice being done to them in many ways. Foreigners who come in do not have to do national service. Foreigners get preference in jobs because employers do not employ those who are encumbered for 20 years in reservist obligations, of 2 weeks each year. As a result, in their own island, foreigners have work and Singapore males are unemployed.
One major reason why they demand national service is the 20 year obligation to remain in Singapore. The brain drain from the tiny population is so large making the government desperate to try any means possible to retain their young men, army reservist obligation being one of them. This is because passport validity for these men only extend up to their next reserve obligation. If they don't return their passports are not extended and they end up illegal in that foreign country.
This is not a problem if you are in the US since you can obtain work permits without proving that you have a valid passport since your situation can be easily explained as a consequence of a dictatorship's desperation.
The whole system is failing and will soon collapse. Like North Korea which controls information, Singapore's state controlled newspapers make no mention of the dire state in which national service is today, for fear that if they admitted this, a core institution of state, it may cause panic and encourage even more to leave.
Problems of this huge scale, are usually suffered by dictatorships, not by democracies which allow citizen participation. In Singapore, just as in North Korea, the dictators can do anything they want and therefore they make laws at the whim of the moment, not realizing that other characteristics of the country may have adverse effects in the policy. It is as if, one hand does not know what the other is doing, a state of affairs typical of all dictatorships.
As a result dictatorships have constantly to correct the errors they have made, thereby creating even more errors until the whole system becomes a joke. This is exactly what is happening today in Lee Kuan Yew and Son's Singapore not only in their failed national service policy but in every other branch of government policy.
Attorney at Law
A Singaporean in Exile
Fremont, California USA
Tel: 510 491 8525