Sunday, March 9, 2008

Singapore's draft dodgers, adding to it's brain drain.

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retirement benefits since the government is repeatedly extending the age limit before which retirement savings can be withdrawn; and due to the lack of political freedom and human rights.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.

Gopalan Nair
39737 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite A1
Fremont, CA 94538, USA
Tel: 510 657 6107
Fax: 510 657 6914

And if you like what I write, please tell your friends. This blog not only gives information, it dispels the government propaganda put out by this dictatorial regime.


Unknown said...

I just discovered your blog a few days ago and I must admire you for being brave enough to stand up and speak the truth to power.

I am in the same situation here. My son will be eligible for NS in a few years time although he has spent 90% of his life living in the US. I am awaiting my green card, and will be applying for US citizenship soon after that. But the problem still remains. Even if my son is a US citizen he will still be liable for NS and can be incarcerated in Singapore if he were to return and not fulfill his obligation...

One other thing, you mentioned, "he began to passionately appeal to their consciences, reminding them that it was Singapore that educated them; enabling them to immigrate to Australia."

I seriously doubt it. Or has the old man gone soft in his advancing years? I believe he would have chided and scolded these students, berating them as spoiled ingrates etc. etc. Maybe the reporter used the word "passionate" to gloss over this. You know what moral cowards our reporters are.

As Voltaire might have said, I don't agree completely with what your views (although actually I do), but I defend to the death your right to say it.

Please keep speaking up!

Anonymous said...

The Old Man has basically destroyed Spore with his silly policies & rigid laws & regulations to inhibit public dissidence. Spore is his own personal fiefdom to which he has enriched his own family & friends. No one with a basic intelligence would want to be in a society where the FamiLee inner circle gets all the rewards and privileges while the outer have to scrap for their throw-aways. Eg. Ministers' children are often beneficiaries of prestigious govt scholarships while the average joe's kids have to go to ITE/Poly. Even in National Service, the inner circle children entering NS were earmarked as White Horses. What does that mean? I wouldn't know but such a practice clearly shows a 2-tier society.
Anyway, Spore's education is over-rated for what it's worth. The educational system is only good up to Secondary level as it teaches discipline & basic academic skills. However, the thought process & creativity is lacking - this hinder the next step towards tertiary education. Bilingualism hurts our language & literacy skills as you cannot be master of both languages. In fact, the sharp focus on Chinese language has reduced Spore's English speaking proficiency that Sporeans when they speak english - they can barely make themselves understood by foreigners. Written communication skills are equally poor - I came across an university graduate who couldn't even compose a simple letter properly.
Spore education is extremely narrow in focus - the arts, music & creative elements are given low priority whereas engineering, medicine, law and business administration are highly valued. The incredible irony is that with the digital internet age - creativity is everything to this new industry. Cybergaming/MMORPG, Youtube, Myspace, Facebook, Blogging - these are avenues with which to create new values & growth economies. The backhand to these new trends is that liberal values, tolerance & a permissive open attitude are necessary - Do anyone see Spore heading towards that direction? ABSOLUTELY NO!
Spore is still grounded with censorship, intolerance & just poor micro-management control. Even Old Man's grandchildren could see that the grass is definitely greener on the other side. Old Man's insistence on micro-managing the economy has caused Spore to miss out on many opportunities. High tech industries as Semi-conductors, Bio-technology & Pharmaceuticals - Spore has got no foothold in these industries. They are here because of tax breaks and govt incentive, cheap land, etc. In another few years, they would migrate to elsewhere.
Old Man's own vision of his economy is akin to a Slave-driven economy. Eg. Bus companies now have to recruit PRC drivers as local/Msians find it unattractive due to low pay, poor irregular working hours, etc. While the Public Transport Bus companies are making huge profits, they can't pay their bus drivers a decent wage. Of course, it is no coincidence that the govt owns these companies & receive huge dividends in order to pay their Ministers their huge salaries. At the end, Spore is just a slave economy working for the benefit of just a few.
No wonder many people are packing their bags & leaving Spore for good.

Anonymous said...

"...he began to passionately appeal to their consciences, reminding them that it was Singapore that educated them; enabling them to immigrate to Australia."
Did somebody missed something? How can LKY have the bloody cheek to tell ex-Sporeans that Spore educated them when the truth is the Spore govt had denied them all possibilities of a local tertiary education. For many years, the Spore govt have been lavishing scholarships to 1st, Malaysians & now, PRCians (Chinamen) & Indians (from India) instead of giving it to local Sporeans. All of us local Sporeans, myself included had to go overseas - Australia, NZ, UK, US & Canada for our tertiary education at our OWN COST mainly with help from our parents. During the course of working, I've came across many Msian PRs in Spore whom admitted they studied in NUS/NTU with full scholarships & living expenses provided by govt. Academically, they are not better than local overseas-university graduates - in fact, their English proficiency and basic knowledge are worse. The only reason I can think of is that they were politically pliable (..easily influenced, persuaded, or swayed; tractable.), economically dependent on govt's whims (scholarship bond) & control (PR terms)and having little alternatives - thus providing a buffer to the PAP-govt against the local Sporeans. The joke is that this discrimatory education policy of giving scholarships to foreigners backfired badly on the govt when Msian PRs after working many years in Spore either opted to go back to Msia (where they could live comfortably - in a big house with a luxury car given the currency disparity - M$ vs S$) or migrate to Australia or NZ where their Spore educational qualification & work experience gave them higher points in their migration application. Very few Msian PRs converted to Spore citizens. A long standing dispute between Msian & Spore govts was the continued retention of Msians' CPF monies who have left Spore for good.
Now, the policy has switched to PRC & India students as the supply of good Msian students have dried up as there are now many good private colleges in Msia which have twining relationship with overseas universities. Because of the NEP education racial quota policy, Msia actually developed an excellent network of private colleges where non-Bumis can study for their degrees which are granted by renowed overseas universities. The really good students are cherry picked by the foreign universities and are given full scholarships without strings attached unlike Spore ones which include a 6-yr working bond. In fact, their International Baccalaureate (IB) Colleges are so good yet affordable that many middle class Sporeans send their children to KL to have an education out of the pressurized Spore system and for gaining direct access to US universities. Unlike the recent fuss about the failed UNSW-EDB project in Spore, Msia has quietly gone on to develop a higher educational hub without govt assistance - mainly between local private enterprise groups & overseas education providers.
The current system prevails in Spore because no one know any better & no one can offer their input. LKY is a micro-manager & he cannot see outside of his own box where global trends are forming to make his own pitiful vision redundant.

Anonymous said...

I think you are missing the point here. The migration out is a pressure release valve to enable people who are dissatisfied with the status quo to leave but not to return. The same thing is done in Palestine by the way. Yes the brain drain is ultimately bad for the economy. Yes they are trying to compensate by attracting FTs. But the government simply does not celebrate an ex-Singaporean say the way Korea does. The mentality is ok so we lose another talented Singaporean will just make a new one by taking on a new immigrant. After all, we were all descended from immigrants.