MINDEF Open To More NS Disruptions For National Athletes
NS is a rite of passage for male Singaporeans and Permanent Residents who turn 18.
However, apart from fulfilling their NS duties, some with sporting and arts talent have the honour of representing the country on regional and international platforms.
On Tuesday (5 Jul), Minister of Defence Ng Eng Hen said his ministry (MINDEF) is prepared to allow more athletes training for international competitions to disrupt their full-time national service.
He acknowledged that it is not easy for one to fulfil their NS duties while training and competing for medals at the same time.
However, he emphasised that they will still be required to complete the full period required after their disruption, and perform their duties satisfactorily.
MINDEF prepared to allow more people to disrupt their full-time NS
Speaking in Parliament, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said MINDEF is open to discussions regarding NS disruptions for those with sporting and arts talent.
Disruptions are short-term leaves from full-time NS, as opposed to deferment, which refers to delaying.
Responding to a query by Progress Singapore Party NCMP Leong Mun Wai, he said that long-term deferments would remain exceptional for those who can potentially win medals at top-tier international competitions, such as the Olympics.
During his speech, he recognised the difficulties faced by national sportsmen in trying to succeed in both NS and competitions.
Although some have managed to achieve it, he cautioned against setting unrealistic expectations on every one of them.
They will still be required to fulfil their duties properly
Dr Ng emphasised that NS disruptions don’t mean that athletes do not have to fulfil their NS duties.
Even if they are granted the disruption, MINDEF will ensure that they take their duties seriously and continue to perform them competently.
Furthermore, they will only be allowed outside critical periods, such as Basic Military Training, specialist and commanders’ courses, and the unit’s key operations.
SEA Games athletes Koen Pang, Ang Chen Xiang, and Luke Chua have benefited from this arrangement.
Meanwhile, swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen are allowed to defer for seven and six years respectively. Both were perceived to have a high potential for winning medals at the Olympic Games.
Next review of NS policies will account for public opinion
Dr Ng added that although NS enjoys considerable national support, it must not be taken for granted.
The key reason for this support is the unequivocal application of universality and equity where all who must serve are required to do so, not at a time of their choosing, and while putting aside all personal goals.
He also recognised that some Singaporeans are not supportive of disruptions of NS for sport. Therefore, he reiterated that there is space for “ground-up dialogues”.
Dr Ng shared that no national athlete has asked to be exempted from NS so far, and praised them for understanding and accepting their duties.
Hope athletes will continue to receive support through NS
Understandably, some people may be unsupportive of this idea and prefer NS to be implemented in Singapore regardless of one’s talents.
However, by representing the nation and winning medals, athletes also serve the country and bring glory to our little red dot.
As the ministry will continue to have dialogues on evolving NS policies, we hope that our athletes will receive the support they need to succeed.
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Featured image adapted from MCI Singapore on YouTube.