Singapore: Man gets 4 months jail term for dodging military duty

The judge says a good testimonial from the man's superior during NS was considered while sentencing.

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A man who dodged National Service (NS) for more than 10 years was jailed for four months on Thursday. Last month, Jonathan Tan Huai-En pleaded guilty to two counts under the Enlistment Act.for staying outside Singapore without a valid exit permit for 10 years, four months and 13 days.

Josephine Choo, Tan's lawyer, said the 28-year-old accused, who was granted S$10,000 bail, plans to appeal the sentence.

District Judge Shawn Ho noted the importance of NS to the country's safety and security and told Channel NewsAsisa: "An individual cannot cherry-pick when he serves NS. It would be unfair to allow an individual to defer NS to further his education or life pursuits and thereby gain an advantage over his peers who would have to sacrifice by postponing such pursuits."

"Regardless of station in life and background, for the past 50 years of NS … over 900,000 male Singaporeans – sons following their fathers – have served NS," Ho said.

Tan is the older son of Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng, the deputy chairman of law firm WongPartnership. He moved to Canada along with his mother, older sister and younger brother when he was aged 12. In 2005, the family became Canadian citizens and had no plans to return to Singapore.

However, according to Judge Ho, Tan had "reaped the benefits" of Singapore's education system as he completed his primary school from there. He also said that his father stayed in Singapore hence he "retains a substantial connection to Singapore".

In late 2006, a police gazette was raised against Tan when he failed to register for NS after three registration notices were sent to his Singapore address. In 2009, Tan's father told the Central Manpower Base (CMPB) about his son's intention to renounce his Singapore citizenship. He added that Tan was blocked from doing that as he had not fulfilled his NS obligations.

Meanwhile, Tan went on to secure a degree in applied sciences, a masters in engineering and a job with a multinational company based in Canada. He wanted to visit his sick grandfather in Singapore in 2013 but couldn't do so as his mother told him that he would be arrested upon return. Since then, Tan started making arrangements to return to his birthplace.

Tan arrived and enlisted himself in NS in 2016 and is serving his vocation as a preventive medicine technician at present.

While giving the verdict, Judge Ho said the judgement was given after considering a good testimonial from Tan's superior during NS and his admission of guilt and the fact that he surrendered himself. "Tan's culpability flowed not from the fact that he left for Canada, but from him remaining there even after he knew he was required to register for a valid exit permit or return for NS", the judge added.

Tan's 25-year-old younger brother, Isaac, has also returned to Singapore and is under investigation.