Thursday, January 19, 2006

Singaporeans, grow up!

I reproduce the letter from Cheyenne Yee, that was printed in Today 19 January. I agree with the views expressed in the letter. We need to mature as a society.



Dear Mervyn Tan,

I pity you.

I pity you because you were born in a country where we would rather see you in jail than embrace your talent. Although you left the country and renounced your citizenship, we still want you to pay for an offence you commited almost 20 years ago.

You did not go through the same suffering as we did, and maybe we bear a grudge against people like you. We will not forgive you since we are not mature enough.

Maybe if you were a woman, it would be easier since women in Singapore do not serve National Service (NS). It is okay for them not to do it. But it is not okay for you. You have no choice.

The moment you are born male here, you have to serve NS even if your family decided to raise you elsewhere - even if you have few memories of this place, and no longer have a sense of belonging here. Sounds illogical, but this is how we work.

So, stay away. We really do not want you back. Even if you are world-famous. Come back ony when we grow up.

Cheyenne Yee


Ronin said...

I disagree with her (sarcastic) view. The current laws let off NS dodgers lightly and make a mockery of enlistment.

We have to ask ourselves Meryvn's intention of visiting S'pore. His main objective was to visit his grandparents who are too old to travel. He is talented, but is how is he contributing to Singapore? He is British and probably carries a British passport. He represents UK, rather than S'pore, whenever he performs.

What if he isn't a talent? Do we maintain 2 sets of NS law: one for commoners and the other for talents?

What is a few thousand dollars fine when the 2 years can be used to progress one's career. One can earn much more than the puny fine in 2 years' time. NS men are go AWOL for even 1 day are thrown into detenion barracks and the detention period is not counted towards the discharging of NS!! Mervyn dodged draft for decades!

If the government was to let dodgers off lightly, we might as well scrap NS. Why waste S'pore men's time if military defence is not important?

Chey said...

I think facts get so distorted by us that we struggle in our own trap while Melvyn Tan continues his performances elsewhere around the world.

How comforting is that!

ronin. first of all, his main objective was a concert in Singapore. Nothing else. A concert. Like any other concerts. Like a Malaysian holding a concert in SIngapore. Or an American. He was supposed to perform as a pianist.

Never did he mention he's performing AS a Singaporean. Just because he's born here doesn't make him one.

(By the way, I'm not related to him or know him as a friend. I also did not get tickets to his concert. If you must know.)

Secondly, I did not mention in my letter to TODAY about him CONTRIBUTING to Singapore. Because there's no need to. Why are Singaporeans so uptight about this? To my knowledge, he has absolutely NO obligations here! zero. He's no longer a Singapore citizen and do not need to pledge his alligiance to this country.

Simply put it - he's a foreigner. He is as foreigner as BackstreetBoys! Can we accept that?

And like I've said in my letter - since he has not much memories of Singapore, not even a sense of belonging, why are we still insisting that he should "serve" us?

I think most people missed the point.

I'm not pro-Melyvn. I'm not for letting dodgers off easily. I'm all for punishing those who run away from responsibilities. And I'm all for military defence.

But I'm worried for you, ronin, and those like you, that if you continue to bask in your shithole and dabble in your own myopic beliefs - thinking you are right all the time and the rest who deviate from the system are wrong - I cannot see a day when Singapore will be truly mature as a society.

All accusations were made against Melvyn without much thought. All because he came to Singapore and bravely faced the music before his performance - which unfortunately never happen. Nobody commended him for doing so. Instead, we hauled bricks, throw stones at a painist. In fact, if this was the middle ages, we would probably have him burn at the stakes.

I listened to comments around me. And I'm being extremely frank here - that most people are just JEALOUS of him. period.

So what are we? Gentlemen? 2 years in NS, supposingly to make us proud gentlemen, create instead narrow, ungracious, defensive and petty citizens of Singapore.

Before we even think of embarking a journey of openess and radical government reforms, the society must be willing to grow up. It must learn to be forgiving. Learn to be flexible. Learn that others may want to live life differently from yours - and accepting it. Learn to be gracious. Learn to think of others. Learn to stand out and not be embarassed abou it. Learn to champion others instead of puting them down. Learn to appreciate people. Appreciate new ideas. Learn to use common sense. Learn that rules are not set in stone. Learn to make mistakes. Silly mistakes. Learn to laugh at ourselves. Learn to re-learn. Basically learn how not to be a Singaporean.

Only then can we make sense of everything that is said here. And understand why Melvyn Tan, and people like him leave Singapore, not wanting to come back. Like our forefathers who came here to seek a better life, they went away to do the same.

Lets not kid ourselves. Singapore is very, very small. And for her to come so far so fast is an acheivement. We have a low crime rate, good education system, and a stable government. But that doesn't make us close to the best. We are not even ranked in the top 10 most liveable cities. As much as there are reasons for staying in Singapore, there are reasons too for leaving and not coming that.

So don't be shrouded in clouds, thinking that he should have done NS like you and I did, ronin. If you want, you make a better life out of yours. Otherwise leave those who want to make theirs better alone.

I hope you are enlightened.

Ronin said...


Maturity of a society and national defence are 2 separate issues. It is a mistake to lump the 2 together. Does metting out appropriate punishment for NS dodgers mean S'pore is an immature society? Obviously not.

Do you really believe Meryvn stepped foot on S'pore soil without first seeking legal advice? Do you you think an accomplished (and presumably wealthy) pianist will risk a jail-term by performing in S'pore? And you said he is "brave"? Get real!

His lawyer must have advised him and pointed out the precedent court cases concerning NS dodgers and the potential penalty. What is $3,000 compared to what he stand to make from a concert in S'pore? Also, did he travel to the little red dot just to perform for us? You are kidding yourself if you chose to believe so.

The issue here is NS-dodging. Meryvn's case happens to highlight the shortcomings of current laws. I have nothing against Meryvn. But I take issue with your attempt to whitewash his NS-dodging act simply because he is an accomplished pianist. Now, who is being myopic and immature?

I don't know what you are hearing, but I am not the least bit jealous of his accomplishment. I am happy and contented being who I am and what I do for a living. I didn't serve NS to be macho-man. I served simply because it is a service to the nation (and for selfish reason of protecting my loved ones should war erupt).

I hope you are enlightened.

Chey said...

Let's not continue further, ronin. You have made your point. And I appreciate your flattery.

Thanks for engaging me in this passionate debate.

VivaRevolution said...

Tan Kin Lian, you are supporting the painist for staying away from NS? This is very bad. How oculd you possible betray your own country.

Should there be a war , it will be me , my male family members who are NSmen and even your own children who have done NS who will have to lay down our lives to defend you! Not your beloved Melvyn Tan.

I feel sad having to have to defend people like you who are ungrateful and take the sacrifices of our NSmen for granted.

But you are rich and can run from here at the first sign of trouble. We less well off people have no where else to go - we are the true sons of Singapore although we are not from the upper crust of society like yourself.

Tan K L , your indirect but blatant support for the dodging of National Service is shocking and very disturbing.

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