I REFER to last Friday's letter by Mr Michael Ang, 'Make English and modified NS a must'.
National service (NS) is not merely a rite of passage for young male Singaporeans. It was conceived with a specific objective to build up a citizens' army to defend Singapore militarily. This objective remains true today.
It is tempting to argue that foreigners should do NS as a price to pay for Singapore citizenship because many view NS as a liability borne by Singaporeans. However, NS functions as part of a wider framework of the war-fighting doctrine of the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), as well as Singapore's national development. Manpower requirements, including those for conscription, must be meticulously identified and implemented.
Many foreigners coming to Singapore are in their late 20s or older. They are already economically productive and can immediately contribute to Singapore's economy. It makes little sense to disrupt their activities for two years. Whatever social networks they have developed would also need to be rebuilt.
Having modified NS is feasible only if it fits in with the overall requirements of the SAF and complements its capability. It is a waste of resources if it exists only to make some people 'serve their duty'.
Furthermore, the largest army corps is the infantry and this is where the SAF needs the most people. However, studies in other countries have shown that the specific kind of fitness needed for infantry soldiers, involving a combination of agility, stamina and tolerance of sleep deprivation, starts to degrade from the late 20s onwards. This is why armies across the world have a lower maximum age to join the infantry.
The Singapore Government has not resolved. I brought this issue up 25 years ago to point out the serious disadvantage faced by our male Singaporeans in having serving National Service, and having to compete for jobs with girls and foreigners. Over the years, this problem has became more serious.