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18 April 2005
I read with much interest about the on-going feud between Clive from the UK and Republican of Singapore. I would like to offer some information which I think would be useful to Clive’s argument. I was forced to return Singapore from Spain last year just to complete my military obligations since I still hold a Singapore passport. I am in the midst of completing my service now and wish to highlight some facts that I have got to know from my stint here so far.
Firstly, Singapore has never been engaged in military conflict. Yet the country maintains as many as 225,000 operationally ready National Servicemen and has one of the most advanced air forces in Southeast Asia. The only time that this island was subject to war was in 1942 when the Japanese defeated the then British ruled empire here as part of their attack on the Allies.
There is more than one reason why Singapore likes everyone to believe why it still has National Service. Firstly because it has a population of about 4 million. An army comprised mainly of professionals would simply be too small to adequately defend the country (although many similar sized and smaller countries also do not have National Service). It is interesting to note that recruits are trained to combat in jungle warfare in certain off-shore islands when there is hardly any jungle in the mainland where they are supposed to defend in the event of an attack.
Secondly, national service is supposed to instill a certain degree of harmony and racial/religious unity among its countrymen. All national servicemen are required to take pledge and sign an agreement that they will “die for the country and THE GOVERNMENT if the need arises” on their enlistment day. In simple words, it is used as a mean to implement forced patrotism.
Though it should be noted that Singapore has a thorny relationship with its neighbour Malaysia over disagreements regarding issues such as the sale of water, land reclamation and certain activities allegedly violating maritime boundaries between the two countries, the chances of these issues resulting in war between the two countries is slim.
Republican of Singapore seems to have his pride hurt since Clive is a non-Singaporean commenting on certain Singapore policies. There are other Singaporean writers from of this column who also share similiar sentiments as Clive who have been spared the rod from this Republican of Singapore. I applaud Mr Clive for taking interest in this website though it is of little benefit to him or his country how the PAP runs Singapore. Certain Singaporeans should learn to take negative comments in positive light if they really believe in debate, arguement and persuasion.