NS defaulter has jail term increased to 13 months after appeal

SINGAPORE: A 32-year-old man who defaulted on his National Service (NS)
obligations had his jail sentence increased to 13 months after an appeal
to have it reduced failed.

Douglas Tan, who has dual citizenship in Malaysia and Singapore, was
originally sentenced to 10 months' jail , which Justice Hoo Sheau Peng
said on Monday (Oct 22) was “manifestly inadequate”.

Tan, a law graduate, was born in Singapore, and has a Malaysian birth certificate, passport and identity card.

Tan’s lawyers had argued that Tan was not aware of his NS obligations,
and that his case was similar to other cases in which the offenders were
not given a jail term, but a fine instead.

According to court documents, Tan was studying in the United Kingdom when he was sent a notice to register for NS.

His father wrote to the Ministry of Defence to ask for a deferment, but this was rejected.

Tan claimed he only knew about his NS obligations and default when he returned to Malaysia in 2008.

However, Justice Hoo said: “In my view, it could not be said that the
accused had been unaware of his NS liabilities, or that he had believed
that his parents had resolved the matter for him.”

He pointed to Tan holding a Singapore passport until he was 11 years
old, and thereafter using a Right of Entry stamp on his Malaysian
passport, which allowed him to enter Singapore as a Singapore citizen,
“a privilege he had exercised repeatedly”.

Tan lived in Singapore for two years in 2000 and 2001 when he studied at
the Anglo-Chinese School (Independent). He did not require a student
visa, paid the subsidised school fee rate for local students, and took
up a Music Elective Programme scholarship that is open to Singapore
citizens only.

“It is in my view inconceivable that, having studied in Singapore for
two years in an all-boys school, he would not have been exposed to the
fact that male Singapore citizens have to serve NS,” Justice Hoo added.

The prosecution also said that in any event, Tan had expressed his
readiness in 2010 to serve NS if MINDEF could guarantee that he would
not be prosecuted.

“When that assurance was not forthcoming, he decided to continue to stay
away, returning only at a time of his choosing,” Deputy Public
Prosecutor Ho Lian-Yi said.

Tan surrendered to the authorities in March 2016, and has since
completed his full-time NS with the Singapore Civil Defence Force.

The prosecution, in its appeal for a stronger sentence, noted that the
district judge had erred in the original sentencing by splitting up
Tan's nearly 13 years as an NS defaulter into two periods to account for
an amendment in the Enlistment Act.

Justice Hoo agreed: “The district judge had erred by applying the
benchmarks to each of the two periods of default individually, instead
of to the total period of default in the aggregate."

Tan could have been jailed up to three years, and fined a maximum of S$10,000.


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