HAROLD CHAI: MINDEF issued a statement yesterday stating that it rejected an appeal by Ben Davis to defer his national service as the 17-year-old had no intention of returning to Singapore to perform his NS duties.
It seems strange that MINDEF can read the mind of a teenager.
Ben’s father, Harvey Davis, has insisted that it’s not a matter of “if” but “when” his son will return to serve NS.
But, his other statements have been sketchy at best.
In a statement to the media yesterday, Harvey Davis said:
“As I’ve stated in my e-mail to the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) on 15 May 2018, Ben will return to Singapore and serve his NS if he doesn’t get an extension of the current two-year contract.”
He also said:
“There are a lot of variables all dependent on his development and progression, and anyone who understands how professional football and sports works will understand this.”
So what happens if Ben does get an extension?
Because if he does, he will only be 19 years old – still in his prime as a footballer.
Now, we’re assuming that Ben is a rare talent and will only get better after training at Fulham FC’s top youth facilities.
What happens then if a bigger club comes calling?
The senior Davis has probably left MINDEF with doubts too – it said in a statement that Harvey Davis would not commit to a date when his son would return to serve NS, and had stated that he would put his son’s professional career first.
Singaporeans by and large are sore that former President Tony Tan’s son got a 12-year NS deferment to pursue his studies.
Are we willing to grant Ben Davis a 12-year NS deferment or more, until he is too old to play at football’s top level?
Because with his talent, he might just become the next Steven Gerrard and play well into his 30s.
Perhaps MINDEF can practice what it did with our top Olympian Joseph Schooling – grant a structured deferment.
Schooling was first given a deferment from 2013 to 2016, and this deferment was extended to 2020 after he won Singapore’s first Olympic gold so that he can train for the 2020 Olympics.
But unlike the Schoolings, The Davis family’s roots are in Thailand and England, and his parents have openly spoke about Ben possibly renouncing his Singapore citizenship.
The baseline rules are that every Singaporean male must enlist for NS by the age of 18.
If you feel that Ben Davis should be allowed to pursue his career, then deferment is not the issue here.
Rather, it’s the practice of conscription and the institution of NS, and whether this should be scrapped altogether so that more young Singaporean males have the chance to pursue promising careers while they’re still in the prime of their youth.