SINGAPORE: The Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) will reject Singapore footballer Benjamin Davis' application to defer his National Service, should there be no new facts presented in his appeal, Senior Minister Of State for Defence Heng Chee How said on Tuesday (Jul 17).
Speaking on the sidelines of his visit to the 188 Squadron, Mr Heng said that MINDEF will re-evaluate Davis' case, should an appeal be launched.
"We have conveyed the decision with regards to the earlier application, and all applications, all appeals will have got to be based on facts and we'll have to evaluate the facts, and if the facts are no different then our position will be consistent," he said.
"For a country like Singapore, we want to value every Singaporean and we want to develop our talent of course, but at the same time, we must also remember that the purpose for all this development is that we have a country and that all of us actually have a duty to one another and this country.
"So we have got to make a good balance between our duty to this country and our very genuine urge to enable everybody to reach their highest potential."
Mr Heng also stressed that MINDEF has been transparent in the way it assesses NS deferments.
"The criteria that MINDEF uses to assess applications has been transparent and has been consistent over time so there's no movement of the goal posts on the part of MINDEF or SAF (Singapore Armed Forces) - this is known to applicants, certainly in this particular case, the family was informed of the considerations beforehand," he noted.
In a previous statement, MINDEF had said that Davis' application was not approved as he "does not meet the criteria for long-term deferment from full-time NS".
"Very few applications have been approved over the years and based on criteria which are made known to the public. In sports, deferments are granted only to those who represent Singapore in international competitions like the Olympic Games and are potential medal winners for Singapore. In the last 15 years, only three have met this criteria," MINDEF said.
The 17-year-old has signed a two-year contract with newly promoted Premier League club Fulham, the club announced on its website last Friday. Davis, the first Singaporean to ink a professional contract with a top-tier English club, turns 18 in November.
Davis had initially joined Fulham on a two-year scholarship deal in July last year, but his performances for the Cottagers' Under-18 side impressed the club which decided to hand him a new deal. Davis made 10 appearances in midfield during his first season.
In a note sent to NS commanders on Tuesday seen by Channel NewsAsia, the ministry had explained its rejection of Davis' deferment application and said it considered the Fulham contract a "personal pursuit".
"Davis’ signing of a senior contract with Fulham FC is a personal pursuit, no different from the personal pursuits by other pre-enlistees like university studies or working in other professional fields," the note read.
"We know that football is popular among Singaporeans and the EPL has a keen following here. However, granting deferment to Davis would be unfair to other pre-enlistees who put their personal pursuits on hold to serve NS dutifully."