SINGAPORE: Local footballer Benjamin Davis has defaulted on his National Service (NS) obligations, the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) said on Monday (Feb 18).
“Mr Benjamin Davis is a National Service (NS) defaulter," said MINDEF in response to Channel NewsAsia's queries. "He failed to report for NS as required. He is also staying overseas without a valid Exit Permit. Mr Davis has committed offences under the Enlistment Act, and is liable upon conviction to a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 3 years.”
Davis, 18, signed a two-year contract with newly promoted English Premier League (EPL) side Fulham, the club announced in July last year. He is the first Singaporean to sign a professional contract with a top-tier English club. The former Singapore Sports School student had joined Fulham on a two-year scholarship deal in July 2017.
His application to defer his national service enlistment was rejected by MINDEF, who said he did not “meet the criteria for long-term deferment from full-time NS".
"As all male Singaporeans liable for full-time NS put aside personal pursuits to dutifully enlist and serve their NS, it would not be fair to approve applications for deferment for individuals to pursue their own careers and development,” MINDEF had said in a statement.
"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.”
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In response, his father, Mr Harvey Davis, said a deferment would have allowed his son to pursue his dream of playing in the EPL and “make Singapore proud by being the first Singaporean to play in the EPL”.
Speaking in Parliament in August last year, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen had stressed that NS obligations are “crucial to our nation’s survival”, as he referred to a 2017 written judgment by the Appellate High Court during an appeal on the sentencing of NS defaulters.
The judges said that every male Singaporean must serve NS at the time he is required to under the Enlistment Act, “without regard to his personal convenience and considerations”.
“The Enlistment Act is blind to 'personal convenience and considerations’, no matter how talented the individual or exceptional his circumstances,” Dr Ng said.
He added that deferment is granted to individuals very selectively, “if their deferment serves Singapore’s interest first and foremost, never their own”.