SINGAPORE: The younger son of senior lawyer Tan Chee Meng was sentenced to 12 weeks’ jail on Wednesday (Oct 11) for flouting the Enlistment Act by remaining overseas for more than six years without an exit permit.
Isaac Tan Yang En, 25, migrated to Canada with his family in 2000 as he and his brother were unable to cope with studying Chinese in school. Tan also suffered from atopic dermatitis, which is exacerbated by Singapore’s hot and humid weather.
Only his father, a Senior Counsel who is now the deputy chairman of WongPartnership, remained in Singapore due to a lack of work opportunities overseas.
Determined to leave Singapore for good, Tan and his family – mother, as well as older brother and sister – applied for Canadian citizenship, which they received in 2005.
In 2009, when he was 16, Tan, through his father, received a registration notice from the Central Manpower Base (CMPB) informing him to register for National Service. Later that year, lawyers acting for the family requested that Tan’s NS be deferred until he turned 21 when he intended to renounce his citizenship.
CMPB rejected the request, as well as a subsequent appeal.
Tan returned to Singapore in August 2015 and enlisted in October.
Besides the charge for remaining overseas without an exit permit for six years, four months and 21 days, Tan also pleaded guilty to two other charges under the Enlistment Act.
Tan could have been jailed for up to three years and fined up to S$10,000.
In a statement after his younger son’s sentencing, the senior Tan said: “My wife and I decided in 2000 to uproot the family and move to Canada as we felt it was in the best interest of the children. NS was the last thing on our minds, let alone evasion. It was not an easy decision."
He added: "Fifteen years later in 2015, my two sons decided on their own that they wanted to return to serve NS. I am very proud of my sons' decision. As a father, it is heart-breaking to see my sons go to jail in circumstances such as these.
"I take responsibility for what happened and the law has to take its course. The past two-and-a-half years have not been easy but we will get through this as a family.”