SINGAPORE: A Singaporean with a second citizenship in Malaysia pleaded guilty on Thursday (Oct 1) to defaulting on his national service obligations for almost 10 years, now saying he wants to retain his Singapore citizenship.
Basil Lim Boon Hoh, 28, admitted to spending a total of nine years, 11 months and 16 days outside Singapore in default of his obligations under the Enlistment Act.
He pleaded guilty to two counts under the act, with another two similar charges taken into consideration for sentencing.
The court heard that Lim was born in Singapore in 1991 to a Singaporean man and a Malaysian woman. Lim is a Singapore citizen by birth.
When Lim was about a year old, he left Singapore for Malaysia and is no longer in contact with his father. He studied in Malaysia and later in the United Kingdom for a Master of Science degree.
In 2001, he was granted Malaysian citizenship and later issued a Malaysian passport which he used to travel overseas.
Lim also used his Singapore passport to travel out of Singapore on about 10 occasions from his birth until 2010, and was also issued a Singapore NRIC in 2007.
His mother had applied for the identity card, despite Lim holding a Malaysian citizenship by that time, as she wanted him to have a choice of where to work in future.
Lim knew about his NS liabilities, as his father had told him about it before he turned 10. When he was about 16, his mother told him he could ignore these liabilities as he "now had Malaysian citizenship and could forget about his NS liabilities".
In the years that followed, he failed to obtain valid exit permits or to report for NS registration. In exchanges with the Central Manpower Base (CMB), Lim's mother claimed that she and her son had "overlooked his NS matter" and claimed they had not received any letters about it.
In 2016, Lim's lawyer wrote to CMB to ask for Lim to be allowed to renounce his Singapore citizenship, but was rejected.
Lim returned to Singapore on Mar 27, 2018 and reported to CMB after earlier telling them that he would return. He enlisted with the Singapore Civil Defence Force and completed his national service on Aug 13 this year.
He now says he wishes to keep his Singapore citizenship, "as he does not speak Malay well and intends to work here instead of Malaysia", said Deputy Public Prosecutor Sean Teh.
The Ministry of Defence had said previously that 14 NS defaulters have been imprisoned since 2017.
It said that all male Singapore citizens and permanent residents "have a duty to serve NS and it is important that NS has the support and commitment of all Singaporeans".
"To achieve this, we have to adhere to the fundamental principles of universality and equity in NS. If we allow Singapore citizens or PRs who are overseas to evade NS or to choose when they want to serve NS, we are not being fair to the vast majority of our national servicemen who serve their country dutifully, and the institution of NS will be undermined," said MINDEF in its earlier statement.
Lim has not been sentenced and will return to court on Oct 15 for a further mention of his case.
For each charge of failing to fulfil his liability under the Enlistment Act, he could be jailed for up to three years, fined up to S$10,000, or both.