SINGAPORE: A Singaporean who moved to Malaysia with his mother at the age of 13 after his parents divorced was sentenced to jail for defaulting on national service (NS).
The young man returned to Singapore after his mother divorced his "domineering" stepfather, who had purportedly controlled their movements and kept them from returning home.
Mohammad Sariyan Mohd Yazid, 24, was sentenced to 10 weeks' jail on Wednesday (Aug 11) for one count under the Enlistment Act. Another charge was considered in sentencing.
Sariyan is the 18th man to be sentenced for defaulting on NS since the High Court sentencing framework for such crimes was set out in 2017.
The court heard that Sariyan was born in Singapore in 1997. His parents and his four siblings are Singapore citizens.
When he was 13, his parents divorced and his mother was granted custody of her five children, including Sariyan.
That same year, Sariyan was taken to Malaysia by his mother and new stepfather. Sariyan attended religious schools there and worked odd jobs before enrolling in a food and beverage course.
He quit the course after a year and moved to Johor Bahru to live and work when he was 19.
When Sariyan reached 16.5 years old in December 2013, he was required to retain a valid exit permit for any trips out of Singapore.
However, he did not do so as his passport had expired and he did not intend to return to Singapore, the prosecutor said.
STEPFATHER STOPPED THEM: DEFENCE
According to his lawyer, Mr Sim Bing Wen from Drew and Napier who was assigned under the Criminal Legal Aid Scheme, Sariyan's stepfather was a "somewhat domineering figure who wanted the family to stay together in Malaysia".
It was his stepfather who decided the children had to attend religious schools, and it was "not easy" for Sariyan and his mother to return to Singapore, said Mr Sim.
"They were living under the shadow of a domineering figure who wasn't very cooperative," he added.
It was only after Sariyan's mother decided to get a divorce, and after Sariyan's relative obtained keys to her flat in Singapore and offered them lodging, that they returned.
Sariyan returned to Singapore on Dec 6, 2018 and registered for NS a day later. He was enlisted into full-time national service in November 2019.
The prosecutor asked for 10 weeks' jail, but the defence urged the court to consider Sariyan's additional circumstances.
He said this was not a case where his client defaulted on NS to gain an advantage.
In fact, because of how he was "uprooted" and taken to Malaysia, Sariyan's life was disrupted, said his lawyer, adding that Sariyan struggled in school and took on odd jobs.
In response, the prosecutor said Sariyan also had younger brothers who were in Malaysia and that they returned to Singapore to serve their NS. She added that Sariyan's sister said he could not be bothered to renew his passport when it had expired.
The defence replied that Sariyan's younger brothers had returned to Singapore at the same time as he did.
The judge noted that there were several reasons for NS, one of which was to "gel our population as one rite of passage for all".
He meted out the jail term sought by the prosecution. For defaulting on NS, Sariyan could have been jailed up to three years, fined up to S$10,000, or both.