Minister Shares Reasons Behind Deferment Rejection

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen laid out in Parliament yesterday (6 Aug)  the fundamentals on which the national service (NS) policy is based to explain why the Ministry of Defence (MINDEF) turned down young footballer Ben Davis' request to defer his NS so that he could play for Fulham Football Club in the English Premier League.

To preserve equity for all national servicemen, MINDEF will defer individuals very selectively, and only if their deferment serves Singapore's interest first and foremost, never their own, he added.

Dr Ng was responding to questions from Members of Parliament sparked by the public debate on the case. The 17-year-old Davis had signed a two-year professional contract with Fulham in Jun after his deferment request was rejected.

Dr Ng listed three reasons for MINDEF's rejection of the NS deferment application. The first is that Davis is playing for Fulham as an English national, not as a Singapore citizen. He was born in Thailand to an English father and Thai mother before moving to Singapore with his family when he was five. He became a Singapore citizen in 2009.

The second reason is that Davis’ father, Mr Harvey Davis, had "consistently refused to indicate" when his son would return to serve NS, if it is deferred. He had said that his son could be offered a new contract or sold or loaned to another club, so the family could not "commit to a date" for his return.

Third, MINDEF said Mr Davis indicated that his son would still sign the contract with Fulham if deferment were not granted - as he did - and would consider the option for his son to renounce his Singapore citizenship in order to pursue his football career.

"MINDEF could not find any valid grounds to approve the application for deferment by Mr Harvey Davis for his son. There is no commitment to serve Singapore or our national interests," said Dr Ng.

"To grant deferment to Mr Ben Davis to pursue his personal development and professional career would be unfair to the many others who have served their NS dutifully as required, and not at a time of their choosing.”

"The application by Mr Harvey Davis for his son's deferment is to further his son's professional career first and to the longest extent possible. Singapore and her interests, including his son's NS obligations, are secondary considerations, if at all."

Source: “Ng Eng Hen explains why request from Ben Davis was rejected” (The Straits Times, 7 August 2018)

Photo: The Straits Times 2018. © Singapore Press Holdings. Reprinted with permission.

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