National Service (NS) – with its multitude of personal benefits to servicemen and contributions to the country’s big-picture defence mechanisms – is a noble undertaking; however, given the responsibilities and comparative time expended, it comes as little surprise that feelings of being disadvantaged have gradually surfaced. Beyond the fact that servicemen lag woefully behind their female counterparts in their study and work endeavours – cognisant that a man’s commitment stretches to between ten and twenty years with the inclusion of reservist duties – many have lamented the heavy burden that NS has heaved upon them for the better part of their lives.
Taking into account the aforementioned, a question – to possibly level the playing field – emerges: should new citizens and women serve NS in customised vocations or postings?
Every Singaporean’s Obligation?
The contention that NS obligations would potentially scare away new citizens is dangerously convenient and unfair for born-and-bred Singaporean males; progressively, it should be made clear that the Singapore citizenship comes with its costs and expectations. The heralded concept of the “Total Defence” strategy makes it possible for these individuals to contribute to their society and neighbourhoods in an assortment of ways: for instance, grassroots initiatives would value-add the “Social Defence” component, while participation in community projects would aid in “Civil Defence”. Fulfilment of these productive duties can be made compulsory for them through the stipulation of specific hours over a sustainable period of time.
NS can, and should, evolve beyond the sole military function.
This is especially applicable for young professionals who have the abilities to contribute constructively beyond the economic sphere – an aspect that Singaporean males play a part in too – per se. Taking into consideration the social function of NS and its corresponding benefits in fostering national cohesion, the common experience can also mitigate feelings of possible xenophobia and uncertainties, heighten levels of mutual comprehension and encourage new citizens to develop a sense of rootedness.
Women: Negotiating Around The Status Quo?
Engaging women in the military raises a host of complicated ethical and moral issues; they are biologically and physiologically handicapped, and face contentious problems such as sexual harassment, possible pregnancy worries et cetera. There might not be immediate operational needs from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) at the moment, but the length and type of service can be appropriately adjusted to negotiate around limitations and various technicalities, to include administrative, nursing or clerical jobs.
There should be greater empathy and understanding for the sacrifices that servicemen make for the greater good of the country: they struggle to narrow the learning and knowledge gap in the colleges after years of dumbed-down regimentation, and continually seek to increase their financial stability at work. Levelling the playing field in the long-run should be contemplated as a workable option; otherwise, perpetuating sentiments of injustice would cruelly manifest and yield undesirable ramifications.