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National Service and Rehabilitation May 19, 2007

Posted by Ned Stark in Uncategorized.

There have been many changes to the legal system in Singapore, namely, the establishment of the Community Court, the Bail Court and a move towards rehabilitation which was relatively unseen under the former CJ Yong Pung How. The current move to allow for early enlistment for juvenile offenders is one of these.

Of course this begets the question, should the SAF be used as a tool for rehabilitation? Would not such a use of the SAF result in problems with SAF’s image? Would being in the SAF expose these juveniles to vices, and given the circumstances which landed them in the early enlistment scheme would this have an adverse impact on their character?

As stated in the article, ” Early Enlistment for some youth offenders” in the ST, May 19th 2007, the rationale of early enlistment is to put them in an environment whereby they would not be able to idle around and thus  lowering the chances of them creating trouble. This is a sound move; theoretically its akin to killing two birds with one stone. A “high risk” offender is, for lack of a better word, “neutralised”, and the SAF gets one more soldier in its rank for the purposes of national defence (or if you want to be cynical you have one more sad fella to bully during the weekends in the name of National Day Celebrations). While the by product of such a move could have an adverse effect on the SAF’s reputation, the fact of the matter is that the SAF, for all its wonderful advertisements trumpetting the virtues of perserverance, patriotism and so on so forth, already has a rather negative image in the eyes of the people for whatever reason. Thus being perceived as a “rehabiliation centre” for youth is the least of the SAF’s problems. In fact being a rehabiliation centre, it is in a position to do some good for society, and as can be seen from insanepoly’s post, the SAF does help build up some people’s character, though not all the time.

Furthermore, this image problem as a result of the early enlistment of offenders is not localised to the SAF. The French Foreign Legion, for one, had a reputation for attracting felons. In fact after the Second World War there were a considerable number of German POWs who signed up with the Legion. Historically, many Navies, including the French Navy, made extensive use of convicts to operate their vessels. This goes to show that the image of a rehabilitation centre is not as dire as one might think.

While it is indeed true that there are those who are exposed to smoking, drinking and gambling during their course of service in the SAF, the fact of the matter is such exposure is not limited to those who are in the army. There are females who smoke, drink, among other things, and they most probably will not have anything to do with the SAF! Exposure to such activities need not necessarily occur during their NSF term, thus the point of exposure can be said to be moot. In fact, as many former army fellas can attest, the first few months in the army are one of the most restrictive in a NSFs life, and if they are stuck in Tekong then there chances of them being exposed to vices is rather minimal. The issue therefore is that the trainers would have to instill in these young men discipline during the early stages of their army lives. If that can be done then Singapore would have one more constructive person. And even if the person proves to be a trouble maker, then he will be dealt with under military law. Either way society gains. And with regards to “vices”, I have encountered people who smoke, drink, visited brothels, among other things, who I would trust to guard my back and people who are top scorers or are scholars who I would not trust with anything at all. Just because a person smokes does not necessarily mean he becomes a troublemaker or an unconstructive member of society.

Therefore, theoretically speaking, this is a good move in ensuring that the “punishment” fits the person. Of course there will be issues regarding to the practicalities, but such issues can be dealt with as and when they arise.



1. YCK - May 20, 2007

Jon Haidt made a rather interesting point about how the liberals value fairness and welfare too much to understand the importance of respect for authority and traditions, loyalty etc.

Maybe that is why apart from the sloppy reasoning, it is hard to see eye to eye with Yvonne and her ilk on the the Penal Code. I am willing to accept that I failed to see things from their persepctive, but I am not unreservingly aplogetic about their inarticulatenness in presenting their points of views.

But Haidt seems to be making some sense of the importance of enforcing structure. If it is correct, early enlistment of these people for NS maybe a good thing. It may teach them discipline and respect for authority.

Here is the video of the talk from the New Yorker. Food for thought 🙂

2. NoName - May 21, 2007

I suspect the conditions could be somewhat different as
1. in wartime your life is on the line
2. their “felons” volunteered (justice in those days…)
3. they did not have counselling\rehab facilities (like ours) in those days

Actually, why dun we just sent these “no-hopers” to the French Foreign Legion? Our gahmen dun actually want them. wouldn’t want them to pollute the genepool ya?

Btw, the French Foreign Legion, which was\is an elite professional army corp whereas NS is

3. Elosha - May 21, 2007

The french foreign legion has exacting standards. No hopers would not least 5 minutes in the french foreign legion.

Sending juveniles for early conscription as you have mentioned is nothing new. The US Army has also been doing this. In many developed countries, the military is the last resort for those faced with jail time and enlistment. At least with enlistment you serve time (and get paid!)

4. Elosha - May 21, 2007

Or I should say, the US Army has been doing something similar to this.

5. NoName - May 21, 2007

And the US army is a professional army (with professional soldiers, career officers and setup) whereas NS is …

Most developed countries these days does not have conscripts anymore. Does Swiss sends their juvenile offenders for early conscription?

6. NoName - May 21, 2007

Maybe I am just a dumb liberal and forgive my poor engrish but I think there is a small difference between “coming of age” in a respected (+ decent pay) and professional outfit (French Foreign Legion, US Army) Vs further degradation and exploitation as a conscript in NS (where they become the lowest of the low).

But since it has already been announced and therefore cast in stone, I pray these unfortunate boys will also get a chance of a proper education(SAFEC?) in there.

7. Ned Stark - May 21, 2007

No name and Elosha,

I acknowledge the fact that the SAF has way to go in terms of professionalism. In fact i heartily agree with Mr Wang, Insane Poly, Mr Biao etc take on the “wonder” that is the SAF. However putting that aside, i feel that it is good that there is an extra option for the Judge to explore rather than rely on the trite method of sending people into homes or sending probation officers after them.

8. guojun - May 21, 2007

It IS good that there is an extra option. There are people who get into fights all day outside, but they are just about the best soldiers you can see. Although the SAF is really not something to be very proud of, but for these people, that sense of purpose may well be what keeps them off trouble.

As for Gahmen not wanting them, actually they don’t want all of us also what. Because we debate and talk about Gahmen policies. So we should all go join the Foreign Legion meh.

After all, Singapore is NOT a conscript army okay? If you ngeh ngeh dont want army, then go jail and survive on Gahmen welfare lor. Come on. It’s widely accepted that we’re the lowest life forms, always bullied by regulars (like my CO…right anot NedStark?) But then, was it a PURE waste of time? Forget the meaningless outfields. There are people you will trust your life with in there. Look at it in terms of the people. Singapore is not worth staying for, if it wasn’t for the people there and the friends you have.

Stay in Singapore because i love my country? Please.

9. Ned Stark - May 21, 2007

HS, Pineapple Soh, Godfather Sng…yeah…they make u cringe at the idea that 10.6 Billion is being pumped into Defence, but on the other hand I have made several good friends in the army. And as per what guojun says, its always about the people. Everything goes back to the people.

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