Submitted by a contributor, a guy who described himself as a regular working class Singaporean dad penned this heart-felt letter to his son (imagining if his son was Ben Davis).
Harvey Davis, the father of Singaporean footballer, Ben Davis, 17, had seek deferment for his son from full-time National Service (NS) after the youth signed a professional contract with a English Premier League (EPL) club – Fulham – on June 29.
It is a two-year contract but his application for deferment was rejected by the authorities and he and his family had been informed of it 18 days earlier on June 11. The family intends to appeal the decision, but MINDEF seems adamant to reject the appeal again as they claimed the teenager had “no intention” of fulfilling his NS duties.
Davis Senior said it is “unfortunate” that MINDEF has an impression that his son would not return to Singapore to serve his NS, but had also said that he would consider getting his son to denounce his Singapore citizenship if there is no way round the deferment.
The issue of deferment and male sporting talents in Singapore, ignited by the case of Ben Davis is currently the talk of the town. It is with this context that this Singaporean dad penned his letter.
Have a read and share with us your comment on what you think about it. What would you have done if you are Harvey Davis, the father of Ben Davis?
A letter to my son if he was Ben Davis:
Know that first and foremost, I love you deeply as my own flesh and blood. Being a daddy is the toughest job I’ve ever undertaken in my entire life – past, present and future. Period. It requires every ounce of my grace, humanity and so much of my decision making skills, that until this moment, I am still learning the best way of governance towards your welfare and future.
That being said, there is a time and place for everything and the cookie crumbles in a certain way beyond my control. I am saddened that after doing everything we could through the proper channels, we failed to secure your deferment.
I’m sorry your personal issue is now debated in the open and you might be hurt from certain criticisms. Yet your saga could not be more public because it centres not just around your ball (or my balls to give up your citizenship), it touches on a topic of national interest – national service, which through my observation of public discourse, hasn’t been given the due respect and importance. So I’m going to share my thoughts with you on this area.
Son, national service or more accurately known as military conscription, is especially important for a nation with a small population surrounded by bigger neighbours. This concept can be seen as archaic in today’s context when we are actually a modern democracy as many democratic states have left this business in the hands of voluntary professionals. However, the fact remains that we are too small; without a sizeable military force, and as your grandfather used to say: we will get swallowed up by others.
By enlisting every single healthy male citizen in our country and creating a pool of reserves, we gained unprecedented space for a small nation of our size to negotiate and secure policies of freedom, creating a fearless path to economic success that we are enjoying this very moment.
We own the most badass technologies and equipments but even then, Global Fire Power ranks us 67 in the whole world and we are way behind every Southeast Asian country, except Cambodia and Laos (bet you didn’t know).
Our state sees the implementation of national service not just as her right but it’s also a privilege of every male citizen, to defend the Singapore civilisation. As a realist nation, we prepare – we do not hope. In military preparation, there has to be consistency and uniformity.
A few generations have passed, and today, our government grants deferment of national service for educational reasons or limited sporting ambitions. Education brings a certain spark to the social fabric, contributing knowledge and intelligence; individual sporting events bring glory to the nation through a legit fight between natural physiques. Unfortunately, yours do not belong in the latter category even though it’s sports. Ultimately, it’s about the betterment of society as a whole – not entirely about individualistic goals. I know you are frustrated, believe me, I feel you but could this not be seen as Singapore already softening its old draconian approach? In fact, I believe the government studied very hard and struggled to cave into granting such allowances.
Why do I say it hasn’t been easy for our government to evolve? My son, we have been through extremely dangerous times as a newborn nation and today, we are still living in very volatile times. Beneath the calm surface of an iceberg, cracks are splitting everywhere. As if it’s not timely enough, in the same period when our case was pending, newly minted Malaysian PM Mahathir announced to the world in the most audacious fashion, on the possibility of revoking internationally binding agreements of our water supply.
Who would’ve thought?
Yet, it was our late Lee Kuan Yew who knew our neighbour(s) could never resist revealing its fox tail. Quoting directly from one of daddy’s favourite books, Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore Prime Minister, From Third World to First – The Singapore Story: “If water shortage became urgent, in an emergency, we would have to go in, forcibly if need be, to repair damaged pipes and machinery to restore the water flow. I was putting my cards on the table. He (Mahathir) denied that such precipitate action would happen. I said I believe that he would not do this, but we had to be prepared for all contingencies.” This is really about military intervention, restoring order and policy of freedom through the power of our national defence.
And you may say: It’s not as if I don’t want to serve NS. As much as we want to move along with times and please the modern Singapore populace that is increasingly placing more value in personal pursuits and attainment of one’s highest potential, any further idiosyncratic concessions (such as ours), could represent a certain moral decline in our military defence through the lens of our neighbours. Because where then, should we draw a demarcation? There could be no end to it.
There’s this saying by late Sun Yat Sen: 外伤易医，内伤难治. I would think… if your deferment was a success, it signifies the first burst of a microvessel but add up many more in future – the erosion and internal damage to the nation would be unthinkable.
Perhaps daddy is exaggerating but I urge you to try and extrapolate. As an 18-year-old, you are no longer just a kiddo. I hope my sharing would give you a more balanced view of the world and your place as a citizen of duty to this country you grew up in.
I want you to make – what is to you – the right decision; one that is free from shame and guilt, and I will support you to my fullest capacity.