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Congrats on your baby boy! Here's a letter on his NS duty?!

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    • Congrats on your baby boy... and here's a letter on his NS duty

       

      It may be another 18 years before their sons become soldiers, but parents of newborn boys are getting an early reminder from the Government about the importance of national service.

      Along with the baby's birth certificate when they register the birth, parents now receive a letter from the Ministry of Defence (Mindef).

      The letter touches on NS policies, such as applying for exit permits and deferment for full-time studies. It also states that the Government may withhold an individual's renunciation of citizenship if his NS liabilities are not fulfilled.

      The Sunday Times understands that Mindef started giving out the letters early this year.

      Mindef said that the new initiative was "implemented in response to feedback from some parents that enlistment information would be useful to them when their children were very young".

      It is an "additional touch point" to parents, on top of the letters which the ministry sends out when their sons turn 13 and 16 ½.

      The first, at age 13, is to inform the family that an exit permit is required if their son travels overseas for three months or more, and the second, to register for NS.

      "As part of Mindef's ongoing engagement efforts to enhance awareness and understanding of NS commitments, we reach out to parents and pre-enlistees at various touch points to provide information on NS policies," a spokesman said.

      Not all parents think that the letter at birth is necessary. Operations manager J.Y. Lim, 30, whose son was born last month, said: "It's kind of too early to inform us about NS, since the baby is just born, but I believe Mindef has its reasons."

      Teacher Lim Lee Choon, 32, who also had a baby boy last month, felt the letter was informative. While she knew that every male Singaporean would need to serve NS, she "never knew that implications come on from as early as when they are 13", until she read the letter.

      IT manager Andy Lee, 43, who has three sons aged 10, 12 and 14, said: "Some parents may find it a turn-off to be informed of their son's NS liability at such a young age.

      "Still, I think there's no harm done. Some parents may have been thinking of relocating overseas with their children at an early age to help them avoid NS."

      The issue of NS evasion was cast in the spotlight last month, when the High Court imposed harsher sentences for three NS defaulters, allowing the prosecution's appeal for a tougher punishment.

      Among them was Ang Lee Thye, 43, who evaded NS for 231/2 years, and was jailed for two years and nine months - up from the initial sentence of two years.

      Lawyer Laurence Goh, who has acted for NS defaulters, said the letter can help clear misconceptions.

      "There are many who moved overseas at a young age and lived there for a long time. Maybe they got married with children and hold another country's citizenship," he said.

      "But as long as they have not fulfilled their NS obligations, they can't renounce the Singapore citizenship." With the letter, parents cannot claim ignorance as an excuse, he added.

      "They have to be fair to their children to ensure that they do not get into unnecessary trouble with the law," said Mr Goh.

      MP Cedric Foo, a member of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Defence, said: "I see the letter at birth as a good reminder to parents about their sons' NS duties and key milestone dates...

      "More information cannot be bad. Is it premature? I think not. It actually obviates the need for parents to do research on NS."

      A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 28, 2017, with the headline 'Congrats on your baby boy... and here's a letter on his NS duty
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