SINGAPORE — A Singapore-born man who grew up in Malaysia was jailed for four months and three weeks by the State Courts Thursday (15 October) for defaulting national service (NS) for more than nine years.
Basil Lim Boon Hoh’s mother had told him that he could ignore his NS liabilities as he had Malaysian citizenship, which he attained when he was 10 years old.
However, Lim was also a Singaporean by birth as he was born in a hospital here in 1991. He was issued a Singapore passport when he was three weeks old. At the age of one, Lim, whose mother is Malaysian, left for Malaysia and was educated there until 2009. He then left for London for university from 2010 to 2014.
Lim’s father had informed his son about his NS liabilities before he turned 10. However, when Lim turned 16, his mother had told him that he could ignore them as he had Malaysian citizenship. In the same year, Lim applied and received a Singapore identity card at the behest of his mother, who wanted him to have a choice in where he worked in the future.
By the time Lim turned 16-years-and-six-months old, the liable age for national service, he had not attained a valid exit permit and failed to report for national service registration.
Despite a series of exchanges, Lim did not register or report for NS until 19 March 2018, when he e-mailed the Central Manpower Base to say that he will return to Singapore on 27 March 2018.
Lim did so and enlisted for National Service with the Singapore Civil Defence Force on 14 August 2018. He completed his NS on 13 August 2020.
In total, Lim defaulted for nine years, 11 months and 16 days. He pleaded guilty to remaining outside of Singapore without a valid exit permit for two periods – offences under the Enlistment Act. Two charges of a similar nature were considered for sentencing.
Lim, who is still a Malaysian, now wishes to keep his Singapore citizenship as he does not speak Malay well and intends to work here instead of in Malaysia.
In a previous hearing, the prosecution sought five months and 18 days’ jail for Lim, while his lawyer Lim Kia Tong argued for one month.
Lim had said that his client had pleaded guilty to put to a close a matter that was brought about to some extent by the actions of his mother.
In an email to the lawyer, Lim’s mother stated that she did not know much about NS and that Lim’s father had left the family in 2003. She said that she had their mailing address changed to an old address as she did not want her son to see any letters about NS. By then, the apartment at that address had already been sold.
“I never told Basil anything about this, or NS, because I wanted him to stay with me and not go back to Singapore,” said the mother in the email.
After completing university, Lim then realised he had to resolve the issue and had several disagreements with his mother before returning to Singapore.
Lim is the 15th defaulter to have been sentenced to jail since the High Court set out the sentencing framework for NS defaulters in 2017, according to numbers previously issued by the Ministry of Defence.
For his offence, Lim could have been jailed up to three years or fined up to $10,000.
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