SINGAPORE: Singapore's Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said his ministry is acutely aware that all NSmen must be treated equally, regardless of their background.
Dr Ng said the equal treatment for national service has been and must remain a cardinal principle because without strict adherence to this fundamental tenet, the commitment to NS will be severely eroded and the institution of NS weakened.
Replying to questions in Parliament on the disruption of Dr Patrick Tan, the son of President Tony Tan Keng Yam, Dr Ng said the disruption was in accordance with prevailing policies to obtain his medical degree. In addition, a longer period was granted to those admitted to US medical schools.
He assured Singaporeans that neither Dr Patrick Tan, nor any other individual who has disrupted, was given any preferential treatment because of their "connections".
Some allegations that Dr Patrick Tan had received preferential treatment were made during the Presidential Election campaign in August.
Dr Ng said the policy to allow full-time national servicemen (NSFs) to disrupt for medical studies in Singapore dates back to 1973. Then, Singapore needed military doctors to serve in the Singapore Armed Forces, a policy which continues today as medical graduates in the NUS are disrupted while they are NSFs.
From 1981, this policy was extended to allow NSFs to study medicine overseas because the number of local graduates was insufficient. From 1981 to 1986, 38 NSFs were disrupted to go overseas.
This was further tightened in 1986 to take into account basic military training and their physical employment standards.
Dr Ng said 86 applicants were disrupted under this scheme. Among them was Dr Patrick Tan, who went to the United States to study medicine in 1988. Then, he had completed his Basic Military Training and was halfway through Officer Cadet School.
However, he added that from 1992, disruption for overseas medical studies was no longer allowed as the number of local medical graduates had met SAF's needs.
Dr Ng explained that in the US, the medical course is a graduate programme, where students need a pre-medical degree.
Thus, Dr Patrick Tan deferred his NS for a total of 12 years, for his premedical course from 1988 to 1992 and later for his combined medical degree and PhD in Stanford University's medical scientist training programme.
He re-enlisted in 2000 after having obtained both his medical degree and PhD, and was deployed to the Defence Medical Research Institute (DMRI) in view of his training.
Dr Ng also noted that other NS men have been posted to DMRI before Dr Patrick Tan's posting.
Dr Ng said: "There was no preferential treatment given to Patrick Tan, or any other individual who has disrupted, because of their 'connections'. Let me emphasise to all, including commanders on the ground, that no NS man should be accorded preferential treatment.
"I would like to further assure Singaporeans that Mindef implements a policy of selective disruption for university studies fairly and openly, in accordance with existing criteria.
"Mindef shall henceforth publish the list of all those disrupted for university (education) annually on a routine basis for public scrutiny."
lol.....cant convince? i will try to confuse.........