Singapore

Senior Counsel accepts blame for sons' evasion of NS duties

It is "heartbreaking" to see his two sons go to jail for evasion of national service obligations, and top lawyer Tan Chee Meng says he is taking responsibility for what happened.

In a statement issued after his younger son was sentenced yesterday, Mr Tan said the decision by him and his wife to uproot the family and migrate to Canada in 2000 was made in the sons' best interest.

The court had heard earlier that the sons were unable to cope with the Singapore education system's policy of studying a compulsory mother tongue and that the younger son suffered a form of eczema that is worsened by the hot and humid weather in Singapore.

"NS was the last thing on our minds, let alone evasion. It was not an easy decision," added Senior Counsel Tan.

But he said his sons later decided on their own in 2015 that they wanted to serve NS, a decision that the father said he is "very proud of".

Their decision led to both sons - Jonathan Tan, 28, and Isaac Tan, 25 - being convicted and jailed for NS evasion.

The younger son was sentenced yesterday to 12 weeks' jail for evading NS for about six years, while the elder was sentenced to 16 weeks' jail in February for a similar offence involving a 10-year default period.

"It is heartbreaking to see my sons go to jail in circumstances such as these. I take responsibility for what happened and the law has to take its course," said Mr Tan.

"The past 2½ years have not been easy, but we will get through this as a family."

Isaac Tan will complete his NS later this month.

Jonathan Tan surrendered himself last week to begin his jail term after withdrawing an appeal last month.

 

District Judge Marvin Bay said yesterday that Isaac Tan had shown "no evident urgency" despite being told in October 2014 that he had defaulted on his NS dutyand had to return to fulfil it.

Isaac Tan returned in August 2015 after completing his university studies in Canada and began full-time NS two months later.

Judge Bay said NS is a critical obligation and cannot be relegated to a task to be performed at a time of an individual's own convenience.

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