SINGAPORE – A youth with medical problems was so afraid to sustain injuries during national service training that he fled Singapore in 2014.
Singaporean Zaley Cheng Xi Xiong later obtained his bachelor's degree in Australia and returned only here on August 30, 2017.
Legal documents did not reveal details of his medical problems.
Cheng, 25, was imprisoned for seven weeks Monday, February 11, after being guilty of being outside Singapore without a valid exit permit for more than three years – from May 2014 to August 2017.
A separate tax on missing reporting for full-time registration NS was considered during the court ruling.
The court heard that a notice was sent to Cheng's Singapore home on April 7, 2014, and he was required to report to the Basic Military Training Center in June of that year for enrollment in full-time NS.
When he did not come up, an inspector took his apartment on June 12, 2014, but realized that no one was at home.
The inspector then threw a message at the front door and asked Cheng to report to Central Manpower Base the next day.
A police magazine was issued on June 16, 2014 for his arrest as he failed to turn up for the second time, and travel documents showed he had left Singapore in May of the same year.
Deputy Prosecutor Kwang Jia Min said: "He heard national service stories and was afraid to sustain injuries during national service training. As such, the accused decided to leave Singapore to avoid being provided with national service.
"The accused's parents did not know about his original intention to evade national service when he lied to them by informing them that he was going to Brunei for a holiday."
But when Cheng came to Brunei, he confessed his parents to his intention to evade NS and that he wanted to stay in Australia for good.
He soon went to Australia.
His mother persuaded him to return to Singapore, but he was reluctant to serve NS at that time, hearing the court.
After achieving his degree, he decided to return to Singapore in 2017 when his father had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.
Cheng is currently serving his NS with Singapore armed forces after joining on January 26 last year.
The Ministry of Defense had previously said it takes a firm stand on those who commit offenses under the Accession Act.
It added: "It is important that NS has all of Singapore's support and commitment. To achieve this, we must adhere to the fundamental principles of universality and equity in NS.
"If we allow Singapore nationals who are foreign to avoid NS or to choose when they want to serve NS, we are not fair to the vast majority of our national service men serving their country dutifully and the institution of the NS will be undermined. "
In September 2018, Defense Minister Ng Eng said that an average of 350 people had failed at NS each year over the last 10 years.
They either failed to register or acquire, or did not return to Singapore after their expiry date expired.