(Unpublished - Sep 22, 2009)
I refer to Colonel Darius Lim's response (Sept 22) to Mr Sylvester Lim's letter explaining his in-camp training (ICT) call-up during his undergraduate course.
Like Sylvester, I am a student, but pursuing full-time graduate studies at the National University of Singapore.
I am currently attending an ICT in the middle of of my semester.
This has caused disruptions to my obligations as a teaching assistant, my research and thesis writing. On top of that, I am unable to attend seminars or be around for consultation for my students.
I returned home for the weekend exhausted and nursing blisters on my fingers, both obvious impediments to catching up on any student and research obligation.
Months ago, my application and later appeal for deferment had both been rejected.
A letter of rejection and a response from the Ministry of Defence (MinDEF) following my letter to MinDEF both expressed MinDEF's understanding and appreciation of NSmen pursuing higher education.
I have since made the decision to put my studies, research and teaching aside and attend the ICT.
I suggest that MinDEF put more than just consolatory words into "understanding" and "appreciation" for Singaporean sons who are pursuing degrees and sacrifice a lot to do reservist.
As a student, two weeks away from lessons and research results in backlog work and loss of momentum, and more than two weeks would be required to regain what is lost.
There is no such thing as a cover or replacement for a student or researcher when he is doing his ICT.
I suggest MinDEF reimburse NSmen for a semester or half a semester of school fees, in the period they are called up for ICT. This gesture will benefit those who are called up for ICT during their studies, and be less burdened by student loans.
This way, NSmen do not end up on the deeper side of the losing end, with only a few consolatory words and a huge sense of helplessness and resignation.
Most NS-liable people are well acquainted with being helpless and resigned, so something must be done to lessen that.
In my case, as I am on research scholarship which expires August next year, I would like to ask if MinDEF is willing to pay for two and a half weeks of school fees in the event I am unable to complete my course and submit my thesis by then.
This question has been ignored in my letter to MinDEF and I would like to repeat it here.
It is time MinDEF offer solutions that thoughtfully, sincerely and genuinely help, instead of giving us reservist-liable Singaporeans doses of dead-end communications rhetoric.
I suggest that MinDEF do public relations communications that are - or at least tend towards being - mutually beneficial, rather than one-way.
The fact that conscription and reservist are mandatory does not mean that MinDEF have the right treat Singaporeans this way, students included.
Furthermore and with all due respect, MinDEF should not only talk about their "understanding" and "appreciation", but show that they are mean it and do something that the NSman will feel is reasonable and meaningful, that they feel "understood" and "appreciated".
At the same time, NSmen should not be afraid to speak up, make suggestions and stake a claim in their relationship with the organisation.
Ho Chi Sam