Monday, November 21, 2005

好闷!: The wonders of FAME...

Dun worry, short one, will be off in a flash.

NS, I feel, is good. Good because it makes us guys become wimpy and whiny and all, so that some from XXYY can call us so. Good because it gives us an "advantage" in starting pay. Good because we get to see the greenery of SG, and if you are lucky, Brunei, Thailand, Australia, and some other classified places. Good because you get free food and lodging, and pick up housekeeping skills en route to being the New Modern Husband. Good because you know that you have to go through all these again at least once a year till you are 30s/40s.

Notice good points used for arguing for a cause can equally become strong arguments against the same notion:

NS, I insist, is bad. Bad because it causes us men to become "gu niang", until some intelligent char bors from the dunno-where scold us liddat. Bad because we lose out earning the big money; who cares about the $100+ difference in starting pay? We lose our youth leh. Bad because the mosquitoes in Lim Chu Kang and even Brunei, Kanchanaburi, Shoalwater Bay Training Area, and dunno where else get to taste our kiasu blood. Bad because of the endless area cleaning and stand-by areas and wat-have-yous. Bad because of reservist and IPPT; wu ya bo (有样没)?

I dun think it's entirely bad. Sometimes it also depends on where you spend that 2.5 years (2 years now).

BUT...

Pianist pays NS dues - 28 years later
Kristina Tom
697 words
20 November 2005
Straits TimesEnglish(c) 2005
Singapore Press Holdings Limited

He is fined for defaulting on his NS after he decides to return, as his aged parents are finding it difficult to visit him in London

AFTER staying away from Singapore for nearly 30 years because he defaulted on his national service, pianist Melvyn Tan has finally paid his dues.

The 49-year-old, who has lived in the United Kingdom for the last 37 years, has paid a fine for not fulfilling his national service duty and will be performing at the Esplanade next month.

In an interview with The Sunday Times, a visibly relieved Mr Tan said that he is glad to have put the past behind him.

He has not stepped onto Singapore soil all these years because he had feared that he would be arrested and thrown into jail.

But his 86-year-old father and 80-year-old mother are getting too old to make the regular trips to London to visit him at his home in Notting Hill, London.

So he decided to take a 'risk'. After informing the authorities of his intention to return, he came home in April for a court hearing.

The hearing lasted 30 minutes but he had never been so nervous in his life. 'It was very, very nerve-wracking,' he said.

To his relief, he was asked only to pay a fine.

He claims that he cannot remember the amount.

Under the Enlistment Act, those who evade national service can be fined up to $5,000 or sent to jail for up to three years, or both.

Although Mr Tan became a British citizen in 1978, he was still a Singapore citizen when he failed to fulfil his NS duties, making him answerable for the offence in a Singapore court.

In 1994, The Straits Times quoted a lawyer who said that one of his clients, a 39-year-old French citizen, was arrested at the airport on arrival, fined and made to complete nine months of training.

Mr Tan, who has an elder sister, was studying at Anglo-Chinese School when he left Singapore to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Sussex. He was then 12 years old.

After he finished his course, he stayed on in England to study at the Royal College of Music instead of coming home to serve national service in 1977.

He said: 'When I was at the Royal College and I got my final call-up, I was just on the brink of starting a career. I thought about it and thought about it and realised that I was not going to get this chance again.

'So I made that very difficult decision to not return. It meant I could never come back.'

Mr Tan first made his mark in the classical world with his performances on the 19th-century fortepiano, the precursor to the modern concert grand.

In the 1980s and 1990s, he produced a series of recordings that popularised the early music movement, regarded as a slightly eccentric niche within the music world.

He has about 30 recordings to his name and a regular touring schedule in Europe.

Along with Seow Yit Kin and Margaret Leng Tan, he has helped Singapore to gain recognition on the global piano scene.

The pianist is wasting no time in reconnecting with the Singapore music scene.

He goes back to England tomorrow, but will return early next month to sit on the jury of the National Arts Council's biennial National Piano and Violin Competition, which starts Dec 7 and ends Dec 18.

He said that he is getting to know Singapore, which he describes as 'unrecognisable', all over again. And, of course, he has been feasting on his favourite foods such as popiah.

But the best part about being able to come home as a free man was showing up at his mother's 80th birthday party on Thursday.

His parents still live in his childhood home in Lengkok Angsa, off Paterson Road. 'There were a few tears,' he said. 'She was just delighted. It was the best birthday present she's ever had.'

ktom@sph.com.sg

News
Did pianist Melvyn Tan get off too lightly?

523 words
20 November 2005Straits Times
English(c) 2005
Singapore Press Holdings Limited

YES

OF THE 25 people polled, 13 felt that Mr Melvyn Tan should do time, one way or another.

Some were in favour of a short jail sentence, while others wanted him to do two years of national service.

They argued that a mere fine would be unfair to those who had spent two years of their life serving NS.

They also brought up examples of how their friends, who had been charged for being absent without official leave, had to do time in the detention barracks.

Many also felt that even if Mr Tan had paid the maximum fine of $5,000, the amount was not enough to deter people from committing such an offence.

Assistant project engineer Seow Yew Huat, 24, said: 'Money is no problem, everyone can pay the money.'

Student Nur Rahfiatul Farhana, 16, agreed: 'He's probably rich if he can stay abroad for so many years. A fine would mean nothing to him.'

Mr Eugene Chong, 18, a student added: 'He should not be let off lightly just because he is an accomplished pianist.'

Mr Shashi Nathan, a lawyer of 13 years, however cautioned that each case must be looked at on its own merit and said Mr Tan 'may have had very strong mitigating circumstances'.

But he added: 'Failure to report for NS call-up is a serious offence. If the importance is trivialised in any way, it affects a larger strata of society... we cannot send the wrong message.'

-- Melissa Sim

NO

THE 11 people who felt that a fine is an appropriate punishment for Mr Melvyn Tan said that he has been punished enough - he has been living separately from his family for nearly 30 years.

They also pointed to his age - 49 - and felt that the state should let bygones be bygones.

Audit assistant Rajan Krishnan, 24, said: 'He's coming back to see his parents, who are already old. If he wants to take care of his parents, then you should not be throwing him into jail.'

Mr Wong Siew Hong, a lawyer with 17 years of experience, said jailing Mr Tan would not achieve anything. While he conceded that Mr Tan had committed a serious offence, he added: 'There's no purpose to be served in jailing him now. We're exposing ourselves to ridicule to say that we hold a grudge for such a long time.'

Another lawyer, Mr Leonard Loo, said Mr Tan is not the first national service defaulter to have been slapped with a fine instead of being sent to jail.

In fact, he cannot recall any defaulter who has been sent to jail. He has been practising law for nine years.

A teacher said Mr Tan has already served Singapore in his own way. Miss Faith Zheng Huixian, 23, said: 'He has become famous and done Singapore proud. In a way, you could say he has done his duty to the country.'

Eighteen-year-old student Amy Foong said that Mr Tan should not even be fined since he went away to 'nurture his talent'.

Melissa Sim

Wow. World-renowned pianist Mr. Melvyn Tan gets a fine worth a teeny bit of a peanut, for not doing NS for the past 3o years. Hmmmm yah, he got us recognition, he got himself fame, he's a local boy did good...

Hmmmm not even a day of DB? Half a day? Six hours?

Nurturing his talent as an excuse to shun NS. How about letting those who came from not-so-good backgrounds to skip NS and go work to support their families? That way, they can possibly move out of poverty (I for one still feel that there are ppl who still live in poverty here) and can equally contribute to SG.

Poor decision makers. No matter the decision, it will be ridiculous.

Signing off......... He could have requested to be posted to MDC/Band..........
RC

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