Give up citizenship? Brothers must do NS first

August 25, 2008 at 10:50 pm 8 comments

THREE brothers, born to a Norwegian father and Singaporean mother, want to give up their Singapore citizenship.

But the Ministry of Defence has said no. Not until they do their national service.

The Bugge brothers – Thorbjoern, 33; Ingvar, 31; and Frode, 30 – left Singapore when each turned 18 and have tried and failed several times for over a decade to renounce their Singapore citizenships.

They want to renounce their citizenship so they will be free to visit their parents – Mr O.M. Bugge, 65, and his wife Margaret, 55 – who still live here.

They cannot return here because they have been classified as NS defaulters and risk arrest on arrival.

They were all born here and are considered Singapore citizens. But they also hold Norwegian citizenships, like their father.

They first left Singapore when they were five, three and two years old respectively, and lived in Norway for 10 years before returning here.

But each left Singapore after their O levels, and just before they could be called up for national service.

Mindef sent them NS enlistment letters, but in turn, each brother ignored the call-up. Instead, they enlisted in the Norwegian armed forces for a 19-month national service term.

All three decided to renounce their Singapore citizenship when they turned 21, but Mindef rejected their initial bids to do so.

They tried several more times over the years, writing to the ministry, then-prime minister Goh Chok Tong and the late former president Ong Teng Cheong to explain their case.

Their parents have also met staff from Mindef.

But all their attempts have failed.

When contacted, Mindef’s director of public affairs, Colonel Darius Lim, said: ‘Only persons who have emigrated at a very young age together with their families, and who have not enjoyed the privileges of Singapore citizenship, will be allowed to renounce their Singapore citizenships without serving national service.’

He said the three men are Singapore citizens and are required to fulfil their NS obligations. Their requests to renounce their Singapore citizenships can be considered only upon completion of full-time NS.

The brothers said they were disappointed by Mindef’s position.

When asked, they maintained that they did not leave Singapore to avoid NS. They preferred to be in Norway, they said, and their enlistment there showed they were not shirkers of NS, they said.

Mr Frode Bugge is a career soldier with the Norwegian army and has seen action in Kosovo and Afghanistan.

Brother Thorbjoern is also a career soldier, while Ingvar is a postman.

For now, they will have to continue meeting their parents in Malaysia. Their mother spends six months in Norway each year.

Their father, a marine consultant, said he cannot afford to spend extended periods in Norway because his business is based in Singapore. He tries to visit his sons once a year.

He said: ‘My sons’ cases are about a choice of citizenship, and not a case of national service…They would like to get this matter cleared up and be able to travel to Singapore for a visit like any other Norwegian.’

He is hoping that the law will be changed.

‘My sons’ situations may seem unique now. But as more foreigners marry Singaporeans, there will be more of these cases,’ he added.

NS defaulters can be jailed up to three years and/or fined up to $10,000 if convicted.

ameltan@sph.com.sg

NS regulations
WHO NEEDS TO DO NS
# All able-bodied male Singapore citizens.
# Those holding concurrent citizenship in Singapore and one other country, because Singapore does not recognise dual citizenship.

EXCEPTIONS
# Those who emigrate at a very young age – the exact age is not specified by Mindef – with their families and have thus not enjoyed the privilege of Singapore citizenship. Such persons can apply to renounce their Singapore citizenship without serving NS.

PENALTIES FOR NOT SERVING NS
# On conviction, NS defaulters are liable to be jailed up to three years and/or fined up to $10,000. The exact sentence will be determined by the courts.
# Defaulters will also have to serve NS if they are still liable for it.

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Entry filed under: NS, Singapore.

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8 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Donaldson Tan  |  September 4, 2008 at 8:35 pm

    This issue has been wrongly misrepresented as NS issue. It should represented PR policy issue. I can’t ascertain whether Singapore citizenship was imposed or granted to the Norwegians when they were borne, but this definitely highlight an irregularity in Singapore’s PR policy, Given that babies are unable to make an informed decision, choosing one’s citizenships should be postponed to a later age (e.g. 18yr). Hence, it is only right the 3 Norwegians should not have Singapore citizenship. Singapore citizenship should be granted just before enlistment to NS and not be packaged as a reward after serving NS. Citizenship is a duty, not a reward or incentive.

    Reply
  • 2. O.M.Bugge  |  September 7, 2008 at 8:40 pm

    I am the Father of these three young men. Please let me clarify some facts that did not appear in the original article in S.T., or appear to have registered by most posters.

    The case of my sons is NOT first and foremost about whether they should serve NS, and where, it is about the right of those born in Singapore with one parent Singaporean and the other foreign, and there are more and more of them.

    In our case our three sons were born here in 1975, 1977 and 1978. They became Norwegian Citizens upon birth as they had to follow Father’s Passport under the immigration rules then, at the peak of the “Stop at two / Two is enough” campaign. They have always held Norwegian Passport and chose to retain that at the age of 21. They are residents of Norway and all three has done their NS in Norway, as is their obligation under Norwegian Law.

    They were effectively Dual Citizens until they reach the legal age of 21, upon which they HAD to chose one and renounce the other, before they reach the age of 22. Norway and Singapore does not allow dual citizenship after that age unless in special cirumstances. This is per Singapore’s Constitution and according to UN Human Rights Charter, and is not disputed.

    Today two of them are professional soldiers and are still serving in the Norwegian Army’s “Rapid Deployment Battalion”, ready to go anywhere their country elect to send them on short notice.

    The oldest is a 12 year veteran and Second Lieutenant, the youngest has abt. 10 years service and is now Sargent. They have been in active peace keeping service in Bosnia, Lebanon, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Both are due back in Afghanistan soon, for the 3rd and 4th time respectively. This time to train the Afghan Army.

    Are these your typical “defaulters”? No, they are three young men that has been caught up in a web of draconian NS rules that does not take into account the rights dual citizens have to chose, and the obligations they have to their the country who’s citizenship they hold. If they had chosen to become Singapore Citizen at 21, they would have done their NS her without fail and may have enrolled in the Army here, who knows.

    In case they should come back her, serve their NS and still want to retain their Norwegian Citizenship at the end of it, would they be allowed to do so? No, they would they be stripped of their Singapore Citizenship and possibly deported as “non-desirables”. Even punished for having held dual citizenship after the age of 22?

    You can say that the NS rules are not draconian, but it affects these three young men adversely in all ways. They are unable to travel to Singapore for a family visit, although they hold only Norwegian passport, and have always done so. If they should seek a job that involves travel to these parts, they may not be able to do so as they risk arrest, if they should land in Singapore.How would this look on a job application? “I can travel to any country in the world, but not to Singapore, because I would be arrested on arrival because I happened to have been born there”.

    With the present discussion of the negative “brain drain” from Singapore and how to get overseas Singaporeans to return, the first place to look is at the NS “problems” that keeps more and more from returning, especially mixed couples with young sons who are, or will come, in the same situation as our three sons.

    But NS is NOT the issue here. The issue is the rights of individuals to chose their own destiny. Any dual citizen who intend to remain in Singapore after the age of 21 would be eligible for the draft, whether he holds Singapore passport or not. If he is residing outside Singapore and does not hold Singapore passport at that age, he should be allowed to return and serve, or renounce his right to a Singapore passport and be free of any NS obligations.To “punish” young men for being born here serves no purpose and is not according to UN Human Rights Charter, or indeed according to the Singapore Constitution, which allow freedom of choice at/after 21 years of age.

    I have called Singapore home for about 40 years and understand the need for a strong defense, and the draft to ensure the necessary manpower, with strict Laws and enforcement to ensure that. But the way it is being done now does not serve the purpose. To force reluctant foreign nationals into service is not productive as they may not be around if the need should arise to defend the country, or indeed be willing to.

    As for our three sons, they would probably try to get back here and volunteer, if Singapore should be attacked. That is in their character and they are well trained for the task.

    Reply
  • 3. Donaldson Tan  |  September 27, 2008 at 5:29 pm

    Mr Bugge:

    Representing your son´s plight as a NS instead of a PR issue causes a lot of social uproar among Singaporeans in Singapore. It appears that the government is using mass media to stir up public opinion against your plight to justify their misguided policies. I find this unethical and underhanded.

    In my opinion, the Singaporeans´ response in Singapore so far is best summed up as ¨I am in shit, so are you. Why should you be treated differently?¨. It does not make any logical sense to put someone through National Service if that person (such as your sons) have allegiance to Singapore.

    If MINDEF harbours the opinion that experiencing NS is more likely to convince PR to take up citizenship, then they have completely missed out the reasons why we have PR who stayed in Singapore for 20-30 years and still haven´t converted to Singapore citizenship.

    World class government? Million-dollar ministerial salary? LOL

    Best regards
    Donald

    Reply
  • 4. Donaldson Tan  |  September 27, 2008 at 5:30 pm

    Mr Bugge:

    Representing your son´s plight as a NS instead of a PR issue causes a lot of social uproar among Singaporeans in Singapore. It appears that the government is using mass media to stir up public opinion against your plight to justify their misguided policies. I find this unethical and underhanded.

    In my opinion, the Singaporeans´ response in Singapore so far is best summed up as ¨I am in shit, so are you. Why should you be treated differently?¨. It does not make any logical sense to put someone through National Service if that person (such as your sons) have no allegiance to Singapore.

    If MINDEF harbours the opinion that experiencing NS is more likely to convince PR to take up citizenship, then they have completely missed out the reasons why we have PR who stayed in Singapore for 20-30 years and still haven´t converted to Singapore citizenship.

    World class government? Million-dollar ministerial salary? LOL

    Best regards
    Donald

    Reply
  • 5. chris gayle  |  May 2, 2009 at 7:26 am

    the basic thing, if u are able to get away from ns by influence it can still be done. how did lee hsien loong become a lieutenant when he was studying in london, simple answer his father Mr LKY was then prime minister. i am sure there are instances of bribes and high level recommendations in the MINDEF level taking place to helpe evade national service. well that is how much contact u have. so all this is just a big hype. u are not interested in NS so be it. i would say the govt can ask the defaulters money that represent the benefits the defaulters enjoyed in singapore so that at least he can get his citizenship renounced.

    Reply
  • 6. Rod Erick  |  July 8, 2009 at 11:48 pm

    The S’pore govt is, and always has been, petty, small minded, childish and unforgiving. As an ex-s’porean who served NS and 10 years of reservist training before walking away from there and taking my the 5-year old son with me, I renounced my citizenship immediately upon landing in my domicile of choice, prefering to be stateless for three years till I qualified for citizenship in my adopted country. My son was NOT ALLOWED to renounce his citizenship until was 21 and we had to get him deferred from NS until he was old enough to tell the s’pore govt to take their citizenship and shove it! As a s’poe-born Caucasian, I had to suffer the indignity of serving NS in an Asian army – think you know what racism is? Put yourself in my shoes for two and a half years plus 10 years in the reserves…THEN they wanted to recycle me for another 13 year cycle!!! So I packed my bags, left my high-paying job and my company BMW and brought my family to a better country hich DOES allow dual citizenship, has NO NS CRAP and whose govt is NOT petty, small-minded, childish and unforgiving!

    Reply
  • 7. Ben Lim  |  October 6, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Rod, it’s good that you left Singapore with your son.

    Obviously after serving your time in NS, all you can take back was whining and more whinings.

    i can understand where the Bugge family is coming from and without a doubt, the Singapore government is handling the case from a myopic point of view.

    As for you, i have no idea what’s the relevance of your case as compared to theirs.

    Indignified and discriminated in a multi-racial country? You have probably served your time with the relunctance to take down that tainted specs of yours and learn something more meaningful out of NS.

    In the first place, there’s no place in the world without discriminations. Do not fault the system as if it only happens in Singapore’s context.

    Things are only blown out of proportions with your baseless accusations. That’s why it’s good you left.

    Reply
  • 8. Tony  |  December 15, 2009 at 2:03 am

    Ben Lim – You are an idiot and the very reason why people from overseas despise Singaporean closed minded idiots like yourself. I suppose you think its normal for a Chinese Prime Minister and other ministers to pay themselves million dollar salaries from tax payers money and for his wife to lose billions of dollars of tax payers money in Temasek Holdings and still keep her job. Idiots like you don’t understand any logic, so whatever you do, stay in Singapore and don’t come to a Western country cos idiots like you get found out very quickly and put in their place even more swiftly. And yes Singapore is a racist country. If your name was not Lim Dim Sim you would realise that.

    Reply

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