Aware objects tying NSmen benefits to public goods

Aware objects tying NSmen benefits to public goods
PROUD TO SERVE: Minister for Defence Dr Ng Eng Hen visiting NSmen from 702 Guards at Pulau Sudong.

SINGAPORE - An online firestorm has been ignited after the Association of Women for Action and Research or Aware pushed back against a report that more rewards were being planned for national servicemen (NSmen).

On Thursday, Defence Minister Dr Ng Eng Hen told reporters on the sidelines of a military exercise that the ministry wants to centre such recognition benefits of NSmen on giving them "greater stake in Singapore", be it in health care, housing or education.

Details of these rewards will only be revealed in a few months' time.

On Thursday, Aware protested this suggestion in a strongly-worded Facebook post.

"Aware disagrees strongly with any link between support for fundamental needs and an individual's status as an NSman, especially when the military may not be suitable for many people, regardless of their gender," it said.

The group added that this step by the defence ministry will only serve to create "different tiers of people with different social entitlements and worth".

The group's executive director Corinna Lim said she does not object to recognising the efforts of NSmen, but asked for the benefits to be tied not to public goods but closer to what they do, like their pay.

This, however, may breed a sense of entitlement as NSmen start to ask for more whenever they get disgruntled.

"Where do we draw the line?" asked Ms Lim, who instead suggested for NS to be made more inclusive so that the benefits, if any, can reach more people.

"Total defence is not just about the military. There are five areas of total defence. You can have women and people who are unable to do military service in it."

Over the last two days, the debate has raged on Aware's Facebook and netizens have taken to blogging about the issue.

Ms Ivy Tan disagreed with Aware's stance.

She commented: "I don't think there's anything wrong with giving our soldiers rewards for their hard work, as long as their benefits do not deprive the rest of us of basic services," she commented.

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