Govt benefits should not be linked to NS status: Aware

Full-time National Service (NS) specialist cadets from Lima Company, Specialist Cadet School, sharing lessons before a training exercise near Pasir Laba Camp, on July 1, 2013.

SINGAPORE - Gender-equality advocacy group Aware has said it disagrees with the move to enhance benefits for NSmen in the areas of housing, healthcare and education, as announced by Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen on Thursday.

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Aware stated: "Every person deserves access to housing, education and healthcare, because these are basic requirements for human sustenance and social participation."

"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."

The group added that it has "long maintained that military service should not be held up as the single gold standard of citizen belonging - an approach which this proposal threatens to intensify, creating different tiers of people with different social entitlements and worth."

As of Saturday, the post has received over 60 likes and more than 140 comments from netizens.

Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said on Thursday that the benefits are meant to give the Operationally-Ready National Servicemen (NSmen) a "greater stake in Singapore", according to a MyPaper report.

This "meaningful" package of benefits, part of a high-level panel's recommendations to better support and recognise national service, will be announced later this year.

Giving an update, Dr Ng said that the 20-member Committee to Strengthen National Service (CSNS) is now "putting the final pieces together" and will wrap up its work in June.