A Malaysian national swimmer who goes by the name, Lim Ching Hwang, has been sentenced to eight weeks in jail in Singapore for evading his National Service (NS) obligations there.
Despite moving to Singapore when he was only 13 under the Singaporean government’s Foreign Sports Scholarship Scheme, Lim represented Malaysia in the SEA Games in 2011, 2013, 2015, and 2017, as reported by Straits Times. He even went on to break his own national record for men’s 200m individual medley during the 2016 Malaysia Games.
However, when he turned 18 in March 2014, he was granted a Singapore permanent residency (PR) under the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme. Two days after he had his PR approved, he received a notice to register for NS in Singapore. During this time, Sime Darby Malaysia extended an offer for Lim to pursue his university studies in the US on scholarship.
Lim registered for NS two days before the deadline on 29 May and was granted deferment until May 2017 to pursue a diploma at Republic Polytechnic. But in July 2014, Lim left his polytechnic studies midway in Singapore and pursued a business degree course at Ohio State University. He tried to apply for the deferment from NS to pursue his degree but his appeal was rejected by the Ministry of Defence.
His family applied to defer his NS enlistment but were told that they would have to place a bond for an exit permit. Dissatisfied with this response, Lim’s family continued to apply without providing a bond. He was told that he needed to book a date for his medical screening before he enlisted in NS.
Threatened to renounce PR status
In February 2015, Lim’s father told Singaporean authorities that he had already started his university course in the USA and that he would be renouncing his PR status in Singapore if his deferment was not granted. Nonetheless, Lim returned on 2 June 2015 to undergo the mandatory medical screening test as he feared that he would be barred from entering Singapore to participate in the 2015 SEA Games.
He returned to the USA on 7 July 2015 and continued to apply for NS deferment unsuccessfully. He gave several excuses as to why he couldn’t enlist for NS and claimed that he wanted to renounce his PR status as he was unhappy that his deferment was not granted.
He failed to report for enlistment on 11 November 2015 and only returned to Singapore on 11 June 2018 after he finished his studies.
Shouldn’t have listened to his parents
Lim was sentenced to eight weeks of jail time on Tuesday (9 February) after he pleaded guilty to two of three counts under the Enlistment Act for remaining outside Singapore without a valid exit permit over two separate periods, amounting to almost three years.
According to Deputy Public Prosecutor, R Arvindren, “He (Lim) said that he wanted to resolve his NS Offences because he intended to swim competitively in Singapore and pursue a career in Singapore in the future.”
Lim said that in hindsight, he should not have listened to his parents’ advice to finish his studies before serving NS, and should have persuaded them to sort out his exit permit instead.
“I was too focused on swimming (and) couldn’t resist the temptation of a Malaysian scholarship to study at a prestigious university to further (my) career,” said Lim in a statement as reported by Yahoo! news.
He also advised all boys to serve NS before finishing university as it exposes young men to leadership skills unattainable at university. “I strongly encourage young men to look forward to NS and to serve it diligently as (it is related to) Singapore’s security,” he said.
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