A disruption is a short-term leave from full-time NS, while a deferment is longer term and could delay the start of full-time NS.
“MINDEF re-iterates that all NS men must perform their duties, and that short-term disruptions or leave for sportsmen to train for and compete in international competitions are only allowed outside critical NS periods,” Dr Ng said.
Athletes who were granted disruptions for the most recent Southeast Asian Games in May include table tennis player Koen Pang, hurdler Ang Chen Xiang and triathlete Luke Chua.
Dr Ng was responding to a question by Progress Singapore Party NCMP Leong Mun Wai, who asked if MINDEF will relax the eligibility criteria for NS deferment for those have the potential to accomplish significant successes in sports and arts.
“Long-term deferments from full-time NS, such as those mentioned by Members, are exceptional, only for those who have the potential to win medals at top-tier international competitions like the Olympic Games,” he said.
Dr Ng cited the example of national swimmers Joseph Schooling and Quah Zheng Wen, who were granted deferments of eight years and five years respectively for the 2016 and 2020 Olympic Games.
“Therefore, each appeal for deferment and disruption for sports and arts talent must therefore pass a very high bar,” he said.
“Each request is assessed on its own merit, in consultation with MCCY (Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth), taking into consideration the applicant’s past achievements, and potential to excel in international competitions and bring national glory.”
Even when granted, MINDEF must ensure that the applicant’s NS duties are still taken seriously and that he must be trained to be competent in his assigned vocation, Dr Ng said.
This will include periods like Basic Military Training, specialist and commanders’ courses, and his unit’s key operations, which the applicant must fulfil as part of NS duties.