When you are highly sought-after in one place, and highly wanted in another
Swinging his way into the limelight with the successful release of “Crazy Rich Asians” – the first Hollywood movie with an all-Asian cast since “The Joy Luck Club” in 1993, Singapore-born writer Kevin Kwan attracts attention with his role as the executive producer of the movie, and also the author of the original book trilogy “Crazy Rich Asians”.
Unfortunately, Mr Kwan has also caught the eye of MINDEF for defaulting on his National Service (NS). Migrating to the US since the age of 11, Mr Kwan failed to register for his NS in 1990, despite several notices from MINDEF. His subsequent application and appeal to renounce his Singapore citizenship without serving NS were also rejected in 1994. Under the Enlistment Act, Kwan is wanted and held liable for a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment of up to three years if convicted.
Act blur, live longer?
Until now, Kwan has decided to stay quiet and declined all requests for interviews. Yet, his silence does not make the topic any less heated; his glaring absence from the red carpet premiere of the movie at Capitol Plaza was immediately noticed and fervently discussed.
This is not the first time the controversy of celebrities’ NS deferment or abandonment has been brought up. The case of Ben Davis shows that the government has clamped down on defaulters since redefining the sentencing framework in 2017. Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said that 13 NS defaulters have been prosecuted under the new framework, including high-profile figures such as the two sons of Senior Counsel Tan Chee Meng. He emphasised that the Enlistment Act is blind to “personal convenience and considerations”.
While the public may have mixed feelings towards NS deferment (some support it, for example in the case of Joseph Schooling), the PAP is definitely not joking about its iron-fisted enforcement of the Enlistment Act, and indeed very fixed on its pursuit of a robust defense. It seems that Singapore is not only known for its crazy rich Asians, but also crazy strict policies.
(Featured photo from Toronto Star)