The controversy over this Singaporean pianist who evaded National Service has been present for quite some time. Thought of penning my opinions over this issue as a Singaporean musician who is currently serving the much dreaded National Service.
For the benefit of those people who don't know about this issue, here a short biography of him. Melvyn Tan had moved to the Yehudi Menuhin School in Sussex, Britain, to pursue his music studies at 12. However, when he was supposed to return to Singapore at the age of 18 to serve the compulsory National Service, he was accepted in the Royal College of Music in England and decided to go against the law by not returning to serve in the military. Subsequently a year after, he renounced his Singaporean citizenship and since then, he hasn't been back until this year. And basically, he hasn't been setting his foot on his native soil for around 30 years.
When the news of his evasion of National Service first appeared in the headlines, letters of discontentment flooded in the media. When they were published, I was taken aback by the harsh comments that came in. Truthfully, when I first read the news of his evasion, I was surprised I could just shrug it off and chuck it away at the back of my head without feeling much contempt at all, given the fact that my pursuit of my music studies was impeded by these 2 years of National Service. I could roughly guess most of the hateful letters which came in were by those who are currently serving the military, but I never thought they were so unforgiving, to the extent of buying tickets for his concert just to go on strike over there. I just thought that given my circumstances, it was me who should be having such pathetic sentiments.
If they had thought that it was unfair, they can simply go do the same, can't they? It's not too hard to just absent yourself from the military by going overseas to do what you want, is it? Examine their actions a little deeper and it wouldn't take much to understand such feelings just stem from their cowardly nature, which stops them from deserting the military, and jealousy, which is such a perverse emotion found commonly in myopic people who are unable to look at the whole big picture.
As for Melvyn Tan, I admire him for his achievements and for his courage to pursue his own dreams instead of coming back to an organisation where everyone is forced to conform to the system. And no, I don't sympathise with him, instead, I sympathise with those who blasted out at him, for these people haven't been able to look at the whole picture and their opinions have exposed their most pathetic and unforgiving side of human nature.
It's a pity he cancelled his concert and withdrew from judging the National Piano and Violin Competition, for there're true music lovers who would want to attend the concert to enjoy the music. But I guess such actions of his are unavoidable, given the number of immature citizens we have here in Singapore.