Monday, December 19, 2005

Melvyn Tan

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.


irene said...

hmm I guess it's also because they really don't know just how difficult it is to be accepted by those music schools. They don't understand and recognise the rarity of getting such an opportunity and the prestige of it...

Casper said...


Casper said...

Guys, get over it. Melvyn Tan is an old school mate of mine. His talent and contribution during his school days were noted.

I have nothing good to say about Singapore. because having been born there (not of my choice) and experienced about 20 years of it, I can say thank god I escaped. ( If Goh Chock Tong want to call us quitters its fine ) I think he should be asking himself if its such a fantastic place, why people leave? Any place that does not support the actualization of the human spirit, is doomed. ( I will charge fees for this wake up hint ), Guys wake-up stop milling about your lost time and your loyalty/patriotism hahahah. I am sure its there. I can say this because I paid the fee, done my time. My parents invested in me, a $750 tax deduction. And now I thumb my nose to those who insult me by calling me a quitter. I will realize my parents investment to the highest bidder in the free world. Goodluck SGP you will need it.

Sean said...

I don't know, I myself would want to get out of serving NS. I think that the Singapore government just does not support equality amongst its people based on gender no matter how much they preach regarding the racial aspect of discrimination.

In Singapore, men are forced to endure two years of NS while the women don't go through the hell we do and are even able to use the time to further their education/ get a job etc. It is a widely known medical fact that women have longer lives on average than men; yet an extra two years of our life is taken away from us. I wouldn't mind so much if women had to go for this too. It's just not fair.

In Singapore women, under the law, cannot be caned. Yet men can be. Where is the justice in that? Is there any justification for this? It is another widely known fact that women in Singapore tend to get off more lightly than men under the law.

Up till now the Singaporean government still defends its position in the same way - that women contribute to society in other ways. But if women get the CHOICE of how they wish to serve society, why not men too? Are they saying that men do not or cannot serve society in ways that women can? I have not yet seen a satisfactory answer this at any point in my 15 year long life.

Besides, it's incredibly stupid that someone who has become a citizen of another country should still be dragged down by commitments forced upon him by his previous country.