The Truth is out! Our NS + reservist worth a GRAND S$5000!Nov 20, 2005
Pianist pays NS dues - 28 years later
He is fined for defaulting on his NS after he decides to return, as his aged parents are finding it difficult to visit him in London
By Kristina Tom
AFTER staying away from Singapore for nearly 30 years because he defaulted on his national service, pianist Melvyn Tan has finally paid his dues.
The 49-year-old, who has lived in the United Kingdom for the last 37 years, has paid a fine for not fulfilling his national service duty and will be performing at the Esplanade next month.
In an interview with The Sunday Times, a visibly relieved Mr Tan said that he is glad to have put the past behind him.
He has not stepped onto Singapore soil all these years because he had feared that he would be arrested and thrown into jail.
But his 86-year-old father and 80-year-old mother are getting too old to make the regular trips to London to visit him at his home in Notting Hill, London.
So he decided to take a 'risk'. After informing the authorities of his intention to return, he came home in April for a court hearing.
The hearing lasted 30 minutes but he had never been so nervous in his life. 'It was very, very nerve-wracking,' he said.
To his relief, he was asked only to pay a fine.
He claims that he cannot remember the amount.
Under the Enlistment Act, those who evade national service can be fined up to $5,000 or sent to jail for up to three years, or both.
Although Mr Tan became a British citizen in 1978, he was still a Singapore citizen when he failed to fulfil his NS duties, making him answerable for the offence in a Singapore court.
In 1994, The Straits Times quoted a lawyer who said that one of his clients, a 39-year-old French citizen, was arrested at the airport on arrival, fined and made to complete nine months of training.
Mr Tan, who has an elder sister, was studying at Anglo-Chinese School when he left Singapore to study at the Yehudi Menuhin School in Sussex. He was then 12 years old.
After he finished his course, he stayed on in England to study at the Royal College of Music instead of coming home to serve national service in 1977.
He said: 'When I was at the Royal College and I got my final call-up, I was just on the brink of starting a career. I thought about it and thought about it and realised that I was not going to get this chance again.
'So I made that very difficult decision to not return. It meant I could never come back.'
Mr Tan first made his mark in the classical world with his performances on the 19th-century fortepiano, the precursor to the modern concert grand.
In the 1980s and 1990s, he produced a series of recordings that popularised the early music movement, regarded as a slightly eccentric niche within the music world.
He has about 30 recordings to his name and a regular touring schedule in Europe.
Along with Seow Yit Kin and Margaret Leng Tan, he has helped Singapore to gain recognition on the global piano scene.
The pianist is wasting no time in reconnecting with the Singapore music scene.
He goes back to England tomorrow, but will return early next month to sit on the jury of the National Arts Council's biennial National Piano and Violin Competition, which starts Dec 7 and ends Dec 18.
He said that he is getting to know Singapore, which he describes as 'unrecognisable', all over again. And, of course, he has been feasting on his favourite foods such as popiah.
But the best part about being able to come home as a free man was showing up at his mother's 80th birthday party on Thursday.
His parents still live in his childhood home in Lengkok Angsa, off Paterson Road. 'There were a few tears,' he said. 'She was just delighted. It was the best birthday present she's ever had.'
Today I finally got to know how much does my 2.5 years in National Service and future reservist call-ups worth.
It is worth a GRAND $5000 sing dollars! How cool is that?!? Man shouldn’t be all Singaporean male be proud?!? 5k leh!
5K for 2.5 years of my bloody time and at least another 10 high key call up! KNNCCB!
Now I know China is not the only country with 1 country 2 systems.
NS really is only for peasants like me who cannot afford to leave Singapore for overseas studies when young, not elites who live near Paterson Road…