Monday, February 18, 2013

Spare a thought for senior former NS men: Raymond's letter to TODAY Newspaper

It is encouraging to note that the Government is reviewing policies to help Singaporeans serving National Service (NS) feel more appreciated (“Those serving NS ‘should feel appreciated’”, Feb 16).

While it is helpful to fine-tune policies that will benefit the younger generation, we must never make our seniors feel that they are a forgotten lot.
Many of our seniors made significant contributions in protecting our shores when NS was first introduced in March 1967.

NS changed my life in that I have learnt many tools needed to succeed in life and even to build second careers.

I would like to offer a few suggestions on how the Government can accord recognition to our senior ex-NS men who have completed NS and reservist obligations.

First, it would be helpful if an annual cash payout can be given to this group, with half the amount going to their wives or parents/guardians. This payout will be helpful with the rising cost of living in Singapore.

Second, as many of these seniors will be grappling with medical issues that come with old age, periodic top-ups in their Medisave accounts will help defray rising medical costs.

Third, to build a cohesive society where everyone will stand up and fight for our nation, we have to ensure that our silver-haired ex-NS men feel a deep sense of belonging.

Sadly, today, once you hit 50, few employers are willing to hire you despite your wealth of experience. And many of our NS elders fall in this group.

The Government can help find employment for these men based on their qualifications and expertise. During my NS days, there was a Job Placement Centre at the Central Manpower Base (CMPB) that found jobs for NS men who completed their two-year training programme. A similar scheme with senior ex-NS men as its focus could be set up.

Finally, why not form a Veterans NS Club that will facilitate annual meet-ups and tea sessions? Selected club members can share their commitment to NS to recruits through motivational talks conducted by the Ministry of Defence.

This proposed club, where membership fees can be kept modest, will help build a strong camaraderie among all who take pride in keeping our shores safe and sound.

Raymond Anthony Fernando