With the media engrossed in the devastation of tsunami hit Japan, it was easy to miss the tremors at Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) that could have resulted in Ogawa Ryuju being finally accorded his rightful Singapore citizenship.
While ICA quibbled about the bureaucratic red tape of the oath swearing ceremony requirement, they were silent when Ogawa dutifully served his two years of National Service. The recent batch who just completed their ORD quiz - conditional upon having their NRIC being returned - will tell you the last couple of months of military training were mostly "slack" days. Add to that the wasted time reporting at sports events to make up for the poor attendance anticipated, or providing cheap labour to assemble seating for National Day parade, it is questionable the two prime years of youth have been optimally invested.
Ogawa discovered how he was jerked around by the system when he tried to renew his passport in January 2010. It cut no ice to tell them that he had his first pledge taking for the SAF when he was enlisted into the Army in 2007. His second pledge was taken when he received his Pink Identity Card from the MP for Jalan Besar GRC, Mr Heng Chee How, during the Citizenship Ceremony on 20th June 2008. It cut no ice when Ogawa had renounced his Japanese citizenship at the Embassy as instructed by ICA. They pounced on the technicality of a reminder letter sent under registered mail, that was bounced, and clearly marked as "Unclaimed". They sent Ogawa a letter for an Oath Taking Ceremony in 2009 when he had already taken an Oath during the Citizenship Ceremony in 2008 under the watchful eyes of MP Heng in attendance.
It cut no ice when both MPs Lee Boon Yang and Heng Chee How wrote letters of appeal to ICA. Ogawa's story came to light in November 2010. ICA was steadfast then: "There is no provision under the Singapore Constitution for reinstatement of citizenship once a person ceases to be a Singaporean citizen", conveniently ignoring the fact it was their advice for Ogawa to renounce his Japanese citizenship, rendering him a stateless person. Then in December 2010, suddenly forgetting about the "there is no provision" part, ICA wanted $100 to process an application for citizenship. Tired of the charade, Ogawa submitted to the blackmail by paying up on 18 February 2011, and the application was swiftly approved 10 days later. So much for the "There is no provision under the Singapore Constitution for reinstatement of citizenship blah, blah, blah...."
So was it the 100 bucks or a forthcoming earth shattering event that finally convinced ICA to eat humble pie? Looks like the ground swell building up momentum for this year's general election may surpass the 8.9 Richter scale magnitude experienced by Japan yet.