|White Lie, Not White Horse|
It is crystal clear now that Patrick Tan started his private sector career as a researcher with the Defence Medical and Environmental Research Institute, when he should have resumed wearing his army uniform after an unheard of 12-year disruption. For many Singapore males, one of the key disadvantages of NS obligation is the opportunity loss of 2 years in Temasek green, when they could have embarked on their working life sooner, helping to pay the family bills. Mindef - Tony Tan was the Defence Minister from 1995 to 2003 - was roped in as accessory to the storyboard when they stated that 86 NSFs were allowed disruption for overseas medical studies, without highlighting that Patrick flew off for a PhD, not an MD. You betcha none of those 86 stayed away for 12 long years.
Technically, Peter and Philip also "fulfilled all obligations", except that these combat fit boys had a cushy time behind a desk, instead of learning how to charge up a hill to defend the nation. Those unfortunates without connections will have be put in harm's way, either blown up by a faulty made-in-China grenade fuse or run over by a Land Rover because of flaky Army safety measures. All these happening during peace time. Need we add that it's cooler in the air-conditioned office than under a blazing sun?
Of course Tony Tan never gave explicit instructions to the effect, neither did the kway teow hawker receive an official memo to add extra egg in the serving. Cedric Foo told parliament in 2003, "Prior to year 2000, the term 'white horse' was used to identify sons of influential persons to ensure such enlistees were not given preferential treatment." What the fool - who inadvertently confirmed the rumoured existence of white horses - did not explain was why Mindef did away with the system after year 2000, if it could indeed "ensure such enlistees were not given preferential treatment".