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Singapore — A former champion Malaysian swimmer who holds Permanent Residence in Singapore was given an eight-week jail sentence on Tuesday (Feb 9) for defaulting on his National Service (NS) obligations.
Lim Ching Hwang, 24, entered a guilty plea to two charges under the Enlistment Act. Another charge was taken into consideration.
While he finished his NS on Feb 2, the jail sentence is for two charges of remaining outside Singapore without a valid exit permit from July 2014 to June 2015 and from July 2015 to June 2018.
He has expressed regret for the actions that led to his sentencing and said he is facing the consequences for his choices as he plans to join swim competitions in Singapore and work here in the future.
Deputy Public Prosecutor R Arvindren asked that Lim be jailed for at least two months, making note of his guilty plea and voluntary surrender, as well as the duration of his offences.
He will serve his sentence from Feb 23.
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Lim could have received a sentence of up to three years, been fined as much as S$10,000, or both.
The swimmer’s story
Born in Selangor, Lim still currently holds a swimming record in Malaysia, which he set in July 2016.
He came in Singapore in 2010, and his studies and swim training at the Singapore Sports School until 2013 were subsidized by the Government.
CNA reports that DPP R Arvindren told the court: “The Singapore Government subsidised his education and training at S$25,000 per year under its Foreign Sports Scholarship Scheme.”
He applied for Permanent Residence, which was supported by the Singapore Swimming Association.
In March 2014, the swimmer received PR status under the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme, which meant he was obligated to comply with the requirements of the Enlistment Act.
Two months later, by which time he had turned 18, he received a registration notice asking him to register for NS.
At the same time, he also received an athletic scholarship from Ohio State University in the United States from September 2014 onward.
He registered for NS in May 2014 and applied for deferment, which was given until May 2017, as he was in the process of obtaining his diploma at Republic Polytechnic.
However, by July of that year, he left the country. While he and his family attempted at that time to defer NS because of his studies at university, it was not granted.
The Ministry of Defence said it “does not usually grant deferment for university studies”.
Throughout that year and the next, his family continued to try to defer his NS enlistment.
They could have obtained instead the required bond for an exit permit to be issued but chose not to do so because they were “unhappy with such a policy”, the court heard.
In February 2015, Lim’s father was told that the swimmer was required to schedule medical screening to prepare for enlistment. However, his father replied that his son was in the US for his studies and that he would renounce his PR status.
The father was then told to inform the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority of the plan to renounce Lim’s PR status.
On June 2, 2015, the swimmer flew to Singapore and submitted to a medical screening out of concern that if he did not, he would not be able to compete at the 2015 South-east Asian Games in the country later that year because of his offences.
By July 5 of that year, he was deemed medically fit for enlistment.
However, on that day, he returned to the US but kept on with his attempts at applying for deferment.
On Nov 11, 2015, a police gazette was issued against him when he did not report for enlistment.
By June 11, 2018, after finishing his university studies, he returned to Singapore.
In April of the following year, he enlisted and served his NS until Feb 2, 2021.
During mitigation, Lim expressed that he was “deeply regretful” of what he had done but had “come back to face the consequences as a man”.
He also said that he had been “too focused on swimming” and that the lure of the athletic scholarship had been irresistible for him.
Lim claimed that he had been ill-advised by his parents to complete his degree and that what he should have done was to make sure they accomplished his exit permit properly.
He also had a message to “strongly encourage young men to look forward to NS and to serve it diligently as it is related to Singapore’s security”. /TISG
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