In the latest salvo, the Ministry of Defence (Mindef) accused 17-year old footballer of not having any intentions to fulfill his National Service duties.
“(Benjamin’s) actions are meant to further his own professional career, not national interest,” Mindef said in remarks to the media on Wednesday. “As his father openly admitted, he is looking out for his son’s future, not Singapore’s.”
“They have no intention of returning to fulfill their son’s NS duties, especially if (Benjamin) is given a full professional contract after two years of his senior contract.”
The accusation comes as the ongoing saga has attracted public attention, with many Singaporeans debating the case.
The Football Association of Singapore (FAS) said on Tuesday that it was putting its weight behind Ben’s appeal for deferment from National Service so that he can fulfill his 2-year contractual obligations with English Premier League club, Fulham.
His father, Harvey Davis, had said last week that his son would serve NS when he returns, just as his older son has, and his other son will.
Now, however, Mindef is disputing this, saying that Mr Davis “would not commit to a date” during the deferment application process on when his son would return to Singapore to do his NS.
Mindef said that despite his original deferment application being rejected, Ben went ahead and signed the contract with Fulham anyway. Mindef also referred to Mr Davis public remarks that he would encourage his son to renounce his citizenship if that was what he had to do in order to train in England.
“To allow deferment for this type of appeal, would severely undermine the ethos and sacrifice of Singaporeans who have all put aside their personal interests to complete their NS duties,” Mindef said.
Mr Davis had said that he was hopeful that his son’s appeal for deferment would be granted.
“I’m still hopeful that with the Football Association of Singapore’s (FAS) support for the appeal, and with the sentiment that the public are expressing, that will help,” he said on Monday.
“At the end of the day, as a parent, I have to do what is best for my son. It’s (giving up Singaporean citizenship) not something we want to consider.
“If we have no choice, and we find ourselves in that situation, I don’t think it’s a choice we will make lightly…either that or we have to ask our son to give up his dream.”
On Wednesday evening, Mr Davis responded to Mindef’s accusations that his son has no intention of serving NS.
“It is unfortunate that Mindef has an impression that Ben would not return to serve his NS,” he said. “I would also like to make it known that I have been working through the Football Association of Singapore, SportSG and MCCY over Ben’s deferment and have not met anyone from Mindef.”
He said he was “not aware of what was presented by MCCY to Mindef with regard to Ben’s request for deferment”.
According to TODAY, in an email to the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) in May, Mr Davis had reaffirmed that Ben would do his NS, as his elder son had done.
“The only question is timing for Ben as we would like to give him the best opportunity to play at the highest possible professional level in the United Kingdom and Europe,” he told the MCCY. “If Ben does not get a renewed contract or new contract by May 2020 then he should return to serve his NS.”
As for Mindef’s claims that Mr Davis would not commit to a specific time for Ben to return to do his NS, Mr Davis explained that the family was unable to do so “since there was a possibility that Ben could be offered a new two-year contract in 2019, or he could be sent out on loan or sold to another club.”
“There are a lot of variables all dependent on his development and progression,” he said, “and anyone who understands how professional football and sports works will understand this.”
“We are clear he should serve NS but [the] question is when,” Mr Davis said.