Source Pravda.Ru

Singapore-born pianist cancels concert over draft-dodge controversy

A Singapore-born British pianist canceled a sold-out concert in the city-state after his recent fine for evading compulsory military service in the 1970s triggered a controversy, a report said Sunday.

Pianist Melvyn Tan, 49, stayed in Britain in 1977 to study at the Royal College of Music instead of returning for military service, still required of all qualified Singaporean males, The Sunday Times reported.

Tan became British and renounced his Singapore citizenship in 1978. He did not return to his homeland until earlier this year to face a draft-dodging charge, for which he was fined 3,000 Singapore dollars (US$1,775; Ђ1,520) in April. The maximum penalty is a S$5,000 (US$2,960; Ђ2,530) fine and three years' jail.

The case ignited a debate among Singaporeans over penalties for draft evasion, and whether authorities were too lenient toward the acclaimed pianist.

In a letter published in The Sunday Times, Tan said he was "saddened and dismayed" by the controversy.

"In light of the sentiments prevailing, I have decided it is best I defer my public appearances, for the debate on national service to continue without my further aggravating it," Tan wrote.

Tan's whereabouts were not immediately clear.

He had been scheduled to perform Dec. 21 at Singapore's Esplanade performance center, an elaborate venue that is part of the government's efforts to promote the wealthy island republic as an arts center for Asia.

Tan canceled the performance and his role as a judge at a national piano and violin competition later this month, the newspaper said.

"We are saddened by Melvyn's decision he is a tremendous artist and his piano recital would have been a treat for music lovers," Esplanade programming officer Michelle Yeo said in a statement. "Given the current turn of events though, we understand and respect fully his decision to hold off any performances."

Commenting on Tan's case, Defense Minister Teo Chee Hean has said he was "personally in favor of imposing custodial sentences for people who knowingly and deliberately evade national service."

The Defense Ministry said it was reviewing the adequacy of penalties for draft evasion.

National service of up to 2 1/2 years is compulsory for all male Singaporeans and permanent residents aged 16-40. Last year, the Defense Ministry said it would cut the required length by six months because military technology has improved, AP reports. P.T.

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