Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang - Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong
in Penang
on Sunday, 2nd March 1997

Proposal to withhold SPM or even deny access to Form Six to those who do not take part in the RM500 million national social service most retrograde and shocking

The Ministry of Youth and Sports’ RM500 million national social service proposal has deviated from the original intention to deal with social ills of youths.

The Youth Minister, Tan Sri Muhyideen Yassin said three days ago that apart from building character and disciplining the 400,000 SPM school-leavers, the national social service will ensure that “there is no idle period from the end of the SPM examination to the time the results are out”.

The Deputy Youth Minister, Datuk Loke Yuen Yow has gone one step further, proposing that to compel all Fifth Formers to take part in the programme, the national social service be made a prerequisite for getting the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia certificate, and that those who refuse to take part in the programme be barred from proceeding to Form Six.

Many Malaysians must have recoiled with disbelief and even disgust when reading these proposals coming from the Ministry of Youth. Such proposals are most retrograde and shocking and Malaysians must have wondered whether the problem the Ministry is trying to tackle are youths with social problems or youths without social problems.

Malaysians can ask two further questions: whether the Youth Ministry is trying to resolve or create new social problems for youths; and secondly, whether the Youth Ministry is not one major cause for the escalating social ills of youths, both because of its lack of imagination and failure of the Rakan Muda schemes.

The Youth Ministry’s proposals to make the national social service compulsory for Fifth Formers will not address the problem of juvenile delinquents, who are most likely to play truant, and who would not be bothered by their inability to get their SPM or to proceed for Form Sixth.

It would be the youths who are not juvenile delinquents and not social problems, but disagree with the need for them to go through the three-month national social service meant to address the problem of social problems affecting youths, who would be aggrieved and penalised by the draconian regulations withholding their SPM certificates, and creating in the process a new generation which will be alienated and antagonised by a government which did not understand the problems and aspirations of youths.

It is shocking that in so short a time, the Ministry of Youth could deviate completely from the subject of national concern - the delinquent youths - and to think of rules and regulations for the youths who are not delinquents.

In fact, if the whole concept of national social service is meant to rectify the failure of character education and building by instilling good values and discipline among delinquent youths, then recognition and appreciation should be accorded to youths who are not delinquents by exempting them from such a reform programme.

The government should abandon all retrogressive ideas as those coming out from the Ministry of Youth which will create new problems for youths rather than resolve social problems affecting youths.

If the Government is prepared to come out with a RM500 million budget a year to tackle the problem of social problems affecting youths, there should be the fullest discussion as to how such RM500 million could be spent with the maximum effect.

I believe there would be a national consensus that the focus of character education and building should be the period when the students are in school both at the primary and secondary level, and not when they are seventeen and have finished Form Five.

In fact, there should be a general recognition that the battle of character building of the young generation of Malaysians is already lost when youths leave school without the values to be good citizens and productive members of society and it is dubious that such failure of character education and building could be undone by a three-month national social service.

The public concern about the social problems affecting youths must not be used by any Ministry as an opportunity to create “new empires” or to fight for very lucrative ‘turfs”.

The government should even take the bold decision to consider whether the bulk of this RM500 million would be better spent by an independent foundation to promote values of good citizenship, involving a national movement mobilising the co-operative efforts of home, school and the community and which has nothing to do with any bureaucratic wrangling or empire-building by any Ministry whatsoever.