DAP proposes that the three-month national service training should be carried out during the final two years of secondary schooling, which will save RM500 million a year as well as prevent disruption of education or employment of youths
Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Kota Kinabalu, Friday): The Director-General of Education, Datuk Abdul Rafie Mahat proposed on Tuesday that students involved in certain co-curricular activities be exempted from certain aspects of the national service programme, which begins next year – such as students who were members of uniformed units should be exempted from marching as it was already practised in school.
Rafie said the Education Ministry would submit the proposal to the Cabinet Committee on National Service chaired by the Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak.
Rafie’s proposal has justified the DAP criticism that the National Service Training Bill is a half-baked and poorly-thought-out proposal which is being rushed through Parliament without the proper deep and comprehensive consideration necessary for a national programme affecting such a huge number of people and high expenditure of public funds.
Although Cabinet Ministers have said that the target group for the national service training programme are the 480,000 18-year-old SPM school-leavers every year, the National Service Training Bill has cast the net for the target groups so wide as to affect some seven million Malaysians, men and women, in the age group between 16 to 35 years old – although no satisfactory explanation has ever been given in Parliament or outside why seven million people are being roped in as liable for the programme.
At first, the government had proposed that all the 480,000 18-year-olds should be put through a six-month national service training programme, but when it was found that it would cost the astronomical sum of some RM5 – 6 billion, the programme was cut down to a three-month training for 100,000 or some 20 per cent of the 18-year-olds, although it would still cost some RM500 million.
The Education Ministry’s proposal for the exemption of students who were members of uniformed units in schools from the one-month marching and drilling in the three-month programme should have been raised and decided by the Cabinet Committee on National Service, as the Education Minister, Tan Sri Musa Mohamad is a member, and not after the National Service Training Bill had been passed in Parliament.
It only proves that more thought should be given to the national service training programme before it is hastily implemented, as there is at present no national consensus on its objectives, contents or operation.
For instance, both the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad and Najib have publicly explained that the national service programme in Malaysia is different from all other countries in that it is non-military and has nothing to do with national defence but is meant to instil national unity, patriotism and discipline.
The question is whether it is possible in three months to rectify the failure of the 11-year national education system to inculcate national unity and patriotism – or whether the RM500 million to be spent next year on the first year of the national service training for 100,000 youths would be another wasted expenditure.
DAP calls for an immediate pause to any plan to rush the implementation of the national service training programme until there is a national consensus arising from the fullest public involvement and consultation about all aspects of the national service training programme – including the definition of patriotism!
The Education Ministry is now suggesting the exemption of students in uniformed units in schools from the first month of the three-month national service training programme which would be devoted to marching, drilling and the other :”military” aspects.
The Cabinet should go further and consider the possibility of carrying out the three-month national service training programme during the final two years of secondary schooling, which will save RM500 million a year as well as prevent disruption of education or employment of youths.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman