“National Service” a misnomer as it is neither national service nor national and unlikely to foster national unity and patriotism – the National Service Training Bill should be renamed and referred to an all-party Parliamentary Select Committee to report back in six months after first reading
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Sunday): The “national service” programme announced by the Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak to be implemented next year for 100,000 boys and girls aged 18 years, is clearly a misnomer as it is neither national service nor “national” covering only 20 per cent of the youth in the age group and is unlikely to foster national unity and patriotism with a three-month stint.
Najib was in fact making a mistake which Confucius had advised against 2,500 years ago when he said:
“If language is not correct, then what is said is not what is meant; if what is said is not what is meant, then what must be done remains undone; if this remains undone, morals and art will deteriorate; if justice goes astray, the people will stand about in helpless confusion. hence, there must be no arbitrariness in what is said. This matters above everything.”
There can be no dispute about the “national service” programme being a misnomer as Najib himself admitted that Malaysia’s “national service” programme is different from those implemented in other countries because its main trust thrust is to promote national unity and not for national defence.
The first thing Najib should do is to rectify the term and give it a proper name, and the National Service Training Bill which is to be presented to Parliament when it meets tomorrow should be corrected as it would be more appropriately termed “National Youth Service Training Bill”.
On Friday, Najib gave details of the RM500 million compulsory National Service programme, with the 100,000 youths to be selected randomly by computer out of 480,000 youths. Those who fail to attend the three-month programme after being selected could face a fine of up to RM3,000 or be jailed up to six months, or both.
Najib’s announcement of the “national service” programme had elicited a medley of responses and questions, such as:
Recently, Minister for Culture, Arts and Tourism, Datuk Kadir bin Haji Sheikh Fadzir, questioned the loyalty and patriotism of the Malaysian Chinese, when he equated patriotism with the flying and waving of flags. There should be a national consensus on “patriotism” before RM500 million is spent to foster it.
In the United States, because of the anti-war protests, there is an ongoing debate as to what is the meaning of patriotism – whether it means unthinking flag-waving support for Bush’s invasion of Iraq or the right to dissent in the best interests of the nation.
Is Malaysia prepared to endorse the definition of patriotism recently offered by a well-known American historian and social critic Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., who said that “True patriotism …consists of living up to the nation's highest ideals - ‘Our country, right or wrong. When right, to be kept right; when wrong, to be put right.’”?
Instead of demanding that Parliament should rubber-stamp the National Serivce Training Bill, it should be referred to an all-party Parliamentary Select Committee after the first reading of the Bill to seek and study public representations and to submit its recommendations within six months.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman