Height of parliamentary irresponsibility if MPs give a blank cheque to the government by passing the National Service Training Bill which empowers it to dragoon seven million Malaysians in the 16-35 year age group for a three-month indoctrination course which could cost the taxpayers RM35 billion
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): It is the height of parliamentary irresponsibility if Members of Parliament give a blank cheque to the government by passing the National Service Training Bill next week empowering it to dragoon seven million Malaysians in the 16-35 year age group for a three-month indoctrination course which could cost the taxpayers RM35 billion.
Although Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak had said that because of cost, only 100,000 18-year-old SPM school leavers would be enlisted for the three-month “national service” training programme beginning in February next year, as it would already involve a public expenditure outlay of over RM500 million, the National Service Training Bill he had tabled in Parliament is asking for a RM35 billion blank cheque which no responsible Parliament can or should approve.
In the first place, neither Najib nor the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad has ever explained why the net for the “national service” training – not for national defence but to instil national unity and patriotism – has suddenly been broadened from the 18-year-old SPM school-leavers to 19 age groups between 16 to 35 years, according to Clause 3(a) of the Bill.
Secondly, there is no mention whatsoever about the curriculum for the “national service” training to ensure that it would not be abused and turned into an indoctrination course not for “national service” but primarily for Barisan Nasional service.
Thirdly, it goes against all principles of responsible legislation and good governance for Parliament to give a blank cheque which empowers the government to dragoon some seven million Malaysians in the 16-35 year age group for a three-month indoctrination course which could cost the taxpayers RM35 billion.
I have given an estimate that some seven million people would be roped in when the net for “national service” training is expanded to cover those in the 16-35 age group based on the 2000 population census, which gave the following statistics:
If the cost of 100,000 people undergoing the three-month “national service training” course is computed as over RM 500 million, then the cost for putting seven million people in the age groups caught by the Bill would be in the staggering astronomical region of RM35 billion!
The actual cost could be two, three or even four times this amount when the wages forgone or compensated for those in employment in these age groups are taken into account.
Although Najib could argue that the government has no plans at present to enlist more than 100,000 18-year-old SPM school-leavers for the first year of the national service training programme, there can be no justification for the government to ask and for Parliament to give a blank cheque to empower the dragooning of seven million people in the 16-35-year age groups for a three-month indoctrination course which could cost the public taxpayers RM35 billion.
It is completely premature for the National Service Training Bill to be tabled in Parliament as it is clear that there is neither national consensus nor national unity on it, with the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad admitting in his UMNO Presidential Address on Thursday that “the nature of the National Service has not been finalized”, and the considerable muddled and confused thinking on the concept.
For this reason, DAP calls for the withdrawal of the half-baked National Service Training Bill as no such Bill should be presented in Parliament until the government has finalized the details and nature of the National Service, including the details of the curriculum of the national service training which should be incorporated in the Bill as a special schedule.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman