Call for referendum among the seven million Malaysians in the affected 16-35 year age groups whether they support the three-month “national service” training which violates the spirit of volunteerism and Rukunegara principles with the curriculum determined by the notorious indoctrination agency, Biro Tata Negara
- DAPSY forum “National Service or National Disservice”
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): In April this year, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said that Malaysia’s national service programme would the “first of its kind in the world”.
He has proven true to his word for the National Service Training Bill tabled in Parliament is a misnomer, nothing to do with national defence or fighting a war, but to allegedly instil national unity, patriotism and discipline with the curriculum determined by the notorious indoctrination agency, Biro Tata Negara.
It raises the fundamental question whether it is possible to achieve in three months what the national education system has failed in 11 years of primary and secondary schooling, viz. to inculcate national unity, patriotism and discipline.
It is most shocking that the National Service Training Bill violates its own defined purposes and basic principles.
In Clause 2 of the Bill, “national service training” is defined to mean “the training which persons liable under this Act have to undergo having the aim particularly of preparing Malaysian youths for national service under the National Service Act 1952 and generally of creating a nation which is patriotic and resilient and imbued with the spirit of volunteerism guided by the principles of the Rukun Negara.” The National Service Training Bill, as so defined, is objectionable on three fundamental grounds:
Firstly, Ministers have repeatedly declared that the national service programme has nothing to do with national defence or fighting a war. If so, there is no reason or justification to link the Bill to the National Service Act 1952 on the call-up of persons between the ages of 17 to 55 to join the armed forces, the police forces and civil defence forces for two years and to be placed on the reserves list for five years to defend the nation’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.
Secondly, it is ridiculous to talk about promoting the “spirit of volunteerism” when the Bill is studded with criminal sanctions and custodial offences ranging from six months to three years and in one instance to ten years’ jail. How can the spirit of volunteerism and service to the community be promoted by force and threat of protracted imprisonments – which are clear contradictions in terms.
Thirdly, the Bill flouts the Rukun Negara while declaring that the national service programme will be guided its principles. The overarching objectives of Rukunegara are to “achieve national unity” and “maintain a democratic way of life”. The National Service Training Bill is one of the most undemocratic legislations to see the light of day – as there had been no full consultation of the youth organizations, NGOs, all political parties and the civil society.
For instance, nobody knew until the Bill was tabled in Parliament on Tuesday that its net is cast so wide as to rope in not only the 480,000 18-year-old SPM school-leavers but some seven million people between 16 to 35 years old!
Why has this been kept a top secret from the Malaysian people in the past nine months since the national service idea was mooted at the National Patriotism Congress last October?
The complaints by the youths that they do not have the opportunity to be fully heard about the national service training programme is legitimate, and if the principles of Rukun Negara are to be the guiding spirit of the national service programme, then the youths in the country must have the chance to have a say before the National Service Training Bill is debated and rubber-stamped by Parliament next week. Otherwise, the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority will be used openly and blatantly against the interests of the youths of Malaysia.
For this reason, the National Service Training Bill should either be withdrawn or be referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee to conduct nation-wide public hearings from all sectors of the civil society on the three-month programme to ensure in particular, that it does not end up as an indoctrination course by Biro Tata Negara of the Prime Minister’s Offrice, which is responsible for drafting the curriculum of the national service training programme. General suspicion and distrust about the role of Biro Tata Negara is understandable as the Biro Tata Negara is notorious as being responsible for indoctrination programmes for students and government servants on behalf of the Barisan Nasional government.
If the national service training programme is genuinely committed to promote the spirit of volunteerism and the principles of Rukun Negara, let there be a referendum by the seven million Malaysians in the affected 16-35 year age groups whether they support the three-month “national service” training programme and whether they want its curriculum to be determined by the notorious indoctrination agency, the Biro Tata Negara.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman