Parliament will be guilty of endorsing the  most shoddy and intellectually sloppy and dishonest piece of legislation in history  if it enacts National Service Training Bill without a total revamp of its objectives and contents

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling JayaWednesday): The alteration of the parliamentary order of business to allow the Dewan Rakyat today to start the debate on  the National Service Training Bill, taking  precedence over the part-debated but not-yet-passed National Archive (Amendment) Bill is another example of parliamentary subservience to the Executive, where parliamentary business is ordered to suit the convenience of senior Cabinet Ministers, in this case the Defence Minister and putative Deputy Prime Minister in four months’ time, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, rather than to conform with parliamentary conventions and traditions. 

Can the Speaker, Tun Mohamad Zahir Ismail or Najib explain what is so urgent about the National Service Training Bill that it cannot  take its turn at least until the conclusion of the debate on the National Archive (Amendment) Bill, except that the Deputy Prime Minister-in-waiting does not want to have to wait, even for one or two hours, in Parliament House despite its recent RM42 million renovation? 

The notice served on MPs by the government yesterday on  the withdrawal of Clause 29 of the National Service Training Bill imposing a maximum sentence of RM10,000 fine, two years’ jail or both for the offence of  “opposing national service training” or “inciting persons to evade duties or liabilities” under the programme  is welcome but not adequate to make the Bill acceptable or palatable, as it is only one of the several criminal sanctions and custodial offences which make it highly offensive in violating the very principles and objectives of the national service training programme. 

For instance, there are still the criminal sanctions imposing the maximum sentence of RM3,000 fine, six months’ jail or both  under Clause 18 for failing to present oneself for  national service training,  Clause 19 for   being absent from national service training without leave, and Clause 28 for  making false statements or forged documents to the horrendous Clause 27 which imposes  10-year jail sentence for “acts which cause a person to become unsuitable or apparently unsuitable to undergo national service training” whether by maiming or injuring oneself or another or  the administering of  any drug or other substance. 

 Two questions immediately come to mind: 

  • Firstly, what is the provision of  a  10-year jail sentence offence doing in a Bill which is meant to correct the failures of the 11-year education system to instil  national unity and patriotism in a three-month course for the youngsters in the country?
  • Secondly, why should a bill meant to imbue the young generation with the spirit of volunteerism and the principles of Rukun Negara be studded with criminal sanctions and custodial offences, treating them as if they are enemies of the nation?

My critique that the National Service Training Bill is one of the most atrocious pieces of draftsmanship tabled in Parliament is vindicated by a comparative study of the Bill and the National Service Act 1952, for it is clear that the drafters of the Bill have not contributed any original thinking but simply lifted “lock, stock and barrel” the provisions of criminal sanctions and custodial offences, in most occasions word-for-word, from the colonial law half-a-century ago. 

This is the fatal flaw of the National Service Training Bill as the colonial National Service Act 1952 is undemocratic in spirit and content where the colonial power had to depend on criminal sanctions and custodial offences to compel submission from a subjected people, which is totally at variance with the “national service training” programme not only to instil national unity and patriotism of a free and independent nation  but to promote the spirit of volunteerism and achieve the Rukun Negara objective of “maintaining a democratic way of life”.

Parliament will be guilty of endorsing the  most shoddy and intellectually sloppy and dishonest piece of legislation in history  if it enacts the National Service Training Bill without a total revamp of its objectives and contents, and this is why the Bill should either  be withdrawn or be referred to a Parliamentary Select Committee for  nation-wide public hearings from all sectors of the civil society.

A major objection to the National Service Training Bill is the lack of iron-clad safeguards to ensure that the national service training programme does not degenerate into an indoctrination course by Biro Tata Negara (National Civics Bureau) of the Prime Minister’s Department, which is notorious for its role in indoctrinating civil servants and students. 

At the recent UMNO General Assembly, Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Badawi announced that the government would be establishing an institute dedicated to the thoughts of Dr. Mahathir Mohamad while the religious adviser to the Prime Minister, Tan Sri Abdul Hamid Othman announced that the International Islamic University is launching a 10-chapter compilation of the thoughts of Mahathir by an international panel of 35 academicians to  “position Dr. Mahathir as one of the greatest thinkers of the century and on par with great authors such as William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, Ibnu Khaldun and Baron de Montesquieu”. 

The last thing Malaysians want to see is that the trainees of the National Service Training programme  become the first batch of “guinea pigs” for the Thoughts of Mahathir conducted by Biro Tata Negara, whether it be based on his book “The Malay Dilemma” which was banned when it was first published in 1970, his views on the  Suqiu Electoral Appeals or his latest theory on the European race which was the theme of his last UMNO Presidential Address last week. 

If the Barisan Nasional MPs are not prepared to defer passage of the National Service Training Bill despite the multitude of cogent reasons and arguments in the national interest, then it will be a most blatant case of the abuse of  the Barisan Nasional two-thirds parliamentary majority against the interests of the young generation  of Malaysians.


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman