Shame that Parliament of an independent and sovereign Malaysia in 21st century should pass the National Service Training Bill, a “copy and paste” of a half-century-old colonial law bereft of modern-day ideas of volunteerism, transparency and democracy
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): In his final UMNO Presidential Address last Thursday, the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad spun his theory of the “war-mongering, greedy and sexually- deviant” European races and warned that Malaysians have to face “in the new decades and centuries….numerous attempts by the Europeans to colonise us either directly or indirectly” - “If our country is not attacked, our minds, our culture, our religion and other things will become the target”.
Unfortunately, Barisan Nasional and in particular UMNO MPs heard but did not understand Mahathir’s warning about the cultural imperialism of and mental subjugation by the colonial masters, as illustrated by their rubber-stamping of the National Service Training Bill yesterday.
It is a Big Shame that the Parliament of an independent and sovereign Malaysia in the 21st century should pass the National Service Training Bill, which is a “copy and paste” of a half-century-old colonial law bereft of the modern-day ideas of volunteerism, transparency and democracy, without any original thinking or input!
It is also a Big Shame on Barisan Nasional and particularly UMNO MPs for so quickly forgetting the stark and dire warnings of Mahathir only last Thursday, who clearly listened but did not understand the Prime Minister’s call not to succumb to the cultural imperialism and mental subjugation of the colonial masters!
According to the National Service Training Bill, the three-month “national service training” programme is to create a patriotic and resilient nation “imbued with the spirit of volunteerism guided by the principles of the Rukun Negara”.
But the National Service Training Bill breathes neither “volunteerism” nor the overarching Rukun Negara objective of “maintaining a democratic way of life” as it exudes only the colonial mentality of force and subjugation of a subject people with a whole paraphernalia of over-kill criminal sanctions and custodial offences.
When presenting the National Service Training Bill in the Dewan Rakyat yesterday, Najib said a new bill was being presented as the three-month “national service training” programme to instil national unity and patriotism was completely different in objective from the call-up provided by the National Service Act 1952 conscripting those in the age group between 17 to 55 years for two-year compulsory military service in the armed forces, police or civil defences.
However, the National Service Training Bill passed by Parliament yesterday was basically a “copy and paste” job, based on the colonial National Service Act 1952 fashioned by a colonial power for a subject people, without any notions of volunteerism, transparency or democracy whatsoever.
For instance, Najib was unable to explain what could be the rationale and justification for a 10-year jail offence in a legislation to provide three-month “national service training” programme to correct the failure of the 11-year education system to instil national unity and patriotism.
Clause 27 of the Bill which creates a 10-year-jail offence 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 is a direct “copy and paste” of Section 24 of the National Service Act 1952, lifting word-for-word from the 50-year-old colonial law.
It is disputable whether it was proper and right for the British colonial power 50 years ago to create a 10-year-jail offence in a legislation providing for a compulsory two-year military service – as it could be argued that it was most harsh and draconian to create an offence entailing a jail sentence five times the length of the two-year compulsory military service.
But to import such 10-year-jail offence “lock stock and barrel” into the National Service Training legislation and to create an offence involving a jail penalty which is 20 times the three-month national service training programme to instil national unity and patriotism is utter irresponsibility and sheer lunacy – downright outrageous and completely unthinkable! What is most astounding is that this was never questioned by any Cabinet Minister or Barisan Nasional MP, raising the question whether they ever use their thinking caps!
This is why the withdrawal yesterday of Clause 29 of the National Service Training Bill during Committee Stage, which imposed 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, though welcome is not adequate to make the Bill acceptable or palatable, as there are 12 other criminal sanctions and custodial offences “copied and pasted” from the 50-year-old colonial law, which cannot pass the test of volunteerism or the Rukun Negara principles of democracy, transparency and good governance.
It is most regrettable that Barisan Nasioal MPs yesterday rejected the motion by the DAP MP for Batu Gajah, Fong Po Kuan to refer the National Service Training Bill to an all-party Parliamentary Select Committee to ensure the widest national consultation, whether by political parties, youth organisations and the civil society, which could give it legitimacy by draining off its colonial parentage and removing all colonial influences as warned by Mahathir last week. This is another example why the overwhelming majority of the Barisan Nasional in Parliament, including its two-thirds parliamentary control, is often a bane and not a boon for Malaysian democracy and the people’s best interests.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman