How can the RM6 billion National Service programme to foster national
integration succeed when teachers, youth leaders and government agencies
continue to ride roughshod over the sensitivities of a multi-racial,
multi-lingual, multi-religious and multi-cultural populace?
by Lim Kit Siang
Wednesday): When Parliament meets on
Monday, the government is to present its National Service programme
conceived to foster national integration and patriotism.
It is most regrettable that the Cabinet Committee on National Service headed
by the Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, had failed to involve
all political parties (ruling and opposition), NGOs, the youth movement and
the entire spectrum of the civil society, to achieve a national consensus on
the objectives and the fine details of National Service programme - raising
the question whether Najib will be presenting a truly National Service
programme or a Barisan Nasional service programme!
DAP had suggested last November the establishment of an all-party-cum-NGOs
National Youth Service Commission to study and make recommendations on the
Najib Cabinet Committee report to ensure that the national service to be
introduced in Malaysia does not degenerate into a "national disservice" or "Barisan
Can the Najib Cabinet Committee give a satisfactory answer as to how a
six-month stint of national service is going to succeed in fostering
national unity and national integration among the 18-year-olds when five
full years of studying together in the national secondary schools have
signally failed to achieve these objectives?
Or has the Najib Committee found a magic formula to "pressure-cook"
patriotism in six months after it had failed to take root after 11 years of
schooling in the national system of education?
Even before the Najib Cabinet Committee report on National Service is
presented to Parliament and the public, the government is already talking
about the prohibitive annual costs of some RM6 billion to introduce such a
six-month compulsory National Service Programme for the 500,000
18-year-olds, suggesting cost-cutting measures such as exemptions for
students with outstanding results, those who are furthering their studies
and those who are science and technology majors.
Does this mean that national integration and patriotism are luxuries which
could be exempted for outstanding students or those in the science and
technology streams? If so, what type of a national integration and
patriotism are these?
But there is a more immediate question - How can the RM6 billion National
Service programme to foster national integration succeed when teachers,
youth leaders and government agencies continue to ride roughshod over the
sensitivities of a multi-racial, multi-lingual, multi-religious and
Recently, there have been a spate of such insensitivities which are inimical
to the objectives of fostering national integration and national unity in a
plural society, such as:
Racial slurs by some teachers directed at students from a minority
group, such as the incident at SRK Seksyen Satu, Bandar Kinrara, Puchong,
leading to an official complaint by the multi-racial Parents-Teachers
Association against two teachers and the public undertaking by the MIC
President Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu to lodge a report with the Education
The compulsory dress code imposed by Politeknik Ungku Omar in
Ipoh requiring all graduating students regardless of race or religion to
wear the songkok or tudung at their convocation, which was only retracted
after a public furore.
The insulting, offensive and insensitive television
advertisement by Perodua during the Chinese New Year.
The insulting, offensive and insensitive comment by a Malay
university don that the issue of the release of Kong Ming lanterns was a
test of loyalty for the Malaysian Chinese.
The offensive and insensitive statement by the UMNO Youth
information chief Azimi Daim that "the Malays are the masters of this land".
The new ruling of the Johor Baru City Council from Jan 1
requiring a written approval from Muslim neighbours before seeking a dog
licence, which flies in the tradition of a tolerant, sensitive, harmonious
and progressive plural Malaysia of diverse races, languages, cultures and
These insensitive and offensive statements and acts by
teachers, youth leaders and government agencies will undo whatever national
integration and national unity that could be promoted by the RM6 billion
National Service Programme conceived by the Najib Cabinet Committee.
When Najib presents the National Service programme report to Parliament, he
should attach a special chapter on how the Cabinet proposes to put an end to
the frequent insensitive and offensive statements and acts by teachers,
youth leaders and government agencies which positively undermine national
integration and national unity.
Lim Kit Siang, DAP National