DAP MPs and SAs will decide tomorrow whether to demand the immediate suspension of the national service training programme so that the 18-year-olds will not continue to be the “guinea pigs” of a premature, ill-conceived RM500 million programme
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Saturday): DAP Members of Parliament and State Assembly members will decide tomorrow whether to demand the immediate suspension of the trouble-ridden and incident-infested national service training programme for the welfare and safety of the 85,000 18-year-olds so that they do not continue to be the “guinea pigs” of a premature, ill-conceived RM500 million programme.
The DAP Parliamentary Chairperson for the National Service portfolio, Fong Po Kuan (MP for Batu Gajah) will present a position paper to the Conference of DAP MPs and SAs at Hotel Crystal Crown, Petaling Jaya tomorrow with recommendations on the stand to be taken by the DAP MPs and the SAs.
It is most regrettable that despite the unrelenting increase in the incidents of indiscipline and even crime in the national service training camps, involving drug abuse, fights, assaults (of and by trainees and trainers), extortion, gangsterism and rape, the Cabinet on Wednesday failed to take decisive measures to restore public and parental confidence in the national service training programme.
Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak said on Thursday that the Cabinet wants the programme to go on despite the weaknesses and problems, but the Cabinet is unable to give any iron-clad guarantee to the parents that their sons and daughters enlisted into the national service training programme would be protected from crimes like assaults, gangsterism and rape whether by trainers or trainees!
Replying specifically to a question yesterday whether the government would be able to guarantee parents that their 17 and 18-year-old daughters would not be raped or molested while undergoing the mandatory programme, all that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi could say was that the government “will do its best” to ensure that the girls will be safe. (The Star)
Such a non-committal reply does not inspire confidence of the parents and the public that the national service training programme has been planned and executed to be “zero defect” – as illustrated by the continued spate of incidents in the national service training camps. Today’s press for instance reported that a national service trainee received a gash on the forehead which needed seven stitches after being assaulted by 10 other trainees and two trainers at the Jengka Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) hostel in Maran last Friday.
The shocking admission by the National Service Training Council Chairman Prof Datuk Ahmad Fawzi Mohd Basri that no screening was done on the current batch of trainers, comprising servicemen and ex-servicement, due to time constraint stands as a terrible indictment of the utter lack of responsibility and professionalism of the National Service Training Council, the National Service Training Department as well as the Cabinet in jeopardizing the welfare and safety of 85,000 18-year-old boys and girls.
Members of the National Service Training Council who argued that the training programme should not be scrapped “prematurely” are trying to evade their responsibility, when they should have ensured that the programme should not have been launched “prematurely”.
The ad hoc approach to deal with the multi-faceted problems which have cropped up in the national service programme (or what the Chinese will say as the “headache cure head, leg pain cure leg” syncrome) is the real bane of the national service training programme – lacking a comprehensive and indepth preparation needed before the launch of such a massive programme.
This has spawned the ridiculous concept of “special camps” for national service trainee “bullies”. Po Kuan and I were shocked when we learnt on Thursday that both the victims and alleged offenders in fights and assault cases were both sent to the “special camps”, purportedly to “make up”!
It is already wrong to conceive of a “special camp for bullies” among the national service trainees – as this will be a life-long stigma on the so-called “bullies” – but it is completely unthinkable to send both the victims and alleged offenders of fights and assaults pending police investigations to the same “special camp”, whether in Jugra or Klang in Selangor, extinguishing the important distinction between right and wrong.
Najib had argued that the two special camps, which could accommodate about 200 trainees, are for those who are “confirmed troublemakers, rabble rousers or juvenile delinquents”. Can Najib explain who will decide whether a trainee is to be labeled as a “confirmed troubled maker, rabble rouser or juvenile delinquent”, whether there is any right of hearing and appeal against such judgment and sentence in accordance with the rules of natural justice? Furthermore, why have the victims of assaults been sent also to the “special camps” meant for “confirmed trouble makers, rabble rousers or juvenile delinquents”?
The two “special camps” for “confirmed trouble makers, rabble rousers or juvenile delinquents” should be closed immediately, for the national service training programme should be able to instil discipline in this group of youngsters without giving them a life-long stigma of “trouble maker, rabble rouser or juvenile delinquent” – defeating the entire rationale for the programme.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor