Call on Cabinet tomorrow to make the national service training programme voluntary for girls, allowing parents who wish to do so to immediately withdraw their daughters from the programme to bring them home
Media Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Ipoh, Tuesday): In the past ten days, public confidence in the national service training programme had suffered almost daily blows, intensify parental concerns, anxieties and opposition, including those who had originally supported the three-month programme as being good experience to “toughen up” their teenage sons and daughters.
In the past ten days, for instance, the national service training programme chalked up the following traumatic developments:
Although the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, quickly offered his condences to the family of trainee Awang Mohd Fazil Awang Bohran who drowned in Sungai Cina, Matang in Kuching on Saturday, he was even quicker in trying to exonerate the national service training programme from responsibility for the tragic death of the youth.
What Malaysians see is not a culture and ethics of responsibility, but that of evasion of responsibility by “passing the buck” for the many flaws, defects and weaknesses of the national service training programme.
Najib said in a special interview with the New Sunday Times that the national service programme is not “Najib’s programme”, but that of “the entire Government, especially the Cabinet Committee that decided on the format”.
The question is whether the other Ministers who are on the National Service Cabinet Committee prepared to step forward to identify themselves and accept full public esponsibility together with Najib for the flaws, defects and weaknesses of the programme? Why have they all gone into hiding?
This was precisely why I had issued a statement in Shanghai last Tuesday when I was still on a private tour in Yangtse South to ask the Cabinet the following day to take urgent action following the first allegation of rape of a girl trainee by a trainer and to firstly, suspend the national service training programme until public and parental confidence in the programme could be fully restored; and secondly, sack the entire National Service Training Council after the shocking admission by the Council Chairman, Prof Datuk Ahmad Fawzi Mohd Basri that no screening was done on the current batch of trainers, comprising servicemen and ex-servicemen, due to time constraint.
It is a matter of grave regret that the Cabinet last Wednesday failed in its duty and did not come to grips with the multiplying flaws and ballooning crisis of confidence in the national service training programme.
The Cabinet meeting tomorrow must do better. It should heed the rising crescendo of calls for the immediate suspension of the national service training programme until all the flaws and defects causing parental concerns about the welfare, well-being and safety of their children had been rectified.
In his interview with the New Sunday Times, Najib was asked: “Would you send your daughter to NS after reading all the news highlighted daily?” and replied:
“Yes, I would. I think I would still be confident about sending her. I think it will be useful for a youngster to be exposed to a training programme like this because they are dealing with new challenges.”
All that needs to be said about Najib’s reply is that it would be very difficult to find parents who believe in his claim.
The least the Cabinet should do tomorrow, if it is not prepared to suspend the national service training programme, is to make the national service training programme voluntary for girls, allowing parents who wish to do so to immediately withdraw their daughters from the programme and bring them home.
The national service training programme is a half-baked, ill-conceived and premature programme which should not have been launched without better conception, planning and implementation. This is more so for girl trainees – as illustrated by the fact that out of 1,000 national service trainers, only 15 per cent are women when the ratio of male and female trainees are almost equal.
For a start, I hope the woman Ministers will speak up in Cabinet tomorrow to ensure that the national service training programme is made voluntary for girls with instant effect, allowing parents to exercise the option whether to allow their daughters to remain in the programme or to bring them home. Woman Ministers who fail to speak up tomorrow should publicly explain why they had failed to discharge their most fundamental duty as a Cabinet Minister.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor