Cabinet should override Najib and give serious consideration to the proposal to cancel the first batch of the National Service Training programme starting on Feb. 16 because of haphazard, messy and unsatisfactory conceptualization, formulation and implementation
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Monday): The Defence Minister and Chairman of the Cabinet Committee for the National Service Programme, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak’s summary dismissal of the DAP proposal for the cancellation of the first batch of the national service training programme on Feb. 16 is typical of the haphazard, messy and unsatisfactory conceptualization, formulation and implementation of the national service training programme.
The least he should have done is to hear out the reasons for the DAP proposal instead of jumping the gun and rejecting the idea, depending solely on an incomplete and inadequate press report.
The Cabinet on Wednesday should override Najib and give serious consideration to the proposal to cancel the first batch of the National Service Training programme starting on Feb. 16 because of haphazard, messy and unsatisfactory conceptualization, formulation and implementation of the national service training programme.
Najib said there is good response from the parents, but this is not reflected by the facts on the ground. For instance, Najib said that more than 800 youths who were not chosen to participate in the programme have expressed interest to join the programme voluntarily but he did not give a full breakdown of this response, which was given by the National Service Training Council chairman Kol Prof Datuk Dr Ahmad Fawzi Basri last week.
Ahmad Fawzi said that the national service training programme still has places for 5,000 Chinese and Indian students who have not finished their Form Five education although they are 18 years old, because of the extra year in Remove Class when they were 13. This figure could be higher as Ahmad Fawzi had not included students in the Chinese Independent Secondary Schools who are in the final sixth year of the secondary schooling and those in matriculation courses to prepare for higher studies overseas, such as South Australia and Western Australia. Ahmad Fawzi said that there were 640 volunteers for the national service training programme, 88 of whom are Chinese.
Although Najib said the national service training programme had the support of the parents, I have no doubt that most of them would support the cancellation of the first batch of the Feb. 16 training because of the haphazard, messy and unsatisfactory conceptualization, formulation and implementation of the programme.
Najib and the Cabinet should give serious consideration as to why there has been such lukewarm response to the national service training programme, and this is one important reason why the DAP has proposed the cancellation of the first batch of the Feb. 16 national service training for 28,000 trainees.
The haphazard, messy and unsatisfactory conceptualization, formulation and implementation of the national service training programme is highlighted by the selection of 5,000-6,000 Chinese and Indian students who are still in the final year of the secondary education, who should not have been selected in the first place.
Administratively, the authorities are resorting to “short-cut” solution to rush to implement the national service training programme, illustrated by the shocking decision not to subject every selected trainee to a prior medical check-up.
All trainees are asked to fill a form as to whether they suffer from various known medical complaints, only requiring them to go for a medical check-up at designated government hospitals for known medical ailments; while those who have no known medical complaints are required to report to the various campsites without any medical check-up.
This is most unsatisfactory and unacceptable, as trainees will undergo gruelling physical training – although short of military training. Is the government or the Naltional Service Training Council going to accept full responsibility if there should be any mishap involving serious damage to health or even life, because of the absence of a prior medical check-up? Although no human programme can be perfect, it is incumbent on the authorities to ensure as much as possible a “zero-defect” national service training programme, which does not seem to be the case.
The claim by Najib that the national service will be “apoliticall” and that parents should not be unduly worried about their children being “brainwashed with political ideologies or doctrines” also lacks credibility as the Opposition parties were excluded in the formulation of its concept and curriculum, raising the question whether it is finally a “Barisan Nasional service” under the guise of “national service”.
Najib has reiterated that the national service programme is designed to instill “love of nation” among the young generation of Malaysians, but many are asking whether the real objective is to inculcate “love for Barisan Nasional”!
It has claimed that the three-month national service training programme is to make the youths aware of the history of the nation – but the important question is whether it is a genuine history about the 46-year “social contract” that Malaysia as a democratic, secular and multi-religious nation with Islam as the official religion but not an Islamic State or a “revisionist” history that Malaysia had always been an Islamic State since Merdeka in 1957 as claimed by the Gerakan President, Datuk Seri Dr. Lim Keng Yaik?
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman