criminalize the over 6,000 youths who have not reported for the national
service training special course but find out instead why the programme has
failed to secure public acceptance and confidence
Media Statement (3)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Saturday): The fact that only 10 national service “shirkers” trickled in yesterday despite its being the “unofficial” one-day extension granted to dodgers – before a further official extension to Monday – out of 6,630 or 77.5% out of 8,559 18-year-olds who had not registered should be sober food for thought to the Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak and the National Service Training Council to conduct an in-depth review why the national service training programme has failed to secure public acceptance and national confidence despite the threat of criminal sanctions under the law.
It should also be a salutary reminder that criminal sanctions should never be resorted to deal with this problem, as any attempt to criminalize the 6,620 youths who did not report for the national service training special course by getting the police to launch a nation-wide manhunt and haul them to court is very short sighted and clearly against the public interest in pitting the government against the civil society.
Yesterday, Najib announced changes to the national service training programme, such as restricting family visits to twice a month; requiring handphones to be given to the camp commandant for safekeeping and limiting its use only on weekends or in an emergency; selecting army officers currently in service as camp commanders and the expansion of the menu to include meals for vegetarians and others with special diets. But these changes are not sufficient to secure the public acceptance and confidence for the programme.
I call on Najib not to criminalize the over 6,000 youths who have not reported for the national service training special course but to find out instead why the programme has failed to secure public acceptance and confidence.
I also call on the Cabinet at its meeting next Wednesday to give Najib the full mandate to suspend the national service training programme special course, reject the option of invoking the law and criminal sanctions against the national service “dodgers” and conduct a truly comprehensive study as to why the national service training programme has failed to secure public acceptance and confidence.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman