Call for clear
Cabinet directive tomorrow not to criminalize national service “shirkers”
which will mark the height of failure of programme
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Two news items in all newspapers today capture in a nutshell the crisis of public confidence in the national service training programme, and why the top priority of the government is not to wield “the stick” to compel compliance with criminal sanctions but to fathom and understand the failure of the programme to win unquestioned public support.
These two news items in the New Straits Times are:
Despite the five-day extension of the deadline for registration for the 8,559 national service “shirkers”, 5,033 or 58.8 per cent failed to report to the National Serivce Training Programme for the special supplementary programme scheduled to begin on July 25.
Although the Deputy Internal Security Minister, Datuk Noh Omar said on Saturday that the Police in all districts are ready to launch a manhunt for the over 5,000 national service “shirkers”, the Cabinet tomorrow should step in to avert a public relations disaster for the government for two reasons:
After spending over RM500 million on the national service training programme, there are bound to be thousands of youths who could be depended upon to give it praise, but the acid test of its real success must be whether its worst detractors are mere critics and not victims of the programme, after gruesome experiences whether from crimes like rape or bereaved family members of those who died like two drowning cases so far. There must be a clear commitment that “one case is too many” in the national service training programme for these crimes.
The Cabinet tomorrow should give a clear directive to the National Service Training Department that it should take the easy way out to criminalize youths because they have not registered themselves – as this will mark the height of a programme meant to instill discipline, national unity and patriotism.
* Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader,
Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor & DAP National Chairman