National Service Training Council should freeze all plans for a supplementary course for the 10,000 “shirkers” until there is a full report to Parliament as to why the three-month programme had been so trouble-plagued as to forfeit public and parental confidence and trust
by Lim Kit Siang
(Petaling Jaya, Thursday): The country sighed a relief that the first “missing girl” case of the national service training programme has ended without any disastrous mishap.
I wish to commend the open and enlightened attitude of Defence Ministry deputy secretary-general (management) Datuk Sirajuddin Salleh in giving “special treatment” in not forcing the “missing girl” trainee Pang Shu Juan to complete the programme in the Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia NS camp in Bangi.
Sirajuddin’s following statement after Pang’s reunion with her mother as reported in The Star is most commendable and impressive:
“We do not want to force her to complete the programme but instead, we are doing our best to strengthen her confidence in us. We had a frank discussion with Pang and are letting her choose the camp she prefers to be placed in.
“We assured her of assistance to rebuild her confidence to settle in and complete the programme”.
Pang has chosen to go to a camp in Mersing for the physical training module, which will end on May 16, continuing the remaining modules at Universiti Teknologi Malaysia in Skudai, Johore.
If all government servants can always display such sensitive, responsive, sympathetic and human approach, Malaysia will definitely be having a more efficient, effective and people-oriented public service.
Although the national service training programme’s first “missing girl” case has come to an end, Pang’s serious allegations of sexual harassment by other trainees at the UKM Bangi camp and the indifference of the authorities to her complaints - the main cause for her disappearance – should not be ignored but be the subject of a serious investigation.
It has been reported that the National Service Training Department has begun collating feedback from the first batch of the 25,649 trainees who have completed their programme. The department is also getting feedback from universities which hosted the trainees for their second and third modules, as well as other parties involved in the programme.
The National Service Training Council should freeze all plans for a supplementary course for the 10,000 “shirkers” until there is a full report to Parliament as to why the three-month programme had been so trouble-plagued as to undermine public and parental confidence and trust.
Last month, the National Service Training Council Chairman, Prof Datuk Dr. Ahmad Fawzi Mohd Basri and Council members were very “gung ho” in wanting to take action against the so-called 10,000 “shirkers” who had failed to report for national service training programme, threatening them with criminal sanctions of RM3,000 fine or three months’ jail.
It was wise that the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi intervened at the time to stop any such hasty action to criminalize the 10,000 “shirkers”, especially when some 70 per cent were uncontactable with the call-up letters returned to the department.
After the sorry spectacle of all the indiscipline, incidents and flaws of the national service training programme in the past three months, any resort to criminal sanctions by hauling the youngsters to court to send them to jail will be the “last straw to break the camel’s back” in totally forfeiting public confidence in the programme as well as its administrators.
One of the objectives of the national service training programme is to instill among the young generation of Malaysians a sense of discipline – which becomes counter-productive and farcical when the authorities from the highest to the lowest line of responsibility in the programme failed themselves to set an example of culture and mentality of responsibility and discipline.
In this connection, I have received complaints that national service trainers have not yet been paid their salaries and allowances for the three-month programme.
Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Razak, who is responsible for the national service training programme, should present a comprehensive report to Parliament when it meets in ten days’ time, giving a full account of where and why the programme has gone so terribly wrong, including the reasons for the delay and non-payment of the salaries and allowances of the trainers, and whether the RM500 million allocated for the programme could not be better spent in more effective ways at the earlier stage of the education system to inculcate the values of patriotism, national unity and social discipline instead of the trouble-plagued three-month national service training programme for less than 20 per cent of the 18-year-olds in the country.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor