present a White Paper in Parliament next week as to why the RM500 million
national service training programme had gone so wrong resulting in so many
avoidable incidents, mishaps, crimes and even tragedies
Media Conference Statement (2)
by Lim Kit Siang
(Penang, Thursday): The press today carried news and photo reports of a group of Cabinet Ministers’ wives taking the challenge of being national service (NS) trainees when they took part in the physical training portion of the programme in Kuala Kubu Baru yesterday.
The Cabinet Ministers’ wives, led by Datin Seri Rosman Mansor, wife of Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, and clad in camouflaged-print uniform and beret, were photographed undergoing physical training, like crawling on all fours through a “commando cross”, passing a “bleet test” and the “flying fox” part of the exercise, going to the top of a 4m-high tower and sliding down across a stream.
The visit of the group of 42 Bakti (the Association of Wives of Ministers, Deputy Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries) provided good news copy and photo ops shots – but everyone knows that what the national service trainees had to undergo cannot be as glamorous as that experienced by the Bakti members.
Be that as it may, the Ministers’ wives should be commended for their concern and interest in getting some first-hand information about the programme and conditions of the national service trainees – although they cannot possibly address the many defects and flaws which had surfaced in the past three months undermining public and parental confidence in the programme, such as lax discipline resulting in assaults (of trainees and trainers), extortion, gangsterism, rape and two drownings.
When I met the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to discuss parliamentary reforms and modernization at Putrajaya on Tuesday, I also took the occasion to express my concern at the poor conception, formulation and execution of the national service training programme, which failed to fully appreciate the responsibility the government must assume for the welfare, safety and life of everyone of the trainees compelled to undergo the programme.
I narrated to Abdullah incidents which showed the red tape, bureaucracy and insensitivity of the national training service programme.
The “special camp for bullies” in Jugra near Banting, Selangor was one such example. On 22nd April, together with the DAP MP for Batu Gajah, Fong Po Kuan, I visited the camp as we were shocked to learn that both the victims and alleged offenders in fights and assault cases were both sent to the “special camps”, purportedly to “make up”!
In the first place, It is already wrong to conceive of a “special camp for bullies” among the national service trainees, as this will be a life-long stigma on the so-called “bullies”. But it is doubly wrong to send both the victims and alleged offenders of fights and assaults pending police investigations to the same “special camp”, whether in Jugra or Klang in Selangor, extinguishing the important distinction between right and wrong.
I was assured by the authorities on that day that the six trainees from Teluk Rubiah camp in Manjong who were victims of a group assault ten days earlier (April 12) and had been sent to Jugra together with the alleged offenders, would be sent back to their original camp as the police had confirmed that they were victims and not offenders.
When I met the Prime Minister on Tuesday some 20 days later, the six “innocent” victims were still in Jugra “special camp for bullies”, daily nursing the grievance and injustice of being isolated and “punished” for being victims in the company of the alleged offenders!
As the Minister in charge of the national service training programme, Najib should present a White Paper in Parliament next week as to why the RM500 million national service training programme had gone so wrong, resulting in so many avoidable incidents, mishaps, crimes and even tragedies.
The defects, flaws and tragedies of the RM500 million national service training programme will be one issue which I will discuss with Najib when I call on him at the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office in Putrajaya at 11 a.m. tomorrow. There will also be other important national issues which I wish to discuss with him, in particular the unrest, violence and bloodshed in south Thailand, the threat of Islamist terrorism to Malaysia, the future of 500,000 Felda settlers in the 275 FELDA schemes as Felda is now his direct portfolio responsibility, etc.
* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor