National Disservice to the Young

Death of a loved one is obviously a heart-wrenching experience for family members, particularly the parents concerned. It is especially traumatic when the circumstance surrounding the death is perceived to be still unclear, if not suspect.


Thus, the recent death of National Service (NS) trainee Too Hui Min, 18, from the Geo Kosmo Camp in Kuala Kubu Baru predictably has not only caused anguish and pain to the parents, but also further alarmed concerned parents and other Malaysians regarding the safety of the remaining and future NS trainees.


Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak argued that there were merely 11 deaths (in the training camps) so far out of a total of 339,186 trainees since the start of the NS programme in 2004 in his attempt to provide justification for the continuation or perpetuation of the NS programme. Such a response, given the parents’ grief, genuine anxiety of other parents and the questionable security procedure of the NS training camps, is callous and insensitive.


Besides, the deaths of these young people cannot simply be reduced to mere digits. We are taking about human lives here.


It is understandable that consequently there had been calls from the general public for the government to halt the NS programme, or at the very least, to suspend the programme for a thorough and critical review. To be sure, it is in the national interest that concerned citizens had urged the government to put a stop to this NS programme so as to prevent further deaths and also unnecessary wastage to a national programme that had consumed so far some RM2.37bil of the taxpayers’ money. Apart from these unfortunate deaths, certain objectives of the NS programme, such as the aim to promote good ethnic relations among the young, had been questioned because it was felt that these objectives had not been, or may not be, achieved satisfactorily during the short spell of stay in the training camps.


As if adding salt in a wound, even the Parliament’s Deputy Speaker reportedly did not even see it fit or urgent enough to allow for an engaging debate on the death of Too Hui Min. In this regard, one is made to wonder what does it really take to make this issue look ‘sufficiently urgent’ for the firm consideration of the Deputy Speaker? Fifty more deaths? 100?


Or does ‘urgency’ merit attention of the Parliament only after it is considered as such by BN politicians?




1 Response to “National Disservice to the Young”

  1. 1 Antares 16 May 2008 at 3:07 pm

    The concept of “National Service” is a fairly neutral one. Ultimately, what determines the quality of the experience – or abysmal lack thereof – hinges on the quality of the government itself. In a nation where the government is largely mistrusted (and even loathed), a programme like “National Service” is vulnerable to abuse and corrupt practices – with well-connected parties receiving lucrative tenders for everything from catering and transport to training facilities. My personal objection to the NS programme is closely linked to my utter contempt for the way BN has apparently mismanaged the country on every level.
    Mediocrity rules under BN! In effect, whether or not the NS should be dumped isn’t the crucial issue. The real question is: when can we be rid of BN and all the evils it has spawned over the last 50 years? Once we have a government that is truly accountable and is committed to serving the public good, programmes like the NS will be restructured and modified so that they really do achieve their stated objectives. For instance, when you look at a cross-section of Malaysian youths, some will take to military drills like ducks to water, while others will suffer serious psychological and physiological trauma – that’s simply because we aren’t dealing with a homogeneous group. Beyond ethnic and social factors, we have to consider individual factors like temperament and aptitude. There are those who are physically more fragile or emotionally more sensitive who would find it hard to endure the hardships of military-style training – but who would be happy to serve the nation in different ways, through the acquisition of different skills (learning to operate communications systems, for example, or developing their ability to strategize and plan, and learning the basics of logistical management). I strongly believe that the health of a community is closely associated with the health of its leadership. Where we have a decadent and degenerate leadership, it will be reflected in the dysfunctionality of all its projects – no matter how positive the stated intention. In effect, let’s not get distracted with arguments over the pros and cons of NS – instead we would do far better to focus on eliminating the source of poor performance and lacklustre management, the Barisan Nasional government itself.

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