National service programme and Hisham’s keris-wielding

National service programme and Hisham's keris-wielding

This year is a the 50th Merdeka Anniversary for the nation.

There are two ways to celebrate the half-century of nationhood – in a lavish expenditure of public funds in fireworks, extravaganzas and pageantry or to celebrate it in a meaningful manner to instill greater national solidarity and sense of purpose in the nation’s journey to achieve a Bangsa Malaysia and a fully developed nation status.

Parliament, as the highest political forum in the land, should set the national example to celebrate the half-century of our nationhood in a meaningful manner, with Malaysians regardless of race, religion, class or political beliefs standing up for fair, just and progressive nation-building policies to create towering Malaysians and to stop Malaysia’s loss of international competitiveness.

The most meaningful way to celebrate the country’s half-century of nationhood is to seek a national consensus as to what had gone wrong with nation-building and how we can learn from the mistakes and failures of the past decades so that we can be more successful in the next 50 years, in particular on the following issues:

Firstly, National unity — why after nearly five decades of nationhood, race relations in Malaysia is “not good, fragile and brittle”, as publicly admitted by the Prime Minister recently. Racial and religious polarization have never been more serious today than in the past five decades.

The introduction of the national service training programme in 2004 is testimony of the failure of the national education system to create national unity in the country — and this is no surprise when the Education Minister, Datuk Seri Hishamuddin Hussein is the very symbol and cause of such polarization with his racist keris-wielding histrionics at Umno general assemblies.

The national service training programme is a misnomer it has nothing to do with national defence or fighting a war but to instill national unity, patriotism and discipline.

But even for the limited objective of the national youth service training programme to inculcate national unity, patriotism and discipline, a comprehensive review and even suspension is warranted as it is highly debatable whether such limited goals are being achieved and whether such a programme should be organized for all students during their school years instead of have a very costly and most dubious one affecting only one-fifth of school-leavers.

There are two other reasons why the national service training programme has not inspired general confidence of the parents and the public:

  • Firstly, the defects, flaws, mishaps, sub-standard camp conditions, crimes and tragedies of the national service training programme since its inception, with 12 trainee deaths with four in the last two months, i.e.Ili Ameera binti Azlan (18.1.07), Teng Siau Shean (30.1.07), Zul Hadi bin Basir (20.2.07) and Prema Elenchelian (28.2.07) and the most recent case of paralysis of Asilalatin Abdul Basir from Pasir Mas. With three trainee deaths in 2004, three in 2005, two in 2006, and four alone in the first two months of this year, how can parents feel safe to have their children selected for the programme?
  • Secondly, the programme’s failure to be a model of integrity, accountability and transparency without a whiff of scandal to dispel all suspicion that the refusal to suspend the troubled national service training programme was prompted more by vested crony interests in the annual expenditures of some RM500-RM600 million for the programme, which would total some RM2 billion at the end of this year’s programme.

As the Defence Minister in direct charge of the national service training programme, Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak should give a detailed breakdown of the RM500 — RM600 million million expenditure a year since 2004 for the national service training programme, showing what, how, where, who and when expenditures under the programme were made, whether open tender had been called, and if so, the respective bids for the different contracts under the programme.

[Speech (11) on Royal Address debate in Parliament 22.3.07]

  1. #1 by nkeng on Friday, 23 March 2007 - 11:04 pm

    The keris weilding minister should go for a course in national service and inter-racial harmony

  2. #2 by Song on Saturday, 24 March 2007 - 6:11 am

    Sorry for the ignorance, but what has caused these unfortunate deaths?? For ‘training’, there’s risk of death?! (a high one too).I’d like to know, what do these trainees do at camp, anyway?Is it really necessary? thanks.

  3. #3 by k1980 on Saturday, 24 March 2007 - 9:12 am

    I believe improperly cooked food and unboiled contaminated drinking water led to many of the deaths. The camps are run by contractors out to make a quick profit, along with ‘trainers’ who have little or no training themselves. It all boils down to one thing– a fast buck

  4. #4 by undergrad2 on Sunday, 25 March 2007 - 1:16 am

    “Parliament…to celebrate the half-century of our nationhood in a meaningful manner, with Malaysians regardless of race, religion, class or political beliefs… (with) progressive nation-building policies…” LKS

    Too many programs were carried out in the name of ‘nation building’ – but had little to do with ‘building’ a nation and everything to do with building a future for a privileged class of Malaysians.

    Do you really think a nation can be “built’ ? It is time political leaders of whatever political affiliations stop tinkering with our heads.

  5. #5 by DiaperHead on Sunday, 25 March 2007 - 7:31 am

    Keris-wielding UMNO whatever??

    I think it is time we move on.

  6. #7 by fido on Monday, 26 March 2007 - 10:24 pm

    So when will the the breakdown of where the million have been spent and awarded? When will it be made public who won the tender?…with no response, the public will assuming someone out there made millions out of this program.

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