National Service Video

28 06 2008

Since it’s inception in 2001 the Malaysian version of National Service has attracted a lot of debate especially of late when another trainee died. Too Hui Min (pictured below) died in May of this year after suffering from constipation and stomach pains for 4 days before being sent to a hospital. She died soon after from a colon infection according to the official report.

In the same month 10 out of 300 National Service trainees from the Semanggol Camp in Taiping were hospitalised and another 80 were treated in the camp for fever, the cause of which is still unknown. The camp’s 300 trainees were also quarantined. To top it all off, parents were not informed of the incident and some only knew about it when their children did not arrive home on the appointed date! Children will fall sick especially when put in a new environment, pushed into physical activity and fed meals which are foreign to some. Nobody can really question why they fall sick….illness can strick anyone. BUt it is the attitude of the caretakers and the management of these camps which should be questioned. Why was Too Hui Min’s condition not attended to earlier? Why were the parents of the 300 trainees not informed? Was it a lack of supervision that led to 16 children dying at our National Service camps?

A few years ago, a relative of my brother in law died while undergoing National Service. He was bullied and in a fight which occurred in his dorm he was killed. How was this allowed to happen? Today I came across a video which highlights this problem.

I cannot vouch for the authenticity of this video but if true, then the authorities must seek out these boys and investigate why the caretakers allowed this to happen. Never have I heard of Camp Trainers and staff being punished. Dependent on volunteers for their pool of trainers, the government is probably unwilling to carry out a proper investigation into these incidents and punish those found negligent. I am not against National Service even in the form practiced by Singapore and Taiwan where every citizen (in the case of the former) or male (in the case of Taiwan) who reaches the age of 17 is mandated to join the programme for a period of 2 years. The participants in those country’s National Service are given basic training and then attached to the various units of the country’s “national Services” such as the military, police force and emergency rescue services. Now that IS National Service. The Malaysian “National Service” which lasts for 3 months is nothing more than summer camp touted to encourage interracial understanding and harmony which is sadly lacking in our society nowadays. If that is it’s reason for being, then 3 months is a waste of time. Lack of proper supervision in these camps make it a dangerous place for some of these children who are not used to being on their own. And from reading some of their blogs and reading their response to questions posed by newspapers, they remain children upon leaving these camps. To me National Service should serve not only to populate the “services” but to also ease children into adulthood. With proper guidance and influence, 2 years would go a long way to promote understanding amongst the races and nurture interracial harmony. The keyword I believe should be “desensitize’. The politics of this country has been the major factor of racial polarization. Each race is now so sensitive to criticisms from another that they isolate themselves from each other. I believe a properly implemented National Service Programme will serve the country well and be accepted by the majority. In it’s current form, the programme is a farce. An elaborate scheme to show that something is being done to alleviate the problems of racial polarization, religious intolerance and social inequalities.

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