National Service: Stop giving confusing statements and embark on a
national consultation process to produce the best formula
In the last two days, three Barisan Nasional leaders had given different
statements on the national service program and add more confusion to the
general public. The government had all along stressed that the proposed
national service program will be implemented beginning next year involving
all youth above 18 years old who completed their SPM examinations, the
program will last for 6 months and the module will not emphasize on military
training. Although there are still a lot debates about the merits and
demerits of these proposals, the government has given the impression that
this will be the basis of the national service program.
However, on Monday, 25th March, the Deputy Defense Minister Datuk Mohd
Shafie Apdal said that the Ministry will consider reviewing the national
service module to increase the military training content should the need
arise although he later clarified that there is no necessity at the time
After addressing the Parliament yesterday, the Defense Minister who is also
the Chairman of the Cabinet Committee on National Service, Datuk Seri Najib
Razak told reporters that an independent council will be set up by the
Defense Ministry to come up with the selection criteria for youths for the
National Service program. He said that it would be too costly to absorb the
nearly 450,000 youths aged 18 and above in 2004 into the program. However,
the Minister said “This does not mean that there are some who will not get
an opportunity to serve; all with get a fair chance”.
The statement by Najib is very contradicting as he mentioned about a
selection system to participate in the national service but stressed that
all those who fall into the age group will be involved. What does this mean?
Is it meaning that the youths will go to the national service at different
ages? Some will participate at the age of 18 after their SPM, and some will
come back to do their national service at the age 19, 20 or 21 when some of
these youths will be already in their varsity years. This sounds ridiculous
and most unworkable!
To make the matter worse, another Barisan Nasional leader said something
which is totally contradicting with what Najib said in the Parliament lobby.
The Secretary-General of MCA Youth Liow Tiong Lai who is also the MP for
Bentong said from a discussion he had with Datuk Seri Najib, the national
service may be scaled down. Liow was speaking on a seminar on National
Service and Multiculturalism jointly organized by the Malaysian Strategic
Research Center and Konrad-Adenauer Foundation.
Liow quoted as saying that “He (Najib) said they are looking at between
50,000 and 100,000 participants and the duration would be reduced from the
proposed six months to three months”. He reasoned that the cost to train
450,000 youths as scheduled would cost the government RM5 billion. According
to Liow, Najib had also said participants would be on a voluntary basis and
those who obtained jobs or intended to continue their studies would be
From the three different statements from the three BN leaders, it is clear
that the whole proposal for the national service is now in a mess. It is
very contradicting and a lot of confusions to the general public now. It is
not clear whether the program will be a compulsory one or on voluntarily
basis. If there is a selection system based on criteria set by the Council,
then will it be voluntarily?
The Minister has stressed that the details will announced to the public by
end of May after getting the approval from the Cabinet. The Cabinet
Committee has technically less than two months from now to finalize the
national service proposal to present to the Cabinet. With so much confusions
and unclear mechanism to implement the program, the Committee will only give
the public an impression that it will bulldoze the proposal without proper
consultation, thinking, planning and consideration if they insist to get the
Cabinet approval in May.
In view of the short time frame left and with so much confusions on the
mechanism of the national service program, DAPSY would like to urge the
Cabinet Committee on National Service to defer the plan to submit to Cabinet
and start a fresh consultation process by setting up a National Consultation
Committee on National Service involving experts and specialists from
different fields to rethink, restudy and propose a fresh proposal to come
out with the best formula to implement the national service program. In the
process, the Committee must engage and get the views from all segments of
the society as widest possible.
DAPSY National Secretariat will initiate a series of weekly discussion
groups in different places throughout the country to articulate the views
and suggestions by different youth groups on the national service beginning
the month of April.
Loke Siew Fook,
DAPSY National Secretary