Call on Najib and the National Service  Council members to “turun padang” and  come out of their air-conditioned offices to meet the trainees and their parents to resolve the mounting defects of  the national service training camps, which should not be run like criminal or concentration camps barring access by elected MPs and SAs

Media Conference Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(IpohTuesday): DAP calls on the Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister, Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, and the National Service Council members to “turun padang” and come out of their air-conditioned offices to meet the trainees and their parents to find out the real conditions in the national service training camps, which should not be run like criminal or concentration camps barring elected MPs and State Assemblymen from free access. 

What happened at the UiTM, Seri Iskandar branch campus in Tronoh, Perak yesterday was a disgrace, shame and blot on the national service training programme.  The proposed visit by three DAP elected representatives, namely the DAP MP  for Batu Gajah, Fong Po Kuan, DAP Perak State Assemblyman for Menglembu Keong Meng Sing and myself, to  the national service training camp at the UiTM campus  following the serious incidents of assault of three trainees by seniors in extortion bids in the camp  became a scandalous example of how the national service training programme had gone terribly wrong and the reason for the  plunge of public confidence in the programme. 

A day earlier, Po Kuan had sent in a letter to the national service training authorities at the UiTM Seri Iskandar campus informing them of our proposed visit at 10.30 a.m. 

When we arrived at the UiTM Iskandar campus, we found that public vehicles were freely entering and leaving the site without any inhibition by the security. But when we tried to enter, we were blocked and the gates quickly locked, creating what must be an unprecedented traffic jam in the area, with vehicles wishing to enter or leave having to queue up at each side of the locked gate. 

The security reaction to our presence was most extraordinary, as if the UiTM Seri Iskandar campus was facing imminent devastating attack by deadly enemy forces, which was why I asked the branch campus director Assoc Prof Dr. Abdullah Mohd Said, who subsequently came out to meet us, as to why they had responded to our visit as if Osama bin Laden was leading Al-Qaeda terrorists to destroy the campus! 

The  DAP elected representatives wanted to visit the UiTM Seri  Iskandar campus national service training camp because we are concerned about the welfare of the national service trainees, and if the authorities concerned cannot accommodate these legitimate concerns, then it has only themselves to blame if public confidence in the programme is evaporating fast  since its launch-off in February. 

It is downright ridiculous, and shows the  hidebound bureaucracy and shocking  lack of initiative and character of those running the national service training programme, that elected representatives who want to visit the 45 training camps nation-wide should get permission first from the National Service Department in Putrajaya! 

Is the National Service Department seriously suggesting that if any urgent  life-threatening situations should develop in any one of the 45 training camps in the country, such as Sabah or Sarawak, the elected representatives must first go through  the rigmarole of writing to the National Service Department in Putrajaya for permission – which could take weeks if not months for any reply?  What happens if such emergencies arise during public holidays or extended holidays? 

Yesterday, I had asked whether the UiTM Seri Iskandar campus was running a criminal camp that the authorities are so afraid of a fact-finding visit by elected representatives. 

Parents of the 87,000 national service trainees are entitled to ask Najib, the National Service Council and those manning the 45 camp sites whether they are running criminal or concentration camps that they are so frightened of free access and interaction with elected representatives, parents and the civil society about conditions and progress of the national service training programme! 

Yesterday, Najib said that there is no reason to suspend national service training programme although there have been “some disciplinary and other problems” in some of the camps. 

I am in fact finding more and more reasons why the entire  national service training should be suspended unless Najib and the National Service Council can ensure a “zero-defect” programme. 

Najib did not seem to  realize that his proposal that the government will look into the possibility of including elements of discipline in the second phase training under the National Service Programme to enhance discipline among participants is the most eloquent confession of the programme’s failure – when one of programme’s  main objectives right from the beginning is to instill discipline among the youths!

I have written to Najib to ask for an urgent meeting on the national service programme to address its many defects, or there will be a public campaign for the suspension or abolition of the national service programme. 

Apart from fights, assaults, gangsterism, sexual harassment, breakdown of discipline, indifference and insensitivity to the basic rights to health and welfare of the trainees, there is now the report of a trainer assaulted by the trainees in Alor Star – a picture of a runaway breakdown of discipline under the national service training programme! 

DAP has appointed MP for Batu Gajah, Fong Po Kuan to head a five-member  committee of elected representatives  to deal with all problems and complaints  about the ill-starred national service training programme.   Po Kuan will be assisted by the DAP MP for Bandar Kuching, Chong Jien Ren, who will deal specifically with complaints in Sarawak and Sabah.  The secretary of the committee is the DAP Negri Sembilan State Assemblyman for Lobak, Anthony Loke Siew Fook while the other two members are DAP MP for Tanjong Chow Kon Yeow and the Malacca DAP State Assemblyman woman for Kota Laksamana Betty Chew. 

As the National Service Council is having a meeting on Friday, Po Kuan will send an urgent letter to ask for a team of DAP elected representatives to meet with the Council to brief it on some of the dark sides of the national service training programme which it seems to be blissfully unaware. 


* Lim Kit Siang, DAP National Chairman & Member of Parliament for Ipoh Timor