Call for clear Cabinet directive tomorrow  not to criminalize national service “shirkers” which will mark the height of failure of programme

Media Statement
by Lim Kit Siang

(Petaling Jaya, Tuesday): Two news items in all newspapers today capture in a nutshell the crisis of public confidence in the national service training programme, and why the top priority of the government is not to wield “the stick” to compel compliance with criminal sanctions  but to fathom and understand the failure of the programme to win unquestioned public support. 

These two news items in the New Straits Times are: 

  • Over 5,000 NS shirkers fail to report on last day (p 6)
  • ‘NS trainee confessed trainer hit, raped her’ (p 11)

Despite the five-day extension of the deadline for registration for the 8,559 national service “shirkers”, 5,033 or 58.8 per cent failed to report to the National Serivce Training Programme for the special supplementary programme scheduled to begin on July 25. 

Although the Deputy Internal Security Minister, Datuk Noh Omar  said on Saturday that the Police in all districts are ready to launch a manhunt for the over 5,000 national service “shirkers”, the Cabinet tomorrow should step in to avert a public relations disaster for the government for two reasons: 

  • A police manhunt for the 5,033 18-year-olds who have not reported for the national service training programme will be sending out a completely wrong message to Malaysians about the  mispriorities of the government and the police, treating the national service “shirkers” as greater enemies of society  than snatch-thieves,  who killed two victims  in two months, armed robbers, rapists and murderers creating a public safety crisis unprecedented in the nation’s 46-year history; and
  • The government should be  conducting  a thorough and  comprehensive study as to why the national service training programme has failed to secure public acceptance and  confidence instead of penalizing and criminalizing  the youths.

After spending over RM500 million on the national service training programme, there are bound to be thousands of youths who could be depended upon to give it  praise, but  the acid test of its real success must be whether its worst  detractors are mere critics and not victims of the programme, after gruesome experiences whether from crimes like rape or bereaved family members of those who died  like two drowning cases so far.  There must be a clear commitment that “one case is too many” in the national service training programme for these crimes.

The Cabinet tomorrow should give a clear directive to the National Service Training Department that it should take the easy way out to criminalize youths  because they have not registered themselves – as this will mark the height of a programme meant to instill discipline, national unity and patriotism.



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