Call on Attorney-General to suspend all prosecution of national service dodgers until the law is amended  by Parliament in June/July  to substitute jail  sentence with community service

Speech(2) at Buntong DAP Branch, Ipoh Barat,
by Lim Kit Siang

(Ipoh, Sunday): Following the nation-wide outrage and hue-and-cry over the RM600 fine in default 14 days’ jail meted out to Ahmad Harizal Fauzi, 18, last Monday as he was too poor to report for national service as well as to pay the fine, the Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak has said that the government will study carefully proposals that the default jail term on a youth for dodging the National Service (NS) be replaced with community service.

The Minister in the Prime Minister's Department Datuk Radzi Sheikh Ahmad said that the Parliamentary Select Committee set up to study amendments to the Penal Code and the Criminal Procedure Code, which he chairs, will be making proposals for social work for less serious offences like being absent from national service in its report of recommendations to Parliament in July.

It is difficult to accept that this episode is the result of some “oversight” or the boy’s failure to tell the truth about his poverty – when it is clear that there is a failure of social conscience all down the line, whether the police investigator, the Attorney-General’s Chambers or  the magistrate, resulting in the nation-wide uproar at the “heartless” treatment of Ahmad Harizal.

It was reported for instance that Ahmad Harizal had pleaded at the magistrate’s court in mitigation for a light sentence, saying he was from a poor family and that he had to work in the padi fields to help his mother support the family. Yet  the Deputy Public Prosecutor urged the magistrate for a deterrent sentence for other teenagers to be responsible when called up for the national service, which was endorsed by the magistrate who wanted the case to be “a lesson to all teenagers not to ignore the government’s call to participate in the programme”.  Such Dickensian justice should have no place in 21st century Malaysia with the Prime Minister advocating Islam Hadhari.

When the National Service Bill was debated in Parliament in June 2003, I had asked why  a bill meant to imbue the young generation with the spirit of patriotism and volunteerism and the principles of Rukun Negara should  be studded with criminal sanctions and custodial offences, treating them as if they are criminals or  enemies of the nation?

It has been reported that 4,268 youngsters  have not reported for the national service and that at least ten of them will be charged in court soon.

The Ahmad Harizal case should be a lesson to the authorities concerned, and I call on the  Attorney-General, Tan Sri Gani Patail  to  suspend all prosecution of national service dodgers until the relevant law, the National Service Training Act 2003, is amended by Parliament at its next meeting in June/July  to substitute jail  sentence with community service.


*  Lim Kit Siang, Parliamentary Opposition Leader, MP for Ipoh Timur & DAP Central Policy and Strategic Planning Commission Chairman