I hav written 2 posts on National Service, various letters to Malaysiakini and NST, to ask that NS be suspended and reviewed. Now that there is another death, the authority should immediately suspend the whole program and have it reviewed thoroughly. I will publish my 2 previous letters here and I think the facts are still relevant. Please act immediately before another senseless death occurs. Think of the waste of life , think of the family , think of the parents.
Letter one (in Malaysiakini as well as NST)
|Suspend NS programme pending review|
|Dr Hsu Dar Ren | Mar 6, 07 4:15pm|
|I refer to the malaysiakini report ‘Suspend NS training’ pending probe on death. I also refer to the picture of National Service Training Council chairperson Lee Lam Thye in one of the dailies crying at the funeral of a dead trainee.My sympathy goes to the parents of all the dead trainees as well as to Lee who has spent so much time and effort to oversee the project only to be thwarted by the incompetency of some of those in charge of the implementation of the project.There are so many deaths and other mishaps that I would like to call for a total review of the National Service programme here. Our National Service was mooted as a means to integrate the youths of the different races while at the same time provide training for them to become more independent and encourage them to embrace good values.Have we achieved these objectives? Are the trainers themselves well-trained to cope with the physical and emotional problems arising from various ethnic differences? There was a report that a canteen in one of the camp was ordered to be temporarily closed because food was found to be unhygienic. Are they adequate provisions for the trainees to get clean and nutritious food and water? Is there proper supervision from a hygiene point of view?Is there a variety of food to cater for the tastes of all the trainees? Or is the food prepared mainly just for one ethnic group only? This is important because many Chinese Malaysian youth are not used to spicy food while a lot of Indians and Malays cannot go without spicy food. There are stories that some trainees have survived only on biscuits. Is this true?Is there an adequate number of friendly medical staff present to attend to any complaints of discomfort or ill health? Are the camps conditions healthy enough? Do the people running the camps know enough about hygiene and prevention of diseases?
Are the trainers or camp commandants overzealous? Or do they, on the other hand, adopt a ‘tidak apa’ attitude? Has the programme attained its objective of bringing the various ethnic groups closer together? How many of the youths of the different races still keep in touch after their discharge from the camp and how many of them go out together, watch movies together and eat together? How many of them visit each other’s home during the festive seasons?
We need a review of the NS programme at this stage. We may need to suspend the training until a thorough review is properly done
After this letter in March 2007, Tan Sri Lee, a personal friend, spoke to me and I made some suggestion regarding food and medical aspects. The camps were subsequently staffed with Medical Assistants and food quality was improved. In September 2007, I wrote another letter , after another trainee died of asthma.
Letter 2 (Malaysiakini)
|From national service to national unity|
|Dr Hsu Dar Ren | Sep 12, 07 2:26pm|
|Recently, after the death of yet another National Service programme trainee, the deputy prime minister was quoted as saying that so far, ONLY 14 deaths have occurred among NS trainees. I find the word ‘only’ appalling. I am sure the learned and politically seasoned DPM did not and would not have uttered this word, but was merely misquoted by reporters.The word ‘only’, when used in this type of context, gives a meaning that this is only a statistic and it is not that important. This is contrary to most views -including my own – that ‘life’ is sacred. Even one life lost is one too many.I am also appalled by the news reports which said that young people like NS trainees can die of asthma. Asthma deaths can be entirely preventable especially in young people. No one should die of asthma if adequate medical facilities or treatment can be instituted early. So deaths due to asthma are unacceptable.To read the newspapers, death is just a statistic. But to the people who are family or friends of the dead, it is not merely a statistic but someone dear that is lost forever. And to lose this precious life just because someone in charge is negligent or had a ‘tidak apa’ mentality is totally unacceptable.The National Service programme is not aimed at producing soldiers. So the training should not be too vigorous, although a certain amount of fitness training is necessary. We do not expect five-star accommodation for the trainees, but at least the environment must be clean and free from disease-carrying insects such as mosquitoes and flies. Food wise, it should be properly cleaned and freshly prepared.For those who cannot tolerate hot and spicy food, an alternative must be made available. There are many stories of trainees surviving on biscuits or instant noodles because they are not used to the food provided, which is mainly of the hot and spicy type.
I would like to raise the point whether the NS programme has achieved its aim of fostering closer friendship among young people of the different ethnic groups. If it has not, then perhaps we should not continue this programme just because scrapping it would cause embarrassment to certain important people who first proposed the scheme.
I think our leaders are big and strong enough to realise that when certain schemes proposed are not working towards their objectives, then they should be reviewed or even dropped. In my opinion, the NS programme has not succeeded in fostering unity. True unity cannot be achieved by arbitrarily camping together young people of various ethnic groups.
True unity can only be achieved when every group feels that they have been fairly treated; that their culture and their way of life is respected; that there is no favouritism or discrimination against any one particular group.
One of the main hindrances to true unity in Malaysia is the presence of racially-orientated political parties. Race-based parties give rise to racial politics. Racial politics give rise to divisive policies. Divisive policies divide the people – this is as simple as one, two and three. So to unite the people, we must be farsighted and bold enough to take the first step to do away with racial politics and that means raced-based parties.
Not only that, now that we have achieved the 50th anniversary of nationhood, it is also time to do away with divisive and discriminative policies. New policies to implement affirmative actions based mainly on income instead of ethnicity should be adopted. All poor, regardless of urban or rural, regardless of colour, must be given assistance for them to enable them to have a better future. Universal values mean that the strong should help the weak, the rich should help the poor, the haves should help the have-nots.
No one can accept, after 50 years of nationhood, that it is fair for a multimillionaire to be given a discount of thousands of ringgit for buying a property or be given scholarships worth thousands of ringgit for his children just because of his ethnicity.
Only with a policy of helping the poor, regardless of race or colour, can there be a truly fair and equitable society. Only with a fair society, can true unity be achieved