It is sad and indeed distressing to find out that yet another national service trainee, Teng Shian Shen, has died two weeks after being asked to return home from her training at the Pasir Panjang national service camp.
Since the NS scheme was started in 2003, a worrisome number of casualties and deaths amongst trainees has occurred, totaling 19 in all. There are far too many deaths and drastic actions are urgently called for from the authorities concerned.
For the sake of comparison, all young males of Taiwan (with population of 23 million) undergo a full military national service training programme for two full years of service. The training methods and regime are much tougher than our three-month NS programme.
Yet, with such a vast number of youngsters undergoing military-style training, serious casualties are few indeed and very much lower there than our figures.
It has already been four years now since our NS programme started and yet serious problems still surface every now and then. Among them:
- The transportation debacle of hired buses being declared unworthy to carry trainees to this year's programme.
- Frequent incidents of rapes and molest amongst female trainees.
- Poor monitoring of the trainees' attendance and absenteeism.
- Failure in identifying a suitable and effective method to assess the physical health of the trainees before they undergo training and;
- The improbable and desolate proportion of the number of Chinese trainees which constitutes only one percent of the total trainees number.
These issues arise time and time again due to gross human oversight and proves that the NS authorities have not learned or not trying hard enough to improve upon their past experiences:
I, therefore, call for the NS programme be abolished entirely as it has failed not only in ensuring the safety of the trainees but more importantly in failing miserably to achieve any of the noble aspirations that the government had originally intended for the programme to achieve.