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.