I refer to the letter National Service: A parent's concerns and am in total agreement with the writer on the dire need to make changes to the way the training is run and to improve its overall management.
When my daughter's name was listed to join the National Service, she was quite hesitant. I encouraged her to go. 'It would do you a world of good. It could make you a better person, tougher mentally and physically. You'd gain new experiences and make new friends,' I told her.
She bought the idea.
So my daughter made the long trip to the Kisana Beach Resort in Pasir Puteh, Kelantan. Once she arrived at the camp last week, and when she started complaining about the dirty dormitories, unpalatable food, and so on, I told her to persevere and not to be such a 'softie' or be too picky about the food. After all, this was camp life.
Partly to console myself, I kept telling her that this is a Malaysian government-run programme, under the purview of the Ministry of Defence, no less. Surely they'd take good care of my child. After all she's only just 18, waiting for her SPM results and out having her first taste of camp life. She's not an army trainee, mind you.
But when it was reported in the press that the dining hall at her camp was sealed by Pasir Putih district council authorities on Feb 26 for flouting health guidelines, I felt angry and betrayed. Not to mention I felt so sorry for my daughter whose complaints about the camp I had refused to believe.
Apparently it wasn't just the food. To my horror, it was reported in the press that there is a long list of other deficiencies at the camp too. The camp's management failed to acquire the certificate of fitness for the training equipment which was required under the National Service module.
As a result, activities of trainees were restricted to marching drills only as they were unable to carry out other exercises in the module such as the 'Flying fox' high-wire exercises and kayaking.
These problems have been raised with the camp management by the camp commandant himself, Major Zulkarnain Abdullah. But all to no avail. So he spoke to the press.
Sadly, the latest news from the camp is that the camp commandant has been discharged of his duties. And all for trying to put things right for the sake of our children at the camp. Something is really not right here.
All that talk about 'instilling national spirit and a sense of discipline' in our future generations somehow just seems to ring hollow.