I wish to refer to Victor See's letter on Who really benefit from NS? Our kids? To a certain extent, I would venture to say that the kids do benefit from a three-month stint, which in many ways is similar to a summer camp. As with all summer camps, the activities and programme sprinkle with military lifestyle can be an exciting experience for the youngsters who are leaving home for the first time.
As for achieving its stated objective of racial integration, it is a complete failure. After spending the most part of their adolescent life in complete isolation, how could anyone expect these kids from different races and diverse background to suddenly accept each other as buddies?
The expectation of the National Service in achieving racial integration is not only unrealistic but is a wanton waste of public funds. Spending a few billion ringgit annually on a programme that do not achieve its stated goal cannot be considered prudent expenditure.
Who then are the real beneficiaries of the NS? From the onset when the NS scheme was formulated and the budget allocated, it became crystal clear that the beneficiaries were the contractors given lucrative contracts to set up the camps throughout the length and breadth of the country.
We have lucrative contracts given to transport the trainees to the camps, the contract for supplies of uniforms and accessories, caterers for food and a host of other contracts too numerous to mention but all at a cost that is way above market price because they were given ad hoc and without proper tender.
And if we were to study the recipients of these contracts, the trail would lead to one source - the Defence Ministry where the deputy prime minister is the head. Part of the reason for the failure of the NS scheme could be attributed to discriminatory way in which the contracts were given out. Many of them just simply didn't have the experience and expertise to do the job.
An example was the transport of trainees contract given to ex-army and retired officers. On the day of departure, many trainees were left stranded without any transport to ferry them to their intended destination. The vehicles scheduled to transport them did not even bother to turn up at the appointed time and place. Other failed contracts included catering where some camps' food supplied for trainees were even not fit for human consumption.
The whole concept of fostering racial integration via the NS route is an illusory one. The path is not only fraught with uncertainties and failures, but at what cost? To date, we have already recorded 19 fatalities and the authorities are nowhere near a solution to arrest this problem. This incident of high fatalities should demand a comprehensive investigation into the preliminary screening of the trainees to ascertain if they are medically fit to be enlisted for the NS programme.
Unless and until such time when a suitable mechanism is in place to ascertain the suitability and eligibility of each trainee on medical grounds, the NS scheme based on its current form should be temporarily suspended.