Perhaps parents should boycott NS

PT Tan

Modified 29 Jan 2008, 10:21 am

From what that is gathered, the National Service programme is no more than a Scout camp of yesteryears, except that this time it is funded with mega-bucks and fueled by wrong intents.

While we scrimped and saved to attend the Scout camps when we were kids, we were well trained by seniors who loved the game, as it is called. The seniors imparted all they knew with care and concern, even while they ragged. Safety was never compromised. Parents came and participated in the camps, day and night.

We grew up with such a close bond that after 30 years, we all still get together and laugh over jokes without a hint of racial segregation or malicious intent.

In comparison, today's NS training makes the trainees go through the same routine with 'torture', trying to instill discipline through fear and punishment. Making a girl do pushups when she does not have the arm strength is tantamount to torture. The poor girl will use her backbone is a 'S' curving motion that will ultimately snap the spinal cord when one too many pushup is done. A fit person can do 100 pushups without effort, but a 'soft' person will snap after 10 or even five.

When the time comes for my child to go to the camp (if at all), I will not release her. No one can guarantee her 100 percent safety or even try to do so. National Service Training Council chairperson Lee Lam Thye, after decades of exemplary service, has belittled himself by saying that there are not enough facilities to medically examine all trainees.

Then he should push for a smaller number of trainees, or postpone the programme. After all, with the mega-bucks that is being rolled out for the programme with some getting some economic benefits, why should we pay with the lives of young ones?

Lastly, has the training brought about any measurable benefits besides profits to the caterers, contractors and uniform suppliers? The last fiasco over transport illustrate the chasm between intent and action. After so many sessions, there have been no comprehensive surveys, studies or whatsoever to examine what has been achieved. Spot interviews with a few trainees will not reflect general attitudes.

I urge the government to stop the programme, conduct a full post-mortem with full public participation and bring the implementing parties who have not performed to book. Failing which, I urge all parents to boycott the programme to show their displeasure with the way the programme is being run in particular and the country in general.