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NS deaths: Are you parents dead too?

My heart goes out to the parents of Too Hui Min from Selangor. How many National Service deaths does that make? I have lost count. They are dying right in front of our very eyes. Wake up or are you dead too? Never mind our different races, religions and socio-economic status. We are parents and we are patriotic Malaysians who love our country dearly.

But that does not mean we automatically trust those who are in power. Far from it. I wish to do a content analysis of two news report today, one from The Star and the other from Berita Harian . We can see a clear pattern emerging on how the news media and their political masters think about these deaths.

In The Star report, the story was carried on page 3 with an announcement of the death made on the front page. The Star also made another report on a camp infested with dengue cases where many NS trainees were warded. The Berita Harian report was placed way back on page 19 with no announcement in the front page. The Berita Harian did not carry any other NS story.

This probably shows that The Star people are very concerned about the incident and the Berita Harian people mungkin tak berapa kisah sangat . Is it about ‘protecting the National Service or simply that the victim is - dare I say it? - is a non-Malay? Your guess is as good as mine.

The Star quoted the victim’s parents in saying that their daughter informed them several days ago about her stomach pains and the parents wondered aloud why the camp officials did not react earlier. The Berita Harian report contains no quotes by the parents .

But the Berita Harian report has a very interesting quote from an unnamed officer at the Slim River Hospital Forensic Unit as follows: ‘ Pegawai Unit Forensik Hospital Slim River mengesyaki penyakit itu dihidapi Too sebelum mula menjalani latihan di kem berkenaan, 18 Mac lalu ." which says that Too contracted the condition before joining the camp.

So very convenient! So very nice for the NS director-general! No investigation is done yet and the conclusion is probably half way made already! This, as usual, will absolve all the camp officials of responsibility of the death.

Listen parents. To me they seem to be intoning their standard mantra again - ‘It’s YOUR FAULT that your son or daughter died. Lain kali make sure dia sihat dulu sebelum masuk kem lah. What gall.

The story in Berita Harian seems to follow the same pattern as other reports I have read where it is made as if the victim ‘suddenly fell sick’ and suddenly died before the camp officials could react.

The Star report says that an internal investigation will be conducted. I don’t remember reading any report of all these ‘internal investigations’ in the media. Even if I did, as an academic I would not give much credence to a single source, totally non-independent committee report.

So parents, please, wake up. I send this message to YOU. The NS director-general is not going to listen. The political leaders don’t seem to care. So it is up to US. What should we do? Never mind the trainees are Malays, Indians, Chinese, Kadazans, Dayak, Iban or what-have-you. They are all OUR children.

We must demand a full independent and public inquiry made up of professionals selected by us and not appointed by those camp people. I am not anti-National Service. I am totally anti the camps’ leadership and management team. They should all be sacked and if they are proven cases of pure neglect, they should be prosecuted. No less.

In the mean time heed my words carefully. Call your children in the NS camps every two days. Don’t take any chances if your children call in sick. Go to the camp. Demand to see your children. Take them to your doctor. If the camp people refuse to give permission, camp outside the camp and make yourself a bloody nuisance until they do. These tips will probably safe your children’s lives.

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