11 May 2008: Too Hui Mun
, 18, complained of stomach difficulties that turned out to be caused by a colon infection. She's the 16th person to perish during National Service training
3 Sept 2007: Mohamad Rafi Ameer, 18, had a fever and a swollen leg after falling during his training stint. An International Herald Tribune report
suggests negligence on the part of camp supervisors.
18 Jan 2007: Iliameera Azlan, 17, died due to breathing difficulties. According to Bernama
: "Iliameera reportedly did not wake up at 5.30am as required, and when found at 6.30am having breathing difficulty, the instructor of the camp rushed her to the hospital. She is believed to have died on the way to hospital."Please note that the camp waited an hour after roll call at 5.30am before finding her.
9 May 2004: T Saravanan, 18, from Taiping, Perak drowned
while swimming with another 40 trainees.In-camp fights
The most stunning case
of death in a national service camp occurred on 22 April 2006 when Haziq Jaafar, 17, died after getting into a fight with another trainee. What were they fighting over? A cigarette. It would seem that both the Tak Nak campaign and the checks for contraband in national service camps failed to prevent Haziq's untimely death. Pardon me, but all these reported cases demonstrate that "encouraging unity" and "training NS students for emergencies" are merely rhetoric. In another story
of the national service's failure to encourage "unity", an all-out brawl erupted between 50 trainees in a camp close to Kluang on 10 Aug 2008.
What caused the brawl? Teasing. According to press reports, when the teasing intensified, chairs were tossed and fists flew - something I think we've seen happen in the MCA once.Worth the deaths?
So what exactly was the purpose of National Service, to begin with?
According to their website
(and my translation capabilities), the objectives are:
To increase youths' patriotism
To foster racial unity and national integrity
To build positive character through good values
To encourage volunteerism
To create a young generation with physical and mental prowess, and self-confidence.
I will not be overly pessimistic, but I would like to ask those parents who support national service whether such objectives are worth the sacrifice of 16 lives? And for those who have yet to send their kids off, and for taxpayers who are single and are not even thinking of procreating, is the RM600 million spent in 2007 for national service a good investment? Would people agree with the huge investments needed if they knew just how much it was costing tax payers? According to the Auditor-General
, national service shirkers and rigid contracts have caused the government losses of up to RM110.1 million from 2004 to 2007. The Auditor-General also found that the Beringin Beach camp was unsuitable because of flooding during high tide. But didn't anybody notice this before? And how was that possible?
For the Wawasan camp in Sabah, camp operators told the audit team it was difficult to obtain fresh fish for the trainees' menu, but the audit team found it otherwise at the Kota Kinabalu market. Does this mean that these camps would rather lie about why the food isn't fresh and risk food poisoning than feed trainees properly? The Auditor-General's report also found that t-shirts, track pants, baseball caps and sports shoes supplied under contracts worth more than RM41 million were of low quality. That's not all. There are also cases
of illegally built camps.Sacrificing our youth
What all these show is that in the haste to implement the national service programme, we have sacrificed the lives, health and safety of our youths; lost a couple of billion ringgit; and may even have flouted the rule of law and ignored the need for transparent governance. While I admit that the thought of getting our youth to be patriotic (or subservient, depending on one's perspective) may be a good idea, I, for one, see this programme as nothing more than a farce to allow opportunists to make money at the expense of trainees' safety and lives.
If, indeed, cronies and lobbyists of the current government are making money from national service, then this government may be as guilty as the American government in sending their citizens to perish in Iraq for oil and profit. If that were the case, national service, in my opinion, could be deemed as "national slaughter".Ahmad Hafidz Baharom
is a paradox. He's an anti-smoking chain smoker, an environmentalist who leaves his office lights on, a centrist who's a lalang, and a twenty-something yuppie who dreams of being a slacker. Basically, he's a lovable moron. From the Nut Graph