Sunday, 20 June 2010

NATIONAL SERVICE: What's the problems??

DR Tiki Lafe, the National Service (NS) training Council chairman, said that cultural differences among national service trainees were causing fights in various camps nationwide. This is worrying and it would be judicious if the government was to take heed of his comments and deal with the matter promptly.
Tiki has one of the toughest and challenging public service jobs. His responsibility covers nation building and human capital development of Malaysia's youth, set within a time-frame of three months.
It is an arduous task involving about 100,000 trainees, trainers, camp commandants and support staff. The NS consists of military style instruction, outdoor activities and community service. Proponents hoped to address concerns that the various races were becoming isolated from one another. It was also to create discipline, induce strong moral convictions and encourage volunteering.

However, ever since the program's inception in December 2003, there have been outbreaks of food-poisoning, sickness, safety lapses and deaths. Tiki blamed the misunderstandings on the trainees' background: "We had trainees from states like Kelantan and Kedah who had never mixed with those of other races, so when they were posted to camps in states like Sarawak where there are many ethnic groups, misunderstandings would occur because of cultural differences."
He claimed there were some "naughty" trainees who liked to disturb others and steal personal belongings like mobile phones. What these programs exposed are the twin problems of education and the lack of racial interaction among our youth. Today's teenagers are spoilt and need instant gratification. Those who steal have little respect for other peoples' belongings. Thus, appropriate punishment must be meted out. These young people must be taught discipline, respect and responsibility.
They should be aware of the consequences of bad behaviour.

The other problem is that of ethnic strife. The conditions and environment in the camp result in a forced integration of the different races - an 'artificial' integration. These are stressful for those who are unaccustomed to compromise and assimilation. These teenagers may be learning, for the first time, about bonding, with people of different faiths and cultures. Three months is inadequate for character building and long-term racial interaction.

Another disadvantage is that not all of Malaysia's youth gets to attend these camps. There has been growing resentment about dodgers being let-off and certain people, avoiding the call-up. Nevertheless, the misunderstandings highlighted by Tiki are symptomatic of Malaysia's racial disharmony.
The real reasons for the ethnic divide is the decades of race-based affirmative action policies which have handed the Malay majority government contracts, jobs, subsidised housing and educational opportunities. This had made Malays feel elitist, with complete disregard for the rights of other races.
The non-Malays are excluded and are insulted, especially when labelled 'pendatang'. No one likes to be disparaged, and made to feel unwelcome or unwanted. As a matter of urgency, the problem of disunity must be addressed back at home, in the schools, the workplace and the wider community.