Call on the government to cancel the National Service programme altogether, rather than just suspending it for a year
Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib once talked about wanting to make Malaysia the best democracy in the world.
But Malaysians must wonder what is Najib’s understanding and idea of “the best democracy ’” after he did not announce the revised budget yesterday at a specially convened parliament sitting.
Was he afraid of a parliamentary debate about his announced revisions?
I have no doubt that if he has presented his revised budget to a parliament sitting, there will be vigorous debates involving both government and opposition MPs as there have been fears that the revisions are not sufficient to address the tough economic challenges that the nation is facing.
Among the cost cutting measures announced by Najib was the suspension of the National Service programme for a year. He said that the programme’s suspension will save the government RM 400 million.
There are two key questions which Najib should answer.
Firstly, why was the amount to be saved only RM 400 million?
In a parliamentary reply made in May, 2008 about spending on the programme, then Deputy Defence Minister Datuk Wira Abu Seman Yusop revealed that RM608.6mil was spent in 2004, RM604.8mil in 2005, RM588.2mil in 2006 and RM565mil in 2007.
If the amount to be spent on 2015 national service programme is RM 600 million, this will mean RM 200 million will still be spent.
Defence Minister Datuk Hishammddin yesterday said that camp operators and trainers will still be paid.
Can Najib reveal why and how much will still be paid to the camp operators for providing no service when the programme is suspended?
Secondly, should not the question be asked if it is worthwhile to continue the programme at such huge cost to the nation?
Since then, the programme has cost the nation billions of ringgit. Yet , not all Malaysians are convinced that the programme is worth what it claims to achieve, more so when it was reported recently that a former National Service Training Programme trainer who was arrested , was suspected to have planned a new route for recruits in the country to join the Islamic State militant group (Isis).
It will definitely be cheaper for the government to focus, expand and enhance the Rancangan Integrasi Untuk Murid (RIMUP) programme that was launched in 1986 to achieve the objective of unity among students of different races.
I therefore call on the government to cancel the National Service programme altogether, rather than just suspending it for a year.
Since 2004, a total of 22 deaths of participants were recorded at National Service camps. The fact that the programme was mooted by Tun Mahathir who is now a strong critic of Datuk Seri Najib should not deter Najib from doing what is necessary.