National Service gets off to a rough start

  • Nation
  • Tuesday, 17 Feb 2004

First-day glitch: At the Sungai Nibong pick-up point in Penang, anxious trainees and their parents endure the long wait during registration. - Starpic by Wan Mohizan Wan Hussein

KUALA LUMPUR: The first day of national service for 26,000 youth got off to a rough start and the Prime Minister has directed the organisers to sort out the problems as quickly as possible. 

Based on observations at various pick-up points and from telephone calls received by The Star, the problems appeared to be the poorly organised registration system and deployment of buses, which triggered a host of attendant issues. 

Among the complaints were trainees being left stranded, missing buses, wrong locations and long delays, resulting in anxious parents worrying whether their children would arrive safely at their respective camps. 

Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, when told of the problems after an official function in Ipoh yesterday, directed the relevant authorities to address the problems immediately. 

Agreeing that there were bound to be teething problems because it was the first time it was being done, he said what was most important was for the hitches to be rectified directly. 

“It is important for the problems to be addressed quickly to ensure no one gives the national service programme a bad assessment. 

“The problems have to be looked into fast,” he told reporters. 

He hoped that the training for the youth would run smoothly and be successful. 

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak, whose Defence Ministry is organising the programme, gave an assurance that all efforts were being made to solve the glitches. 

He said a hotline had been set up to connect the camps and the NS Secretariat directly. 

“It is only natural that problems may crop up whenever a new programme is implemented. It needs fine-tuning and it can be solved within a few days,” he told reporters in Jeli, Kelantan, yesterday. 

He appealed to those affected to be patient because it would take time to solve all the problems.  

With about 800 buses on the roads ferrying some 26,000 girls and boys, the Government rightfully expected some teeth-ing problems, but slow remedial measures in many instances got the parents worried, with many asking whether the camp managers were ready to face crisis situations if any cropped up. 

One group of 40 trainees heading for Kuala Nerang, Kedah, was delayed after their schoolbus, which left Ipoh after a four-hour delay, broke down near Taiping. A replacement bus was sent and it, too, broke down, in Sungai Petani. The group reached the camp at 8pm, some six hours behind schedule. 

In Lahad Datu, Sabah, 10 of the trainees who sustained light injuries when the bus they were travelling in collided with another bus, have been kept at the Sanshui camp infirmary for observation. 

“They will only start their training after they recover from their injuries. Parents need not worry as they will be taken care of by the medical personnel at the camp,” said NS Council member Dr Maximus Ongkili. 

The injured trainees – four girls and six boys – were among 42 in a bus heading for the Sanshui camp in Tawau when it collided with another bus carrying 40 other trainees at the 4th kilometre Lahad Datu-Tawau road on Sunday evening. 

The trainees, who were from Kota Kinabalu, reached the Sanshui camp during the wee hours of yesterday. 

Related stories 

Camp’s ‘open day’ allays fearsTrainees generally optimisticMohd Ali’s son excited to be chosenParents fume over glitchesFeedback to rectify weaknessesDepartment apologises over hiccupsUntraceable trainees get deadline

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