Hold national service stints during holidays


  • Letters
  • Friday, 28 Feb 2003

By V.K. CHIN

WITH proper planning, the proposed compulsory national service for 18-year-olds should result in the minimum disruption on the lives of these youths. 

One ideal way of doing this is to coincide the sessions with the school and university holidays as this will enable the training to go on without any unnecessary dislocation. 

To cater to some 450,000 trainees, the most urgent task is to find the premises to house them and the necessary manpower and equipment to conduct the courses. 

Defence Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, who is chairman of the Cabinet committee for this project, said 12 public and three private universities had been identified as possible training centres.  

In addition, 27 teacher-training colleges will also be used for this purpose. 

This should be sufficient to tackle the accommodation problem as the combined facilities should be able to house a sizeable number of trainees and support staff. 

The plus factor is that these universities and teacher colleges have good infrastructure for the military-type training involved and the lecture halls.  

They also have acres of space and grounds for any form of physical and sports activities. 

As these premises have modern amenities for the trainees, parents and guardians should have no worries about their loved ones being deprived of such facilities during training. 

Naturally, the premises are only available when their undergraduates are not using them and the only time when they are free is during vacation time. 

So the planners and the managements of these educational institutions will have to sit down and juggle with the curriculum so that these premises can be made use of with the minimum interruption to their own activities. 

This should pose the least problem as all those involved are government-managed and there will be no need to pay anything in making use of such facilities, thus saving quite a bit of public money. 

However, the logistics of dealing with such a large number of trainees can be quite daunting and the administrative side of it must not be found wanting to ensure a smooth implementation of this massive programme. 

Of special interest to parents and the teenagers is the penalty for not registering for the call-up.  

Those who fail to do so will definitely be fined or jailed to ensure maximum attendance. 

However, the details of the penalties are still being worked out such as the amount of fine to be imposed or the length of the prison sentence. 

But it may be too drastic to sentence the teenager to jail for non-compliance. 

What is significant is that there will be no exceptions for answering the call-up unless due to very special circumstances such as medical or mental problems. 

The committee no doubt will be aware that there will be parents who will try to get their children exempted from the programme on medical grounds. 

It is important that every case must be thoroughly looked into by a panel to check such abuses. 

Those who try to use this loophole must be severely dealt with to discourage others from using this as an excuse.  

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