23 of our teenagers have died in so-called national service camps in the last ten years. The last dead kid, Muhamad Suhaimi Norhamidi, 18, was believed to have been bludgeoned to death last Monday at a camp in Pahang, Prime Minister Najib Razak's state. Three fellow 18-year old trainees have been arrested. We are told that there were fistfights between the boys after breakfast on Sunday and again later that night. "It is not known if camp commanders were aware of the fight," the Malay Mail reports today. "The camp management declined to comment".
I don't see the Ministry or Minister responsible making any comments about the latest death, which is investigated as the first murder in national service camp. Where is the condolences, the accountability, reassurance?. Just two weeks ago the trainees in a camp in Penang made hell of a noise over food and cleanliness. At first many thought the trainees were being soft or "manja" but it turned out the operators of the camp were actually first-class motherduckers. Still, those operators got a gentle rap on the knuckles and it is now business as usual for them. Read NS camp has a week to clean up.
My daughter is on the list of thousands of young girls and boys who have been selectively drafted for NS next year. For months I played my part to encourage her, told her ignore the horror stories of the past, assured her that she would enjoy the three month stint. But now I have serious doubts. Really, I don't think the people who run these camps have learned anything from the deaths of R. Vinoth (who succumbed to rat fever in one of the dirty camps like Balik Pulau, I bet), Abdul Malik Ishak (found dead in his bed), Mohd Rafi Ameer (fever and swollen leg), Illi Ameera Azlan (breathing difficulty), S. Theresa Pauline (viral infection), Nurul Ashikin Karino (injured during training), Awang Mohd Fazil (drowned), and the other 17 and 18-year olds who died while in camp. Those who have died were not their kids or relatives.
I remain a believer of the NS concept to get our teenagers to work together as a team of Malaysians regardless of race and religion. But I no longer have faith in the current sorry excuse of an NS that we have. The way NS camps are run has to change. We are supposed to instill discipline and civic mindedness in our trainees but operators who are concerned only about making money from running the camps will not help us do that. If trainees can be involved in brawls in their camps without the commanders knowing or being able to do anything, there's something really wrong with the system. You need to shut it down, force yourself to make the necessary changes, and then let the professionals - the military/armed forces - run the show.