PETALING JAYA: An NGO representing retired armed forces officers says the government’s objective in wanting to revive the National Service (PLKN) programme might be good on paper but serious consideration must be given to better and cheaper alternatives, with the education ministry taking the lead.
National Patriots Association (Patriot) president Mohamed Arshad Raji said while studies might show that PLKN was successful in achieving a score of about 80% in instilling patriotism, the behaviour among some youths and adults in society proves otherwise.
He admitted that the objectives and design of the training programme are well crafted and relevant to our multi-racial and multi-religious society.
“However, we believe that the training should begin at the primary school level and continue all the way up to the tertiary level.
“The Japanese and Korean educational models, which nurture patriotism and other good values from an early age, are examples that we can emulate,” Raji said in a statement today.
He called for the education ministry to be given the responsibility to nurture children from a young age.
“The education ministry should have experts in motivational training capable of developing training modules that meet similar objectives as PLKN.
“They can focus on developing extracurricular activities that may produce similar results as PLKN, and at a much-reduced cost,” he said.
Arshad pointed to activities such as scouting (Brownies, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides), outdoor motivational camps, military and police school cadets, Red Crescent, St John’s Ambulance and school choirs as good examples to build up children from a young age.
The national service programme started in 2004 under then defence minister Najib Razak and was dissolved in 2018 by the former Pakatan Harapan government after it took over Putrajaya. A total of 885,956 youths had participated in the training.
Raji said some issues also need to be answered should the programme resume as it is.
“There was much criticism towards the training programme, including that the main objective to instill patriotism, foster understanding, harmony, unity, and a caring Malaysian society, had failed.
“There were also accusations that the PLKN was to enrich cronies, with nearly half of the total cost going towards the rental of training camps.
“PLKN cannot and should not proceed until these criticisms are addressed,” he said citing the reported RM8.43 billion spent throughout the 14-year period, with almost half said to have gone towards the rental.