29th November 2020
PLKN NOT RELEVANT AT THIS TIME OF RAVAGING COVID PANDEMIC
The government has intention to revive the National Service Training Programme (PLKN). While its objectives on paper might be good, serious consideration must be given to affordability, timing, and the possibility of better and cheaper alternatives.
PLKN started in 2004 at the time when Datuk Seri Najib Razak was the Defence Minister and was dissolved in 2018 by the PH government. It was reported that a sum of RM8.43 billion of taxpayers’ money was spent throughout the 14-year period, out of which 43% went towards paying rental of training camps. A total of 885,956 youths had participated in the training.
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. Although studies might show the PLKN was successful in achieving a score of about 80% in instilling patriotism, societal behavior among our populace for both youths and adults does not show.
There was also accusation that the PLKN was to enrich cronies, and with nearly half of the total cost towards paying rental of training camp. PLKN cannot and should not proceed until these criticisms are addressed.
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 primary school level and continually moving up to tertiary level. The Japanese and Korean educational models in nurturing patriotism and other good values begin at an early age, are examples that we can emulate. Western models may not suit us because their societies are too liberal and it may run counter to our Asian conservative values.
Whilst Patriot agrees that PLKN is a good programme, its revival at this time when the country is facing economic and financial woes made worse by the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic is not necessary.
As an alternative, the Education Ministry can focus on developing extracurricular activities that may produce similar results as PLKN, and at much reduced cost. Activities such as scouting (Brownies, Boy Scouts and Girl Guides), outdoors motivational camps, military and police school cadets, and school choirs, are good examples. Red Crescent and St John’s Ambulance are good examples too. The education ministry should have experts in motivational training capable in developing training modules that meet similar objectives as PLKN.
Patriot acknowledges that the aim of the PLKN is good for our youth, but it must begin at an early age. We propose that the Education Ministry, working with other relevant ministries, focus on the participation of youth in extracurricular activities as a foundation to achieve national unity.
BG Dato Mohamed Arshad Raji (Rtd)
Peratuan Patriot Kebangsaan