Dukacitanya tiada seorang yang terpilih untuk PLKN 2015.

Kwong Wah Yit Poh // 30th January 2015
Kwong Wah Yit Poh // 30th January 2015

Every year since 2004, 18 years-old Malaysians who have just completed their SPM examination would tremble in fear, nervousness, some with eagerness. They were either browsing the internet, SMS-ing the related department, making phone calls or checking the post box waiting whether they have received the news of “Sukacita” or “Dukacita”.

No, they are not waiting for their SPM results. These school leavers are checking whether they are selected to the National Service Training Programme or not. Usually those who are selected will receive the SMS or letter with the word “Sukacita” while those who are not selected will receive the word of “Dukacita”. Unfortunately for most of these youth, those two words means the opposite to what have been sent to them.

Most of the young Malaysians feared the National Service. Parents then would find ways to help their children to avoid the Programme. Some would find Government Officers, Member of Parliaments, State Assemblymen, politicians and numerous influential figures with various reasons to get help. Reasons ranging from health issues, family needs, pursuing tertiary education and many more. Too bad, the department implementing this National Service is very strict. Health issues have to be certified by Government hospitals or clinics. Those already begun with their tertiary education would have to come back to serve in the Programme during their long break or after they have graduated. In a way, there are not escape if one is being selected.

10 years after the inception of the National Service Programme by Dato’ Seri Najib Razak as the then Minister of Defence, he suspended the Programme as the current Prime Minister early this year.

There are many criticisms and incidents throughout the decade implementing the National Service Programme. Incompetent trainers, poorly maintained facilities, sexual assault cases, food poisonings, health issues and deaths were among the issues which was brought up to the national attention. It was all over the news media. That was part of the reason some parents have been reluctant to send their kids to the programme.

Yes, that are some of the negative parts of the national programme. And it was almost highlighted in every general conversation in Malaysians about it.

Coincidentally, I had the opportunity to meet up for coffee with some friends who have graduated from National Service Programmes and the trainers as well. We discussed about their experience in the Programme, some over coffee, some just discussion on the popular tool, Whatsapp.

There are pros and cons over the discussion. As usual, the cons were all reported in the news. The sad thing is, most people don’t really bother about the pros; they are more keen to talk about the cons and criticize whoever is the one responsible.

Maybe those who have really experienced it will be able to tell the pros out of the cons.

One of the trainees have told me that it is a good opportunity and platform to deliver several essential topics to the youth. The trainees were given mock-parliament elections in the camp, teaching them about how the election and government system works in our country; instead of being easily confused and manipulated by election campaign sentiments.

All trainees were also made compulsory to participate in community services that allows them to experience voluntary programs which benefits the poor and less fortunate communities. Probably that was one of the reason that we can see voluntary groups especially from the youth mushrooming all over the country. The volunteerism during the recent record-breaking floods have been a good example. We can see the spirit of caring induced by the youth.

Few of my friends were trainers for religious classes particularly Buddhism. They told me that the National Service Programme is one of the very few opportunities to actually teach a religion to people at such an age. These group of young Malaysians would have less likely to spend their time at a temple or religious classes during their school holidays. Popular cafes and shopping malls would be their better option then if they were not selected to National Service.

Then there are also various workshops and seminars from crime prevention to astronomy, self-confidence to unity, first aid training to self-defense classes. In general, it has also helped the young adults to explore what is ahead in their lives in terms of career other than being doctors, lawyers, engineers as encouraged in a typical Asian family.

The whole programme have also created a better understanding of cultures from different ethnics. Indirectly, it has promoted unity when they joined each other in the same activities and workshops. From the way I see, it has benefited the trainees especially those who came from vernacular schools. Some of them might not have a single friend coming from another ethnic throughout their lives. Some friends who were once trainees said that they had the opportunity to know more friends or at least communicated with people who were not of the same ethnic in the camp. They felt more confident and less fear facing the community out of their own circle after the service.

Generally, these trainers and trainees that I knew agreed that the National Service Programme still has a lot of room for improvement, but the idea of the programme is healthy for the youth and should be continued.

As far as I have heard, there is no one single trainees who have regretted that he or she attended the National Service Programme.

In my honest opinion, it was a “Dukacita” message by the Prime Minister to suspend the National Service Training Programme.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 30th January 2015.

Malaysian Youth Parliament – National Issues from the Viewpoint of Youth

Malaysian Youth Parliament

Information is a very important element for every human in their lives. We make decisions everyday; be it personal issues, family matters or even those affecting the country by relying on information that we can obtain.

During the prehistoric era, our forefathers then have very limited information. They communicated with fire, beacons, smoke signals or maybe the sound of drums and horns.

In 550 BC, the Persian King Cyrus the Great was believed to have invented the postal system. The new communication system was a breakthrough then. Information can be kept and archived. But posts and mails needed time to reach the people depending on the location and terrain of where the recipient lives. Sometimes, the intended information doesn’t reach to its target.

Then, people like Francis Ronald, Baron Schilling and many others innovated the communication tools. They invented the telegraph in the 1800s. People then could send information from different locations immediately by transmitting signals by using that device.

Voice communication was firstly invented by one of the greatest inventors ever, Alexander Graham Bell when he brought the first practical telephone in 1876 to the world. The famous and first sentence ever transmitted over voice is when he called his assistant, “Mr. Watson, Come here, I want to see you.”

After witnessing voice being able to transmitted from one place to another, the world witnessed another groundbreaking invention in the 19th century, the television.

Now, thanks to Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the youth today have access to information and communication more than ever at a lightning speed compared to our forefathers when they were youth. He is the inventor of the internet. The extensive information available in the internet enables the youth today to be more well-informed on every single matter that is related to their lives.

That leads to the belief that the current youth are able to articulate and matured enough in the context information availability to be part of the decision-making process at a higher level. Not only that they are able to make good decisions for themselves, but they are also able to make smart decisions on national issues and public policies. Hence, more and more governments in the world formed Youth Parliaments to listen more on the opinion of the youth. There are Youth Parliaments in the United Kingdom, Scotland, Pakistan, Australia, Africa and the latest is our own Malaysian government forming its own youth parliament this year.

Since the election of the Malaysian Youth Parliament members or the Ahli Parlimen Belia Malaysia (APBM) has been conducted last year, there are several different perceptions by the public of this Youth Parliament. Some questioned the purpose and relevance of it.

Being given the opportunity not only to witness, but to participate as one of the Malaysian Youth Parliament members, I opined that it is relevant as in developing the younger ones to be part of the decision-making process for the Government. Allow me to explain briefly on the process of the Youth Parliament.

Before each Youth Parliament session, the APBM engages their peers through various platforms and programs to understand their needs and concerns. The first draft of resolutions will then be proposed and discussed at the committee level. There are nine committees namely, Socio-economy; International and Diplomatic Relations; Security, Law and Integrity; Education and Career; Culture, Sports, Patriotism and Integration; Infrastructure, Development and Environment; Community Development and Health; Technology and Innovation; Spiritual and Religion.

After the first draft of resolution, the respective committees will conduct fact-checking with the related ministries, agencies, organizations, acts and laws. This is to avoid proposing bills that has already been debated in the Parliament or currently exists. Each committees will then meet up at the Pre-Youth Parliament session, which is two days before the official session to scrutinise and vote for the resolutions that will be brought up at the Youth Parliament session.

The official session takes another two days whereby all 133 APBMs will discuss and debate on the resolutions proposed by the committees. To me, the system of the debate is good as there are no Government nor Opposition. The APBMs will not debate for the sake of debating; but they debate on the relevance and practicality of the proposed resolution instead.

As the Youth Parliament session ends, all the resolutions that has been agreed by the majority of the APBMs will be compiled by the Ministry of Youth and Sports. It will then be brought up to the Malaysian Cabinet Ministers for consideration to implement the ideas of the youth.

Although it is not a platform to make direct decisions for the Government, it encourages youth to think maturely and conduct fact-checking of the information that they receives daily. This should be strengthened and promoted by the APBMs through their engagement programs with their peers.

Despite the loads of information that the youth can source from the internet, a lot of them are unverified news and false claims. The youth may be more matured in the context of quantity of information, but they need to develop themselves to be matured in scrutinizing information.

The Youth Parliament is not platform to discuss on youth issues, but to discuss on national issues from the viewpoint of youth.

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 16th January 2015.

A New Year Resolution: Unity

Year 2014 has finally come to an end. The year has ended with a streams of bad and negative events. As some Chinese may have believed that people, organizations or even country that has to do with the word horse will face bad luck in the year of the horse. Unfortunately, maybe those who have believed in that are indeed accurate with that forecast.

Our country experienced a number of bad happenings in the year of the horse.

Two major aircraft mishaps, the flight MH370 that has never been found since March and the flight MH17 that has been shot down in July due to the Ukraine-Russia dispute. Both flights totaled up a number of about 500 lives.

Several terrorism kidnapping cases were in the news and some Malaysians were recruited to extremists organizations in the Middle East. A Chinese tourist and a resort worker were kidnapped by the terrorists linked to Abu-Sayyaf in early April. A few weeks later, a Chinese fish farm manager was kidnapped by the militants. While in the Middle East, we have seen reports of a number of Malaysians joining in terrorist and jihadist activities with Islamist militant group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

Then we have seen some religious issues being politicized and risking religious tensions. The word ‘Allah’ was banned in the Herald, a Malaysian Catholic Weekly. We have also heard the call by Ibrahim Ali, with his extremist remarks, to burn the bibles.

And we also witness some serious social issues. The infamous Siti Fairrah Ashykin Kamaruddin or maybe we will know her better as Kiki, who was filmed abusing an elderly man by hammering his vehicle with a steering lock. Malaysians also have our own infamous couple, Alvin and Vivian filming themselves having sex which sparked a huge controversy throughout the nation.

At the end of the year, the nation faces one of the worst disasters in history. After the mud flood in Bertam Valley and Ringlet at Cameron Highlands and followed by floods in several states in Malaysia which caused more than 100,000 people being evacuated to flood relief centres.

Throughout all these events, many Malaysians have shared news, views and information regardless of whether it is accurate or not. These are some of the main news that will be remembered by Malaysians, maybe particularly during the election campaign period when it will be politicized. Unfortunately, but true, we Malaysians tend to keep on sharing such negative news. Worst is, some not only share negative news, they share inaccurate news that causes misunderstandings and confusions.

How many of us remember the positive things that has happened to the country? Or how many have actually shared such news often? Not much.

News such as Mohd Nasrudin Mohd Yusof being the first Malaysian to win the prestigious Nobel Peace Prize last August will most likely be forgotten.

How many of the Malaysians actually feel proud of Malaysian winning the UN Security Council seat? Or when the US President visited Malaysia since the last time in 1966?

How many have shared and promote the moderation campaign that has been initiated by several groups and organizations? That is what Malaysians should have been encouraging their peers to talk about rather than keep on spreading negative information. But we have been spreading more negative energy rather than the positive ones.

But coming to my main point of this article is more about setting resolutions. Every beginning of the year, we hear a lot of personal resolutions being set; be it getting fit, building families or climbing up the career ladder.

As many resolutions that we could have set, I would suggest to my fellow countrymen that we add another resolution to our list, a “civic resolution” or maybe “unity resolution”. A Malaysian myself, I would love to see real unity, moderation and harmony enlivens rather than all just in talks and discussions.

We need to keep a resolution for ourselves that we can share to be part of the group that promotes civic responsibility towards unity, moderation and harmony.

Some of the resolutions may be:

– We share only information that has been verified officially.
– We listen to both sides of the story before making any judgment.
– We reduce criticizing, we find solutions.
– We will make time to join friends of another ethnic during their celebrations.

There are many ideas of resolutions that can be thought of, but the most important thing is that we must move mountains and hills to make the real unity, harmony and moderate community to happen!

Let us not wait for others or any so-called leaders to organize any campaign. We take the responsibility and be the leader to create a better society. We Move!

Finally, I would like to wish all a Happy New Year and may we achieve our Unity Resolution in the years ahead!

This article has been published in Mandarin in Kwong Wah Yit Poh dated 2nd January 2015.