Sin Chew Daily
The government plans to introduce a new academy to replace the National Service Training Program (PLKN) and National Civics Bureau (BTN) abolished by the previous Pakatan Harapan government, by merging the two entities to be more effective in instilling the spirit of unity and patriotism among young Malaysians.
The plan has yet to be adopted by the cabinet prior to its tabling in the Parliament.
The NS program was dissolved by the PH administration as it was not economically pliable while BTN was seen as having deviated from its initial objectives.
Then youth and sports minister Syed Saddiq said the government was mulling a new program to take the place of the two in order to mold a young generation of Malaysians holding noble value system while ensuring that the new program would be cost-effective and meet the goals of its establishment.
National service was introduced by the previous BN government in 2004, and was subsequently restructured in 2016 with enhanced training modules with the objective of inculcating patriotism and dedication. Trainees were given the opportunity to learn various skills at public and private institutions.
Malaysians in general viewed the program in a positive light despite some deficiencies. However, those who took part or were trained in the program agreed that the training program had helped boost their patriotism and deepened their understanding of the customs and cultures of different races in the country.
BTN, meanwhile, was set up way back in 1981 with the similar objective of promoting patriotism among young Malaysians and nurturing good value system and stronger national identity.
It was implemented during Mahathir's first tenure as prime minister, but was later abolished during his second tenure.
While BTN was established with the initial objectives of enhancing national identity and constructing a more united Bangsa Malaysia, unfortunately after some time its content was said to have encouraged racial prejudices as it veered away from the initial objectives and thus came under heavy censure from the opposition.
After PH came to power, some felt it was within expectation that BTN would be dissolved as it had never been acceptable to PH in the first place. Nevertheless, some were of the opinion that PH should have offered more solid reasons and evidences to prove that its content had indeed departed from its objectives such that it could no longer be implemented effectively, before removing it.
And now the fact that the Perikatan Nasional government plans to merge the two shows that such training programs are indeed still needed in our society in a bid to boost patriotism and national identity among Malaysians while promoting greater unity among the people.
In view of this, it is utterly necessary for the PN government to draw up a more detailed proposal which must be made available tor public scrutiny. Once it is tabled in the Parliament, it is hoped that lawmakers on both sides of the political divide will offer their views in a more professional and rational fashion in order to perfect it.
Additionally, PLKN and BTN were once perceived as a tool by to instill the government's political thinking in the trainees.
Khairy Jamaluddin, youth and sports minister during BN's time, once admitted that indeed there was some political connotation in the two training programs although much of the training modules was about national spirit.
Having said that, political intervention and political elements in the training programs must be viewed with seriousness, and the proposed new academy must be free from any hint of political intervention in order to more effectively manifest its raison d'être in enhancing patriotism and creating sound civic values among young Malaysians.