Malaysia’s national service pilot programme to take off

Syed Ibrahim, a member of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Security, said the pilot programme will only involve basic training, mostly on elements of nationalism involving Form Four students.


March 13, 2024

KUALA LUMPUR – A pilot of the National Service Training Programme (PLKN) 3.0 will begin this year involving Form Four students, says Ledang MP Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh.

Syed Ibrahim, a member of the Parliamentary Special Select Committee on Security, said the pilot programme will only involve basic training, mostly on elements of nationalism.

“The pilot programme will happen this year, involving Form Four students, but it will not be as rigorous as you might think. No military training yet.

“It will not be like going to camp – not yet, because we don’t have all the facilities ready since our (military and police) camps need to be refurbished first.

“This pilot programme will focus more on the spirit of nationalism,” he said recently.

The pilot programme, said Syed Ibrahim, will provide a picture of what the actual PLKN 3.0 next year will look like, minus the military training.

According to him, the full PLKN 3.0 training will only begin next year, as the Defence Ministry (Mindef) is still in the midst of finalising details, such as the module that will be used.

At the moment, he said Mindef is looking to gather 10,000 students per session next year at refurbished camps nationwide.

“There will be three sessions of PLKN and 10,000 students per session, which means in total there will be 30,000 participants a year.”

However, due to a lack of facilities, Mindef will likely start with a small group of 2,000 to 5,000 students.

The refurbishment of the facilities will likely take place next year, but more federal funding is necessary, he added.

“Each year, we have about 400,000 Form 4 students, but our camps can only take around 20,000 people at a time, so how can we accommodate all of them?” he said.

Syed Ibrahim said the select committee has not yet received information regarding the timeline of each session of PLKN 3.0.

“There will probably be one session during the first quarter of the year, and the second session in the second quarter, and so on. We don’t have the specific dates yet for all three sessions,” he said.

He said the committee is expecting a full proposal from Mindef this year before the pilot programme kicks off, adding that the ministry will table it with the Cabinet first.

He added that the Select Committee can summon relevant stakeholders and address their concerns.

Based on recent reports, concerns raised by parents and stakeholders include possible bullying, sexual harassment and racially motivated fights.

Syed Ibrahim said the Special Select Committee on Security aims to establish an effective mechanism to monitor such incidents, ensuring that such cases do not recur.

In 2009, a female trainee at the Chini training camp was allegedly molested by more than 20 male trainees at night, and four days later, a fight believed to be racially motivated took place at the camp’s canteen between two groups of students.

In 2004, a trainee was raped at the Merang camp in Setiu, Terengganu. In 2013, it was reported that a total of 23 deaths were recorded at camps nationwide since the National Service training programme started in December 2003.

“There must be a mechanism to monitor this because we need to resolve it before it even starts,” said Syed Ibrahim.

“Of course, bullying can happen anywhere, even in schools, but we must take steps to prevent it and resolve it if it does happen.

“We have requested Mindef to get all ministries involved, including the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, because officers of the Social Welfare Department must be involved,” he added.

According to Syed Ibrahim, one of the primary goals of PLKN 3.0 is to foster unity among participants of various races and religions.

He said it has been suggested that all races be equally represented in each camp, both for trainees and trainers.

“But the problem is, how many non-Malay soldiers do we have in the country? We can’t hire foreign trainers because this involves the country’s security.

“As for the trainees, Mindef is of the view that it should be done according to current demographics, which is 60% Malay, 30% Chinese, and 5% Indian, which to me is reasonable.

“But the Architects of Diversity (an NGO) believes that the representation must be equal so that we will really see integration between the students. Of course, this is open to argument, and nothing has been decided yet,” he added.

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