IT’S AMAZING how in the midst of tragedy, some people can find a golden nugget. Three days after yet another National Service (NS) trainee died while in the custody of NS officials, enterprising individuals have realised that a very profitable business opportunity has revealed itself.
With the announcement of the deputy prime minister on Saturday that the government will outsource health check-ups for the 90,000-odd teenagers that are called up for NS training annually, it is a foregone conclusion that the rent-seekers will be queuing outside the offices of the NS Training Department and the Defence Ministry hoping to pitch for the contract that promises millions in returns.
While the family of 18-year-old Too Hui Min comes to terms with the death of their daughter of something as treatable as constipation, the well-connected, enterprising and shrewd are falling over each other to ensure that they clinch the deal.
They are hoping to strike it rich at the expense of Hui Min and the 15 other children who died during training for various ailments and accidents since the NS scheme was introduced four years ago.
For those not very business savvy, you don’t have to scratch your heads to figure out how to compose a proposal.
Just photo-copy or re-work the previous health check schemes that have emerged in recent times – Fomema for foreign workers and the shelved E-Kesihatan for commercial vehicle drivers and attendants. Make sure you appoint a Yang Berhormat or former NS Training Council member or retired ministry official as your chairman or director, as this will facilitate access to the top brass who will ultimately decide if you get the job. Cook up a catchy name like NSihat or F-Kesihatan and impose a fee of RM50 on the parents who will be compelled to take their kids to a panel clinic certified by you. Any clinic which would want to be a panel of NSihat will have to pay RM100 as “joining fee”. Charge another RM80 for “administrative fees”. To refill the coffers make sure you also impose an annual “membership” fee of RM100 on these panel clinics.
And don’t forget, of the RM50 that hapless parents pay for their children’s check-ups, you get RM20. Multiply this by 30,000 trainees, and you make a cool RM600,000 per batch of NS trainees. And there are three batches a year which brings the total to about 90,000 medical check-ups. Sembilan puluh ribu darab RM20? You do the math!
Instead of tweaking the requirement for medical check ups so that thorough examinations are done before admission into the camp, currently the onus is on parents to fill out a checklist ala an insurance policy application, and obtain a doctor’s signature at the bottom of the form. This signature, as I have discovered from some parents, is not compulsory. The lucky ones are later discovered to be unfit for the rigorous activities and sent home. The not-so-lucky ones return in a coffin.
What happened to the promise of a medical officer in every camp? Why are camp commandants so complacent about the medical needs of the trainees, so much so that 15 of the 16 deaths are due to delayed medical treatment?
It seems that “outsourcing” seems to be the miracle solution for every flaw in the administration. By introducing privatisation from buying jets to supplying nasi lemak, the decision-makers think they are killing two birds with one stone – addressing weaknesses and sharing the economic pie in the spirit of the New Economic Policy (NEP). From less-than-satisfactory living conditions, low quality food, poorly trained and abusive camp trainers and as we have sadly experienced, poor healthcare, the complaints are legion. It is about time that the whole programme is reviewed or scrapped.
To say that the programme is compulsory as it helps to forge unity among the various races is laughable and an insult to one’s intelligence. What can you achieve in three months, where 12 years of national schooling have failed?
Compelling parents to release their children into the care of the NS Training Department for three months when the department itself cannot guarantee their well-being, is akin to using the law to take hostage of our children.
Instead of suspending the NS training scheme until all flaws are ironed out, the government wants to push ahead with an ill-conceived, poorly thought out and profit-oriented policy where the pawns and ultimate victims are our children. For whose benefit is it for really? One begs an answer.