by Parliamentary Opposition Leader, DAP Secretary-General and MP for Tanjong, Lim Kit Siang, in Penang on Saturday, November 4, 1995:
Defence Ministry should either introduce a compulsory national service or it should drop its idea of selective national service and the government should set a target date to end the three-year requirement compelling doctors to do national service
Defence Minister, Datuk Syed Hamid Albar said yesterday that the Defence Ministry will propose to the Government to introduce selective national service to enable the armed forced to recruit civilians for its crucial services to be roped in for a certain period of time.
He said this method would alleviate the manpower shortage faced in several strategic areas in the armed forces, like medical, engineering and electronic services.
The Defence Ministry should either introduce a compulsory national service for all Malaysians or it should drop its idea of selective national service.
The Defence Minister is contradicting himself when he said that the selective national service proposal would “inculcate values like patriotism and discipline among Malaysians”.
This is in fact an argument for compulsory national service for all Malaysians, and not for selective national service for certain crucial sectors, which is most unfair and highly discriminatory.
If the objective is to “inculcate values like patriotism and discipline” among Malaysians, then all Malaysians regardless of sector, status or race should be involved. Otherwise, “patriotism and discipline” are just lame excuses to justify discriminatory regulations against certain groups in Malaysia.
The only argument Hamid has given is that currently it is mandatory for doctors to serve the national for three years upon their graduation from the medical schools.
This is a poor example. When the compulsory national service for doctors was first mooted in the 70s, Parliament was assured that this was meant to be a temporary measure to overcome the acute shortage of doctors in the public service.
Parliament and the nation were told that once the local universities could produce enough doctors, this compulsory service for the doctors would be terminated.
Now, there is not only no sign of termination of compulsory national service for doctors, but a proposal to use its principle to introduce selective national service for a few other sectors to serve the armed forces.
This is most unacceptable. The failure of the government to honour its promise to end the three-year compulsory service for doctors is one example of government failure of higher education planning in the past two decades – a continued mismatch between educational supply and manpower needs for a developing Malaysia.
The government should in fact be setting a target to end the compulsory national service for doctors, especially as the corporation of local universities will be implemented.
Previously, the government said that it had been responsible for the bulk of the costs of medical education, but this reason cannot be used when costs of medical education are shifted from the government to the students with the corporatisation of the local universities.
The Cabinet should either introduce compulsory national service for all to inculcate the values of “patriotism and discipline” for the young generation of Malaysians, or it should reject the Defence Ministry proposal for selective national service. In fact, it should go further and set a date to repeal the regulation requiring doctors to perform three-year national service upon graduation.
To overcome the shortage of doctors in the government hospitals, a completely new scheme of salaries and working conditions should be worked out so as to give better incentives to induce doctors to remain in the public service instead of leaving for private sector immediately at the end of the three-year compulsory national service.