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Saturday, June 26, 2004


PLKN Shirkers/Dodgers:Najib's Dilemma

::The PLKN, through the retrospectroscope, is obviously poorly thought out and almost all, excepting for a few, thinks so. The woes, problems and disasters faced by the trainees have been documented and the Cabinet Committee, the polis, the courts and some of those PLKN trained are still unravelling them, even today.

The list of names of the pioneer PLKN trainees came out on 9th Dec 2003. Some 87,000 out of our some 450,000 youths aged 17-18 years were selected. During that period when all these youths were busy checking whether they were on the PLKN list, the first controversy regarding who had made the killing on the SMS surfaced. The first batch of trainees started their training on 16th Feb 2004. Transporting the trainees threw up some problems. The rest of the woes, disasters and even 2 deaths faced by the pioneer trainees are now history.

Some 8,559 or 10% of the selected trainees, for reasons best known to themselves, did not report for training. When the first three batches passed out, the Cabinet Committee on PLKN finally decided that it was time to deal with these shirkers. It appeared unprepared and was unsure what to do. Firstly, PLKN Training Council Chairman Prof Datuk Dr Ahmad Fawzi Mohd Basri said that the shirkers would be charged in court and dealt with accordingly. Then Pak Lah came out with the decision to give these shirkers a second chance. Now 'D-Day' approaches and all is still not sorted out. Initially, the shirkers were given until 24th June to report. So far only 1,929 of the 8,559 shirkers or 22% have responded despite the gomen making numerous public announcements and according to Najib, going the extra mile to trace them. So when the deadline was up, it looks like the 'carrot and the cane approach' is being introduced. The deadline appears to have been extended to the 25th of July [the day the special PLKN session starts] and you can literally feel the threat, Najib, is throwing at the shirkers when he said :: "summonses would be issued once the special training session commenced on July 25, adding that failure to appear in court would lead to warrants of arrest." In an earlier report the Star said that Najib wants the books thrown at these 6000 plus odd shirkers and that he had recommended the maximum fine or imprisonment or both when the shirkers are brought to account. But the present report has been toned down and it reads ::
“The onus is on them (PLKN dodgers) to argue their case in court and it is up to the court to sentence them. If the court feels that one has a reasonable excuse, then I am sure a more lenient penalty will be handed down,” he said.
Asked if the Government would recommend the maximum penalty, Najib replied: “If you are truly recalcitrant. The court will decide. The law is very clear.”

Legally, a PLKN shirker can only be considered to have committed an offence if s/he has not registered on the first day of the special PLKN session, which is 25th July. After that, summonses would be issued for these recalcitrant shirkers and the polis would be going after them. Najib does not rule out the possiblity of the polis going house-to-house to bring these reclacitrants in. Najib further warns that even after court actions, the shirkers would still have to undergo PLKN training, so be warned.

What puzzles me is why the Cabinet Committee on PLKN has been so lenient so far in its also lackadasical manner of dealing with the shirkers. It should have pounced on those in the first batch who did not turn up and dealt with them effectively. This would have sent a message to the subsequent two batches that the gomen meant business and that they, the shirkers, should not play-play with the gomen. With the early inaction on the part of the authorities, many of the shirkers would have adopted a wait-and-see stance, waiting and wanting to see if the gomen would really act against them and in what manner. They are probably thinking that a second chance may lead to a third.

Acting early would have also given the gomen a chance to find out why there were so many shirkers and the reasons why. But i guess the gomen was not really interested and felt that threats of the RM3,000 fine and imprisonment were good enough. Some of these shirkers may have good, though not valid, reasons for not reporting for training. i feel that a good number of them may not be those who have just left school recently. They would probably have left school earlier (for various reasons) and may actually be by now working, running businesses of their own, and married and even be parents already. Stopping what they are presently doing and reporting for three months of PLKN training may prove disastrous for them. Is the gomen interested in looking into thier problems? Is the gomen concerned regarding the hardship they may face if they report for training? Punishing them for dodging PLKN training would only cause double jeopardy. Or is the gomen only interested in saying :: "Disobey me and you will suffer".

Going after more than 6, 000 of these shirkers will prove not to be an easy task. Even if our good polis force, which presently are shorthanded and already have their hands full with grizzly murders and snatch thieves and what not, can round them all up, the courts would have a field day dealing with all of them. If past experiences with Ops Warta (which is in its third edition) are anything to go by, the polis will deal with these shirkers in a 'engat engat tahi ayam' manner and once the heat is off, things will settle down and then be eventually forgotten. In view of this scenario, the Cabinet Committee might want to reconsider and listen to what advice opposition leader Lim has to say.

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