My daughter, Jamie Jasmine (JJ) will be eight years old on this coming July 13th. In about 9 years from now she will be 17. And 9 years won't be a very long time. No—these days time flies. When that time comes, I can see myself biting my finger nails on a daily basis; I would be praying really hard for the computers to miss her name for the Malaysian Summer Camps, otherwise officially known as the Malaysian National Service Training Programme.
Quite frankly, I think the idea of the National Service Training is a very good one. These kids get to spend about three months mingling with each other and get to learn a thing or two about being away from the comforts of their homes. Within that three months, they get to learn a bit about hand combats, flying fox, kayaking, camping etc.; they get to learn something about nation and character buildings; and they also get to do a bit of community services, perhaps to instill the sense of serving the society.
However, since the summer camps were started at the end of 2003, we have had too many fatalities. We have had cases of drowning; apparently healthy-looking kids suddenly falling ill and die; accidents etc. They have also been reported fightings. Numerous cases of food poisoning and illnesses including outbreak of unknown fever. Not to mention female trainees getting raped.
JJ is my only child, and as much as I like the idea of the summer camps, it is very difficult for me to put my only child into a programme with so many bad things just waiting to happen. For if indeed she ends up dead or injured while she's in the camp, I doubt that I could ever forgive myself. I'm not being paranoid—these bad things have actually happened before, and knowing very well the way we do things in this country, I'm sure it will continue to happen.
But the thing about this kind of summer camps is that parents are not even given a choice. Once the children's names are selected—randomly—by the computers, they must attend the training, failing which they will be liable to a jail term. That's why I can imagine myself praying really hard for my JJ to escape detection by the computers.
Nevertheless, prayers are not always answered. Sometimes, no matter how hard one prays, one still won't get what one wants. So I guess I will just have to be prepared for the worst! If JJ's name appears in the list of selected trainees, there is still one last hope, though I doubt that it will be of much help for my JJ. She will be screened for other possible grounds for exemption, such as if she has a contagious disease or undergoing drug rehabilitation etc.
And just a couple of days ago, a not-so-smart police officer has suggested that female trainees should also undergo pregnancy tests. Just the mere possibility of that becoming a reality, however remotely so, is enough me make me lose sleep...