The NS50 nationwide campaign has revived painful memories to many Malays of my generation.
How do we take part in this campaign to show our appreciation of National Servicemen when many of us were not called up; and of the small minority that were selectively called up, many also faced all kinds of invisible barriers during their service!
Some were shunted to the cook house, others diverted to the transport section and became drivers, while a handful were deployed as physical instructors, as meritocracy and equality were thrown overboard..
The first ten years were the worst as tens of thousands were left in limbo, in the twilight zone, unwanted by NS and because of that, they were not able to get jobs, leading to widespread unemployment within the Malay-Muslim community.
I know so many of these people had to go to Mindef and begged to be taken into NS or to get a letter of exemption; most of their requests were ignored as callousness towards the community was then the order of the day.
Those were the cruel days for the community until the top leaders see the light and gradually adjusted policies to make life easier for the community.
But the discrimination against the community in NS and in the uniformed services, both subtle and otherwise, continues till today.
To dismiss all this pain as just a perception, as a Malay Minister did recently in Parliament, is perhaps the unkindest cut of all.
It is tantamount to rubbing chilly on wounds – despite the passage of 50 years – that have not yet completely healed.
The current appreciation campaign, however, gives the government a golden opportunity to make amends.
Surely it is not beyond the ability of the present star-studded scholar-leaders to think of some way to assuage the hurt of the past.
Source: Ismail Kassim