Govt spent RM8.4b on PLKN

By P PREM KUMAR & DASHVEENJIT KAUR / Pic by BERNAMA

The government has spent RM8.43 billion for the National Service Training Programme (PLKN) which was initiated in 2004 to forge unity among the country’s youths.

Defence Minister Mohamad Sabu said 43% of the expenses were used for the rental of training camps across the country.

“During the 14 years since it was implemented, a total of 885,956 youths underwent the training. Of the total, 356,411 former trainees had joined the National Service Volunteer Brigade which was established to allow them to continue to serve society,” he told the Dewan Rakyat yesterday.

Mohamad was responding to a question from Bukit Bendera MP Wong Hon Wai who asked the government to state the total amount of money spent on PLKN and its outcome.

The minister said a special committee had been set up under the ministry to re-evaluate the effectiveness and the implications of pulling the shutter on the PLKN programme, as pledged by Pakatan Harapan in its election manifesto.

The results of the study will be deliberated before a decision is taken, Mohamad said.

Pakatan Harapan had promised to abolish PLKN as part of its 14th General Election manifesto.

Mohamad said independent studies conducted by various parties, including Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia in 2010 and Universiti Sains Malaysia in 2014, found that the programme resulted in a positive increase in patriotism and national integration of the participants.

“We will consider the views of people with vested interests such as parents, former trainers and the relevant bodies. The ministry is conducting a review to assess the effectiveness of the programme and the implications of abolishing it before a final decision is made,” he said.

However, Mohamad said if the programme continues, several aspects will need to be improved including the maintenance and co-curricular activities.

“For instance, if it continues, some aspects of the expenses will be reduced. Rental of the camps, buses, why are they so high? Where do the youths go after the programme? Has it achieve its objectives?

“I am confident that if it is properly managed with a strong co-curriculum, it will be beneficial,” Mohamad said.

PLKN was initiated by Datuk Seri Mohd Najib Razak, who was then the defence minister.

In April 2016, former Defence Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein launched a new and improved PLKN, with a focus on equip- ping trainees with job skills.

The programme was suspended for a year before the relaunch of PLKN 2.0.