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Malaysia to bring back national service – but just for 45 days

KUALA LUMPUR: The National Service Training Programme (PLKN) will be revived, but with a different training approach, including requiring youths to undergo training at army camps, said Malaysia’s Defence Minister Mohamad Hasan.

There are 13 Territorial Army (Wataniah) camps that can accommodate up to 20,000 trainees for the PLKN training programme lasting 45 days, he added. The programme was abolished in 2018 after it was found, along with the National Civics Bureau, to have been misused for the purpose of the indoctrination of certain beliefs.

“In 2021, the Cabinet has given the approval to continue PLKN as it is highly beneficial in providing our youth with basic knowledge on nation-building.

“A special committee has been established by the Ministry of Defence to study how we can revive PLKN, but with a fresh template, not using the old approach where it was more like a summer camp.

“But this time, we want to implement PLKN without spending a lot, but will greatly benefit participants,” he said during a question-and-answer session in parliament on Monday (Oct 9).

Mr Mohamad answered a question from MP Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh (PH-Ledang), who wanted to know whether the government was considering reviving PLKN as an initiative under the ministry.

According to Mr Mohamad, PLKN 3.0 will be implemented in two phases, with Phase 1 conducted at the school level involving Form Four students, with a focus on enhancing existing uniformed body programmes.

“After completing Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM), they progress to Phase 2. In this phase, they will be welcomed by other agencies.

“In the past, they just participate and enjoy themselves, but after that, there was no continuity. Their introduction to the programme was not acknowledged, and they were left in confusion and lacked proper guidance,” he added.

Mr Mohamad said Phase 2 of PLKN training will only take 45 days with its 90 modules being military-focused to build the participants into resilient, energetic, and healthy youths, while 10 per cent will b e based on nation-building initiatives.

PLKN 3.0 aims to prepare trained youths with strong character and a deep love for their country, which will equip them for future employment in crucial government agencies such as the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM), the Malaysian Fire and Rescue Department, and the Civil Defence Force.

By organising PLKN 3.0 in military camps and police training centres, and employing military personnel as instructors within these facilities, the government could cut annual spending from RM500 million (US$105.7 million) to RM100 million.

Instead of adopting templates from Singapore and Korea, which are tailored to focus on manpower deployment, PLKN 3.0 will be using a customised version, Mr Hasan said, adding that the paperwork was currently being prepared at the ministry level and will be submitted to the National Security Council (MKN) for approval before the programme recommences.

PLKN was introduced in December 2003 as a three-month long training period comprising physical, patriotism, character building, and community service modules. About 85,000 to 95,000 randomly selected participants joined, with an annual cost of about RM600 million.

It ceased in 2015 before resuming in 2016 as PLKN 2.0, with around 20,000 trainees per year and was scrapped in August 2018.

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