More Sikh trainers for Malaysia’s National Service

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian authorities have said they would involve more Sikh trainers for the National Service (NS) programme after a Sikh youth complained that his hair had been cut while he was asleep.

The Sikh community leaders have joined in with a caution against the issue being politicised, The Star newspaper reported.

Basant Singh, 17, complained that his long hair, kept as a Sikh religious tenet, had been chopped while he was asleep at a camp. The family reacted in anger, saying its sentiments had been hurt.

The National Service is a compulsory auxiliary service for the youth.

Malaysia is home to an estimated 100,000 Sikhs.

NS Training Department director-general Abdul Hadi Awang Kechil said the Malaysian Sikh Union would be visiting NS camps that have Sikh trainees to get feedback from them about any problems they may have.

“In NS training, there is a module on integration which educates trainees on the different practices and cultures of various races.

“Sikh culture is also taught in the module but Sikh trainers can offer a better understanding to the trainees,” he said, adding that other races were also welcome to conduct visits and enlist as trainers.

Abdul Hadi met representatives from the Union of Perak Sikh Organisations, Malaysian Sikh Union and Sikh Welfare Society Malaysia to discuss the case of Basant Singh.

He said the teenager could either go back to the camp in Penang state to continue his training, change camp or defer his training to another intake.

He, however, cannot be exempted from NS, he said.

“We hope that no party will play up this incident and manipulate it as it is a serious issue,” Abdul Hadi said.

Union of Perak Sikh Organisations media liaison officer Jaspal Singh urged the Sikh community to be patient and wait for the results of the police investigation into Basant’s case.

“This case (Basant’s case) is the first of its kind that we have come to know of.

“We understand that there is no guarantee that it won’t happen again but at least we have taken steps and discussed with the department to prevent similar situations,” Jaspal added.

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