PKR Youth leaders have urged the government to conduct open investigations into the death of Norhashimah Wahid, a civil servant who died on Monday following what her family claims was excessive physical training.
Norhashimah, 31, a diplomatic administrative officer with the finance ministry, was admitted to Banting Hospital last Friday after experiencing problems breathing during a team-building and commando-style training weekend near Banting’s Jugra Training Camp.
She was three months into the physical component of the Public Management Diploma (DPA), mandatory for new diplomatic administrative officers, when she fell ill.
She was then transferred to Tengku Ampuan Rahimah Hospital in Klang after her conditioned worsened.
Norhashimah succumbed to severe pneumonia, septic shock and multiple-organ failure at 6.40am Monday after drifting in and out of consciousness for three days.
“We strongly urge the federal government, particularly PSD (Public Service Department), to carry out a thorough, open investigation into the affair to determine whether it was due to negligence of the trainers,” said a joint statement by Nurul Izzah Anwar, Amiruddin Shari, Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad and Sim Tze Tzin.
“One cannot help but question the utility of such physically demanding, military-based courses for our civil servants,” it added, calling Norhashimah’s death “disturbing and regrettable”.
“While acknowledging the need for PTD (diplomatic administrative) officers to be physically and mentally fit, there must surely be safer, more appropriate ways to build esprit de corps and team work amongst them.”
The statement went on to question the identity and professional qualifications of the trainers currently training 416 other PTD officers.
“We were informed that this module was previously conducted by the Outward Bound School (OBS) but is now conducted by a consultant at... [Selangor Enforcement Training Centre (Pulapes)],” it said.
“If it was truly conducted by a consultant, does the consultant have a professional training background?”
Nik Nazmi said he had been made to understand that this was the first DPA course held after OBS’s contract was terminated due to budget cuts.
“The people should be told who is conducting the training because it seems to be of a lower standard than what was enjoyed previously,” Nurul Izzah added.
She also urged the Finance Ministry to issue a statement on Norhashimah’s death, not only because she worked for them, but because it was their decision to cut the DPA budget in the first place.
“We want a... response from the ministry, meaning the (Finance) minister himself,” the Lembah Pantai MP said.
“This was your officer. Without your officers you are nothing... They are the ones who do your homework and prepare your answers in parliament.”
The PKR Youth leaders wanted to know why Norhashimah was forced to undergo physical training even after showing signs of illness, and alleged that trainees were threatened with the prospect of repeating the whole seven-month course should they fail a module.
“For many families with young children... of course that’s something they do not want go through,” Nik Nazmi said.
The four leaders also said that doctors who treated Norhashimah claimed she was sent to hospital “too late”, adding that her medical records were not sent to hospital and that there was no doctor on-site in Jugra.
They demanded that the authorities suspend all on-going programmes until Norhashimah’s death has been fully investigated.
“This incident, as well as similar fatalities in our National Service Training Programme, raises serious questions about our government’s commitment to the welfare of the people under its care,” the statement read.
Selangor state assemblyman Amiruddin Shari added that questions should be raised in parliament as to the number of deaths, if any, in the DPA programme prior to this and their causes.
Nurul Izzah said that citizens who choose to serve the country surely deserved better treatment.
She added that other PTD officers who had undergone training with Norhashimah had complained about having to drink stocking-soaked water and being yelled at when ill.
“We want the best for them (PTD officers)... You surely do not to treat them in such a terrible manner. It’s not healthy for the country,” she said.
Norhashimah leaves behind husband Ahmad Zulhairi Zainal Abidin, 31, and two-year-old daughter, Nor Hylda Daenia.
The Royal Malaysian Air Force has denied any involvement in her training.
In a press statement, the defence ministry clarified that all programme modules were organised by the National Institute of Public Administration (Intan) and conducted by Pulapes.
The statement stressed that the training she underwent was not done under the RMAF or any unit under the RMAF banner.
Her family has vowed to lodge a police report over her death soon.
Why is it we are so keen on military training as a form of team or nation building? Time and again, there has been casualties from ordinary civilians in such programs as well as the National Service. Its as if we have no ideas at all and physical punishment is the cure to all social ills. This whole program seems like an opportunity for someone to make some money by offering some basic military training programs. Outward Bound has been the model all along. Why are we insisting we know better?
Can you now imagine what would be happening to our female National Service trainees? That's just at the tip of the ice-berg. There are more horror untold hidden stories
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