Wednesday, November 25, 2009

BTN, my experience

Despite being a Maxis scholar, the scholarship value is most likely NOT enough for my full 3-year PhD course. So, I decided to join UKM, who is willingly to pay whatever difference that I need to complete my PhD. For that I'm indebted to UKM, especially to UKM's VC, Prof Sharifah Hapsah and Head of IMEN, Prof Burhan. Both of them are fantastic individuals.

Contrary to what many people may think, my brief stay in UKM before coming to Cambridge University was actually enlightening. The staff at UKM is incredibly friendly and efficient at their work, much better than my experience as a undergraduate student in UM.

Because I joined UKM, I was required to attend BTN, which has a fairshare of media limelight in recent days. As I was leaving for UK very soon, I have the choice to attend BTN at a later date, butI chose not to do so. I decided to attend this BTN camp in Seremban before I depart for UK because I wanted to see for myself, what is really going on. Before attending BTN, Prof Burhan told me, "just take it like any other course, for the most part it's like national service." I know he was trying to comfort my nerves prior to the camp. Like I said, he's a fantastic individual.

On the first day of the camp, we were told not have any recording devices and were repeatedly told that the content of the camp is under the protection of Official Security Act (OSA). This means that by revealing the content of what is taught in the camp, I am liable to being persecuted by the government. Why is the content protected under OSA when this camp's objectives are to foster nationalism, to foster unity among Malaysians and to teach Malaysian values? OSA is used to protect sensitive contents that could leak out to the public and cause a security threat to the society. How is it possible that leaking information about how to unite Malaysians and how to foster nationalism could be a threat to the security of Malaysia?

The 'trainers' at the BTN had an answer for this. According to him, it was because some elements of the contents of this camp may be manipulated by the opposition to cause stir and affect public confidence.

"Love your country!" I don't see how this sentence could be manipulated to cause stir in anyway possible. Unless, loving your country is not the only thing they teach in the camp.

It's true. By now, most of you would already guess that loving your country is not the only thing they teach in the camp. Though the first few days of the camp was indeed about patriotism and loving your country. During that time, it was very interesting and entertaining. The invited speakers gave talks that are really motivational and for a moment I thought that all the rumours about BTN being a brainwashing camp was just plain rubbish. But I spoke too soon.

Towards the second half of the camp, we entered LDK (Latihan Dalam Kumpulan). The content is a 180 degrees reversal from the earlier part of the camp. The term "social contract" was repeated not less than 1000 times to emphasize that Malays had made a great sacrifice by offering us citizenship during our independence. We were told that opposition and street protest were evil. We were often hinted that the Chinese are 'stronger' and that Malays are 'weaker' therefore Malays need to unite.

I was fortunate to be in group which is more moderate. It'd seem that the organisers knew people like me and my age group that are probably more difficult to be brainwashed were assigned to the same group. So our group only had 'mild' discussions, touching on 'sensitive' issues occasionally but most of the time we were just casually chatting. This was not the case when other groups share their stories with us. According to them, there was a clear brainwash attempt at them to stop supporting the opposition and be wary of the non-Malays.

The good thing is: many other participants that I met in the BTN are actually quite understanding and liberal. They did not agree with all the biased content that was thrown at them. We even joked about how the trainers tried to brainwash them, but they just brushed it aside and say it's plain silly. In them, I can see hope for Malaysia.

The bad thing is: there are people who, for the sake of not failing the camp (because if they do, they will not get the funding from the government to further their study) have resorted to become a complete suck-up to the BN government during discussions, prasing every single thing about the government even when it didn't make sense. For example, there was a discussion about choosing a company to provide consultation. There were 3 choices: 1. Pro government, but incompetent; 2. Pro opposition, competent; 3. International company, very competent. Who would you choose to provide the consultation?

The suck-up defended the 'incompetent' choice from start till end, citing reasons like, "we can train them to be competent (completely ignoring the assumption of the question)" and "government agencies have sensitive documents that cannot be shared with opposition". But they forgot, I'm a debater and I rebutted them all the way until they had nothing to say except repeating, "tak bolehlah, tak boleh, tak boleh, tak betul." To that point, I rest my case.

On the last day of the camp, we had a MCQ test. There were no right or wrong answers. Only stupid answers and the answer that the BN government wants. To pass the test, we had little choice but to choose the 'right' answers, the answers that the government thinks is 'right'.

At this point, there was little doubt in my mind that this BTN camp is indeed a brainwashing camp. But the good thing is, only the trainers are hell-bent on brainwashing. The participants are actually very nice people, in general. I've met a lot of good friends in that camp and I hope we still could get in touch. There are also a lot of very interesting group activities like hiking, aerobics, drama, singing, etc. So it was actually quite fun. To be fair, BTN is only 60% a brainwashing camp. If only the PM department could focus on the other 40%, I would say BTN is definitely an interesting camp to go to.


林猷荃 said...

I think you highlighted one important point: BTN for the more educated or professionals are not too bad. They know it is going to be a futile effort trying to brainwash you people.

相信明天会更好 said...

If the participants were 1st degree or National Service, it would be 100% Brainwash.

Dr. K.C. Ng said...

The heading today read: 'Nazri says no point denying what BTN is'

Nazri also told other ministers to stop denying as there were “other” former government leaders who are now a part of the opposition vanguards, like PKR de facto Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, who had been involved with BTN and know of its contents.

Well, at the very least, Nazri seems to acknowledge that certain things are not quite right and needs amendments. Hopefully, whatever it was that had been carried out in these camps would be fixed.