LAST_UPDATETue, 19 Jun 2018 12am

Ragging Should Not Take Away A Person’s Life

According to Kamus Dewan Fourth Edition, ragging or hazing is not a new issue in our country. It could be said that almost all students, especially those who attend boarding school, are familiar with ragging. Some, also perceive it as bullying.

Each year we hear stories of students in boarding schools being bullied or ragged in their dormitories. It usually involves the punishments carried out by seniors to their juniors. The aggressors often feel a sense of satisfaction if they succeed in verbally and physically hurting their victims. Bullying is usually carried out just for “fun” − and even more enjoyable when joined in by others.

The latest ragging tragedy that resulted in the death of a National Defence University of Malaysia (UPNM) student, naval cadet officer Zulfarhan Osman Zulkarnain, 21, has become an eye-opener to many parties. Many were quick to blame UPNM and the Military Training Academy (ALK) even though such a case should not be associated with the military institution as ragging occurs everywhere, and not just in military schools and institutions. It happens because there are a group of inhumane people who pay no heed to religious education and are heartless enough to torture their own friend or family member to death.

In retrospect, back in March 24, 1988, a case of ragging also caused the death of a Form Five student, Hishamuddin Majid, from Sekolah Menengah Teknik (SMT), Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, who was bullied in the school toilet at around 11.30am by several former students who came to school to take their SPM results.

After being bullied Hishamuddin told his teacher he felt unwell and sought permission to return to his dormitory, without reporting the incident. Around 7.30pm that night, some students reported to the warden that Hishamuddin was in pain and he was immediately taken to the hospital by the warden. Shortly after being warded, the doctor broke the news of Hishamuddin's passing at 8.50pm. Post-mortem results revealed Hishamuddin passed away due to the loss of blood from a ruptured spleen.

Two former students who were involved were indicted in the Juvenile Court and the case dragged on until the early 1990s. The accused were charged under Section 304A of Malaysian Penal Code for culpable homicide not amounting to murder, which carries a jail term for a maximum of 20 years and liability of a fine, if convicted.

The court case had unveiled a few new findings. Among them, how it was a tradition for seniors to give a nickname to a chosen junior in an initiation ceremony. Hishamuddin had been given the nickname "Pell" and had to undergo a “test” that involved physical assault. A student who witnessed the ordeal told the court that he saw one of the accused beating Hishamuddin. He then saw another student placing his palm on Hishamuddin's forehead while doing a ‘starlight’ sign then flicking his middle finger. After that, he went out of the toilet without knowing the result of the “test”.

Photo credit: http://arkibnegara.blogspot.my/Photo credit: http://arkibnegara.blogspot.my/

A year after the SMT Cheras incident, on July 13, 1989, New Straits Times reported on another ragging case that was dubbed as barbaric and sadistic. It involved six male students in their final year at Universiti Pertanian Malaysia (UPM) who tortured six male juniors or freshies, which took place in one of the senior student’s rented home located in Sri Serdang, approximately 2km from the UPM campus.

The freshies were slapped, forced to dance in the nude, and had their manhood tied with a string that was connected to the ceiling fan. They were then made to run around the room after switching on the fan.

On July 12, 1989, the UPM disciplinary board had a five-hour meeting upon receiving a complaint about the inhumane assault. Three of the senior students were expelled from the university, two others were suspended for two semesters, while another observer was reprimanded over the incident.

Meanwhile last May 24, 2017, 10 students from Maktab Rendah Sains Mara (MRSM) Parit, Perak, were expelled after found guilty bullying six Form Two students. The six students, all aged 14 years, were assaulted by 10 of their seniors aged 15 and 16 years old, for refusing to lend their football boots.

A 14-year-old from MRSM Parit in Perak suffered a fractured left rib, injuries to the head, back and stomach, as well as bruises to the chest after being assaulted. Photo credit: NSTA 14-year-old from MRSM Parit in Perak suffered a fractured left rib, injuries to the head, back and stomach, as well as bruises to the chest after being assaulted. Photo credit: NST

The author had the opportunity to speak with a former senior officer in the Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN), Ahmad Zaki Muhammad, 57, who had been training for a year as a naval cadet at the naval base in Bah Soon Pah Road, Sembawang, Singapore. He was also a former Royal Military College (RMC) student in 1976.

According to Ahmad Zaki, in the military world, ragging is defined as a punishment rather than torture or bullying. A collective punishment is usually carried out, meaning the entire troop will be punished only when one of the officers make a mistake. Usually, it involves a more physical punishment like doing endless push-ups, crawling, rolling and so forth, as a lesson to reinforce the physical and mental strength of the cadets.

This punishment also indirectly trains them to become obedient soldiers, obeying the commands of their leader or those who are their seniors. He further revealed, ragging is carried out for the freshies or first year students by the seniors, however does not go beyond the limits of taking away another person's life.

Based on the latest UPNM case, the victim was already in his third year when he was tortured by his fellow comrades who are in the same year. Therefore, this is not the usual intended ragging in the military field. Perhaps there are other unknown reasons as to why it happened because it is not a normal occurrence for a fellow comrade to be bullied by his peers. Perhaps the truth will be uncovered once the case is taken to the court.

The same sentiment was echoed by RMN senior officer Chan Jun Shen, who is now an Air Engineering Officer serving the 502 Squadron AS555 SN Fennec Helicopter. He shared his experience of being in the Sungai Besi camp for 10 years, with five years in RMC and five more years in UPNM through his blog.  Chan questioned whether outsiders would really know what goes on in the military life and trainings, better than those facing it themselves?

Photo credit: http://opchan.blogspot.my/Photo credit: http://opchan.blogspot.my/

He was saddened that UPNM had to bear the brunt for all that has happened, with many nasty allegations thrown their way despite the holy month of Ramadan. He further expressed his disappointment over a former lecturer who accused UPNM cadets of not only carrying out physical torture but for sodomy and oral sex. And if the accusations were true, how could he not have known after surviving there over 10 years?

Physical torture is wrong even in military training. However, once in a while there are trainee cadets that get slapped or kicked by the trainers when they lose their patience. And that would only happen if the trainee cadet had made a mistake that they should not have made, for example, getting into a life threatening situation like pointing the gun barrel to another cadet.

Photo credit: Chan Jun Shen InstagramPhoto credit: Chan Jun Shen Instagram

Chan points out that God made man with two ears and one mouth, so humans should listen more and talk less. He hopes that his record of experience in RMC and UPNM would shed some light and eliminate misconceptions about life in the military world. In addition, he also hopes instead of following their emotions, the keyboard warriors will be more responsible in their comments.


Johari Yap
Chairman of the Malaysian Chinese Muslim Association (MACMA), Kelantan Branch