Military non-Malays: In defence of the indefensible

By Mariam Mokhtar, Malaysian Mirror

Why have our ministers, politicians and civil servants gone so sour on our non-Malay Malaysians? What have the non-Malays done to deserve all the abuse and humiliation heaped onto them?

The latest taunt by Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi is irresponsible. He has not just insulted Malaysians but also mocked the memory of the thousands of non-Malays who died defending Malaya, as it was then, from the Japanese invasion and also the communists in the Emergency. Was their sacrifice in vain?

This trend of making the non-Malay feel small, unwanted and irrelevant is on the rise. The sad thing is that the non-Malay component parties in BN have not come to the defence of the non-Malay Malaysians.

If they have done so, then their efforts are not very effective, as the unfair criticisms of our fellow non-Malay Malaysians keep recurring with alarming regularity and intensity.

Zahid said in parliament that the non-Malay component in the 2008/2009 recruitment was only 1.2% whereas 98.2% of this recruitment was made up of Malays.

The explanation he offered for the low non-Malay figure was that there was “a possible perception that the armed forces offer a lower pay than the private sector.”

He then said, “The reasons could be because of a fear towards a tight discipline. It could be because of a low spirit of patriotism. It could be because certain ethnic groups had a negative perception of the armed forces and did not encourage participation.”

These remarks are outrageous. Even if they had been made by a common person, who is functionally illiterate, then they are still not acceptable; That they were made by a minister, makes Zahid’s position untenable.  

Has the minister forgotten that he is a senior politician and a member of the Cabinet in His Majesty’s Malaysian government?

Zahid has overstepped the mark. As a defence minister he is supposed to rally the troops and motivate the people to come to the defense of the country in times of conflict.

However, it appears that Zahid is causing conflict by calling non-Malays ‘unpatriotic’ and ‘lacking in discipline’.

How does he justify his reasoning with his pathetic explanation about patriotism and discipline?

Discipline is the instant willingness to obey all orders, have respect for authority, to be self-reliant and be part of a team. It is also the ability to do the right thing, even when no one is watching.

It is not just the armed forces or security services that values discipline. Even simple everyday acts and jobs, have some measure of discipline in them. A self-employed person has to have a lot of discipline. A dedicated student has to be disciplined to work hard and study.

Zahid’s false assumption is that Malays join the armed forces because they are more patriotic and very disciplined.

So just because few Malays go into commerce, does not mean they are non-risk takers and are unwilling to work hard to make their business grow.

Just because more Malay men read religious courses at university does not make the Malay women any less religious.

Just because more women read engineering and scientific courses at university, does not mean the men are too stupid to comprehend the finer points of science.

Instead of motivating the people, Zahid has probably succeeded in making fewer non-Malays interested in a career in the armed forces.

Maybe he could care to look at the bigger picture. People enter a profession and expect to move upwards and improve themselves.

However, the unseen hand of ketuanan Melayu works in mysterious ways. Non-Malays cannot find promotion as easily or at all, as their Malay counterparts.

In the armed forces, there is also institutionalised racism. How can the non-Malay feel accepted and work together as a team and as one, if they are made to feel different?

It does not help when in public, they are referred to as si-sepet or kaki botol and classified as immigrants?

Zahid’s callous insensitive remarks seem to be the norm in Malaysian politics today.
In addition to this, Malaysian politicians seem to champion empty, ostentatious displays and confuse these with patriotism.