Friday, November 14, 2008


Deputy Defence Minister, Abu Seman Yusop is reported to have said that “seeking flexibility in the job and not low wages was the reason for the non-bumiputra to shy away from joining the Armed Forces”. I do not fully subscribe to the comment made by the minister, and if this is a similar view of the Armed Forces as well, I think it better be supported by facts and figures.

I would like to give my readers the example of my 1965 intake of cadets officers to the Federation Military College (now named Royal Military College). We then had an intake of 78 cadet officers (excluding Singapore cadets) and out of that number, 31 were non-bumiputra cadets; almost 50% of the total. This may surprise many, but that was the reality than. It is worthy to note that we all spoke English to one another, and it was also the language used in classes as well. Even the Malay non-commissioned officers (NCO) instructors spoke English to us, and of course the 'dreaded' Regimental Sergeant Major (RSM) who was a Englishman himself, gave the drill orders in Bahasa Melayu.

There was no talk of 'Ketuanan Melayu' among us Malayan cadets. We eat, slept, play and studied together with no racial barriers, and till today we all honour dearly our friendship. And the moment we meet to reminisce about our days as cadets, they will be instant jokes and laughter at the things that we did together.

I believe there is more to what the minister had said with regards to the 'shying away' of non-bumiputra to join the Armed Forces. For one, there is the innate fear and suspicion among the non-bumiputra that the Malays will dominate them in their career development. This is certainly not the case, and from records, the Armed Forces has had several non-bumiputra officers rose to the rank generals. If one could recall, the first Chief of Malaysian Navy was a Malayan of Indian origin. And there were several others who rose to become Divisional and Brigade commanders. I am told that even today, the Army has a Malaysian Indian as the Brigade Commander based in Sarawak.

There are certainly many non-bumiputra that aspires to join the Armed Forces, but remained nonchalant because of the feeling of insecurity working in a majority Malay environment. This feeling did not prevail in the 50's and possibly the early 60's, because all government schools were racially integrated. And the political environment than was one that was sincere in wanting to develop a truly integrated Malayan society. Unlike today, it is politics that had placed a wedge at our social make-up, where Malays are different from the Chinese and Indians. And likewise, Chinese are looked differently from Malays and Indians

If indeed the Armed Forces is serious in wanting to recruit more non-bumiputra into their fold, then the Armed Forces should undertake a serious and comprehensive study as to why non-bumiputra shy away from joining the Armed Forces. Merely taking the words of the minister and claiming it to be the truth is certainly incorrect.

Posted at 2.55pm on Nov 14, 2008


maurice said...


I think it is the responsibility of the politicians to rectify the situation, not the Armed Forces.

It is a national-political problem and therefore the BN should study the problem and come up with some practical solutions.

As I see it, one of the reasons why non-Malays are shying away from the Armed Forces is our present education system itself that does not instil the kind of camaraderie you described which existed in your school days before.

The absence of such camaraderie in their childhood days reinforces their perception/belief when they become youngsters to steer away from the MAF as it is seen to be Malay dominated.

A quick solution which I have already brought elsewhere in this blog is to convert the present National Service Scheme into a proper National Service for the MAF.In one one stroke, I believe we would be able to resolve the non-Malays participation issue, while at the same time contributing to national integration and making effective use of public money.

captazhar said...

"Why has non-bumiputra shy away from joining the Armed Forces?"

Answer : Take a close look at the Malaysian civil service today. It is suffering the same fate.

Enough said.

ELI said...

My Dear Dato'

As a Bumi yourself and knowing all the problems going inside the Armed Forces to day, if you are given another chance, will you ever join the Army again ?. For that matter, will you allow your grand children joining the Armed Forces ?.

maurice said...


I would like to respond to the question you posed to Pak Chat.

On the contrary, I have thoroughly enjoyed my service in the MAF.If I were to be reborn I will not have any hesitation of joining the MAF again.

For a youngster, the MAF is a n excellent venue for character building because of the exposure given which could not be obtained elsewhere such as: going to the West for training and a taste of foreign culture, doing demanding adventure training, undertaking military operations with your men in the four corners of our country for a long period of time.All this contributed to the development of your character in such matter as inter-personal skills, planning and managing men/resources, preseverance, determination, mental and physical power and understanding that there is a big world out there.

And if you like, in the MAF the sky is the limit if you want to excel in your chosen sport.

As I look back, the formative years of my military career are the most memorable and yet at the same time had given me a solid foundation to move on in life.

Anonymous said...

I would affirmed what Maurice have said and I would jump at the first opportunity to go back to Military Life.As to my grandchildren, well time and opportunity have changed I would prefer them to be a professional.

The Govt should consider national service instead of the existing PLKN, so that everybody irrespective of race has a chance to be in the Military.To me PLKN is a waste of time,money and effort.It is a move to enrich the camp operators, if u dont beleive me please check in detail who are the beneficiaries.What a stupid idea..........

captazhar said...

Hmmm, read in the papers recently that there was a state education department officer in Malacca who was caught hiding and destroying application forms submitted for the post of teachers trainees. The forms that were destroyed were those submitted by non-bumiputras and by all indications, this 'activity' has been going on for a couple of years.

This kind of activity by a first line official may just be the tip of the ice berg.

Enuf said.

Luke said...

Dear sir

from my point of the view, many of the above reason are quite right. Esp in the education, for a student like me who is interested in the history of WW2, our sejarah book only dedicated half a chapter to it. the concept of bravery is also destroy by the modern culture where money is more important than anything too