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.
CRUSADE AGAINST CORRUPTION
Posted at 2.55pm on Nov 14, 2008