KUALA LUMPUR: Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein has warned opposition-friendly groups against raising racial or religious sentiments.
This was in response to Patriot president Brigadier-General (Rtd) Mohd Arshad Raji Arshad’s statement that one reason non-Muslims shied away from joining the Armed Forces was because there was now a distinctive division along ethnic lines.
Hishammuddin said this sort of statement was dangerous.
“This is something that we will see more of when the elections are close – the politics of division, hate, race and religion.
“This is a normal phenomenon by the opposition and people not supportive of the government. That is very damaging and dangerous.
“I want to advise them, if they want to bring up racial and religious sentiments, even in politics, there are limits.
“This is my warning to them,” he said after visiting Hospital Angkatan Tentera Tuanku Mizan in Wangsa Maju here today.
“I know close to elections, these are the sort of issues they will play up in the hopes that we will be split.
“The politics of hate will favour them as they do not have educational or health agendas, neither do they take care of the Armed Forces’ welfare.”
When asked if there was any truth to what was said, Hishammuddin said: “This is social media, what do we do?
“I want to look at it in a positive way. If the media is fair to us, they will give us good coverage for something that is positive and not just negative.”
The minister said reaching a fair balance of the various races in the Armed Forces was part of his key performance indicator.
Referring to the issue of non-Malays joining the Armed Forces, however, he quoted the proverb which says you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t force it to drink.
Arshad had said that from the 1960s until the late 1970s, non-Malays comprised 30% of the total strength of the Armed Forces, with a higher percentage in the Navy and Air Force.
Over the years, the figure gradually dropped to around 5% at present, the National Association of Patriots president added.
Arshad said the government’s affirmative action policies of the 1980s had seeped into the military administration, with “strange sayings like ‘orang kita’ creeping into the minds of military commanders”.
While many generals were sympathetic and caring towards everyone under their care, the little Napoleons in the defence ministry – the civil servants with authority – made policies pertaining to promotion and enforced an unwritten regulation and quota system regarding non-Malays, he added.
He also welcomed the ministry’s new drive to get more non-Malays to joining the Armed Forces.