PETALING JAYA: The respect for diversity should be the main trust of our armed forces, says a DAP leader, referring to the recent issue raised over the lack of non-Malay recruits.
Ipoh Barat MP M Kulasegaran said it was vital to increase the participation of non Malays into the armed forces to enhance the value of diversity.
“Malaysia today is blessed with a diverse and plural population that would enhance the strength of the military force. Diversity has the highest value, and it is viewed as an operational requirement.
“The way wars are fought today requires our military to be capable of working in environments that require knowledge about diversity whether one is deployed in war zones or even working with somebody in a unit from a different part of the country,” he said.
Last week, Armed Forces chief Raja Mohamed Affandi Raja Mohamed Noor said he wants more diversity in the armed forces, adding that ATM is targeting an increase by 10% annually.
He said he also hopes to see more non-Malays enrolled in the Royal Military College (RMC).
This was further addressed by the president of Patriot, a group comprising former officers from the armed forces, who said that in the 1960s until the late 70s, non-Malay Armed Forces personnel comprised about 30% of the total force.
Brigadier-General (Rtd) Mohd Arshad Raji said that over the years, this figure gradually dropped to around 5% at present, adding it was a matter of great concern.
“One of the reasons that non-Muslims shy away from joining the military was because there was now a distinctive division along ethnic lines in the armed forces,” he said, blaming it on the government’s affirmative action policies of the 1980s.
Kulasegaran, who is also DAP national vice-chairman, said the honest account by the Patriot president reveals a vital truth on what the country had lost since the 1980s.
“The value of unity in diversity that reflects multicultural and religious Malaysia was lost in the recruitment process and goals of the armed forces over the years.
“There is a need for a holistic change of attitude in recruiting especially non-Malays in the forces,” he said.
Non-Malays not patriotic
Kulasegaran added that he had addressed this issue in the Dewan Rakyat in 2010 following a statement by then defence minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.
“Zahid had said that non-Malays are not patriotic, giving that as a reason for them not joining the military, without addressing policies that negate diversity.
“Zahid had never apologized for these false claims, although I have raised this matter in the Dewan Rakyat,” Kulasegaran said.
He also lamented how the lack of action by the government since 2010 has now compounded the issue.
“Much could have been done if the Government was serious, when I raised this issue in 2010.
“After seven years the same complaints of lack of non-Malay intake in the forces is erupting again. Clearly it shows the government has not been listening to the grouses and for that, the lack of political could be the cause.”
Kulasegaran questioned if the government will address the main issue of lack of opportunities for non-Malay advancement in the armed forces.
“It is known that there is great interest among non-Malays to take up a career in the armed forces.
“But lack of promotions and the very nature of recruitment itself have denied them the opportunity to join the armed forces.”
He then called for the government to study and adopt a positive policy/institutional framework similar to that of the armed forces in countries like Australia, Britain, and Canada.
“Such benchmarking would help us to follow that best practices of diversity and the best compensation practices that would encourage the best of Malays and non-Malays to join the armed forces.”