Can Liew make a difference to the military?

Breaking the image of the Malaysian military as a single-race organisation. (Bernama pic)

PETALING JAYA: While there are hopes that the expected appointment of the DAP’s Liew Chin Tong as deputy defence minister will draw more non-Malays into the armed forces, a former pilot believes that only meritocracy in promotions will work.

Brig-Gen (Rtd) Arshad Raji, a former army officer, said the race of a person should not matter and there should be equal opportunities for everyone.

Arshad, who heads the National Patriots Association of retired members of the security forces, said Malaysia had never had a non-Bumiputera as a defence minister or deputy minister.

“As long as they are qualified, there should be no problems. I think it might help draw people of other races to join the armed forces,” he said.

“We have to do away with the thinking that the armed forces is only for Malays. Everyone born here should want to defend the country.”

However, a former Royal Malaysian Air Force pilot, who only wanted to be known as Mark, had doubts over the impact of Liew’s appointment.

“I doubt the non-Malays will come back to serve in the armed forces … not until promotions are based purely on merit instead of race. That’s why many non-Malays left the service,” he said.

Liew, a DAP strategist and head of the party’s political education bureau, has been tipped to fill the key post of deputy defence minister. The military hopes his appointment will break the image of the armed forces as a largely single-race organisation.

The defence minister is Mohamad Sabu, from Amanah.

Arshad said many non-Malays had joined the armed forces when he entered the services in the 1960s. It was only in more recent times that they had shied away.

He has previously stated that affirmative action policies of the 1980s had seeped into the military and “strange mottos like ‘orang kita’ had crept into the minds of military commanders”.

A distinctive division along ethnic lines in the armed forces was probably one reason non-Muslims shied away from the service, he added.

The former pilot, Mark, said he had joined the air force with Grade 1 SPM results, but claimed Malay recruits with poorer results ended up being promoted faster.

“So when people who aren’t as qualified or experienced go to the top, the standard drops,” he said.

Liew’s appointment is expected to come when he is made a senator, a move criticised today by MCA’s publicity spokesman Ti Lian Ker.

“Is DAP indirectly admitting that none among its 42 MPs can fill that position? Were the requirements to be a DAP MP so low?” he said.