PETALING JAYA: The government must address concerns about a lack of career progression in the armed forces if it is serious about attracting non-Bumiputeras to join the military, a former soldier said.
Ajaya Kumar, a retired lieutenant-colonel, said many non-Bumiputera parents were not convinced that their children could climb up the ranks in the military.
Kumar said he was living proof that it was difficult for non-Bumiputeras to get promoted in the military.
“I had been a major for 20 years before I received another promotion. Even my children and nieces noticed this and it just discouraged them from following in my footsteps.
“How many non-Bumiputeras are commanding divisions or brigades today? Little to none,” he told FMT.
He was commenting on a statement by defence minister Mohamad Hasan that the lack of Indians, Chinese, and Orang Asli in the armed forces was due to their preference for other sectors. Mohamad said it had nothing to do with them being unpatriotic.
He said as of March 6, Malays accounted for 85.8% of armed forces members, followed by Bumiputeras from Sarawak and Sabah at 7.6% and 4.3%, respectively, Indians (1.4%), Chinese (0.5%) and Orang Asli (0.4%).
Kumar also said the “apple polishing” culture made things worse, with those who knew how to “rub shoulders with certain people” quickly climbing the ranks.
He said another factor was the lack of religious sensitivity towards the non-Muslims in the military.
For example, he said, there were instances where the person offering the prayer would only pray for the safety of members of one religion. Any prayer, he said, must include all soldiers regardless of their religion.
Kumar, who was a member of the United Nations peacekeeping force in Timor Leste in the late 1990s, said in some instances, Hindu soldiers were served beef, which was against their religious belief.
When the matter was raised, they would be supplied with fried egg, he said.
National Patriots Association president Arshad Raji agreed that a lack of patriotism was not the reason why many non-Bumiputeras did not join the military.
“From my engagement with the younger generation, they are very patriotic about the country,” he said.
He highlighted the salaries and pensions earned by armed forces personnel. While the sum had improved since 2013, it was not as good as that in the corporate sector.
“So I think, at the end of the day, they go after better opportunities.” he said.