Published: Wednesday November 10, 2010 MYT 7:34:00 PM
KUALA LUMPUR: Barisan Nasional leaders Wednesday expressed disappointment at remarks by Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi that "a lack of patriotism" was the reason for the low number of non-Malays in the armed forces.
MCA deputy president Datuk Seri Liow Tiong Lai said the remarks were irresponsible.
"As a minister, he cannot doubt others' patriotism and loyalty. Instead, he should look into the ministry's recruitment system and find the root of the problem," said Liow, who is also the Health Minister.
On Tuesday, Dr Ahmad Hamidi told Parliament that non-Malays made up less than 1% of new recruits in the armed forces for the 2008/2009 session. He blamed this on a lack of patriotism, concern over the strict discipline imposed, lower returns compared with jobs in the private sector, lack of encouragement from families and negative perceptions towards the army.
MIC vice-president Datuk Sr S. Subramaniam said it was incorrect to relate the lack of non-Malays in the armed forces to a lack of patriotism.
"As a leader of the Indian community, I am saddened by the statement made by another community leader," he said.
Dr. Subramaniam, who is also the Human Resources Minister, said the MIC was willing to have discussions with the Defence Ministry and Armed Forces to resolve the problem.
Gerakan vice-president Datuk Mah Siew Keong urged the Defence Ministry to exhaust all plausible means, including soliciting non-governmental organisations and relevant groups to help recruit non-Malays into the military, instead of pinpointing fingers.
He said, in a statement, that Dr Zahid Hamidi's reasoning was "unfair and unwarranted."
"We certainly do not need such myopic views. It is more important to address the problem (if there is one). Publicity on the recruitment exercises will also be more effective," Mah added.
As a fellow military forumer had commented, the low participation of the non-majority in the defence of the nation has been a feature of our society since Independence, and if it takes such a challenge from the Minister to start an honest debate, then debate it in total and try to resolve all five reasons and challenges, and not only the "patriotism challenge". It is high time the rest takes up the slack especially if you wish to be treated as equals, otherwise it is just another partnership of opportunity. So do something to ensure that everybody gets their fair share, even in the defence of the nation. What say you again?