I never intended to hurt non-Malay community: minister

Thursday, December 9, 2010

KUALA LUMPUR - Malaysian Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who said last month that few ethnic Indians and Chinese joined the armed forces because of “low patriotic spirit”, has now acknowledged that many members of these communities had fought against the British and the communists.

He said in the Dewan Rakyat (parliament) Wednesday that he was “sad” that ethnic minorities had been upset at his reasoning why their presence in the armed forces was low.

Political parties, NGOs and other outfits speaking for various ethnic groups protested against the remarks.

“It never crossed my mind that my remark would offend or hurt the feelings of the non-Malay community. I never intended that to happen,” Hamidi told parliament.

He added that history had shown that many non-Malays had fought against the communists in the 1960s.

Multi-racial Malaysia is home to significant Chinese and Indian minorities besides a number of other ethnic groups. Indians form eight percent of the population.

“All parties, non-governmental organisations and community leaders must work together and ensure that more non-Malays join the military. Let us all cooperate and uphold the 1Malaysia concept as encouraged by the prime minister.”

The minister last month said that only 903 non-Malays had enrolled in the Malaysian Armed Forces in the last two years in 2008 and 2009.

He said they comprised 82 Indians, 26 Chinese, while the remaining were the natives of Sabah and Sarawak.

“The ministry finds that the participation of the non-Malays, especially Chinese and Indians, in the armed forces is still low, perhaps because of their fear to the strict discipline, it is a less rewarding job compared with working in the private sector, no encouragement or support from family members and lack of patriotism,” he said.

His reply drew criticism when he attributed the small number of non-Malays to a “low patriotic spirit”, New Straits Times said Thursday.

Ethnic Indian M. Kulasegaran, an opposition lawmaker, stood up after Hamidi made his clarification Wednesday, urging him to apologise.

However, the minister refused to apologise, The Star said.

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