Non-Malay patriotism: what is the truth

By Dr Lim Teck Ghee | CPI

Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi should be commended for stating in Parliament that the reason Chinese and Indians made up only a tiny proportion of Army recruits was because their “patriotism spirit is not high enough”. This is because he has inadvertently brought out into the open a perception which is shared by the majority of Malay leaders and also possibly by a very large proportion of the Malay population. It is a perception that should not be suppressed – on the contrary, it needs to be fully aired and dissected so that rational thinking and fact-based policy formulation shall prevail.

What has been criticized as a “racially biased, shallow and chauvinistic” statement questioning the loyalty of young Malaysians may in fact be correct. Non-Malays may be much less patriotic than Malays which accounts for their low enrolment in the military and civil service, as well as for their lack of participation in other national activities when patriotism and loyalty to the country are showcased. But it could also be wrong as it ignores other factors that may be instrumental in explaining the low number of recruits.

In many countries of the world, it has been found that the main factor underlying military recruitment is the socio-economic class that recruits come from. This is likely to be a major explanation for the past and current trend of recruitment in Malaysia too. It is unlikely that we will find recruits coming from youths of the middle or upper class of Malaysian society – whatever their community or sense of patriotism – now or in the future.

The only way to find out whether this larger perception of the lack of loyalty and patriotism of non-Malays — as compared with other communities — is correct or wrong is to carry out rigorous studies on the disputed subject and not to silence the messenger. Following from these rigorous studies and the wide dissemination of their findings, a more rational discussion and analysis can take place in Parliament and in the public arena.

It is important that these studies on the subject of patriotism and loyalty amongst different communities in the country as well as on the related issues of the lack of non-Malay participation in the army and other sectors of the public service should be conducted by credible and independent researchers. In view of the sensitive and controversial nature of the topics, it may be too much to expect our local social scientists and researchers to conduct these studies without fear or favour.

Outsourcing the studies to reputable institutions from abroad which have a strong track record for carrying out ethnic perception research – in collaboration with local teams – may be a possible way forward in carrying out these urgently needed studies.

At the same time, there is a need to sustain the public space to explore, analyse, and arrive at a more informed, coherent, and sympathetic understanding of how our multi-ethnic society works and does not work. For that reason, we should not seek to silence these statements, baseless or shallow or insensitive as they may be. If politicians in the country remain true to the facts and their views are based on the scrupulous adherence to evidence produced by researchers and more informed stakeholders, it can only benefit our nation by holding them to higher standards of knowledge, responsibility and governance.

Finally, if there is indeed a lack of loyalty and patriotism amongst young non-Malays, then clearly the country is in deep trouble and we should address the root causes immediately.

  1. #1 by TheWrathOfGrapes on Thursday, 11 November 2010 - 4:56 pm

    /// Chinese and Indians made up only a tiny proportion of Army recruits was because their “patriotism spirit is not high enough” ///

    And, following this line of argument:

    Chinese and Indians made up only a tiny proportion of civil servants was because their “patriotism spirit is not high enough

    Chinese and Indians made up only a tiny proportion of scholarship holders was because their “patriotism spirit is not high enough

  2. #2 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 11 November 2010 - 5:01 pm

    Actually all we need is an attack by enemy of overwhelming forces and we will see who the patriots are.. Let me tell you that military intelligence all over the world predict Malaysian forces will crumble like cheap plastic..

  3. #3 by undertaker888 on Thursday, 11 November 2010 - 5:17 pm

    anything that comes out from an umno malay, you will know it is full of $hit. why would we join the army when the enemies itself is umno and bn? they are the real traitors of this country.

    if the philippines or the vietnamese army where to attack malaysia, it will be gone in 60 minutes. why? well we have submarines that cannot dive, jets without engines. so who is the real unpatriotic mongrels here? they steal, squander, sell whatever we have to the highest bidder. even their souls. and they say chinese and indians are not patriotic. i guess not being a thief like them is unpatriotic.

  4. #4 by undertaker888 on Thursday, 11 November 2010 - 5:36 pm

    this ketuanan crap came about when mamak was driving his chinese tuan to work. well he wants to turn this around. but he knows he cannot do it with hardwork and merit.

    so what did he do? he used force and institutionalized discrimination to reverse this silly tuan thing.

  5. #5 by Loh on Thursday, 11 November 2010 - 5:49 pm

    It is a fact that there is racial discrimination in civil services. That would also happen in the services of armed forces. Non-Malays stand lower chances of getting fair treatment and promotion. What is worse when the choice of dangerous mission in national services may fall on the shoulders of non-Malays before they are given to Malays. That thoughts and doubts will remain forever in the minds of non-Malays. Non-Malays joining civil services lose out in promotion, but if they join armed forces, they might also lose their lives. Until and unless the government is seen to be treating its staff fairly and professionally, the Malays can have the monopoly in armed services.

  6. #6 by assamlaksa on Thursday, 11 November 2010 - 6:00 pm

    as long as there is this ketuanan thing, how do u expect 2nd class citizens to be “patriotic”

  7. #7 by ktteokt on Thursday, 11 November 2010 - 6:06 pm

    Just like respect, patriotism is earned! It cannot be indoctrinated by just showing trailers on TV!!!!! I still remember the SETIA trailer which was screened many years back. I think that was a stupid thing to do.

    Whether a person is patriotic to his country or not depends solely upon how the country TREATS HIM and not by the government brainwashing the citizens to be loyal!

  8. #8 by born in Malaya on Thursday, 11 November 2010 - 7:11 pm

    Everyone knows that as long as the UMNOs are race base and having the racist treatment to Chinese and Indians, there will never be unity in Malaysia.
    They call us non-bumi and calling themselves bumis. They are the main culprit behind the split in unity amongst citizens of Malaysia.
    Say no to a Racist government and say no to BN.
    Shameless! shameless! shameless UMNOs.
    To the race base government, my advice to them is: start working and earn your own living and stop sucking from all the innocent citizens of Malaysia. Shameless!shameless!shameless.

  9. #9 by DAP man on Thursday, 11 November 2010 - 7:22 pm

    The soldiers’ salaries are paid from the taxes of the Chinese, who pay 90% of the taxes. Go ask Mahathir. He said so.

  10. #10 by undertaker888 on Thursday, 11 November 2010 - 7:43 pm

    ahmad donkey, here’s your kind of patriotism.

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  11. #11 by dagen on Thursday, 11 November 2010 - 9:45 pm

    It ought to be obvious by now that the idiot has no way out of this own goal he scored. But believe me. Umno has its way of getting around problems – ways that only umno can think of and do. So dont be shocked should umno one day argue that patriotism is the untouchable rights of the malays. Part of their ketuanan rights. Just like the allah issue.

  12. #12 by tak tahan on Thursday, 11 November 2010 - 10:19 pm

    Ketuanan or kautualan only pay less than 10% taxes.Hardly work to contribute to nation.The worst unpatriotic.Ketuanan supposed to be someone with wisdom,integrity and respectful.Can’t even have merit system for promotion in arm forces,cacat ketuanan.Here in bolehland,self claimed ketuanans really make me laugh.

  13. #13 by vsp on Thursday, 11 November 2010 - 11:12 pm

    When Malaysia gain independence, there was a healthy ratio of Malay to non-Malay representation in the civil service and armed forces. There were many non-Malay officers serving in the highest echelon in the Malaysian civil service during the Tunku Abdul Rahman and Hussein Onn administrations.

    When Mahathir became the Prime Minister, there was a deliberate push to replace all these officers with only 1 race through an attrition exercise. Senior non-Malay officers were tasked to train up their Malay juniors in double quick time but were bypassed during promotion when the juniors became the seniors of the former seniors. Ask any of your relatives who were in the civil service during those dark times and you will learn the truth. It was during this period also that the term “bumis” and “non-bumis” took root in the Malaysian pysche. It was the evil desire of Mahathir that the non-Malays would never take up arms against UMNO that this divisive policy was pursued.

    Time passes and many young Malaysians have not been told of the main reason why there were very few non-Malays in the civil service and armed forces. It’s not because of the lack of patriotism as UMNO would like you to believe. UMNO was the cause of this anomaly.

  14. #14 by Jeffrey on Friday, 12 November 2010 - 7:48 am

    I take it that patriotism is love of and identification with one’s country and the willingness to make sacrifices for it. Zahid’s use of Non malays’ low enrolment in the military as an example to show their relative lack of patriotism is inherently contentious. After all people can express their love of and identification with their country by a myriad of other daily occupations they like or are good at. In what way Lee Chong Wei and Nichol Anne David choosing to play their badminton and squash less patriotic than Airforce guys who, whilst enrolling in the Airforce to defend the country in war, also masterminded the sale of the nation’s jet engines? If defence of the country with one’s life, then one never knows, isn’t it, who’s patriotic until the country were attacked – and even if it were actually attacked does not doing anything necessarily connote lack of patriotism? If it were so, then, taking the Japanese invasion of the country as an example, we would be led to absurd conclusion of many Chinese fighting the Japanese, even those sympathetic to the Malayan Communist Party being more patriotic than some kampong Malays who did not fight the invaders. Flash forward to present context, it would be absurd to say people are not patriotic by the fact alone that they are generally not interested in enrolling in Armed Forces when by all reasonable counts Malaysia does not appear to face any external threat and danger, and more military personnel lost their lives from malfunctioning helicopters than in fighting foreign enemies. One cannot blame Non malays if they avoid enrollment not just in the armed forces but other areas of government service when they perceive these to carry out racially discriminatory policies inimical to their career advancement. Zahid would have made a better case of Non Malays being less patriotic if he had cited the preponderance of Non Malays amongst those leaving this country by emigration to other countries…

    Yet there is something inherently unfair for Zahid to make an imputation of Non malay’s lack of patriotism in the context of Malaysian racially divisive and discriminatory policies. It may serve a politician’s agenda to appeal to patriotic emotions in attacking their political opponents, implicitly or explicitly by accusing them of betraying the nation but it is not fair to those attacked. The very basis for extolling patriotism as a virtue is the premise that if a citizen born and bred in a country deriving and enjoying all benefits and rights in the country has a reciprocal obligation to uphold the country’s interest out of love for it, which is a necessary condition for the country – and all in it – to collectively benefit from such sentiments. (This is not confined to only defending the country when it faces external threat. It is also working out of pride for the country for its economic interest in a way like (say) Akio Morita developed Japan’s electronic industry by his “Sony” brand). The difference (as this illustration shows) lies in Japan being a homogenous society and it may be questioned whether Akio Morita would have so passionately strived for he economic interests of Japan and Japanese in general had he been relegated to second class citizenship by virtue of his race??? The question therefore arises whether an UMNO politician for political expediency of being shown the champion of his constituency should in one occasion cite Non Malays’ non interest in military enrolment as an example of their relative lack of patriotism forgetting that in another occasion, he will, as a communal politician, also fight to uphold the very set of affirmative policies that marginalize them??? Would he be patriotic if he were a member of minority race of a country that implements policies favouring the politically dominant majority against the politically weaker minority? When JF Kennedy said in his celebrated inaugural speech “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country”, he cannot be serious with that exhortation if the country by its policies treats nearly half of the Americans as unequal on basis of race.

  15. #15 by born in Malaya on Friday, 12 November 2010 - 11:15 am

    From what I read in the following artical about the Chinese and Indian leaders, they have played a big role in getting Independence for Malaysia/ talk about patriotism :-

    V. T. Sambanthan
    From Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaJump to: navigation, search
    In this Indian name, the name “Veerasamy” is a patronymic, not a family name, and the person should be referred to by the given name, “Sambanthan”.
    Tun V.T. Sambanthan

    5th President of the Malaysian Indian Congress
    In office
    May, 1955 – 30 June 1973
    Preceded by K.L. Devaser
    Succeeded by Tan Sri V. Manickavasagam
    Majority Indian


    Member of Parliament
    for Sungai Siput
    In office
    27 July 1955 – 30 June 1973
    Preceded by new constituency
    Succeeded by Datuk Seri S. Samy Vellu


    Born 16 June 1919
    Sungai Siput, Perak, Federated Malay States, British Malaya
    Died 18 May 1979 (aged 59)
    Political party
    Malaysian Indian Congress (MIC)
    Spouse(s) Toh Puan Umasundari Sambanthan
    Children Deva Kunjari
    MIC Chairman
    Minister in the Malaysian cabinet
    Religion Hindu

    Tun Sambanthan Thirunyana s/o Veerasamy, better known as Tun V.T. Sambanthan, was the fifth President of Malaysian Indian Congress and one of the Founding Fathers of Malaysia along with Tunku Abdul Rahman and Tan Cheng Lock. He was the MIC President from 1955 to 1973, when he was ousted by party members.

    Sambanthan was one of the leading Indian leaders who played a prominent role in the independence movement in Malaya. As president of the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) during this important period of transition, he worked closely with Alliance Party leader Tunku Abdul Rahman and they developed a close personal bond.

    He is credited with three important developments in Malaysian political history: the consolidation of the Malayan (now Malaysian) Indian Congress, its transformation into a mass-based party, and its integral role as a partner in the current ruling alliance.

    The entry of the MIC into the multi-communal Alliance in 1955 contributed greatly to enhancing the coalition’s image as the main representative of the three main communities in Malaya.

    The finest hour was achieved on August 31, 1957 when Independence was achieved under the Merdeka Agreement, to which Sambanthan was a signatory.

    Tan Cheng Lock (1887-1960), Politician
    The Tan Cheng Lock Papers consist of documents covering all aspects of Tan Cheng Lock’s public life. The most important files are those relating to his leadership of the Malayan Chinese Association during its formative period, the early years of the UMNO-MCA Alliance and the role he played in the struggle for Malaya’s independence. The Tan Cheng Lock Papers is a valuable source for the study of Malaysian history for the period immediately before and after independence.

    Tun Dato’ Sir Tan Cheng Lock was a Malaysian nationalist and founder of the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA). A fifth generation Chinese Malaysian, his great great grandfather migrated to Malacca from China in 1771. Tan Cheng Lock was a successful businessman in the Malayan rubber, tapioca and gambier industries. He was the Unofficial Member of the Legislative Council of the Straits Settlement from 1923 to 1934 and became Unofficial Member of the Governor’s Executive Council from 1933 to 1935. He founded the Malayan Chinese Association (MCA) and became the first president for the period 1949-1958. In 1952, Tan Cheng Lock and the United Malays National Organisation (UMNO) under Tunku Rahman’s leadership contested the election as partners. In 1953, he brought MCA into the national coalition “Alliance” together with UMNO, working towards the independence of the Federation of Malaya, which subsequently incorporated the Malayan Indian Congress (MIC) in 1955. He was best remembered for his contributions in the business and political arenas and his work for integrating the Chinese and the Indian communities to the nascent Malayan society.

  16. #16 by k1980 on Friday, 12 November 2010 - 2:01 pm

    Example of a great Malaysian “patriot” trying to strangle himself for the good of his political party, unmo. Why no pingat hang tuah for this buffoon?

  17. #17 by dagen on Friday, 12 November 2010 - 2:02 pm

    All you si-sepets, drunkards and children of beggers and prostitutes, listen. All of you have no right to be patriotic. Patriotism, like allah and rambutans, belongs to umno and umnoputras, strictly. So the Def Min was not wrong to say that all of you are unpatriotic.

    Jib’s got tower-power.
    Jib Jib Boleh!

  18. #18 by Jeffrey on Friday, 12 November 2010 - 3:15 pm

    Anyway what so great about this idea of patriotism? We can understand why politicians hype it: it helps preserve their position at the helm but what about to the ordinary citizens? But what is the truth of (not just Non Malay patriotism) but patriotism in general as a concept?

    There are 2 questions to be asked : (1) what is exactly patriotism and (2) is it really that good an idea?

    To say that one is expected to be patriotic in the sense of loving the country raises the problem of what part or aspect of the country a citizen is supposed to love.
    Is it love for country’s soil, the rainforest, hot and humid climate or the plethora of all kinds of food available right after midnight or the highways that we have to pay tolls? Or is it love for the countries founding ideals – “the Social Contract” – or its institutions Judiciary MACC parliamentary democracy or its cornerstone policies like, NEP or NEM or 1 Malaysia or what??? Or is it love for its peoples because of their diversity of race and creed and nice demarcation by the Bumi-Non Bumi Dichotomy or what?

    I am genuinely befuddled – of what patriotism is exactly supposed to be.
    Or it a mere abstraction – an idea and pride that one belongs to an entity or group within a nation state which is better to belonging to no grouping???

    If so, then is this patriotism a good thing?
    Well certainly not all think so. Certainly not John Lennon who in lyrics of his song “Imagine” exhorted listeners to “imagine there’s no country…nothing to live or die for…” – all wars and human misery and suffering that come from them stem from both adversaries fighting for their nations in the name of patriotism which is probably why our Mr Kee Thuan Chye in the earlier thread called patriotism “the last refuge of the scoundrel”?

    There is reason why a guy like John Lennon would think patriotism might not be such a good thing. Patriotism, at its root, is self interest and self-love exemplified and diluted to include a group ascending in gradation to gover a wider and wider group in which one claims belonging whether for pride or insecurities.

    Example: It starts with loyalty to one self, then to a wider and wider group of one’s family, one’s friend, one’s village and kampong, then people of one’s faith, norms and value system, then political affiliation, before country – but whichever group at whatever level, one group is always right and interest has to be protected against another opposing group.

    This is how we create self inflicted internecine conflicts. The trend is towards universality and belonging to the family of humans and men/women whatever race, creed and nationality.

    We now say we try save the environment, the ecology, worry about the Ozone diminution or global warming, sing “We are the World” – for what if not to preserve the common heritage of Mankind than specific nations, nationality and parochial patriotism?

  19. #19 by Jeffrey on Friday, 12 November 2010 - 3:34 pm

    Patriotism then is yesterdays premodern and primodial tribal instinct and sentiments rather than unversalistic rational instinct and sentiments more fitting of today’s Globalised One Village scene wired and connected by both the Net and Modern Travel ? You tell me which is more enlightened and relevant!

  20. #20 by cinaindiamelayubersatu on Friday, 12 November 2010 - 8:23 pm

    wahai ahmad zahid hamidi, siapakah penyumbang terbesar pingat emas NEGARA MALAYSIA di sukan komanwel 2010 ? jawapannya Non-Malay. kalau mengharapkan Malay aje, berapa butir sangat NEGARA MALAYSIA dapat ?

  21. #21 by k1980 on Saturday, 13 November 2010 - 10:34 am

    Why is the world condemning the election fraud in Myanmar but closing both eyes to the buying of votes by BN in bolehland? To me, both are sham democracies.

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