Ex-servicemen launch broadside at Zahid Hamidi

By Joseph Sipalan
Nov 18, 10

When Admiral (rtd) K Thanabalasingam ascended to the position of the nation’s first ever local chief of Navy,it would have never crossed his mind that his loyalty to the country would be questioned.

Having spearheaded the navy’s mission to protect Malaysia from numerous threats that arose in the 1960s-1970s period, the former naval chief spoke in disbelief at Defence Minister Zahid Hamid’s recent statement that patriotism among non-Malays was “not strong enough” for being reluctant to sign up with the Armed Forces.

“I don’t understand how such a statement came about… I’ve been through a lot, and I don’t care who says it, it hurts me. I am a Malaysian born and bred, and I intend to die here,” Thanabalasingam (left) said when contacted by Malaysiakini.

The 75-year-old veteran who retired in January 1977 after holding the top naval post for nine years and one month, stressed that there has never been a lack of patriotism among non-Malays in defending the nation from threats within, and without.

He recounted how they, along with their Malay brothers-in-arms, fought side-by-side regardless of whether they were in the navy, air force, army or police field force to push back the communist insurgency that spanned some three decades from the 1950s until it ended in 1989, and the perils they braved over the five years of the 1963-1966 Confrontation from Indonesia.

“Even during the Confrontation, there was a lot of action in the Singapore Straits and Malacca Straits. At that time, two of my officers were awarded the PGB (Panglima Gagah Berani), which is the highest award for bravery, for blowing up KKOs (Indonesian Korps Komando Operasi) during an attack.

“One officer was an Indian who eventually retired as a commodore, and the other a Eurasian who also later retired as a commodore too.

Why were they awarded PGBs? Because of their bravery in the line of duty,” he said in driving home his point.

Zahid’s barking up the wrong tree

Retired airman, Brig Gen (rtd) Datuk Goh Seng Toh (right) was more severe in his rebuke of Zahid’s statement, calling it “unfair, stupid and racist”.

Goh, 65, said before anyone starts accusing non-Malays of being unwilling to serve the country in the military, the nation’s leaders themselves should set an example if they insist on such talk.

“He’s (Zahid) barking up the wrong tree… if you talk of patriotism, then I have one question; do any of our ministers have children in the Armed Forces? If not, then the same argument applies to them, so why only look at the Chinaman?

“I was shot at twice by communist terrorists in Betong at the Thai-Malaysia border. I nearly lost my life on more than one occasion, and I never chickened out. If anyone queries my patriotism, I get very angry,” said the 35-year veteran.

All about being practical

Both men, however, agreed that the crux of the matter lies not in the loyalty of non-Malays to the country, but the challenge of surviving in the modern world.
Thanabalasingam stressed that far from being an issue of patriotism, what concerns non-Malays when it comes to enlisting in the Armed Forces is their career prospects should they choose to lay their lives on the line for the country.

He pointed out that public perception of the armed forces is mired in the notion that non-Malays, more often than not, are left behind when it comes to career advancement,

“Today people are more interested in careers. Gone are the days when you just join and follow orders. People want to see what’s in it for them, can they raise a family, educate their children… they want to be able to raise their family comfortably instead of having to struggle to make ends meet

“If the conditions are correct, they will join. It has to be proven that they have got a good future and prospects, and there is no discrimination in promotions or selection for senior defence posts or special courses overseas,” he said.

Goh went so far as to say that the Armed Forces have done nothing to disprove the perception of race being a key factor for advancement.

“There is an element of truth, unless you say all the Chinese who join the Armed Forces are sub-standard. But this cannot be true, because there are many good people, but they leave because they do not see their career path being very bright.”

Goh, who earned his one star in 1997 – three years before retirement – blamed the low ratio of non-Malay soldiers on the current make up of the Armed Forces, the bulk made up of the Royal Malay Regiment.

“Not a single non-Malay can be part of it. No Chinese, Indians, Ibans, or any other can join these regiments. You must be Malay.”

“I can’t say exactly how many regiments there are, but assuming that they take up around 50 percent of our forces, that only leaves 50 percent open to multi-racial (participation), and this would only be for the services and supporting arms,” he said.

No matter what the situation ,however, Thanabalasingam said he believes that Malaysians will stand up and be counted among the country’s defenders when needed, regardless of race or creed.

“If we had a war today, I would volunteer to do whatever I can, even with my condition with a walking stick… many would rally to the cause to defend the nation,” he said.

  1. #1 by wanderer on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 12:00 pm

    Let us called, “A spade, a spade”. Malaysia is administered by a Racist Regime, UMNO…full stop! Defence Minister, gaggle your mouth with horse urine…you talk kock!!!
    What happen to the 3 Political Beggars,MCA, MIC AND GERAKAN, no comments?…or are their mouths still stuffed wit UMNO’s marbles?

  2. #2 by Taxidriver on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 12:02 pm

    I respect Admiral (rtd) K Thanabalasingam’s strong sense of patriotism. At 75 he is still prepared to defend the country even though he now moves around with a walking stick.

    I too used to think like him. But after all the ‘second-class’ treatment by the ruling UMNOB – led BN government, I am not so sure I would want to do that. You all can say I am unpatriotic or call me by any other names, I don’t care. I’ve got my reasons-What makes me UN-patriotic, Mr. Zahid Hamidi?

  3. #3 by tak tahan on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 12:12 pm

    I respect Admiral (rtd) K Thanabalasingam’s strong sense of patriotism. At 75 he is still prepared to defend the country even though he now moves around with a walking stick.

    I will only be patriotic when non-malays are treated equally as one malaysian.That’s the basic fundamental of democracyRemember;you help me,i help you-by Najis

  4. #4 by k1980 on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 1:13 pm

    Year in and year out, lots of non-Malay schoolboys applied to join the Royal Military College but have their applications rejected because they are mata sepets and kaki botols

  5. #5 by a-malaysian on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 1:42 pm

    You can fight and defend the country with your life, they being racist will still not regconised you and you will still be a pendatang and unpatrotic..but if you were to go back to China or India then they will be happy and claim that you are very patrotic to your root country.

    Malaysia For All

    GE 13 – Change The Federal Government No matter what, we must ensure that racist umno bn do not regain the power like they had for over fifty years.

  6. #6 by Bigjoe on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 2:29 pm

    Lets take a guess, if an enemy announce they will attack Malaysia by bombing and killing only the top politicians of UMNO/BN and their palaces and cars and leave everyone untouched – how many of military folks will defend them?

  7. #7 by PoliticoKat on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 3:14 pm

    It is sad that such people like Admiral (rtd) K Thanabalasingam and his recollections are “not real”. His memories and his deeds belong to another Malaysia. One which stood at the brink of being a regional powerhouse.

    In the basket case that is Malaysia, our history books tells a different story. We ‘know’ that the only thing that the non-malays ever did in the fight to defend Malaysia was to join the communist party, who never “really” fought the Japanese, or fight the British Empire for independence.

    The communist party only ever attacked Malaysia. And ever so lightly our buku sejarah, paints the non-malays as the ENERMY. Anybody ever got that feeling when reading that part of sejarah Malaysia lesson?

    In someways you can’t really blame people like Hamidi. Ask him anything about the contributions of the non-malays to the defense of Malaysia, and I bet you, he can honestly say that to the best of his knowledge the non-malay have never lifted a finger to protect the nation. The one time they took up arms was to attack the nation, as evil communist. Ignorance is rampant in Malaysia.

    Still, I would like to hear more about this other Malaysia that the older generation seemed to have experienced. What was it like?

    And I would like to add, my grandfather actually served as a merchant sailor under the British Empire in WW2. He actually braved the submarine infested waters of the North Atlantic. He lived through the battle of the Atlantic.

    Malaysians.. people who would become Malaysians actually took part in WW2. But where are they in our history books? Why aren’t their deeds remembered? I am certain that when the Japanese invaded Malaya, somebody must have stood up and fought back. The entire population could have just rolled over and happily accepted Japanese rule, as our Buku sejarah seems to implicate.

    And why is the konfantasi, the one major threat to Malaysian sovereignty reduced to a single Paragraph in Sejarah malaysia? Was it such a non event that it wasn’t more than a few harsh words and a dozen of illegal Indo landing on our beach, that our soldier quickly rounded up and deported.

  8. #8 by born in Malaya on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 3:36 pm

    Eversince the recommendation of special right and quota system by UMNOs to divide the country citizens ‘ unity in 1969. It will be hard for all the citizens to talk at the same level.
    When there are quotas for promotion and things like quotas to enter the Universities. Who would want a job in the Army when you know that promotion is not base on merits.
    For example, a Chinese or Indians’ new born baby, no matter what status they have in Malaysia, are born without the special privilege of an Iban’s baby which was born in the same date and time.
    Let us admit it , UMNOs racist political government did nothing but to encourage disunity and encourage the hatred among Malays and other races in Malaysia. Actually , UMNOs need to generate this disunity to maintain the loyalty of Malay votes. Like! you don’t vote me, you don’t get the special rights.
    These UMNOs are shameless and an evil bunch.

  9. #9 by born in Malaya on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 3:41 pm

    They need to be in control of the government so that with power, they could carry on with their corrupt activities and siphon the country’s wealth to the BN’s leaders and their cronies..

  10. #10 by monsterball on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 4:43 pm

    Have we not heard this before.
    Leave it to UMNO B hypocritical crooks to tell half truths and insult the minorities.
    Yes…race politics is on…and minorities are the traitors.
    Glad Thanabalingam spoke up.
    So has Goh Seng Toh.
    Who is this Min.Of Defence reputation compare to our two war heroes.
    You think Najib who declared himself also a.. People’s PM care for these two legendary Malaysians comments and respond?

  11. #11 by ekompute on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 4:46 pm

    QUOTE: Retired airman, Brig Gen (rtd) Datuk Goh Seng Toh (right) was more severe in his rebuke of Zahid’s statement, calling it “unfair, stupid and racist”.

    Without meritocracy in the bureaucracy, I also agree that it would be stupid to join any government department, not just the Navy.

  12. #12 by dagen on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 4:49 pm

    Hey dude. You just dont get it do you? Patriotism is part of umnoputra’s ever-growing bag of ketuanan rights. Ask cintanegara for clarification will ya, you drunkard decendant of begger.

  13. #13 by Justice on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 5:06 pm

    Zahid Hamidi has shown a great deal of disrespect for not only the veterans of our Armed Forces, but for all Malaysians, with his small-minded remarks.

    There were tens of thousands of Indians and Chinese who fought for this country during WWII, before they were even regarded as citizens of this country. Their contributions are all but lost.

    Thousands more fought during the Emergency and the Konfrontasi. This includes my late father. I am afraid that their contributions will also be lost given the propensity to re-write history to suit certain political agendas.

    Zahid Hamidi fails to address the real cause for non-Malays not joining the Armed Forces…discrimination. You see it in who gets promoted and who doesn’t. You even see it in the names, like “Royal Malay Regiment”. Why not a not a “Royal Chinese Regiment”, a “Royal Indian Regiment”, a “Royal Dayak Regiment”, etc? Better still, why not a “ROYAL MALAYSIAN REGIMENT” in line with 1 Malaysia?

    I once had the opportunity to witness a Warriors Day Celebration at a local private college some years ago. I assumed that the Armed Forces were also there on a “recruiting” drive. Seriously, it was quite a surrealistic sight to behold! It looked more like an occupation force had arrived at the campus, rather than a recruiting drive! The reason being that the hundreds of armed soldiers were all Malay. While directly opposite them were mostly Chinese students, with a sprinkling of Indian students!

    When I asked the few soldiers if they were recruiting that day, they seemed lost. They didn’t seem to know the reason why they were there. On the other hand, if they really wanted to recruit, they should have brought along the few token Chinese and Indian soldiers, to show that true multiracial composition of the Armed Forces, to put the students at ease.

    The Armed Forces needs to learn how to market itself to all Malaysians, if they wish to recruit. Not only that, a proper system of fairness and justice needs to be enacted if they wish to attract more non-Malays into the Armed Forces.

  14. #14 by cintanegara on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 6:05 pm

    In ATM, there are at least 3 high rank Non Malays officers (Brig general & above). We should be grateful that everyone in this country is treated equally and fairly without discrimination. However, in the tiny country, 14% of its population is not so fortunate.

  15. #15 by wanderer on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 6:48 pm


    To faked bumi fairness, it is equivalent to what comes out from the blowhole!!!…perhaps, the fragrance will activate your dead brain!!!

  16. #16 by boh-liao on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 6:57 pm

    It all boils down 2 equal opportunities 4 all, rather than promotion based on kulitfication
    Nothing 2 do with patriotism
    Look around us, how many nonMalays r holding top posts in civil service, polis, armed forces, universities, etc
    Y would bright nonMalays knowingly subject themselves 2 racial discrimination? No way

    Talking abt patriotism, in fact many nonMalays r more patriotic than UmnoB/BNputras who steal fr d nation 2 enrich themselves n their families, who destroy d progress n credibility of dis nation, who divide n rule dis nation n promote racial tension

  17. #17 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 7:15 pm

    I have heard many analysts say this: this Bumi, non-Bumi divide and this stoking of the racism issue is an UMNO thing!

    The vast majority of Malays do not feel like UMNO does. They don’t see the non-Malays as grabbing the Malay share of the economic pie. On the contrary, many feel the non-Malay community is helping to create opportunities for the Malays.

    UMNO is so sick in the head that they need this bogey of racism to perpetuate their hold on the Malay vote. Now with their clumsy record and dimwit policies, they are in a very real danger of losing the Malay vote, especially the urban vote, in the next GE.

    So Zahid has to toe UMNO’s long-held strategy of raising the racist spectre. The lack of ideas and brainless mindset has condemned UMNO to ruin and imminent damnation.

    So, there is no surprise at Zahid’s dumb move.

    Wonder where Zahid got his doctorate and in what field? What was his doctoral dissertation about? Anybody care to enlighten? It will shed some light on the gutter calibre of some of our Cabinet members.

  18. #18 by DAP man on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 7:43 pm

    Who said Zahid has a doctorate? That idiot cannot even string a correct sentence in English.

  19. #19 by raven77 on Thursday, 18 November 2010 - 8:52 pm

    In short, UMNO hijacked the independence agreement and made eunuchs and prostitutes out of MIC, MCA, etc etc

    Lee Kuan Yew and Chin Peng were sure the hell right about these fellows honoring any agreement

    It’s Melayuuuu everywhere…….worse still these fellows are intent on Meyuficating and Islamizing non Melayus in this country

    It remains to be seen if the non Melayus are willing to retake their stake…

    Things will get pretty hot before they cool down…Let’s hope Zahidi fellow, Ibrahim Perkosa, Kerismuddin etc etc get fried in the process

  20. #20 by ENDANGERED HORNBILL on Friday, 19 November 2010 - 12:25 am

    Hello, Dr. Zahid, somebody questioned yr Ph. D. Do you want to defend yr qualifictions?

    Just in case he is right and u understand less than 1Complete sentence in English, let me help u along by writing a few sentences in Bahasa.

    Yang Berhormat (sic!), bolehkah YB tolong baca tulisan Lim Teck Ghee mengenai syarahan yang telah diberi oleh YM Raja Zarith Sofiah baru-baru ini. Apatah YB rasa malu. Jangan YB racis. Ini zaman moden, bukan era purbakala.

    Saya harap YB akan letak jawatan menteri secepat mungkin

  21. #21 by undertaker888 on Friday, 19 November 2010 - 8:51 am

    we are patriotic to our country, but we will never be patriotic to umno and its bn cohorts. and hamidi is one of them.

    hamidi, i hope you can distinguish this and get the idea.

  22. #22 by winc on Friday, 19 November 2010 - 5:09 pm

    I always admire the way cintanegara post her comments and i dont see the connection of a topic that talked about being patriotic in Malaysia got anything to do with what “island down south” as claimed.

    This is mesmerizing and she just got me anticipating her comments each time with amusements

  23. #23 by Cinapek on Saturday, 20 November 2010 - 10:22 am

    “..Goh went so far as to say that the Armed Forces have done nothing to disprove the perception of race being a key factor for advancement…”

    Absolutely. In a way I am glad those UMNO dumb asses has triggered such truthful responses from these illustrious retired top military men to finally calling a spade a spade instead of those eunuch MCA and Gerakan as they pussyfoot around the real cause why the nons are shying away from the armed forces. I get sick and tired as they tried to justify the low enlistment of non Malays in the Armed Forces and other uniform services as due to “low pay etc.etc” instead of telling the truth that it is simply due to the absence of any career prospects if you are a non Malay. In fact this is the fundamental reason why non Malays are avoiding the civil service and also all those GLCs. You have only one life so why waste it in a place where you would not be appreciated for all the hard work you put in. And the brain drain? Same reason. Just ask any non Malay JPA scholar where they will be after their contract expires. Even if they are idealistic enough to answer now they will serve the country with full patriotism, BTN will make sure they will leave soon or, once they start work, they will be disillusioned fast enough with the lack of meritocracy that they will want to head for the exit door the first chance they get.

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