Defence: All Is Fair In The RMAF

“Good iron doesn’t make nails, good men don’t make soldiers.”

That is the old Chinese adage which is still probably true especially for the Malaysian Chinese today.  It is the same adage that the late Lee Kuan Yew lamented about in one of his memoirs. The participation of the Chinese community in the Malaysian Armed Forces is still poor despite numerous recruitment drives done to get them to join.

In 2010, out of an approximate 100,000 men and women of the Malaysian Armed Forces, only 0.2 percent of Chinese joined the Malaysian Army, 0.3 percent joined the Royal Malaysian Navy, while 0.4 percent joined the Royal Malaysian Air Force. For the Indians, the numbers are 0.7 percent, 1.1 percent and 1.7 percent for the respective branch of the Malaysian Armed Forces.

It may be on the extreme end to say that the Chinese probably feel that it is far more important to make money than to play a role in defending the country, but the notion that I get is that they probably feel you cannot prosper working for the government.

It could also be due to the unwillingness of the youth nowadays to undergo hard training no matter how good the pay is. But that does not answer why the number of Malays are more in the Malaysian Armed Forces.

As a result, the Malaysian Armed Forces is overwhelmingly Malay.  Hence, in any leadership line up you would see more Malays becoming senior and star officers compared to the non-Malays.

This lopsided scene is then misinterpreted as the non-Malays do not stand a chance to rise and make the ranks – a perception that is played by those irresponsible to instill an anti-establishment feeling among the non-Malays.

Let us take the RMAF, for example, where the organisation has four non-Malay star officers (Brigadier-Generals and above) out of a total of 47.  That represents 8.5 percent of the total number of star officers compared to the 2.1 percent of total non-Malay participation in the RMAF, which is looking at increasing the number of non-Malays to a minimum of 20 percent of the total strength.

It is also important to note that among the operational officers, two non-Malay lady officers stand out the most.  They are Major Patricia Yapp Shau Yin RMAF and Major Teoh Siow Ling RMAF.

Major Patricia Yapp Shau Yin RMAF attributes her success to discipline, hardwork and determination, not race nor gender.

Major Patricia Yapp who hails from Sandakan, Sabah is an examplary Qualified Flying Instructor (QFI) who is the world’s first female pilot to fly the Russian-made Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-29N.

When asked if there is discrimination in the RMAF towards women or the non-Malays, she said the men and women all do the same field training, physical training and flying training. Women don’t get special treatment and are all evaluated by the same standard and are given the same opportunities. The key is to never give up trying after each failure because it has taken her a lot to be where she is now. It is all about discipline, courage, teamwork and commitment.

She is saddened though that during one of the recruitment drives in her home state of Sabah, she waited for half a day for Sabahans to turn up but none did during the second half of the day.

Major Teoh Siow Ling RMAF flies the Lockheed C130H Hercules tactical transport aircraft

Major Teoh Siow Ling RMAF also attributes her success to discipline, determination and hardwork.  The Melaka-girl is aware that some non-Malays say that she would fare better elsewhere, for example, in the Republic of Singapore Armed Forces.

It is not true that there is discrimination against the non-Malays in the RMAF,” she said. “There are those who are my seniors who are Malays who still hold the rank of Captain. Race has nothing to do with it.

It is only because the number of non-Malays are small that you do not get to see a huge number go up,” she added. “If you don’t work hard, you will not go up and it doesn’t matter what race you are. If you do not shine, no one will see you and you will remain where you are.

The RMAF has had many pilots flying the fixed and rotary winged aircraft in its inventory since its establishment.  Not once has the RMAF barred any non-Malay to be involved in handling any sensitive equipment or information.  The Army has, if my memory serves me right, produced 29 non-Malay star officers, the RMN 22 while the RMAF 19.

Compare this to our Southern neighbour.  The Malays have only been accepted into the Armour Formation two years ago.  In fact, the Singapore Armed Forces used to have or still has a discriminatory policy towards the Malays, not allowing them to hold sensitive key positions thus depriving them of promising careers in the SAF.

Such discrimination does not exist in the Malaysian Armed Forces, which have produced 70 non-Malay Generals and Admirals.  All is especially fair in the RMAF.

Therefore, there is no reason for the non-Malays to shy away from joining the Malaysian Armed Forces.  There is also no reason for the people of Sabah and Sarawak to feel as if they would not be able to compete against those from the Peninsular.  After all, Major Patricia is from Sabah.

And the current Chief of the RMAF is from Kuching, Sarawak.

Defence: The RMAF Invites More Non-Bumis To Join

General Tan Sri Roslan bin Saad TUDM, Chief of the RMAF
General Tan Sri Roslan bin Saad TUDM, Chief of the RMAF

“We would like to see at least a 20 percent participation of the non-Bumis in the RMAF,” said the Chief of RMAF, General Tan Sri Roslan bin Saad TUDM to reporters after witnessing the Farewell Parade for Major General Dato Ahmad Tarmizi bin Elias TUDM, the outgoing Chief of Staff (Administration) at the Air Force Training Institute in Ipoh.

“Right now, they number between 5 percent to 10 percent in a force of about 15,000,” he added. “We need all the expertise that we can get as we have aircraft with high technology, electronics, computers where they can contribute their skills and expertise in the defence of the nation.”

“20 percent is not the ceiling but that is the minimum level of non-Bumi participation that we would like to see in the RMAF.”

Low pay is the excuse given for not joining the Air Force which is not the case.  Diploma holders could earn a basic pay of between RM2,300 to RM3,000, while degree holders start at RM3,600.  On top of that there are allowances that they can be eligible for depending on the trade they are in.  This does not include other perks such as free medical and dental treatment at the various Armed Forces Medical Centres as well as housing.  Even a recruit could earn up to RM1,200 inclusive of service and special service allowances upon completion of training.

The RMAF used to have about three non-Bumi generals (from the rank of Brigadier General) out of a total of 10 back in the 1980s.  In the current line up there are only three out of about 40.  The non-Bumis have to realise that they have as much responsibility as the Bumis do in defending this nation.  Among the youngsters we could see how non-Bumi children partake in physical games such as paintball, or electronic war games on computers but this however does not translate into their participation in the Armed Forces in general.  To say that the military (and the police) are Bumi organisations is not true at all – the large number of Bumis in these services only reflect the unwillingness of the non-Bumis to serve their nation.

On the issue of cross-border encroachment, on the part of the RMAF, General Roslan reiterates that the RMAF is and will continue to support enforcement operations in the ESSZONE together with other agencies that make up the ESSCOM.  ESSCOM is not just about the RMAF but encompasses all border protection agencies such as the Army, Navy, Police, the MMEA, Customs and the Immigration department.

General Roslan hopes that the media could play a bigger role in making the Armed Forces attractive to the general mass and hope to see better participation of the non-Bumis in each of the services.