Non-Bumiputera youths are apprehensive about joining the Malaysian armed forces (ATM) as they remain unconvinced about prospects for good salaries and promotions if they embrace a military career.
Several youngsters said they feared being racially stigmatised as a minority in the military which was seen as being dominated by Malays.
Degree holder Robyn Jayne Lopez said low pay in the forces was a major factor discouraging non-Malays from joining up.
“Working as a military person is seen as low-class and not indicative of a good future due to the low income offered,” Lopez said.
A check on the Malaysian navy’s website showed the minimum monthly salary for a young officer to be RM1,459.
ATM chief Gen Raja Mohamed Affandi Mohamed Noor said in December last year that the military was targeting a 10% annual enrolment increase and was seeking youths of all races.
However, a young woman of Indian ethnicity who did not want to be named said her community felt that Indians in the ATM were marginalised as most of those who joined were Malay.
“Non-Bumiputera youths do not want to go in because they would then be looked upon as the minority there,” she said.
“It is better for us to pursue careers where it is easier to scale up, and which do not require us to be strained physically and mentally.”
Meanwhile, Ooi Li Thing said the low birth rate, especially of boys, among Chinese families was a major factor preventing the community from taking up military professions.
“Chinese families who usually have only one or two sons do not allow them to be involved in the ATM as it would place the boys’ lives at risk,” Ooi said.
A senior source in the military as saying that DAP strategist Liew Chin Tong’s appointment as deputy defence minister would go a long way in helping the armed forces as “we struggle to overcome our image as a single-race organisation”.
“Maybe with a non-Malay in the position, it would finally encourage more from the community to be part of the armed forces,” the source said.
“It’s something we have failed at despite all our efforts to woo them,” said the officer, who is part of the army’s intelligence unit.