Let me tell Zahid that I don’t have to prove my patriotism by joining the army. Neither should anyone be challenged to prove his patriotism or to prove it by joining the army
When answering a parliamentary question in Parliament on November 9, Defence Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had said that lack of patriotism was a reason for the low number of non-Malay recruits in the armed forces.
I had on the same day given notice I would file a censure motion against him by way of a RM 10 salary cut when the Defence Ministry estimates come up for debate as his reply was insensitive, baseless, unfair and irresponsible.
His reply had hurt the feelings of the non Malays and tantamount to questioning their loyalty.
After being heavily criticized by even the Barisan Nasional MPs over his parliamentary reply, Zahid attempted to clarify the matter.
In his media statement released on November 10, he clarified that he had never made statements about the non Malays being unpatriotic nor had he intended to do so.
“What I had said was that it was possible that it could be due to several factors, including the sense of patriotism that is not strong enough,” he said.
I immediately responded by saying that his clarification was only adding salt to the wound as it was clear that he had failed to comprehend the injustice of associating patriotism with the reluctance of non Malays to join the army.
I stated that no matter how one defines or looks at patriotism, whether in the narrow or broad sense and context, it is totally unfair and irresponsible to link it with the non Malays’ reluctance to join the army.
Hence, instead of trying to indulge in polemics, he should have been bold and responsible enough to admit his mistake and sincerely apologise to the non Malays.
There was a subsequent report in the Sin Chew Daily on November 13 saying the issue was discussed in the Cabinet.
In the report, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Tan Sri Koh Tzu Koon said that the Prime Minister agreed with the view that the loyalty of Chinese and Indians cannot be questioned.
However, two questions which immediately arise are: -
1. Why did not the Cabinet issue an official statement stating its official stand on the insensitive, unfair, baseless remarks made by Datuk Seri Ahamd Zahid?
2. Why did not the Cabinet at the very least direct Zahid to retract his remarks and tender an open apology to the Chinese and Indians?
Zahid is no ordinary person but a Cabinet Minister in charge of the defence ministry. And he gave the reply in the august Parliament House.
If a defence minister of a western democratic nation has uttered such unfair remarks publicly or in the parliament, he will have to pay the price of losing his minister’s position.
It is therefore puzzling and disappointing that the Cabinet did not even at the very least direct Zahid to retract his reply and tender an open apology to the non Chinese and Indians.
It is because of such of lack of necessary action from the Cabinet that Zahid has even on November 14 challenged me to join the Territorial Army in Ipoh Barat constituency to prove my patriotism.
By making such a challenge, it shows that Ahmad Zahid still maintains the view that joining the army has to do with one’s sense of patriotism.
On November 11, I had asked Zahid what would be his response if he or the prime minister was described as having less sense of patriotism or being unpatriotic for not encouraging their children to join the army?
Would he or the prime minister agree with or accept such description of them?
He has not replied to this question.
Let me today ask Zahid another question-will he challenge the prime minister or the non Malays to join the Territorial Army to prove their patriotism?
Let me tell Zahid that I don’t have to prove my patriotism by joining the army. Neither should anyone be challenged to prove his patriotism or to prove it by joining the army.
Nevertheless, if Zahid still insists on his ridiculous and irrational challenge, then my reply to him is that he should first throw the same challenge to the prime minister and all Cabinet Minister.