In Malaysia there is no “national service” as such. Although there have been some schemes designed to serve as such for the unemployed youths, it is not a compulsory stint unlike that in several countries.
Ours is what is considered a “voluntary” armed forces – army / navy / air force. The Army has the largest number of personnel, about 100,000. They are made up of regular soldiers (both men and women) and a small but effective force of volunteers.
The question is: are there pressures imposed on these men and women?
The simple answer is YES. One applies to join the force, which is a selection process that includes IQ and physical tests. There are minimum standards of being at least 17 years old, physically fit and with basic secondary school education. The cut off age is 45.
Considering that one passes all these requirements, he is then accepted into the force, as a private, the lowest rank in Armed Forces. He makes minimum wage, which is about RM1,600.00 per month.
Usually the unmarried soldier has a family to support as well, which means he makes monthly contributions to his family. At today’s cost of living, he is left with very little money each month. Meaning he lives from pay-check-to-pay-check. That itself is pressure!
The Armed Forces has several schemes for soldiers to better equip themselves with higher education, trade skills, and to prepare him for an eventual return to civilian life. However, life is just not that simple or straight forward.
At every step lay challenges and obstacles to overcome. Mental health issues are also a factor to consider. This can come in many ways…family, friends and peer pressure.
In recent times, there has been an increase in those facing mental health issues in the country. Sometimes these are caused by family members, like a domineering wife who keeps nagging at the husband because he brings home only a small amount of money.
Then food prices have generally gone up, and children’s education costs to take into consideration. All these can cause mental health issues on the man. There is no perfect answer of how to overcome these issues. As there is no one pill to cure all illness!
Dealing with these issues or drawbacks is the best remedy. If it gets too complex or difficult, seek professional health. The Malaysian Mental Health Association is a professional body whose function is help “sufferers”. Reach out to their professional help for only a minimum fee.
Soldiers face tremendous pressure each day. Even at a relatively peaceful time like now, when we do not have a conflict or war at our hands, the daily duties of securing borders which are sometimes undefined can be a challenge.
Malaysia is a nation that is divided into two parts by the South China Sea. The Melaka Straits is the busiest in the world. Off the east coast of Sabah is the dangerous Sulu Sea and the threat of kidnapping and pirates in the region.
Any routine patrol or tour of duty can hold dangers. Being vigilant and always on the look-out is a motto to be fully followed.
G S Kumar
G S Kumar is a veteran journalist and broadcaster. He actually began his journalistic career with the Asian Defence Journal (ADJ) back in 1974 as an Assistant Editor. He returned to broadcasting and spent the next 17 years on both sides of the Causeway before ending his stint as an Executive Producer with Current Affairs in Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC). Then from 1988 till now he has served with The Straits Times (Singapore), SingTel Yellow Pages and even with The Malaysian Reserve. He is keen on news and current affairs and the “plight of mankind” in an ever changing world.