Military veterans NGO Persatuan Patriot Kebangsaan (Patriot) today said the public and national leaders should not question their loyalty to the country as they have contributed much to the nation.
In a statement, Patriot president Mohd Arshad Raji reminded critics that his members had risked their lives for the country, sacrificed their personal liberties and gone through war.
"Therefore, when we speak about patriotism, we speak from the heart," he said in denying reported claims made by Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein that the NGO's planned patriotism workshops were against government efforts.
"We would like to politely remind the public, and especially our national leaders, to never doubt our loyalty and patriotism to our king and country," said Arshad.
He further described Hishammuddin's claims as "careless and irresponsible" as the minister did not refer to their full proposal on organising the "Youth Leadership & Patriotism Workshops" for students.
"Patriot will never ever go against the government. We were once members of government organisations, the Malaysian Army, Royal Navy, Royal Air Force and Royal Malaysian Police.
"There is a difference in being against the government, which Patriot is certainly not, and being against bad and corrupt leaders," he stressed.
Arshad noted that Hishammuddin (photo) had focused on comments made by a Patriot member who had said that the government's National Service (NS) programme had partly failed to inculcate patriotism and it was run like a “holiday camp'.
In reply, Defence Minister Hishammuddin Hussein questioned the motives of the veterans group in criticising the NS training programme.
“For someone who has not given suggestions, I think it is a case of double standards for them to raise this issue now,” he said.
Arsahd said that Patriot stood by the comments made by its member.
He added the group in their media statement on Wednesday did not single out any individual or the overall National Service programme.
"Our proposed workshop has a primary aim to help inculcate a sense of patriotism, national unity, and leadership among the youths, and a secondary aim to help encourage youths to enlist in the security forces.
"Our answer to a question during the Q&A session was that we, Patriot, would work with and complement the government’s NS programme," he said.
Arshad had previously said that Patriot intended to seek a meeting with Hishammuddin to present their ideas on improvements to be made to the NS programme.