Hornbill Unleashed

March 26, 2013

Flag rank officers – cat’s-paw for whom?

S Thayaparan

This is a long tough road we have to travel. The men that can do things are going to be sought out just as surely as the sun rises in the morning. Fake reputations, habits of glib and clever speech, and glittering surface performance are going to be discovered.

– Dwight D Eisenhower

We are told that as Malaysians we need to put up a unified front when it comes to the incursion in Lahad Datu.

We are told that as Malaysians we need to have faith in the security apparatus of our country.

lahad datu 050313 soldier with gun 01As someone who has been called a traitor by pro-establishment types because of my writings echoing the thoughts of many former servicemen and women in this country concerning the manner in which the armed forces conducts itself, and the way how it executes operations in Lahad Datu, it troubles me that this issue has been politicised by both sides of the divide.

The recent meeting between Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and flag rank officers (one star and above) is troubling for a variety reasons.

In this time of election uncertainty and an ongoing incursion, most retired armed forces personnel want to keep at arm’s length from the political apparatus of this country.

Service to king and country does not translate to service to political parties and for a good majority of these officers, this holds true.

Consider the following anecdotes from sources who attended that meeting as non-partisan.

The first concern of some of those officers was why weren’t there any Pakatan Rakyat representatives at this meeting?

After all, they are the loyal opposition serving the common good of this country. The best way to show national unity to those so-called Sulu terrorists, if for both the establishment and the opposition is make to as many showings of public unity as possible.

Many of the officers felt they were treated as BN delegates bussed in for a conference. The meeting itself was divided into two parts without any intrusion by the press.

The first part was a briefing on the operations going on in Lahad Datu by the Chief of Defence Forces (CDF).

It was obvious to many of the seasoned officers that the CDF was constrained in his delivery.

Outside the confines of this meeting, questions were raised in talks amongst these officers.

Here are examples of the kinds of questions raised.

1. What happened to the shore surveillance equipment and intelligence?

2. The role of the failure of intelligence from the security apparatus of this country?

3. Why wasn’t the Markas Angakatan Tentera Bersama (MATB) activated?

4. Why a joint police and military operation, when there should be only one in control?

5. Why the delayed reaction of the assets already present in Sabah, for example from the Naval Commando training headquarters which is close by?

6. Why wasn’t the area military commander given full control with support from the peninsula instead of the convoy of political personalities making an appearance in the “war zone”?

Please bear in mind that these were not Pakatan partisans discussing the sad state of military affairs.

These were professionals and many of them seasoned locally and internationally critically analysing the response to the Lahad Datu incursion. Politics had no part in it.

Rants against generals

However, politics had a role in the second part of this meeting. This whole section consisted of rants against those generals who had shown support to the “Opposition”.

A former chief of defense force who had cried when criticised by the then-sports minister for his conduct in the Commonwealth Games, went so far as to claim that these generals did not have same DNA of those supporting the government of the day, to which one three star general commented, “coming from this CDF, the nation should be grateful”.

The whole atmosphere seemed surreal to some who attended. When the prime minister walked in, ‘Negaraku’ was sung and the armed forces marching song ‘Barisan Kita’ (which one general quipped ‘Has the song been annexed by Barisan National?”) also got an airing.

Apparently it got quite comical when one retired air force general was frothing at the mouth that stern disciplinary action should be taken against generals who showed support for the opposition, the PM was chuffed up of and reminded those who attended that “spirit of this general” was what was needed.

Many of the officers were later surprised to learn that Jabatan Hal Ehwal Khas (Jasa), the propaganda arm of the Communication and Culture Ministry, organised this meeting.

The question some of these officers had was why this particular ministry organised a meeting of a serious nature like this. Surely, the public relations department of the Defance Ministry would have been a more appropriate facilitator.

Readers would be interested in the contents of goodie bags that these retired officers received from Jasa and Seri Perdana Putrajaya. Here is the complete list of contents.

From Jasa

A. National flag (to wave)

B. Nice batik material piece for a shirt

C. A small bottle of Air Zam Zam

D. A pocket docket with three small books entitled ‘Panduan Penjelasan Isu- Isu Semasa’

From Seri Perdana Putrajaya, Malaysia

A. Book entitled ‘Berkongsi Denyut Nadi Rakyat’

B. A black T-shirt and jockey cap with the slogan, “I (heart) PM’

C. A book entitled ‘Kuiz Mega Kenegaraan’

Understand now that this is not supposed to be a partisan swipe at the establishment or the armed forces.

Indeed many officers who I spoke to take a non-partisan stand when it comes politics in this country except those officers who have numerous directorships in GLCs or who have progeny, in those positions.

Although there have been some non-military people who have accused me of being “treacherous” in my writings, many currently serving officers and former service personnel, are eager for me to say what they cannot for various reasons.

This is not meant to undermine the government, far from it. This is meant to maintain the integrity of an institution that plays the most vital role in the defense of the realm. An institution I proudly served and continue to serve.

S THAYAPARAN is commander (rtd) of the Royal Malaysian Navy.

1 Comment »

  1. I do not know whether it’s just me or if everybody else encountering problems with your blog. It appears as though some of the text on your content are running off the screen. Can someone else please comment and let me know if this is happening to them too? This may be a problem with my browser because I’ve had this happen before.


    Comment by Http://Www.chinasingels.com/SkyeMcgee — May 24, 2013 @ 3:22 PM | Reply

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